Stop me if this sounds familiar: Bro One and Bro Two are staring each other down from across the room, possibly brandishing blunt objects of some kind and murmuring to themselves. This tension has become so normalized within the group that it’s hardly addressed anymore. Whenever anyone has mentioned resolving this obvious conflict, they’ve answered, “What conflict?” and changed the subject. Meanwhile, you roll your eyes and share sympathetic glances with another friend across the room, the both of you entertaining the same question: Why don’t they hurry up and fight already?
A pacifist would say, no. These two bros need to make a coffee date, discuss misinterpreted feelings, possibly cry while holding each other and sharing a new found mutual respect. But, who actually believes that any of that is going to happen? It’s much easier to run away. I’ve lost count of all the people I avoid on a daily basis, sidestepping someone in a hall, taking the long way around some dorm. The sheer volume of polite/awkward smiles I’ve doled out or encountered in a single day is staggering. I call it the wall of teeth. It’s a series of psychic barriers built around people, an impenetrable fortress of avoidance. Sometimes, you need something radical to break through something so entrenched, and that radical solution is contained in two simple words:
Think about it, how badly have you ever wanted to resolve something with a simple punch to the face? You’ve never acted on that impulse, because you’re a “civilized” human being and such things are below you. Not to mention, you’ll probably get thrown in jail. But, Fight Club is beyond any of that. It’s a safe space—a mutual understanding between two adults that they can beat the living hell out of each other until every suppressed word/emotion between them is out in the open and exorcised from their bodies. Clean slate, shake hands, go get a beer. Gandhi would be proud.
Now, an unenlightened individual might argue that such violence would only escalate the conflict. However, I would remind them this fight is no random act. These two people came together for the sole purpose of finding some sort of resolution, since everything else has apparently failed. They needed something profound to break through all that evasion; that special something just happened to give one of them a concussion.
Sometimes, all that’s required is a little prolonged physical proximity to resolve a situation. The Dagara people of West Africa would keep two conflicting parties in a ritual circle until they’d worked through their respective problems. They couldn’t leave until it was done. Most everything in the village was stopped until the issue was resolved. The social cohesion of the community was far too important to take half measures.
Only, things don’t stop in our Western society. Personal relationships can’t be allowed to inhibit the achievement of goals. God forbid! Much easier to shirk off troublesome individuals, keep your eye of the prize and buy yourself that nice car. That is, until someone puts a scratch on that car and you suddenly beat them over the head with a tire iron. It’s the inevitable outcome of never having faced those problems, said those words, gotten out that aggression. It’s what happens when you kill people with civility.
Don Cheatle knows what I’m talking about.