About a month ago my sister suggested that I subscribe to The Art of Manliness. It is a blog that I had come across before, but never taken the time to explore. I took her suggestion and now receive about 4 to 6 emails per week illuminating topics from Business Mannerisms to How to Sharpen an Ax. This morning, though, I found in my inbox an excerpt from the book Tom Brown’s School Days, written in 1857 by Thomas Hughes.
Over the past few years I have increasingly realized an comical and confusing contradiction in our culture (think pop culture). We Americans live in what could easily be considered the most violent pop culture ever to be seen in history. Popular music is saturated by artists glorifying drugs, guns, abuse and gangs. TV shows and games have been overtaken by apocalyptic themes, murder plots, criminal investigation (or criminal aspiration) and in many cases simply horror. Additionally, we’ve seen the news constantly reporting shootings, kidnappings, rapes and other similar stories.
The irony I see, though, pertains to young men like myself. Even though most everyone I know idolizes this culture and tries to “act” as though they are part of it, most all of them are to scared to actually put their money where their mouth is. To help clarify this, often I see my friends picking fights. However, RARELY does a fight actually take place. What does happen is a verbal exchange daring the other to take the first punch. Then, after each others posy has “broken up” the conversation, both parties boast about how they would have won and “wish that he had hit me”(that’s a direct quote). In all honesty, this always makes me lose much respect for both people involved, because they both look like pussyfoots…for lack of an eloquent term.
|I used this picture because, similar to political fights, there is a lot of talking and threats, but something rarely happens…|
Let me state, I do not encourage people to start fights. Additionally, I’m not a big fighter myself. The few brawls I’ve been in over my life were all quite purposeful when I look back on them, but if the choice was mine I’d choose to never fight again. What bothers me about the “irony” I briefly explained above is the disillusionment of identity in young men caused by pop cultures attitude towards violence. On top of that, this confusion in how to rightly act in conflict creates an undesirable and pathetic characteristic in many young men.
Below I have posted the excerpt which beautifully states and explains the necessity and value of fighting. But not in the glorified, unrealistic and unhealthy way it has been portrayed to me and my peers. It explains fighting in a naturalist way that connects it to our fundamental human nature. In addition, I posted my two favorite quotes from the excerpt below.
“From the cradle to the grave, fighting, rightly understood, is the business, the real, highest, honestest business of every son of man.”
“I’m as sorry as any man to see folk fighting the wrong people and the wrong things, but I’d a deal sooner see them doing that, than that they should have no fight in them.”
From Tom Brown’s School Days, 1857
By Thomas Hughes
Let those young persons whose stomachs are not strong, or who think a good set-to with the weapons which God has given to us all an uncivilized, unchristian, or ungentlemanly affair, just skip this chapter at once, for it won’t be to their taste.
It was not at all usual in those days for two schoolhouse boys to have a fight. Of course, there were exceptions, when some cross-grained, hard-headed fellow came up who would never be happy unless he was quarreling with his nearest neighbors, or when there was some class dispute between the fifth form and the fags, for instance, which required bloodletting; and a champion was picked out on each side tacitly, who settled the matter by a good, hearty mill. But for the most part the constant use of those surest keepers of the peace, the boxing-gloves, kept the schoolhouse boys from fighting one another. Two or three nights in every week the gloves were brought out, either in the hall or fifth-form room; and every boy who was ever likely to fight at all knew all his neighbors’ prowess perfectly well, and could tell to a nicety what chance he would have in a stand-up fight with any other boy in the house. But of course no such experience could be gotten as regarded boys in other houses; and as most of the other houses were more or less jealous of the schoolhouse, collisions were frequent.
After all, what would life be without fighting, I should like to know? From the cradle to the grave, fighting, rightly understood, is the business, the real, highest, honestest business of every son of man. Every one who is worth his salt has his enemies, who must be beaten, be they evil thoughts and habits in himself or spiritual wickedness in high places, or Russians, or Border-ruffians, or Bill, Tom, or Harry, who will not let him live his life in quiet till he has thrashed them.
It is no good for Quakers, or any other body of men, to uplift their voices against fighting. Human nature is too strong for them, and they don’t follow their own precepts. Every soul of them is doing his own piece of fighting, somehow and somewhere. The world might be a better world without fighting, for anything I know, but it wouldn’t be our world; and therefore I am dead against crying peace when there is no peace, and isn’t meant to be. I’m as sorry as any man to see folk fighting the wrong people and the wrong things, but I’d a deal sooner see them doing that, than that they should have no fight in them.