The joy of senseless violence

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
THE MAN downstairs, the World's Worst Builder, slack-jawed over his lump of wood: I could thump him. Do you know the feeling? Thump him. Grab him by the lapels and pull him towards me and shove my face in his and shout for a bit and then ... thump. Grab his bit of wood and ... whop. Crunch. Bone-shards and schnozzle-gore and bewilderment and then the slow heavy slide to the floor, the beseeching look, the eyes misting over as the darkness closes in.

And then what? Guilt. Shame. Sorrow. Despair. I've had them all anyway. Don't talk to me about violence and its aftermath; I know about it. I beat a man into unconsciousness once, with a stick. A big stick. You need a big stick to beat someone into unconsciousness. It's harder than you think. Consciousness gets its grippers into life and clings on, hoping for the best. It's a bugger, consciousness; tenacious; you'd almost think it served a useful purpose although logically we'd be better off without it: fewer desires, less room for disappointment, none of that awful despairing astonishments when things don't turn out as expected. Without consciousness, there'd be no expected for things not to turn out as.

He was a big chap, the man I beat into unconsciousness. Big and common, although we're not allowed to say common any more. But he was. Like an Enid Blyton burglar, one of the rough proles, with stubble and roll-ups and those drab heavy trousers best described as "nondescript". A burglar, and probably more besides if the truth be known. I cornered him in the woods behind my aunt's house and instead of being contrite and submissive, he answered back and tried to escape so I just beat him over the head with the big stick, and beat him and beat him and down he went on to his knees and I beat him again and down he went, all the way, and looked up at me and said "I never thought that..." and then the light went out. So I tried to wake him up, bring him round, you know. You're supposed to slap people about the face to bring them round but I thought I'd hit him enough so I just knelt there crying and saying I was sorry, and I was sorry, for him and for me and for every other bugger who was trying their best and never thought that ... that it would turn out like this. Whatever this is. Whatever this happens to be, we never thought this is how it would turn out. Most of us haven't a clue. The man driving the nightmare Kerry Foods van stuffed with low-rent gob-clog - Wall's, Mattesons, Miller's, "Quality Brands, Quality Service" - probably didn't have a clue, when he was little, that that's what the planet had in mind for him, nor the old couple who've had to close down their knitting-yarn shop round the corner because nobody's interested in that sort of business now, they all want a CyberCafe, a quick buck then - wheee! - sell out to McDickhead's or Burger Bastard and it's off to the country for a bright new future of leather sofas, a Range Rover, a pony for the kiddies, marital dysfunction and tears on the pillow at 4am.

Which is where mine were. Because the man I beat about the head - I wish I could forget the sound of the crack of the wood, his crying, his defeat - wasn't real, but a dream; a dream of all the violence I have wanted to do but haven't ever done. And there's so much of it. The World's Worst Builders - aren't they all the World's Worst Builders, and, that being so, how come any of us have anywhere to live at all? - hammering and planing and blackandeckering away hopelessly, like chimps: I want to hit them, again and again. The purse-lipped swamp people who put up notices about bicycles and fares and tell us off when we've done nothing wrong yet: I want to hit them, too. And the people who run the supermarkets which sell vile hormonal antibiotic cheapo food to poor people, and the gits who run the lottery, and men who run arms fairs and disguise their death- dealing in passive, subjunctive, mandarin obliquity: I want to hit them and hit them and hit them.

But I can't. I've done it, and it hurts, even though I've only done it in my sleep. It's claimed that North American Indians had a saying: you cannot understand another man's point of view until you've walked two miles in his moccasins. A North American Indian friend tells me he believes it unlikely, and that the only traditional sayings he was taught as a child were things like "You're not going out dressed like that" and "Say, Bear, you seen the Jeep keys anywhere?", but the principle holds good all the same, the trouble being that you can't get hold of another man's moccasins. All you can do is dream of revenge, keep the custody of your fists, and remember that the real enemies of society are the men who've never been bewildered at all.