27 Mar 2008

Sitting Zen - Citizen

Yesterday was a bit weird and raised some questions about what to do during incidents in public. The first incident - I was sitting on the overland train and it was fairly empty. In from another carriage storms a young girl soon followed by her boyfriend. Clearly they were having a serious tiff and the lad was cussing with intense venom. She responded with all of her limited vocabulary to wind him up even further. He resorted to slapping at her possessions, grabbing her hands and calling all sorts of names, the physical aggression was beginning to escalate. I sat there, observing, weighing up the pros and cons of stepping in. But, in the end, I did nothing. Shameful non-action on my behalf? Yes I did size him up but if he started beating her, would I have intervened? I didn’t get to find out as we all got off the next stop and their bickering subsided.
The second incident on the same day – I was jogging late in the evening round my local back roads when I saw up ahead a gang of about a dozen youths ranging in age from tiny pipsqueaks to young men. They were throwing rocks and kicking in a parked car. My running path was heading straight towards them. Several thoughts entered my head – should I intervene? Should I cross the road to run on the other side? Should I do nothing? With nothing on me but my home keys and no mobile I felt strangely helpless to do anything. My dilemma ended when a bunch of guys ran over and shouted ‘Oi!’ and the kids scattered.
These incidents have left me feeling a bit deflated. Mainly because they highlight the amount of nastiness in the world, but also about my inability to do anything about them. Martial arts are supposed to give you the skills and abilities to fight and defend yourself. But they don’t offer much in the way of moral guidance about using them in real incidents. Taking an imaginary path in the two incidents above, I suspect any intervention on my behalf would have been met with a violent response with little to gain on my part.
I don’t think there is an easy answer to these nagging questions. You can only react as you see fit at that moment in time. There have been incidents in the past where I have stepped in to aid a member of the public. I don’t actually recall why I helped on those occasions but there must have been a subconscious assessment going on about the risks involved.
I make no conclusions from these incidents other than to say that there are plenty of idiots, scrotes and scumbags in the world, but why do half of them have to live near me?

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, the inner dialogue. Something known to so many of us. If it helps, you were in a difficult position in both instances. In the first, you would likely have only caused them to "bond" and turn their collective ire on you. Bizarre but it happens. For the second, yes, hmmm, sad to say but a show of aggression ("appearance not substance") does sometimes win the day. You knew intuitively that you risked giving a structured response that might have caused serious injury or worse. Your knowledge saved them from painful experience. A trained martial artist knows only too clearly how easy it can be to harm someone. In this modern day, you can then be subject prosecution for your, at the time, reasonable behaviour. Be kind to yourself, after all, your decision not to intervene was kind to them!!! Best Regards, Peter McC

Anonymous said...

Hola Mr Meerkat. I can only go by my own personal experiences regarding the decision making process of whether to intervene or not. In the past I have helped and I have also stood by. The difference between the two was the lack of thinking time involved. With a slow-burner your mind has time to calculate all the possibilities and (usually) inaction follows. When something so utterly outrages your sensibilities you act on instinct, not thinking, and certainly not worrying about the consequences for you, or your family. I mention your family because we live in a world where you are guilty by association. What if you had intervened in the matter of the scrotes vandalising the car? What if you had gotten the better of them? They would want revenge would they not? What if they found out where you lived? You see, in the age of the coward decent people are easy targets. Can't find you, or you're too tough they find some other way of exacting revenge. As for the boyfriend/girlfriend row, you made the right choice...trust me. Society is screwed. You have to pick your battles. Sometimes you have to swallow hard and feel sick for a few hours or days, but unfortunately that's what the world has become. Cage Raj.

slideyfoot said...

It's an interesting question, and probably comes down to the old hot/cold blood thing, as the last commenter said. If you have a chance to think about what you're doing, then most rational people will decide against violence.

However, if you don't have a chance to think, or you're so angry your rational side doesn't get a say in the discussion, it isn't so difficult to act.

There's an example of that in this very blog, where you mentioned how when somebody hit your wife, you were so furious you were searching for the guy for some time afterwards with the intention of administering a beatdown.

Or in a training setting, the time where you mentioned someone started whacking you in the middle of BJJ class, and you got angry and tried to retaliate.

Although I speak from no experience at all here, I would have thought that pre-meditated violence is much, much harder to internally justify than heat of the moment reactions. Watching a violent situation is one thing: being involved against your will (e.g., say the guy from the first example attacked you) is quite another.


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