At the end of my rugby playing career I took a coaching job down in the KZN Midlands. It was a tough 2 years as I adapted to not playing and having to stand on the sidelines unable to directly influence what was going on on the field. It was also a tough time for Candice and I as we moved away from family and friends to a tiny town called Hilton just north of PMB.
I remember a particular night watching a rugby game in a historic Hilton pub. The Sharks were playing the Stormers and, supporting the Stormers, we were a minority in a packed venue. The Sharks ended up losing (and like they all are the Sharks supporters tended to be a little sensitive to the fact) and words became heated between our group and and a couple of them. I’m a bit of a pacifist so didn’t want to get involved but there was a gentlemen standing close by saying to us what a disgrace a friend of mine was. I ignored the comment but having to listen to him repeat his comment a few times I got to my personal event horizon. I casually leaned in and uttered these fateful words “ buddy the only disgrace here is your brown patchwork leather jacket” 😂. Funny now but serious at the time.
He turned his attention towards me and after exchanging some heated words I uttered the most famous line in Fourways and Kyalami today. I said in a calm and polite manner, but with a look that meant business “Do want to take this outside?” I feel the shame causing my body to cringe as I write this almost 8 years later😁. We laugh today because it’s so out of character for me but Candice said she hasn’t seen blood drain from a guys face as quick as it did and he disappeared into the crowd without anymore fuss. Needless to say we left without to much drama and it’s one of those funny stories that gets bigger and more spice is added as its retold.
I share this personal story rather embarrassingly not to demonstrate some form of misplaced, male aggression and bravado but rather to ask the question what might have happened if I had chosen not to comment on the gentleman’s leather jacket? Would his abuse have escalated? Would making a decision not to act have changed anything? Would we have been able to “talk it out because as Mike Tyson says “everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.”
I ask these questions because we are living in a society where we are encouraged to find amicable, non physical forms of conflict resolution. We teach our kids to use words, talk things through and not to hit or use violence. These are concepts I whole heartedly agree with but does the world work this way? Are we giving a generation of kids rules and values to live by for a world that doesn’t care about the rules and operates completely differently? Are we playing by rules that don’t serve us because the idea of a non violent world isn’t the reality of a Newtonian action/reaction paradigm.
My dad comes from a generation that perhaps understood that the world doesn’t have space for everyone to be winners. He taught me that if I’m ever in a fight aim for the nose of my opponent because a guy can’t fight with his eyes watering and if you’re ever outnumbered in a fight pick just one guy and aim all your destructive efforts at him because you will lose but so will at least one of them. This is very much a Darwinian, only the fittest survive, approach to life and not one that I condone but in Standard 2, after 3 weeks of incessant bullying and turning the other cheek at an all boys school, I throat punched my tormentor. I wasn’t bullied again.
So I to like to live with the idea that the world should be non violent and accepting. I want and believe in the rainbows and sunshine and most times things can be sorted out in an amicable way. Sometimes it won’t be and can’t be. Sometimes you will have to fight, physically and emotionally to protect yourself, loved ones or for what you want from life because your opponent doesn’t play by the rules.
I teach my kids that everyone is born equal and some have very trying circumstances to overcome so we need to try to understand other people’s behavior (good or bad) toward us with compassion and understanding. But our compassion needs to include ourselves as well. So (right or wrong) my kids are taught to always be kind but if you have to aim for their opponents nose and if ever you’re outnumbered in a fight, pick just one guy to have a go at. You’ll lose but one of them will as well because it’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.