Jeremy on: violence
You may be familiar with a footballist called Joey Barton. Off the pitch, he’s a fighty sort of soul, and, in recent years, he’s done a bit of time for common assault. He has also been convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. And once he ran over a man at 2am in Liverpool.
You might imagine that, on the pitch, things would be different. But no. He has been done for punching an opponent in the chest, and then, in the very last match of this year’s thrilling Premiership, he took a quick look at the exposed throat of an opponent and plainly thought, “I think things would be better if I elbowed him in that”. So he did.
He was given a red card by the referee, and he reacted to this by kicking another opponent and trying to headbutt yet another. As a result, he has been labelled as a nasty piece of work by most footy fans. But I’m not so sure.
As a general rule, I will not hit anyone, unless they are Piers Morgan. I went through all of my school years without getting into a fight, and even when some Doncaster town boys put dog crap in my school cap because I was wearing a Chelsea scarf, I remained calm and polite. If a bit tearful.
However, while I am not given to punching James and Richard in the chest, I do understand why the likes of Mr Barton feel the need to go around hitting their colleagues and rivals.
It was explained rather well by the Labour MP Eric Joyce, who, earlier this year, had a drink in the House of Commons bar, saw a couple of Tories and hit them.
He says he’s that sort of man. Some people settle their disputes with a pen, some with a recourse to law. He uses his fists and reckons that if two chaps want to settle an argument round the back of a pub, that’s up to them. He’s right. It is.
What’s more, it’s vital that we have all sorts of different people in Parliament, so that all walks of society are represented: toffs, vagabonds, cheats, liars, vicars and pub brawlers. Because how can you represent the people when you aren’t representative?
In fact, I’d go further. We sometimes see foreign parliaments reduced to a heaving mass of punches and sweat, and I think that, from time to time, I’d like to see the same sort of thing in ours. So I say this to Mr Cameron: the next time Mr Miliband is being annoying, leap over the table and kick him firmly in the groin.
I’d like to see this sort of activity at Wimbledon too. You have sweated your whole life. You have trained and trained, not drunk, not smoked, and sacrificed all of the treats that life can offer to be the best of the best of the best. It’s match point. The serve is out. But the linesman, an elderly geography teacher in a silly hat calls it in.
Your whole life has been wasted. So who could blame you, in the heat of the moment, for running up to the official and hitting him with your racquet?
Remember Nelson Piquet kicking and punching the useless Eliseo Salazar? Remember Michael Schumacher charging down the pit lane to ‘discuss’ things with David Coulthard? We quite understand why. And more than this: we like it.
They’re moments we savour and cherish. Over in America, people go to see a game of ice hockey not to witness speed and precision but for the fights. And here, the rugby crowd is always cheered immensely when two number eights start beating the living crap out of one another. Especially when the rest of the team joins in.
The trouble is that today we are programmed to stay calm. To turn the other cheek. And that’s fine if you’re me. I would hate to be punched. But in sport and politics where emotions are – and indeed should be – as charged as an equatorial summer storm, it’s inhuman to take a deep breath and carry on. Perhaps that’s why so many top sports stars and politicians these days are so robotic and dreary.
All of this brings me neatly to a picture we saw in the newspapers recently. It was of a middle-aged gentleman trying to cycle along a country lane while being kicked by a young woman. Apparently, he had been going too slowly in the middle of the road, and the woman had decided to teach him a lesson.
Everyone shared the opinion that the woman was a menace and should be locked up for the rest of measurable time. Because, while it may be all right to lash out in the heat of the moment on a sports pitch, it is extremely not all right to behave like that on the road.
However, before we lock away the woman, let’s ask a question: what if she had received word that her mother had been taken to hospital and didn’t have long to live? And, what if, while stuck behind the cyclist, fuming at his slow progress, word came through that her dear old Mum had died? Would it then be acceptable to kick the man who’d prevented her from having a last goodbye?
Very often, I am held up by someone who is driving along the A44 at a speed that they consider to be safe. They are often elderly. Their reactions are slow, and they do not feel confident going above 25mph. Plus, they are in no particular rush and feel the world would be a far better place if others were in no particular rush either. So they have no sense of guilt about the tail of overheating metal in their wake. Secretly, they may even feel empowered.
Mostly, I put up with it. If I can overtake, I will, and if I cannot, I will put on a nice tune and relax. But what if I were in bomb disposal and I had just moments to get to a terrorist nuke? What if my wife were in labour? What if a child needed its Dad? Then the moment is charged, and the rage will build, and it’s only human to barge the elderly couple and their infuriating Peugeot into a hedge.
Cyclists lose their temper all the time, and I don’t blame them, mostly. Because when a bus driver, fuelled by stupidity or arrogance, turns left without warning and you are nearly killed by his rear wheels, you become a skin bag full of dopamine, and serotonin and adrenalin. You are as psyched up as a frightened rabbit. And, in that instant, you can’t really be held to account if you board the bus, unzip your flies and relieve yourself all over the driver.
So, there we are. Violence. I loathe it. I’m frightened of it. I wish the human knuckle was made from kapok. But sometimes? Hmmm.