Monday, January 11, 2016

"Fight Club" as Violence Prevention?

Pat Burns, my high school tennis coach, guidance counselor, and the man who introduced me to Voltaire, grew up in a Southern Illinois coal mining town in the 1940's.  He'd tell stories about how conflicts between young men was settled by the donning of boxing gloves and the forming of a ring.  Tough places breed tough people and justice is always a matter of bring a measure of civility to conflict.

No biting, no eye gouging, no strikes to the groin, no knives, no guns: this was a measure of civility.  It still is.

We may wish we lived in a world where settling conflict with boxing was not necessary but we can accept it as an improvement over uncontrolled violence in the street.

Big government programs have not civilized the rougher edges of the city or rural America.  Arguably the loss of influence experienced by other institutions, primarily the church, have thrown our tough people from tough places onto their own resources when it comes to settling conflict.  The police should not get involved when someone is speaking ill of your baby's Mama, but how do we keep that conflict of escalating to a knifing or a murder where they will have to get involved?

Despite talks of progress, we sapiens have not evolved that much.  Honor culture courses through my veins.  The centrality of settling conflict with a kind of face saving violence still exists in living memory.  Necessity in the form of the failure of the war on poverty, is bringing it back.

Enter a very much worth your time twenty minute documentary over at the New York Times.

Mr. Wilmore, known in his Harrisonburg, Va., neighborhood as Scarface, has his own history with weapons and crime, but he began thinking of ways to squash the gun violence plaguing his community.
He started actively recruiting people with “beefs” to put on boxing gloves and take their arguments off the streets and into his backyard fight club, where he films the action and a referee calls a winner. He says that most of the disputes are settled once and for all there, with most fighters developing a new respect for the other. “There’s certain people, that’s how they’re wired,” he says. “They’re gonna fight no matter what I do. The only difference is at least with me, they are fighting in a yard with gloves, a referee and regulations.”
Mr. Wilmore says his method of conflict resolution appeals to a lot of people in his community, many of whom feel alienated by the legal system.
Officials with the Harrisonburg Police Department say they have not received any reports of problems from the fight club, although the department does not consider Mr. Wilmore’s strategy to be a viable violence reduction solution nor does it condone his homegrown approach.

The puritans among us will condemn this "fight club" as barbaric but they make a small error.  Life in many parts of this country is and will continue to be rough, tough, "barbaric,"  putting on gloves and submitting to some basic rules is the thin wedge of civilization bringing a measure of peace.

Streetbeefs YouTube Channel is here.

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