Saturday, 25 August 2007

How I can tell it's about to rain....

To say I loathe violence would be an understatement....

Asimov said something like it's the last resort of the ignorant who have run out of anything to say.

I'm not sure I agree. I think for some people it has become the first and only 'psychologically gratifying' resort.

My grandfather, so I'm told, as he was long dead before I was born, was one of the gentlest, most softly spoken people you could ever meet; yet he had no qualms in training others how to knock seven bells out of each other in the boxing ring....

My Great-grandfather was supposedly a demure, nonchalant, passive individual ; but he was a DCM, twice nominated for the VC and became a White Russian Knight of the order of St George.

Violence was an intrinsic part of their way-of-life; yet in another way it seemed utterly disparate from their lives.

I've been smacked, I've smacked my kids : But the violence involved [no matter how brief [and more painful to me]] never seemed to become a part of my psyche - anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a 'big jessie' - the only sports I have ever excelled in have involved sprinting at great speed away from people. I have been physically violent on rare occasions ;but never been overpowered with a psychological violence to 'complement' it. It seems today that more and more people have no such limitations, reservations or moral compunction.

I don't understand violence - don't get me wrong, some of my favourite films include the Chinese/Japanese medieval warrior or Hong Kong gangster genres where brutality and comic book violence hold their sway ; and I adore to spend an afternoon slaying goblins, dragons and demons with my children on the ps2 or xbox360; a couple of garden canes and we can spend all afternoon playing zorro or star wars in the back garden....

No, what I simply cannot understand is people beating each other up.

An act of violence nearly killed me about twenty years ago - the details and circumstances aren't important ; but I don't think I ever truly recovered ; the reason might surprise you almost as much as it did me - because for a few brief seconds during which I knew that if I didn't act I would be dead ; I coldly clinically and quite rationally knew that I was capable of killing my assailant - God graced me [and my ostensibly innocuous but insensed attacker] miraculously with a rescuer in the nick of time. But psychologically the damage had been done - I knew now that I could kill ; and have never been able to look at myself in the same way again. Yet even with that profound self-knowledge; I still don't understand violence.

A few years ago I encountered a gang of youths kicking another man to a pulp - recklessly I took a running jump into them all and the man managed to get to his feet and escape while I made as much noise as possible - trying to reason with them about police and security cameras and witnesses [about a dozen nightworkers in the local store were looking on at the assault through a plate glass window [no-one had rung the police -not even the security guard]] but amidst all the shouting and threats one [before they all ran off] in a rage punched me full-on in the jaw. My ears rang for days and it took two years for a dentist to discover that my tooth and jaw were fractured, had subsequently gone rotten; and a large triangle of my jawbone had to be removed.

With the deepest of cosmic ironies, a few years later I was walking through the woods after having dropped my kids off at the swimming pool ; and I passed five drunken junkies with their girlfriends ; and because one of them didn't like my demeanour or the way I was dressed they spat all over my back; I continued to walk on and they presumed I was 'disrespecting' them so they proceeded to punch and kick me and ultimately [the most painful part] throw me headfirst into a tree... As I was stumblingly trying to pick myself up I faced the laughing girlfriends and said 'do you really think this is soooo cool ?' they merely glowered at me in contempt - so I turned and limped off like Quasimodo , oblivious to their barrage of homophobic screams and insults. The dentist had to perform mirror like surgery to my tooth and jaw on the other side of my face - so at least I'm symmetrical now !

But even amongst the callous, vituperative insanity of it all ; even with the first hand and bruise laden experience ; I still don't understand how people can do that to other human beings...

A young girl in this town tried to stop a fight a few years ago at a fair, one of the girls had no qualms stabbing her to death. A girl I worked with for a few weeks murdered her mother and boyfriend in cold blood and carried on with life as if nothing in the world was different. One of the nicest, friendliest kids in our school grew up and beat a man's body to a puree with an iron pub chair. My friend was a pub landlady - one quiet lunchtime in the bar there were a few heated words amongst some teenagers and within seconds a knife had been pulled and one lay dead. I don't understand. I just don't think I can understand !

Do you remember the advert from a few years ago where celebrities clicked their fingers to represent a child dying in the third world ?

they would have had to click their fingers every 2/3 of a second to represent those aborted !

46 million a year!!! Its barbarous insanity and evil is way beyond my comprehension.

In holland the sick and elderly are attempting to escape from the clutches of their children by registering in hospitals and old folks homes outside dutch borders or legislation - because every year 800,000 elderly and sick meet their deaths before God or nature intended , in the name of mercy killing. I don't understand this.???

The scores of millions killed in wars and genocides over the past century - I don't get it !??

The billions who die prematurely through disease and starvation and deprivation - I don't comprehend....

I see young innocent kids playing together on the school playground - I see them again only a few years later and they have turned into selfish, aggressive, abusive, violent, foul-mouthed feral monsters ; hunting in packs to demean, denigrate and humiliate not only each other but any innocent passer-by ; given the right opportunity or circumstance they would have little reticence in physically or psychologically assaulting another human being and revelling in it almost self-righteously. I don't understand; but what leaves me incredulous is how many of these 'aberrations of humanity' are teenage girls...what are our schools, media and society doing to them ? I simply don't understand at all ? As someone who's had rocks, bottles and torrents of abuse thrown at him for merely passing by these's just beyond all rational comprehension....

And so we look to the news...and what do we hear practically every day now ? Stabbings, shootings, indiscriminate assaults and murders for the most inane and irrational of reasons...

My wife [a criminology expert] is forever attempting to reassure me that child violence isn't really statistically any different than from the gangs of teen victorian thieves and garotters - but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to believe her - never before has a whole society seemed to be in such chaos - walk past any nightclub at the weekend and invariably there's some violent assault and an ambulance's flashing light - hang around and you'll witness women of any age trying to rip each others skin off or men trying to beat each other to a pulp while the bouncers 'stay out of it' - the insanity just seems to be snowballing....

What's happened ?

My kids in their gruesome way, love to hear stories about my scars ; the majority are work-related [a huge freezer door impaled my hand with two punctures which uncannily look like vampire bite scars - you can put your finger through a hole in my shinbone where a bolt went through it] but my most prevalent scar is one that rings my leg at the knee where most of my lower leg had to be sewn back on again.
The cause ?
When I was twelve a schoolfriend in a fit of pique over an accusation of cheating decided to pick up an ornamental plate and hit me with it - even though I've relived the incident a thousand times over the years I still don't have the remotest inkling as to why he would have done such a thing - to automatically resort to such indiscriminate violence when usually he was the most passive, cowardly person ? What is in us that makes us so suddenly 'lose it' ?

Nevertheless the wound didn't heal properly and rotted my knee joint so I have a minor [almost undetectable] limp - and I rarely notice it except for those few seconds before it begins to rain and then, almost like some electronic detector, it twinges. [My kids think it's cool and magical!]

The only things that really scare me are things unknown, things I'm not able to rationalise or empathise with....

....this pervading culture of violence [especially amongst the young] has now completely traversed to limits way beyond my understanding - and it terrifies me !
I apologise for being so gloomy and doom-laden - but somebody please tell me : what's going on ?


Rita said...

To my mind, one of the main problems has to to with the current love affair with "situational crime prevention", violence is supposed to be "managed" out of society through good design and management. For example, a corridor in a new prison may be very narrow to prevent rioting ever getting out of hand.

In schools, all the talk is of "classroom management"; how to arrange the desks, how to arrange the kids, how to design the lesson so that kids have little chance of causing disruption.

The problem is, bad/violent behaviour is rarely tackled by tackling the child, indeed there are few punitive measures that can be employed. Exclusion from school is seen as a badge of honour.

To me it is a sign of moral relativism gone mad. It is as if a child with violen/abusive tendancies has a right to have those feelings, the rest of us must just manage/control the situations that child finds itself in. In doing this and not tackling the things that are inherently wrong, we are not doing the child any favours.

But what can we expect when we ourselves live in a society run by liberal control freaks?

White Stone Name Seeker said...

Oh Paul
I don't know what has happened either. I don't think it was like this-the sheer casualness of the violence, meanness and cruelty in children's every day demeaner.

I pulled my daughter out of a "good Catholic school" where the girls behaved appallingly towards each other-just as normal behaviour.
So it seems if you want to get noticed you up the ante and stabbing it the next thing; bitching, scratching, swearing, the occaional thump hardly counts...
We have made a mess with relativism and simply ignoring our children. How many of them see their parents. They go home to an empty house.

Psiomniac said...

'Moral relativism gone mad'?
'Liberal control freaks'?
I don't think these two, or any of the other usual suspects form part of an insightful or helpful analysis of the problems of violence in society. That analysis is a lot harder to do than simply blaming some tabloid caricatures.
Paul, the things that happened to you and the things you have been told about seem really appalling. I agree with your wife, this isn't new but we should all try to tackle it.

Rita said...

"Moral relativism gone mad'?
'Liberal control freaks'?
I don't think these two, or any of the other usual suspects form part of an insightful or helpful analysis of the problems of violence in society."

These are not tabloid caricatures, "situational crime prevention" and "behaviour management" are the reality behind some of the policies which drive the western world. They are what happens when people believe in a culture where violence is inherent, where people are naturally cruel towards one another and the best you can do is to control the situation with CCTV cameras, lighting, street layout and the like. They argue for a culture of fear and the tacit approval of further and stricter policing. The more you believe human beings are naturally like this, the more they will behave like this.

psiomniac is right that we all have to tackle the situation, but it does mean a return to a society with absolute moral values and a belief in the goodness of creation. The Holy Father talks of the curse of moral relativism (he is not responsible for tabloid soundbites)...moral relativism is a sad fact of life.

I do know what I am talking about, police studies and criminology feature very large in my life at the moment.

Psiomniac said...

I have little doubt that if the vast majority of people in society subscribed with seriousness to Catholic social teaching then the problems described by Paul would be greatly reduced. However, the same would be true if they followed Sikh or Buddhist principles for example or indeed any of the major religions or secular humanism.
On the other hand, moral authoritarianism based on the illusion of moral absolutism I view as an abject abnegation of our responsibilities.
Moral relativism is not to blame for the ills of society and nor are liberal values. The former does not exist in the real world and is self refuting in the meta-ethical sphere, and the latter depends on strong moral values. It is just that you don't happen to agree with some of them.

gemoftheocean said...

I think indirectly it comes from tacit acceptance by society at large with abortion on demand. If people aren't willing to protect the most vulnerable, should we be surprised that all this is happening?

On a practical note, even though you abhor violence, and reasonably so, would it not perhaps be a wise thing to enroll your own children in some self-defense classes?

I'm appalled that police and security guard seem to stand around even when they witness such incidents as you describe.

BTW, far from being "reckless" you may well have ended up saving that man's life. Don't forget someone else was also "reckless" enough to save you!

Psiomniac said...

I think indirectly it comes from tacit acceptance by society at large with abortion on demand.
I don't think this is plausible. Those in favour of allowing abortion accord a different moral status to those people who are in utero and have not reached a given level of maturity. Clearly you would disagree with their assessment on religious and philosophical grounds but even if you were right about that the link with violence in society does not follow in my view.