Where have all the fistfights gone?
The title of this post was brought up by a friend of mine in reference to the latest school shooting. This time it was in Chardon, Ohio. 3 dead.
And it’s a legit question. You never hear about fistfights in schools anymore, really. You hear about school shootings on the (mercifully) few occasions that they happen.
…and then you hear about beatings.
This is entirely a pet theory of mine, but the more I look at it, the more I firmly believe that fistfights have mutated into straight-up beatings. A fistfight implies fighting back. And over the last few decades, the U.S. has slowly been eliminating schoolyard fistfights from the cultural lexicon, with beatings and (in mercifully few cases) school shootings filling the void.
How this has happened is anyone’s guess. Mine is as follows:
Conflicts happen. Human nature. Children are human, QED, children conflict. And they conflict HARD. Kids can be vicious little shits when you get down to it. Lord of the Flies? Entirely possible. I’m not going to get too much into nature vs. nurture here, but differing ways of resolving conflicts have to be taught, and in some cases forced upon people in order to be successful.
This meant that there were always bullies who considered violence the first and most preferable option. There were also defenders and those who refused to be victims, who didn’t prefer violence, but knew it had a time and a place.
Then something changed. Again, my pet theory, but I’m thinking the Vietnam-era hippies got day jobs in education, government, and as many soft sciences as possible. (Not going into my other pet theory that any field of study never found in the private sector that ends in “Studies” needs to be renamed “Shit I want to read and write about anyway and want someone to pay me for it.” Nice gig if you can get it, pal, but try being honest about it). And as they went, they went beating the peace drum. The nonviolence drum.
“Violence never solved anything.” Gods, what a bullshit phrase that is.
Over time, the positive aspects of violence were ignored or their existence was denied completely. (i.e. the bully that leaves you the hell alone because they know they’ll get a face full of knuckles for their trouble, as opposed to the Bully who stops because you tell him a firm “no!” If you ever find the latter, take a picture because he’s probably riding a unicorn.) Fighting back became a crime, and worthy of punishment. Why? Because it’s fighting.
I’ll admit I’m sympathetic to teachers, because that’s one serious pain in the ass profession that’s only gotten worse over the years. And sorting out the whys and wherefores of a fight between schoolkids has to be a worse ass-pain. Figuring out “who started it” dissolved into a haze of “he threw the first punch!” and “because he called me a _____ !”
And over all of this is the cult of “fairness,” that mighty algorithm of bullshit that insists equality of opportunity requires a quantum-level exchange system of who has a worse home life vis-a-vis who’s daddy is a civil rights attorney. I’m sympathetic to the assistant principal who threw up his hands and said “You’re fighting in my school, I’m suspending both of your asses!”
This resulted in unintended consequences. Soon enough, fights would ensue, be broken up, and no attempt whatsoever was made to determine cause. These kids were fighting and were subsequently punished.
This meant little to the attackers, who more often than not regarded punishment as the cost of doing business. The corresponding decline in scholastic corporal punishment had unintended consequences of its own, with the dispassionate application of a teacher’s paddle replaced by the emotionally charged belt (or in darker cases, more fists) of the guilty party’s parents.
Those who would defend themselves (and/or others), meanwhile, were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not defending yourself meant taking a beating. Defending yourself meant you were fighting, and were therefore punished.
All of this completely disregarded the fact that honorable motives for violence existed and came down far harder on defenders than attackers.
A student musician jumped in the parking lot defends himself? Suspended. And not allowed to perform. An academic decathlete returns a thrown punch in the boy’s room? No competition, plus a suspension that puts them back in class and lets them struggle to keep up. (No, I’m not getting into privileges granted to student athletes).
And the whole damn time: “Fighting is bad!” “Violence never solved anything!”
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Meantime, attackers started running out of fucks to give, as restrictions, detention, banishment from extracurricular activities and suspension increasingly came to mean jack and shit to them. They were all but encouraged to keep doing what they did.
And the defenders? “Fighting is bad.” Eventually, they learned to keep their heads down and take it. Lay back, close your eyes and think of England. Beating was better than suspension. As well as the dreaded “permanent record.”
Eventually, you’re just damned.
And in onesies and twosies, these kids were faced with personal hells with only one way out. And some of them decided to take their tormentors with them.
The only easy way they had left.
And we’re shocked, and we ask how it could happen here, and we rail against whatever’s upsetting us in the name of assigning blame: Poor parenting, video games, violent movies, undermedicated, overmedicated, you name it, it’s touted as “if we (meaning someone else) only would (insert pet theory here)!”
But “violence never solved anything.”
What disturbs me the most about this? We’re now raising entire generations who have been systematically indoctrinated that “fighting is bad!” “Violence never solves anything!”
For years now, drill instructors are finding increasing numbers of recruits that have never thrown a punch in their lives. Training is being altered to re-instill aggression into generations of people who have had it systematically shamed out of them. I can only imagine what is has done to the victims of carjackers, home invaders, and sexual predators. How many of them might have fought back?
How many of them might have learned that violence has it’s times and places?
Where did all the fistfights go?
How can we get them back?