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on retaliation

As the row rumbles on about a slap at a certain awards bash I am reminded of an incident nearly forty years ago when I, too, resorted to violence. Yes, as a bespectacled sober member of the middle-management ranks, as I was then, I blew a fuse and gave in to the red mist. Now I don’t condone violence, but there are times when the primal urge to defend your corner comes up to the surface; threaten me with violence and you risk an equal response.

My red mist moment came not long after I had moved to this corner of North Wiltshire. We were exploring our new part of the world and had ventured out one Saturday. With my wife and our two children aged about seven and three we were strolling along, my wife in front with our daughter and me a few paces behind with our son. My wife was wearing a quilted coat with a hood and one of a group of half a dozen or so youths barged past us running. They were being a general nuisance; we had seen them going the other way a few moments earlier and, as they passed us one of them grabbed the hood of my wife’s coat and pulled it causing her to stagger.

He was too far from me at that moment, but we very quickly came upon the group leaning up against a wall. I walked over to the one I wanted, grabbed him by the throat, lifted him off the ground and told him a couple of home truths, banging his head against the wall in time with my words. His mates had legged it and, having said my piece, I let him go. As I turned away to face a couple of security guards I realised that I was still hiding my son’s hand; I had forgotten about him in the heat off the moment.

The security guys had some hard words for me, but let it go at that. I was grateful as I think that an assault charge might, at that time, have been a little career inhibiting shall we say; I recognised that my action had possible consequences. These days I would probably not been so lucky. I am not proud of what I did, but I wanted to give the little shit a demonstration that actions can have consequences beyond being chased off by the security team.

At the Oscar’s someone took a cheap shot and got slapped by someone else who loved their victim. I am all for free speech and will defend that right to the bitter end, no matter how abhorrent I might find the other person’s viewpoint. However, the right to free speech comes with some responsibility and if we want to live in a civilised society then we all have to behave accordingly. Violence is an extension of that behaviour. I try to rise above things and not let myself get dragged into the gutter, but don’t expect me to hide there either to let you ride over me.

Society these days has a fixation on human rights to the extent that perpetrators appear to do better than their victims. If society does not address that then a rise in personal retaliation is almost inevitable. Is that what we want?

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