Guest Blog: Violence

WHY WE (I) (DON’T) FIGHT

by Dale Shaw

LISTEN: Violence Podcast

I have never punched a man in the face. Never. Even though I grew up in the West Midlands in the 1970’s, where punching people in the face seemed to be a popular pastime, with kicking someone in the side as a close second, I have yet to punch a man in the face.

I did once slam my brother’s head in a door. He had stitches at the time and was convinced his brains were about to fall out. But despite this blip, my moments of violence have been as rare as UK Eurovision wins. I’ve certainly been provoked to violence. In a nightclub in Washington DC where my female companion was manhandled by a man and responded by applying her stiletto to his goolies. Not wanting to start a fight with a girl, he decided to start a fight with me. It didn’t go beyond the shouting phase.

But did I THINK about punching this man and many other men in the face? Over and over. Until their visage resembled the interior of a tin of Heinz ravioli? Of course! Can you imagine the horror of a world where you didn’t think about administering harm on your fellow man? Have you ever taken public transport? Unless your travelling on a conveyance that is completely devoid of passengers and features a driver on Prozac, then you’ll be fantasising about garrotting, shovelling or numchucking someone sitting close to you within around 12 seconds.

Yes, we all possess the primal urge to be violent. But the reason we are still here and our less lucky, hairier evolutionary cousins aren’t is because we developed the ability to take a deep breath, count to ten and just leave well alone. If all disputes, disagreements and misunderstanding back in the furry loincloth age were resolved by extreme violence, there wouldn’t be anybody left. Just one smug Homosapien-type holding a big club and wondering where all the other Homosapien-types had gone.

We developed the ability to talk through problems while only THINKING ABOUT beating someone senseless. Can you imagine how exhausting it would be to pick a fight with everyone who pisses us off on a day-to-day basis?  You see, verbal communication is not just a lifesaver, it’s a time-saver.

Now, one reason for this could be my size. I’m at the Jack Russell end, if you’re making a dog/person comparison type. I tend to think that this helps me avoid a lot of trouble. The sort of person who is happy to instantly resort to violence, is also the sort of person who will feel they’ve ‘failed’ if their victim is much smaller, weaker and crying-er than them. Again this is possibly primal. Violence is used in primate groups to assert dominance. But asserting dominance over a ‘Jamie Cullum’ as opposed to an ‘Andre the Giant’ is a bit of a waste of time.

So that primal urge to fight, to poke, to gouge, to roundhouse exists within us all. But what we evolved to do is not constantly flail our arms in an excited manner every time we are short changed. Instead we use our innate powers of language to make our feelings known. While secretly imagining sticking someone’s head in a vice, once we’re at a safe distance. It’s human nature.

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