Monday, December 7, 2009

No but Yes to Violence

I read the news today about performer Douglas Oliverio being attacked by several men near his home. I feel quite enraged about the senseless beating.

As a strong advocate of non-violence, I find myself trying to rationalise this, but guess there is no point. I realise that when I speak for non-violent measures to solving problems, the problem sometimes does not get solved.

We may blame violence on gangs, differential association and youths facing family and social problems. But there are times when violence is random and remotely related to social problems. We may get a little sociological and talk about the socio-economic conditions that put the thug-would-bes together at a certain place at a certain time.

I feel that, unlike what Douglas told the reporter, there should never be a "wrong place wrong time" in Singapore. Even if people have nothing better to do other than to congregate at places, there is no reason to use violence to resolve disputes.

It appears to me that amidst the bunch of Singaporeans who are disaffected and couldn't care less to help others in public, there are those who are spoiling for a fight. Well, we could rationalise and look at this sociologically, but sometimes I feel violence stops violence.

I personally do not believe in self-defence, but believe in the incapacitation of your assailant until help arrives. Ordinary civilians do not know how to properly block, parry, hold or subdue their assailant in times of attack (and confusion and panic). While they are not technically equipped with these skills, they can employ strikes, chokes and clawing - things that aren't pretty or technical, but efficient.

Often times, people will look on from a safe distance as you get beaten up. And by the time the fight stops or when your assailant(s) leave you in a pool of your own blood, the police will come. This is a very sorry reality.

You just run to a safe place with lots of people to save yourself. But if your assailants are by the dozen, you only have yourself to defend. If you are trapped, you have to "defend" yourself. Self-defence classes aren't enough. You need street-fighting, which basically involves eye-gouges, punches to throat, thrust kicking the knees, breaking fingers, attacks to the groin, etc.

I feel that by protecting yourself with street-fighting techniques (which aren't beautiful or artistic), you are not taking the law into your own hands, but merely doing what the law can't do for you in the few minutes that you are being attacked.

Another tricky situation is when women are using violence on men. If the men "takes it like a man" until the police comes, I often have the impression the incident becoming a real police case is merely a probability - it could happen or it could be laughed away by the policemen, who feel they shouldn't be bothered with such a minor case.

That is of course, you make your injuries known (with dramatics) to the police and your doctor and it could be both a criminal and civil case. If you subdue a female assailant, and in the process hurt her, you are probably liable to being prosecuted yourself. And this is what irks me - then what's the point of self-defence? Maybe the attacks may cause injury but they are not life-threatening, so how do we draw the line between "taking it like a man" and giving her some hair-pulling, open palm strikes to the nose, an eye-gouge and a thumb to the throat. Maybe self-defence in modern society is a female privilege, no? I think we should talk about "auntie violence" some other time. Imagine an auntie punching and scratching you, and you deliver a punch in actual self-defence, which happens to be fatal, and the law punishes both of you.... kwaaa kwaaaa kwwaaaa

I personally feel that "excessive force" as defined by the law is sometimes required to subdue your assailant. If the fundamental rule of self-defence is to "stay out of trouble", I think the fundamental rule of getting out of trouble is to use "excessive force". You should be like the PAP and be relentless and do something to your tormentor that parallels suing someone till they are bankrupt. How else do you react to or deal with cold-hearted senseless attacks? I feel that if someone wants to find a violent solution with you, (and if you have no way out at that moment), you should give them the violence they seek, because either way, you will be hurt or killed.

Sometimes, violence doesn't escalate when there are two aggressors. It is not a heated debate where both sides give each other bitchy dagger stares, puffing their noses and shouting their points out. Violence will still be there if you curled yourself into a ball, praying to your deity of choice that you don't get a fatal kick to the skull by the gang of thugs who are raining blows on you. You stand and fight back, and let your assailants know they are at the wrong place at the wrong time themselves (while hoping some Singaporean who isn't apathetic enough will call the police).

If it is a gang attacking you (without weapons, because if there are weapons, you have a higher chance of death), you should try to incapacitate at least one of them, so the police will have something to work on, and so that your case will not be those pitiful ones that appear in the papers and end with the sentence "police are still investigating" (which probably means they are looking for suspects, leads and clues, and which probably means they are no wonder near finding the guys who beat/killed you).

Violence is never the solution to anything except the use of senseless violence itself. No one likes or deserves to be attacked or have his/her life threatened.

Being human, I do think about violence when faced with other non-violent crimes, for instance vandalism (of your property, especially that), burglary, snaft-theft, outrage of modesty of loved ones. Sociology goes out the window, and sometimes you feel like you want to knock these criminals further down the poverty scale, the very categorical realities that were supposed to have compelled them to crime themselves.

My mum was livid when the brand new car she got (only 900 cc, it is a cheap small car) was vandalised the very next day in the mid 1990s. She reported the case to the police but they told her it would be difficult to make it a case because it was probably impossible to find the crook. Cars in the neighbourhood were being vandalised too, deep scratches on their sides, bonnets and boots. All the police could do were to step up patrolling the area, which is just wayang for the neighbourhood. This is very much similar to my littering neighbour problem - used sanitary pad, food packet/boxes, cigarettes, cigarette pack, sweet/candy wrappers, etc. on my air-conditioner compressor and ledge. We contacted the National Environment Agency and they sent one guy to check for one day. He even gave me a call to let me know he is staking out and watching, obviously to give me the impression he was doing some work instead of hanging out at the coffeeshop enjoying his morning off. The Town Council did its part by distributing pamphlets to educate residents against littering. These are reasons why people like myself feel so strongly about "taking the law into our own hands", not because we are psycho/sociopaths, but because the law enforcement is such that we have no other choice but to do so. The law the completely fine, but it is the enforcement is absolutely sub-par.

I really want(ed) to find the vandal to scratched my mum's car. Well, vandals get imprisonment, fines and caning by the law, and they say the law is impartial and unbiased. But what about aggrieved parties who take the vandalism personally? It is after all an attack on personal property, which are the products of financial and emotional investment. For me, violence is the better solution to resolve this personal attack.

Before I forget (and I actually did for many years), I recall that my dad was a victim of road-rage many years ago. Call it whatever you want, it is still violence to me. It was a criminal case and he stood before the judge along with his assailant. I think he was punched while he was in his car. At that point in time, my mum's health wasn't exactly the best and we just wanted to case to end. My dad's face was bruised, but bruises heal. What's worse was the emotional effect it had on him. It probably took him a few days to weeks to shake it off, but he is a quiet man to all of us any way. I was in my teens and wanted my parents to "sue the fucker". My brother was also very enraged. He was even more pissed off when the court order to the man to pay my dad money in court. Looking back, I felt it was just another fucking kissing booth, you punch a man and you pay him some money in court. My brother told me that was even more humiliating, and we both agreed that the man either deserves to go to jail or get a punch himself. I think that man was lucky my brother and I weren't with our dad when he hit our dad. We would have made him really sorry - there would have been fists, elbows, headbutts, kicks, knees and other weapons. That man was lucky my mum was ill then and didn't want the case to drag on. And in case the man who hit my dad happens to read this blog (at home or in prison if there is broadband), I want to let you know that I still remember this. You are just lucky you picked on a (smaller and older man) and his wife, two people who are not vindictive and just wanted to case to end. Violence is not the solution, but when it comes to fuckers like you, I can use everything I own and can carry to beat the hell out of you and make sure you still live. Money can't heal physical and emotional attacks.

This encounter reminds me of one my mum was in. Somehow, my mum had a confrontation, rather she was confronted by an angry man at Viacom (I think it was there, but could be wrong) many years ago. Apparently he got out of his car first and she got out. And it was probably because she was slow in moving her car around the place, given she was unfamiliar. What I recall is that she was shouted at, as the man angrily gesticulated at her, which almost resulted in him touching/brushing her. This is obviously enough to traumatise my mum. I recall when I spoke to her later in the day, she slowly related this encounter to me. She was a little shaken. Obviously, the Viacom folks didn't do anything to calm things down. I think it is sad that firstly, people are not calm, and secondly others don't come to help. Well, this is not a violent encounter, but there has been needless aggression. How do we deal with needless aggression?

The politics of violence control is interesting. I believe the governance of violence consists of stakeholders who have never been victims of violence or experience critical violent encounters before. They would spew their middle-class views of violence being uncivil and having no place in society, therefore leading to the (uncritical) absolute outlawing of violence, except for state-sponsored violence when Singaporean men are trained from the age of 16.5 years to kill on order. I think the legislators associated with outlawing violence are mostly removed from violence themselves. They see not the realities of enforcement. The law may be perfect, but its enforcement lets it down. What happens then? People start taking the law into their own hands and they get punished for it. The problem is still not solved.

I feel very angry that Douglas Oliverio was attacked. Maybe it is because I am reminded of my dad being a victim of road-rage (which is something I haven't thought about for many years and this news had to bring up this memory), or because Douglas is a personality I know from watching TV. I hope he's recovered and stronger than before. I hope his assailants are identified and there can be some justice.

-add- on a somewhat related note, sometimes I think about those who genuinely help society and fellow Singaporeans, from grassroots volunteers to the Prime Minister. It might be for self-satisfaction, karma, power, money, blowjobs, whatnot but I admire people who help other people, especially in a place where most people are selfish self-conceited ungrateful fuckwits. Perhaps in such a society, the achievement of helping is all the more a greater thing.

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