Wednesday, 13 September 2017

To fight or not to fight?

Journalist Scott Atkinson wrote about his mixed feelings when he refused to get involved in a fight following a road-rage incident. Part of him was self-congratulatory - how civilised he was in his approach to life - but another bit of him felt shame and inadequacy - he had never been in an actual fight. He had done martial arts training and won medals but he had never been in a serious stand-up fight. Or even a less serious fisticuffs for that matter.

His research put it down to ancient instincts, a primeval male urge to protect what is yours. But even understanding it, he still felt a certain shame, slightly unmanned.

Do any women feel that way? Certainly the last time I was in a physical fight was when I was about seven. And it was a bit of a girly fight even then, more slapping than punching, and a lot of flailing arms. The girls I was friendly (or temporarily unfriendly) with and I were not the sort to scratch and bite. I don't feel a need to exchange punches with anyone these days. Other women might feel differently.

I recently had a visit from my possibly crazy niece. Every family has a crazy member somewhere along the line. This is ours: seriously unstable, liable to lash out physically. Her own mother had to have a restraining order put on her at one point! Anyway, she popped up on my doorstep. Or rather, her boyfriend popped up on my doorstep, with some tale of looking for an address around here. I was no help and off he went. A few minutes later the doorbell rang again: the crazy niece. She had sent the boyfriend, she told me, to see who would open the door. Why? Is she afraid of Phil, who, like the writer of the aforementioned article, is quite able to look after himself but does not get into fights? Be that as it may, fininf only me at home she, and the boyfriend, came in for a cup of tea.

I listened to her tale of woes, the trials and tribulations of her life, and a whole diatribe about the list of people she declares she hates. Such vehemence! My daughter, who was supposed to be visiting, did not show up. When I spoke to her later she commented that it was just as well, as her cousin might have hit her. Ellen, my daughter, did not figure on the list of people-I-hate but there is a long and complicated history of disagreement and aggressive text messages and phone calls from my niece to myndaughter. And when I spoke to my sister even later, she also said it was just as well: my daughter might have hit her daughter. No, I don't think so! But my sister is clearly one who believes in fighting!

It's a strange world and perhaps we are only a small step away from uncivilised.

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