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This Joyous Violence

Sudden rage breeds the ancient one

January, 2005

" fuck your Union Jack, we want our country back..."

I snuggled deeper into my beer and wondered if I pretended to be invisible, would the broken bottles pass straight through me.

" men of the I.R.A..."

On my left hand, in the corner, fifteen fat, bald men in full voice. Each sported a Celtic FC shirt and Glasgow accents thick enough to make butter. On my right hand, ten Englishman with London accents, pretending to watch the rugby, pretending to laugh along in a sporting way, but already starting to glower.

In the middle, one nervous Irishman about to be caught up in an international incident. What a pickle. Why did it always have to be like this?

I blame women.

Some to Fight, Some to Breed

What are the angry fat men to do? Noone wants them anymore. They do their bit - they have the bald head, the thick arms, the ape-like composure, they have the tattoos, but these things no longer seem to get them the job. It wasn't always like this. Once we needed strong men with limited imaginations. Who rallied to the flag? Who marched in step? Who carried their mates with them all the way to the cannon's mouth and back again?

When we needed men to stick it to johnny Frenchman for the effrontery of being foreign, these chaps were the first to answer the call. Now, in our new euro-pasta-munching world of liberal nicey-ness, they're the embarrassing relatives nobody wants round for tea and crepes.

In the tribe, the men with wives stayed home. The young men went out to fight. Steal horses. Hunt the bear. Those that returned in glory were chosen as worthy for a wife. And so it went on.

Today, some men are still not chosen, or rarely. What are they to do? Scream, the ancient one says. Shout and charge. Prove yourself. The ancient one does not know that things have changed. If they have.

The Ancient One

In the bar, I could feel the heat rise. Not from them. From me. Deep inside the ancient one could smell the hint battle, and began to stir. Energy began to flow. Blood freed inside my veins. Eyes, ears waking to a sharper moment. Muscles relaxing then starting to tremble. THe ancient one. The lover of action, the sudden violence, the instant decision. The thought of violence, this joyous violence, spread through me like a welcome fever.

So has it always been. When we laugh, our lips curl back in the memory of primeval snarl. The ancient one, the lover of rage, dwells inside our every pleasure. Action! The thrill of it! It's not nice. It's not polite. We do not admit to it. But there it is, curled up in reptilian coils, only half asleep. It waits its moment.

The thrill. I remember a winter's day. We were children. It snowed. And without needing discussion, we formed into spontaneous regiments attacking, defending, snowballs flying in volleys. We invented parries and ripostes, feints down the side as good as any army manoever, until a neck or nothing charge broke the enemy line. The fallen were shown no mercy, but pelted till they were dripping wet. They would have done the same to us. It was not real violence, only the motion of it, but it felt good. The ancient one rose and danced in us. We rejoiced. The girls came out then, and let themselves be chased.

Blood and Shopping

We are not children now. What happened in the bar? The moment passed. Blood settled. The stirring creature went back to sleep. The Glaswegians and English started buying each other drinks and singing a song together about, I think, hairy women.

It's easy being a man. You meet a guy, all you have to decide is, ram a bottle in his face? Or get drunk together and complain about a football team? All very simple. Two women meet, and they have to calculate the cost of each others shoes as well as look for hidden meanings in each other's comments about the weather before they can even begin to hate each other.

It's easy to be a man. Someone annoys you, all you have to do is decide. Laugh. Or smash his face to a pulp. Or say nothing. Or smash his face to a pulp. Or pretend to read the paper. Or smash his face to a pulp. Or say something brilliantly cutting and witty. Or...

Civilisation and the ancient one. No end of choices.







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