Hiding under the tableDec 2nd, 2008 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
The students at my sixth form college were barred from using a pub in a local town for discos. Not a function would pass without a fight ensuing from some annoyance or insult or argument. Coming from farming backgrounds, as many of them did, trying to disperse a scrap amongst some of them was as vain as slightly built referee trying to separate opposing packs of rugby players when a sly punch has been thrown once too often. The first time I was present, an affray began; glasses started flying through the air and the sensible thing to do was to duck under the table until the bouncers had restored order. It was my first time there and the last time the venue was used. Later events elsewhere were altogether more placid affairs, so I never discovered if other tables offered a similar degree of shelter to those in the Red Lion.
Ducking out of trouble seems always to have been a sensible strategy.
Getting involved in someone else’s fight at a dance was pointless; hardly anyone ever knew what the fight was about in the first place. Fighting at football matches was the reason why some people were there; even the police were hard pressed to respond to the organized violence of the late 1970s. “Blessed are the peacemakers” says Jesus, but sermons would be lost on beery-breathed, DM wearers who have only come for the scrap.
Living in Ireland since the early-80s, conflict was something to be avoided at all costs because conflict was never a simple matter of a punch up in a pub; even verbal battles could snowball into vicious confrontations.
The desire to avoid physical violence slowly grew into a desire to avoid all confrontation; saying nothing even when feeling indignant.
Last Saturday, I was made to remove my coat, my jacket, and my shoes to pass through security at Heathrow Airport while Islamic women accompanying their conservative husbands were allowed to retain their black garb. (If it was question of cultural sensitivity to the presence of men, why was a separate room not provided? And why are feminists not more outspoken against women being inculturated into such subservience?).
A Mark Steyn moment came on, and I was minded to ask the supervisor how many short haired, middle aged, middle class, white male clergy wearing Crombie coats and tweed jackets had been arrested as security risks, but I reverted to being a nice English liberal, and just sighed and shrugged my shoulders as I laced up my shiny brown shoes. He was only doing his job. Steyn would have raged at me, “You liberals have not even the courage to stand up for what you believe!”
Spending a quarter of a century avoiding disagreements and arguments, fighting for anything has become onerous. So does there come a sticking point? Does one reach a point where one says, “Thus far and no farther?”
There seemed a point this afternoon, when a set of accounts was explained to me, when I thought I would go to a meeting and do battle with an organization that leads its supporters to believe they are giving to the poor, while spending millions on running itself. The moment passed.
Nothing one voice says will change anything. When there’s not going to be a fight, it’s not even necessary to duck under the table.