Fist Fights are Good For Society

This makes me think (again) of a cultural correlation in places that are (typically, or stereotypically if you like) more respectful in ordinary dealings between people, and more amenable to throwing down when pushed too far–i.e., the South.

I recall working on a large project a couple years ago with some guys who were from other parts, and some fellows from round here. I witnessed an interaction where a non-local was acting like a real ass. After he walked away (without, on that occasion, the beating he seemed to be looking for), the southerners present looked at each other knowingly, and somebody said “he’s got to learn he can’t treat people like that–he’s in the South now!”

Certainly far more then they did only 20 years ago or so, and far, far, more then in the 40’s and 50’s. Consider the abuse customers lay on service sector employees, character assassination, corporate backstabbing, verbal abuse and bullying in schools and so forth. None of these are new problems, but many have worsened, not improved from our increasing litigiousness. Since we had to draw a line somewhere between insufferable dick, and criminal we chose physical contact. It’s not perfect by any measure; but back when it was acceptable, or at least tolerated to physically assert oneself people were in general a bit politer to one another. There are plenty of behaviours that are not illegal, but certainly worthy of popping someone once to teach them some manners.

Yeah, seriously. How horrible can people act without violence or direct harrassment, that regular violence is a better alternative?

Missed the edit.

I think that the prospect, however remote, of a physical correction or retaliation for truly assholish behaviour kept most people from acting out as much as they do currently. Why shouldn’t they? Nothing will happen, they’re free to be as nasty, abusive, and disgusting as they like provided they don’t tread into criminal territory. We either have a social control ( accepted rare fighting), or we move to legislate everything in the name of smooth conduct giving the state a great deal of control over our lives. I’d rather take my chances.

how about some examples?

Dan goes to coffeeworld every morning for his cup of joe. Dan is a dick. He takes pleasure in being as humanly difficult and abusive as possible while not being thrown out. Management is indifferent to the plight of the employees. Not too long ago, Dan would have been corrected verbally by another patron, or one of the employees might decide to take off his apron and take it outside. Now, they don’t even have choice. Dan will continue his behaviour because people have NO recourse. If Bob tells Dan to knock it off and Dan escalates it, Bob can either shut up or make a criminal out of himself. Dan has all the cards.

Alice posts something terrible about Mary on facebook. It is so bad that Mary is now truly the butt of all jokes at school. She is subjected to continued harrassment, verbal abuse, and bullying. Mary’s parents are too poor to move her, and the school hasn’t logged enough evidence to do anything to the Alice, much less the rest of the population. Again, Mary can speak up for herself, but has no recourse if Alice decides to make it worse. Best case they both go to jail, worst case the witnesses back Alice up and state that Mary started it.

See? The problem is that the last step before physical altercation will always fall to the asshole. If fighting was an option, most people would want to avoid that level of confrontation. It’s getting too close for comfort. Now, you can run right up to the edge, sneer and waggle your balls at your victim and they can do nothing for themselves ultimately.

What if the asshole is a better fighter? What if the asshole likes fighting?

Then you may lose. Fighting isn’t necessarily about who is right or wrong. More often it’s about asserting yourself in a manner that makes you not worth bothering.

I don’t think this covers all the situations though. For example, if Bob works at say, Starbucks, he could complain to someone above their manager. If there is no one above the manager, Bob should just ask the customer to leave. If the customer refuses, then call the police or shopping center security. If that’s not possible, tell Bob to suck it up and look for another job, annoying customers is part of the deal in customer service. Mary and/or her parents will eventually find someone in the school system who can deal with Alice. I know of many students in my high school who had their schedules re-arranged because of conflicts with other students. None of these are easy solutions, compared to just beating up Dan or Alice, but they won’t get you thrown in jail either.

I think your analysis is accurate, if you are afraid of getting embarrassed for backing down. If you aren’t willing to go all the way, don’t taunt someone who is.

Sure, but are these better solutions, or even equal ones? Really all you are doing is rewarding the jerks and running away from problems; or shifting them off on someone else. Social moderation starts with self reliance and direct consequences for actions. If Bob knows that someone might decide to take his ass outside, no matter how rude or rare that might be, he will be better behaved in general. Not because he fears his opponent per se, but because he knows that everyone else around him is on the same system. Sure he might like to fight, and even be good at it; he’s not better than the three people who will intervene and break it up, or hold him for the police if he really crosses the line. Now all we are left with is looking the other way for fear of being sued or worse.

I’ll admit these aren’t quick fixes, but I do think they would be better solutions. I know there are a million variations of this, which some might have unique circumstances that would not be covered by one answer, but I’ll just stick to your example for convenience. If Dan continues to bother patrons or employees, eventually people are going to quit doing business at that coffee house, and that is the manager’s fault. It’s not my responsibility, or the responsibility of anyone else in the shop to patrol other patrons. If the coffee shop closes down, and Dan moves on to the next one, that manager might throw him out. Problem solved, for the patrons at least.

I suppose we will have to disagree on it modifying Dan’s behavior. I don’t think getting beaten up once or twice would really make him stop being a jerk. I think repeatedly getting thrown out of restaurants would have a greater impact than getting beaten up every once in a while. And that’s if he loses every fight.

I’m not sure if more fistfights would be a good thing, but I am pretty sure that lack of immediate consequences is creating a lot of tension in our society. How many people drive or park like assholes because they simply get away with it?

Physical confrontation over words or disagreements is stupid. I can’t even imagine a situation where I would resort to violence over someones words.

Yeah, we were right. The only thing is that I doubt you could have the level of honor available to keep it just between the guys. Back in the 80’s. the trial by combat, which it essentially was, degenerated because the loser of the fight would declare that he had been assaulted, and then the cops dutifully intervened and busted the winner.

I think that it kept our level of agression to that of a house dog, trained and loveable, but all to willing to protect what needs. It would probably take something like Katrina for most people to rediscover it in themselves.


People are actually advocating the threat of physical violence as an option in settling differences? Really? Naptime wasn’t supposed to last through all of kindergarten, you guys.

Not necessarily as a way of resolving differences. I see the underlying thing as “the possible threat of violence, however small, keeps things more civil”.

You got a cite?

I don’t need one. This is MPSIMS, not Great Debates.

I remember reading about the old fashioned duels. One or both men would die to settle a score by having a duel. It definately takes care of the person your mad at or your dead.

That’s a fair point, but it just didn’t happen. Even when things got to the most violent point, I didn’t want my adversary to die or go to the hospital. But unfortunately I see these things all of the time.

Hell, there’s a girl down here (south Florida) that is still in the hospital and was in a coma for months after a fight at school. She will never fully recover. The other kid kept kicking her in the head after she was down while the rest of the school watched. That was unthinkable 20 years ago. A person would have been shunned if he kicked a man when he was down, for example, and others would have stepped in before serious injury resulted.

This isn’t in GD because I’m not proposing a “more violence” law for society, but I think there is much to be said about getting a little bit physical before things get to the point that you want to kill someone.

Wait, what? If you’re rude and someone clocks you for it, that’s a more polite society?

What happens if you’re just a really strong person that no one’s going to punch? No one calls you on your shit and you end up being an abusive ass? Or you’re physically weak–you just have to put up with crap because you can get hit?

Also how does this translate to domestic situations? If you perceive your wife to be a nag and she annoys you, is it OK to smack her lightly so she gets the “consequences” of her actions? That’s creepy. Actually, it’s creepy no matter what the gender or situation. Adults are not children or dogs–you don’t teach them the consequences of their (verbal) actions by physically touching them.

I’m getting flashbacks to that thread we had that was about how things were more polite because we used to have duels at pistols at dawn.