So, Tim Ferris has decided to start punching people. I know, shocking. I have often thought about this, and thought about the consequences of actually carrying out my own form of impromptu corporal justice. To me, three thoughts rise from this idea:
1st, and slightly cliche’: "Where would it all end?" With only a personal standard of right and wrong, where does the line get drawn? There would inevitably be situations in which my view of the right reaction would be in conflict with someone else. No doubt, this would almost always be at odds with the person I decide to punch. What constitutes a ‘punching offense’?
Second, there does seem to be, in both British and American society,
a complete lack of regard for personal consequences in public. Having lived in Kings Cross, Central London, I’ve probably seen about the worst people have to offer. From middle-class, middle-aged men trawling the streets in posh cars for paid sex to drunk teenagers being violently sick or urinating on the street. Many times, while catching a bus to university or walking back home, I was forced to think about mine and my wife’s safety. We saw someone casually walk into a phone box and rip out the coin compartment. I was harassed almost daily by the drunk homeless who hurl abuse about themselves like Pigpen from Peanuts. This is a bleak picture, and we also witnessed people giving up large portions of their lives in drop-in centres or with the Salvation Army, befriending prostitutes and making a difference. More about that later. The point here is that there is not enough regard for others’ dignity, and I must admit, I’ve often wondered if some sort of bodily reminder might stop someone’s abusive, uncaring actions.
Finally, what about them? I wonder if I’ve ever been in a position to merit a stout punch in the face? (This question is not directed at immediate family or my wonderful spouse!) While at a stag do (bachelor party) a few weeks ago, I was concerned that our group was being too loud. Granted, this was not a typically-rude party, and most people were sober enough to walk the half-mile or so back to their hotel, but we were being very loud in a small pub. At one stage, the best man was performing his duty of making an ass of the lot of us by slapping another member of the stag party firmly on the arse while shouting: "Whoopah!". Anyone who’s met the best man will know his voice booms out like Brian Blessed, and the older gentlemen at the table next to us did actually shout for us to be quiet. (Most of us couldn’t hear above the "Whoopah!") Had I been trying to enjoy a quiet chat and pint in a wonderful Tudor pub, and the table next began shouting like this, I might have been tempted to punch a few faces myself.
So, will I start punching jerks again? On balance, I don’t think so. I’d have only myself to answer to, and I know who I am, and that I am not infallible. I’ve also made mistakes, and wouldn’t have wanted to have been punched for them all. On the other hand, there does seem to be a lack of respect going around, for which a normal citizen has very little recourse. What do you do when a hippie spits on you? Well, since the problem is systemic, there seems to be only one course of action: make the system better. Those volunteers in a Kings Cross drop-in centre were making a tangible difference, for absolutely no thanks. (The homeless they served treated the women as if it was only right for them to give up every morning to cook them breakfast and provide them with clothing!) And, we’re told to turn the other cheek. I can only think this is ever more relevant in a society losing its mind. There is no longer a social standard for issuing a challenge (though I can see its appeal), but there is an example to follow for those of us who follow Jesus, and it’s entirely counter-cultural:
27-30"To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (Luke 6:27-30, Message)
Live generously. How the hell do we do that?
Also, I like this Windows Live Writer thing. It’s very Mac-like, ironically, and easy to use. It’s also a lot easier than logging into my CMS, but I haven’t seen how it posts yet. For that: here goes…