Everyone now living is the product of tough, and as necessary rough, people, whether your 21st century sensibilities like it or not. Those of my own memory and upbringing were the kind of stoic, hard working, hard swearing, hard drinking, won’t take shit from anybody kind of folks who abounded in those days. It may seem ironic to the lost generation, but all the aforesaid being true, there was no carnage in the streets because in a world of people who won’t take shit, very little shit gets offered.
What follows is not intended to prove myself a badass (it was high school folks), nor is it to glorify violent measures as the be all and end all of conflict resolution, in the school yard or anywhere else. Society has bought into the idea that no expression of taking a firm stance; by thought, word, or (Heaven forbid) deed; has any place in the world. In this day of “microaggressions” where we are expected to regard events through a hypersensitive and even “gendered lens”, we find a “safe space” wherein even a stellar student in innocent possession of a workplace tool but who forgot his pocket knife was still in his backpack after morning chores on the farm, can be effectively expelled in a zero tolerance knee jerk to such “implied violence”.
I graduated from high school in 1975, and by today’s standards, most if not all of the good I’ve done in life would never have happened due to a combination of a criminal record and prison time. In the time these events occurred, I was an avid and experienced outdoorsman, never seen dressed absent the Swiss Army Knife in my pocket, and the 3.5 inch Gerber Folding Sportsman hunting knife in a leather pouch on my belt. It was all good, to the point where I was routinely asked by Teachers and fellow students to to cut things, and on one occasion was actually called out of class when a Teacher sent one of his students to my home room door to request the assistance I and my knives could provide. Even back in those days, not everybody carried, but those of us who did weren’t looked upon as brigands and incipient serial killers. I mention this because my knives, present and ready to hand though they were in every case, played absolutely no part in what you are about to read.
When I was in high school, I attracted the attention of four bullies, each in need of what Marc MacYoung calls an “educational beat down”, or EBD, that I was called upon by circumstances to provide. The first was the ring leader of an entourage of cling-ons, the second a late bloomer who woke up one day deciding that his road to popularity lay through me. The third was just an asshole who blew in out of nowhere, and the fourth was someone I met at a week long Summer season seminar in New Brunswick to which I was sent on recommendations by several of my Teachers based on my being their darling.
All three scenarios began with name calling which I ignored. Inevitably, this was incorrectly interpreted as fear and weakness, and so it escalated to physical contact. While all of the events leading up to the day each abruptly ended were observed and registered by people in authority, nobody preemptively spoke to me about how I felt, nor did they approach the perpetrators to warn them off. To their credit, neither did they reprimand me in the clear aftermath of my own solutions.
I hit 6 feet tall when I was 11 years old. I was physically active in the extreme which, combined with being prepubescent, created me very spare of frame. My physicality then, while too fit and nimble to be described as scrawny by anyone who knew what they were looking at, was certainly skinny, and I towered over everyone even appoaching my age group from that point until the end of my high school career. It’s said the nail that sticks up will be pounded down, and I discovered being tall to fit that description. Unlike the nail though, I had the option of having a meaningful dialogue with the hammer. (more…)