Happy Proto-Thanksgiving

After today, we're in the pre-Thanksgiving planning phase. It happens this year I'm doing the cooking for everybody. That's going to be interesting -- it's never been on be entirely, before now.

But hey. There comes a time when we have to sort it out for ourselves. At some point, no matter how Hank did it, we've got to do it ourselves.

This evening I went to a charity benefit for the Classic City Rollergirls ("Waging War on Wheels"), a rollerderby outfit to which a female friend of mine belongs in a kind of prospect capacity. They're a serious bunch, in their way: the sport involves tackling roller-skating women at high speeds on concrete. It's a violent sport, and these women are bold to engage it. I like them.

The benefit was fun. I'm discovering things about myself, the more that I deal with people here back home. I had three people hit me tonight. The first was a woman who was angry about something I didn't understand, but I let her hit me until her hands were worn out -- it really only took about four hits -- so she wouldn't take it out on whoever she was mad at at the time. Then I made her boyfriend hit me too, so he wouldn't mock her later for being unable to get anything out of hitting me. He didn't either.

He offered me a return 'fair play' punch on himself, but I declined. It really wouldn't have been fair at all.

Then there was another woman, drunk as you can want, who was demanding that everyone comply with her or shut up and respect her. Her particular complaint was that religion was necessarily associated with intolerance and violence, which proposition she intended to enforce intolerantly and with all necessary violence. I did my best to get away from her, but she happened to pin me down in a way that forced me to be close beside while she undertook to declaim a man present I thought deserving of respect. I explained that she was wrong on the facts, and she told me to shut up or she would slap me. I told her to do her best, and she did.

I guess it's a function of the South that a woman can feel free to hit a man without fear of reprisal. She hit me, and I told her she'd have to do better; she hit me again, and I told her she'd have to do better than that. She hit me a third time, far harder -- something about the blow suggested to me that she was at her psychological limit -- and I grinned and told her I thought that now she was getting started.

And so she went away, and didn't even look in my direction the rest of the night. Others apologized for her, but really, she'd only done what she wanted and what I invited her to try. No harm was done, and maybe she learned something about her ability to use violence and threats to push others around.

My wife later allowed that it was well she was not present at the time. That's doubtless true! But no harm was done, and some good. There's no reason to resent the violence as such. It was a learning experience for her, for them, and even for me.

Perhaps it speaks badly of me that I feel so comfortable with violence. I've seen much worse, though, than what America currently has to offer. I want people to understand it, and not to fear to think it: I want them to know it for what it is. It is terrible, in its way, but it leads to knowledge. Perhaps I am terrible, too, for embracing it. I didn't use my strength to hurt them, but I let them use theirs against me without protest. Perhaps that is something wrong with me.

But this was very small force, a kind of toy by those who were only playing with it. I think perhaps it is good for them to look in the eye someone who has seen the thing for real, and to know that their toy is no more than a toy. Maybe that is -- perhaps I am -- sent as a lesson for them. That doesn't make me better, for I know my heart embraces far greater force: but perhaps it helps them, and in some small way improves the world. I hope so.


Tom said...

I agree, but my explanation might not make sense.

Many people understand violence only through Hollywood, and when they feel like some particular movie made them feel, they want to emulate the violence that was part of that movie. That is how they understand violence, I think.

I think it is good to remind them -- for we all know somewhere in our psyche -- that real violence breaks people, in one way or another.

It is good to be reminded, too; sometimes I forget what I have seen and become too thirsty for blood.

douglas said...

We do live in a culture where we have more people more detached from violence then ever in history. We've done our best to hide from it as a society. Meat is something you get in plastic at the store, kids are taught that fighting is always wrong, and movies sanitize (in most movies), or caricature (horror movies) violence, but almost never is it realistic in any significant sense. Surely there are benefits from making violence a rarity in our daily lives, but there are costs too.

Here's an odd question:
Is it wrong for someone who has not much direct knowledge of violence to long in some way to gain that knowledge?

E Hines said...

Frankly, I think no useful lessons were learned by any of those three. They learned that they cannot intimidate you (or that they failed this time), but no knock on you, that's a pretty useless bit of knowledge in the larger scheme.

I think our present straits in our country--using this thread's theme of violence as an example of the broader problem--is the "fault" of us baby boomers and of our parents. Our parents saw that violence first hand in a bloody world war, and they were the second generation in a row to do so (neglecting the general level of violence in the conditions of prior generations). They, and we, whose knowledge of that violence isn't so far removed, wanted better for our children. So we did our best to shield our kids from the violence of poverty, from the violence of violence.

We succeeded too well.

Now, knowledge of violence comes from games like Doom and its more current evolutions where the players follow a gun around and watch the mayhem in front of it. It comes, such as it is, from seeing our veterans return from Iraq or Afghanistan, hale and hearty (apparently), or badly wounded and maimed, whether mentally or physically or both, and feeling good about how we take care of them--we're not the Viet Nam War haters, after all--but we're so busy feeling good oabout ourselves in the way we care for our veterans that we have no time to understand what it is they've actually gone through or to appreciate in any meaningful way that what they went through means we can avoid having to experience any of it at all.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

Despite constant contact with death dating from infancy, I have practically no experience with violence. I find it hard to make it real to myself.

Grim said...

Yeah, I gather this is a general problem of modern America.

The old movie Fight Club treated it, in a way. It's a mode of self-awareness, because it is a part of life that is important to your evolved consciousness -- evolution has given it considerable attention -- but with which you have no experience.

The longing for it makes sense to me. It's really what's behind the roller-derby 'warfare' too. It's not really about rollerskating; it's about exploring something they can't quite name, but recognize in themselves and need to know about.

Anonymous said...

All my experience with violence has been on the receiving end, because the one time I could have done something, I managed to control myself enough not to act. It was hard, very hard, and scared me, because "nice ladies" do not inflict physical pain on other people. The situation did not justify a violent response on my part, which is one reason why my desire to punish the other person took me aback.

In the other cases, I was badly outnumbered and in one instance, ambushed. (And people wonder why I do not long to relive my teen-age years.)


douglas said...

"The longing for it makes sense to me. It's really what's behind the roller-derby 'warfare' too. It's not really about rollerskating; it's about exploring something they can't quite name, but recognize in themselves and need to know about."

Okay, good, as I think I agree. I also think it's why keeping things like football, and boxing (or now MMA) as legitimate outlets for that impulse (particularly for young men) is important to our society. I don't think it clarifies the importance of violence and those who endure it on our behalf to those who do not, but at least it keeps a problem from getting worse.

Given these analyses, do we conclude that man finds it necessary to engage in war? That there is no escaping that which is generally (and rightly I think) considered a bane on our specie? If so, it's an idea that would be lost on the vast majority of our countrymen.

Grim said...

Do you mean to conclude that?

Tom says that real violence breaks people. Does it? I guess. Maybe I'm broken. But maybe we are supposed to be broken: you live as long as you want, and -- what does the Havamal say? -- 'old age won't give you a truce, even if the spears do.' You'll find yourself subject to a great deal of violence even in trying to save your life. Surgery is violence, after all: often very severe and personal violence.

I'd think about it more. The answer isn't easy. It is important, but it is not easy. It speaks to something basic in the structure of life, something terrible. That kind of thing is not easy to look at, but look at it as well as you can.

douglas said...

I've always, even from a young age, tried to keep my eyes open to the truth of man's tendency to violence, and done my best to absorb that into my understanding of man in general. I just haven't had much direct experience with violence, other than by accident. Perhaps then it's not that man must war in the normal sense, but that there is no escaping the violence life can bring, in whatever form, so one should do one's best to be prepared for such. Then I think I am ready, at least as I can be.

douglas said...

And your comment that perhaps we are to be broken- I've often thought that perhaps that was right, that we need some obstacle to overcome, Some battle to fight- and perhaps it is just so.

E Hines said...

If death is breakage, then we're born broken--after all, life is a fatal affliction; no one survives it. And in the end, violence is the lot of life; we're all someone's food. But that's a bit simplistic.

The breakage, it seems to me, is a matter generally under our control. If we go to our deaths--violently or through old age--with our honor intact or strengthened, then we are not broken. And the maintenance of our honor is a positive act; we cannot just sit passively trying to survive and achieve it.

It isn't violence, per se, that breaks us, it's the use to which we put it that does, or does not. It's useful, also, to look past the breakage that does occur: what rises from the debris of that breakage--something better, or something worse?

Eric Hines