I always ducked out of fights, even in teenage days, flying fists were for other people.
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.
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.
So it was this morning at Dublin Airport. My cabin bag was emptied out at the security screening area. My books taken one by one and examined, before being put twice more through the scanner. Oddly, all three are religious, one a biography of a 19th Century Church of England priest, one an examination of the spirituality of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and one an introduction to radical Christian orthodoxy.
I was minded to ask the supervisor how many short haired, middle aged, middle class, white male clergy 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 brown boots. He was only doing his job.
Spending thirty-five or more years 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?”
Sure, 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. Those books must have presented a serious security risk.