21 December 2009

Assault and Aftermath

I was assaulted today. Not metaphorically assaulted—a guy punched and kicked me; there was a trip to Emerg, police report, witness statements, the whole nine yards. Without getting into the details, (except to say that the incident was unprovoked by me aside from what the assailant may have perceived that caused him to fly into a rage), I’m pretty shaken up by the entire incident. But more disturbing than the physical upset, the bruises, and the post-adrenaline drag is the question of the level of both latent and expressed rage that seems to be pervasive these days. This goes far beyond lack of civility and manners. It seems that many people become violent at almost no provocation, sometimes with tragic consequences. (In fact the circumstances of my assault this morning are strikingly similar to those of Mr. Skinner’s attackers—no pun intended.)

That the world has become stressful to an extreme is not news. That people believe that their individual concerns, schedules, work priorities, or the few seconds of travel time saved by driving through red lights and stop signs are more important than anyone else’s concerns is a significant problem: It seems to demonstrate a type of collective, pathological narcissism that does not bode well for the survival of our society. As a social animal, we humans require the rest of the “pack” to ensure both our collective and individual survival. Sociopaths destroy the material from which the fabric of society is sewn. As an increasing number of people transform from responsible fathers, mothers, wives, husband, business colleagues, charity volunteers, soccer coaches, and hockey moms into channels of unbridled violence at the slightest slight, ultimately that fragile societal fabric is ripped asunder, and we are all inevitably lost.

McLuhan famously said that violence is the quest for identity. Although that may be true – a threat to one’s identity is often met by degrees of violence acted out in any number of ways – it is time, I think, for each of us to reflect on our own pent-up frustrations and latent rage. To heal the world, we must first heal ourselves.

I know that the man who attacked me was apprehended and charged. I hope that he will be able to use the lessons of the process he is about to face to reflect on how he can heal himself for the good of people who care about him, and for the rest of us as well.

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