Tsach Gilboa, with a cautionary tale dedicated to the young guy who tried to pick a fight in the Santa Monica gym elevator.
After a very productive morning, I decided to head to the gym for an equally intense workout. Gravity seems to get stronger and stronger as we get older and I reached the age where I need all the help I can get to avoid my ass, and other important parts, sagging all the way down to the floor.
As I got out of my car I felt an intense stare on the back of my neck. Thinking nothing of it, I got my bag and headed to the elevator. I was followed in by a young guy dressed in black “stylish” workout clothes (you know, the “fashion statement cast me in a reality show” kind) with a white towel around his neck, tucked under his shirt on his shoulders (I guess he thought he needed help in that department).
He just stood there staring at me and when I returned the favor, he decided to call me on my stare back in a “let’s go outside and settle this like men” kind of way. When I asked him: “Is there something I could help you with?” he proceeded to intensify the stare, move closer, puff up and parrot all my words back at me, over and over again, trying to sound as menacing as possible. It took a mere few seconds for the testosterone fueled adrenaline to flood my veins and cause me to react as any self-respecting man or Hulk would; I beat the crap out of him and left him unconscious and bloody on the elevator floor.
It was a beautiful thing, took less than 20 seconds, and involved slamming him hard into the elevator wall, punching him in the gut, kicking him in the nuts, and to make sure he got the message, turning him around and smashing his face into the mirror, breaking his nose and cutting his face (all that primal violence unleashed at last, “Supernatural” style). My only regret was that I could not put it all to music and pay homage to Stanley Kubrick and his groundbreaking movie “A Clockwork Orange” (A “Lovely Ludwig Van” would have been nice, although I did not need any help from my “droogs” this time).
The violent conclusion to this encounter, as satisfying as it may be in theory, never happened of course and was merely a fleeting fantasy. Having been around for over half a century as a man (from birth to present middle age) living with a healthy quantity of testosterone in my system, and having served in the military and fought in a war (good training but not a strict requirement for this following skill to evolve), I am fully capable of controlling the aggression effects of testosterone and my reactions to provocation, and resolve conflicts peacefully.
In real life, I proceeded to ignore him and not follow “Stand-Your Ground” (an idiotic legal and policy development we need to nip in the bud), got out of the elevator first and went on to have a very intense workout, using my anger appropriately and productively.
While I was schvitzing on the treadmill running up hills, I replayed the encounter in my mind and tried to understand what his unprovoked aggression was all about. I came up with the following possible explanations:
1. He is a poor shmuck who is being bullied (or was bullied in the past) and is taking an “assertiveness 101” class.
2. Since this is LA, he is a young actor preparing for an audition, a role, his next acting class or hoping to be the new “Dirty Harry” in a re-launch of the franchise (being at best 5’7 even with lifts in his shoes, hair teased up and standing on a box, he is in dire need of a better plan than aiming to be the next “Clint Eastwood”).
3. He is simply a Muggle dreaming of being Harry Potter or maybe just an ordinary Wizard, and is trying to develop some superpowers or magic to dominate and defeat his elders.
4. The confused fellow has a thing for older men and simply didn’t pick up on the overwhelming straight vibe oozing from all my pores, clearly indicating he simply is not my cup of tea.
5. He is sadly a “douchebag” that watches too much TV, reads too many comic books and graphic novels, thinks life is a video game and left to his own devices will undoubtedly end up as a news headline sooner or later.
6. He is at best “Dazed and Confused”, or at worst crazy and in need of professional help.
Aggression is common in humans and most of the animal kingdom (notable mellow exceptions are cows and sea turtles). It is a cost/benefit equation and most humans and animals use aggression to compete for food/water, mates, space, natural resources, and in our case also dominance of ideas, beliefs, philosophy and world-views. The inevitable risk, if the aggression escalates enough, is injury or death. Our predisposition towards aggression can be largely attributed to high potential for rewards from competition vs. relatively low cost.
In order to reduce violent behavior, we need to alter the cost/benefit equation by articulating that nothing good comes from violence except pain and misery. Our internal compass needs to be developed to provide appropriate controls and we need to increase the cost of aggression through personal example and education using positive reinforcement, compassion, spirituality, humanism, social acceptance, community and yes, love. Although healthy competition involves controlled vigor and zeal, being a man does not equal unbridled aggression and violence. Being a man involves minimizing/controlling destructive anger and rage in favor of productive passion, smart conflict resolution, overcoming fear and striving for calm and reason.
For more on this, read a great article by Dario Maestripieri, Ph.D. titles “Games Primates Play” Games Primates Play.
This is a cautionary tale. The young chap in question is playing with fire. If he does not learn to avoid such violence inciting behavior, he will sooner rather than later engage someone that will either not possess the appropriate anger and aggression controls or, reacting to his provocation, will simply decide to “teach him a lesson”. The result will likely be serious injury or death and, consequently, he will be featured in tomorrow’s headline. Lucky for him, today I was his target and I chose to ignore the provocation and simply disengage.
Dedicated to the young guy who tried to pick a fight in the Santa Monica, CA Spectrum gym elevator, Monday November 4, 2013 at 12:30PM, and failed.
Photo: srgblog / flickr