Ever feel like you want to punch someone in the face? I am not a violent person and generally don’t condone violence, but I have certainly felt the need to smack someone oops upside the head on occasions. Without the repercussions of actually doing it of course, but hypothetically I’m sure it would make me feel better. But why is that?
I was on the bus this week, in fact most days I am a self confessed bus wanker. It’s ok, I enjoy it. I can read my book, listen to music and avoid most of the road rage my fellow commuters have to deal with. The journey’s are mainly uneventful, but on occasion I am given a free show. The wondrous public provides me with a slice of fried gold entertainment. Be it the elderly man who had escaped from the hospital with a cannula still in his arm, dressed in a gown and socks only, refusing to go back to the hospital. Those high on life (or drugs) babbling to themselves (or me) if I’m lucky enough to share a seat with them. On this particular occasion, a gentleman lacking most of his teeth, slightly (massively) inebriated, a can of Special brew in hand was stood in the middle of the road trying to have a fight with the bus. I’m not sure if he had taken umbrage to the way the bus driver was driving or if he disagreed with the shade of red the bus was painted. But he was certainly an angry individual. There was shouting, swearing and slapping of the bus, his lady friend was attempted to remove him from the middle of the road so we could carry on our way, but he was having none of it. He wanted a fight and if it wasn’t with the bus, it was going to be with someone else. He eventually stumbled out of the way long enough for the bus to move round him and we left him behind in our 20 mph dust. I have no doubt though, that somebody else was the target of that mans anger at some point that evening. But what is it that made him angry? What makes any of us angry? What pushes our buttons and what purpose does that emotion serve within humans?
Some people view anger as a primal emotional response, something essential for survival. Our heart rate increases, as does our blood pressure and we feel a rush of adrenaline. But what purpose does it serve in survival? Perhaps if one cave man tried it on with another cave man’s woman? Surely other animals don’t experience anger as we do? Aggression maybe, but anger is different. Anger can build up over time and unvented anger can have serious psychological and physical consequences.
I used to play rugby. It was a short lived hobby, I played for about a year before I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee, which resulted in 2 months on crutches, an operation which had me off work for a month, followed by 4 months of physiotherapy. Safe to say I haven’t played since. Don’t get me wrong though, I absolutely loved it. Not only did I enjoy keeping fit, being part of a team but the adrenalin you experience when someone is chasing you, or you’re chasing them and the physical contact of tackling someone to the ground, normally twice my size, is incredibly satisfying. Body smashing against body, shoulder slamming, hitting other people hard. Not with closed fists, but with pretty much every other part of your body. It was a surprisingly pleasurable experience. You’d be amazed as to how much you can put your body through before it properly hurts. The adrenalin and excitement prevents you from feeling it initially. I came away battered, bruised, aching, sometimes bloody but the pain never outweighed how much I enjoyed the experience. Afterwards I felt calm, like I’d released all my pent up frustration and I suppose on occasion, anger. It was a good feeling. And I miss it. More than I thought I ever would.
The anger most people feel on a daily basis though is mere irritation, annoyance and most of us are able to manage it on a day to day basis. Verbally venting to others, going for a run, hitting the gym, having a glass of wine. But then there is extreme anger, the uncontrollable feelings which result in physical confrontation, sometimes in extreme cases, death. Whether that be towards loved ones or strangers. This is the type of anger that is dangerous, the red mist, the blind rage. Normally this is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, either naturally or sometimes drug-induced. Sometimes it is due to learned behaviour from a young age.
In the UK, a very well known TV presenter named Jeremy Clarkson of the show Top Gear, was recently in the media headlines. Now, I don’t believe everything I read in the media but the story goes, that Clarkson was having lunch with the Producer of Top Gear (his boss) and there was a row over the type of food that was available, there was a disagreement and the producer ended up getting punched in the face by Clarkson. Now I am known on occasion to get hangry (a angry hungry person) but punching someone in the face because the steak you want isn’t available is a bit extreme. Any normal person who punched their boss in the face would usually get the sack on the spot. But Clarkson is a well loved TV persona and even the Prime Minister showed his support, as did a petition of over 870,000 people who wanted to see him reinstated with the show. The Producer reportedly ended up with a fat lip. If he’d fallen backwards however, hit his head on the corner of a table and got knocked unconscious, would the general public and the leader of our country be as supportive of Clarkson? Obviously he wouldn’t have meant it, but what sort of violence are we condoning here? The person on a night out on the town who drunkenly gets involved in a fight, throws one punch and the other guy hits his head on the pavement ending up in a coma, he didn’t mean it either. Recently in the news an amateur footballer is jailed for 8 years after punching a referee on the pitch which ended up killing him. Pretty sure he didn’t mean it either. But no-one is setting up online petitions in their defence. The outcomes are a lot different, a fat lip compared to death, but the initial encounter is the same. A flash of anger and then *boom* a violent outburst. Uncontrollable and almost instinctive. Scary really. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show Top Gear, I love Clarkson’s don’t give a shit attitude most of the time, but I think Clarkson should be made accountable for his actions, so that we show the upcoming generation that it is not ok to use violence to solve situations we don’t like, even if sometimes we’d like to.
It is true though, you’re not yourself when you’re hungry. So I’m off to have to cheese and port to settle the raging beast within me.