The secret of street violence

COMMENT: There is only one certain way to put an end to street violence - remove all men from the streets.

That’s it. All of the posturing over lock-ins and lockouts and alcohol free zones and putting more cops on the beat and legislating mandatory sentences for one-punch killings, all them step lightly around the real problem.

Not drunken men, for many of us can take drink after drink with no ill effects or anti-social repercussions beyond naps and telling the same story, poorly, over and over again.

Not men who lift weights, or train in mixed martial arts or boxing clubs, for many of us can do that without ever feeling our fists bunching up as we walk down the street.

Not men who play football, or men who play video games more violent than the hardest football code, not men who ride motorbikes or men who watch soccer.

Just men.

Or rather, just some men.

Because some men are fools, who feel the greatest power they have lies in their clenched fists.

Some are cowards enough that they will never face other men to act out the truth they feel in their own sinews. Their blows will land on the soft faces of the women and children in their lives. Others imagine themselves heroic figures and cannot wait to seek out other, lesser men into whose faces they will beat the truth of it. But it’s a subjective truth, of course, known only to them and the like-minded around them. They are not heroes, they’re cowards too.

Their fearfulness is two-fold, of the world, and of being exposed before the world as less than they would have us believe of them. Hence the grotesque, misshapen sadists, huge with steroid boosted muscle mass and hours upon hours upon hours spent grinding out the heavy lifts launching stealth attacks on men who are fractions of their size and possessed of none of their rage with the world, and with themselves for not being able to put a bigger dent in it.

This is where street violence is born. In toxic masculinity.

Sure, alcohol, some drugs, culture, they can all make it worse. (Although alcohol-related violence has been declining since 2008 in crime statistics in NSW, the source of so much of our angst). And while some cultures or subcultures may appear in their language and actions to be more prone to violence, what of headlines and politicians calling for the state to 'get tough', 'crack down', to 'smash' and to 'crush' the threat out on 'our streets'? Why is this rhetoric any less culpable in establishing violent force as appropriate than, say, a video game?

In the end, however, men are the cause of male violence, and more often than not its victims.

At times like this I’m put in mind of a passage from Simone de Beauvoir, the French philosopher and novelist, whose writing helped eternize the Resistance, on the fringes of which she acted during the Nazi Occupation. After the terrible and violent debauchery of the war she wrote that although, brute force played no great part in the adult world in normal times, it nevertheless “haunts that world; many kinds of masculine behaviour spring from a root of possible violence; … for a man to feel in his fists his will to self-affirmation is enough to reassure him of his sovereignty against any insult…”

There is the most tawdry of the secrets of male street violence. It’s not eight beers, or rum and cokes, it is self affirmation. The frantic blows of a pitiable creature lashing out at a world it thinks owes it more.

More respect.

More tribute.

More wealth.

More sex.

More fear.

It is not an impossible problem for civilisation. Millions of men have grown beyond this. But many, many of us haven’t.

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