I recently read a powerful article penned by Dr Karen Williams and published on the ABC News site this past week. The article, titled “When men were being killed on the street, we took action. So why is domestic violence different?”, outlined an argument that when it comes to men, things seem to happen, but not so when it comes to women.
The article is very well written and raises some sobering points. I won’t recreate that here, as it is not the intention of this article.
When the “Coward Punch” issue became headline news, I wrote about that. If you wish to read it you can on Huff Post. In that article, I arrived at the conclusion that if we are to stop the coward’s punch and all other forms of reactive violence, I must first handle my own surges of anger that sometimes arise when things are not as I would like.
Referring to the Government’s response to the coward punch situation, and apparent inaction on domestic violence, Dr Williams argues, “So why is it, when we know of these patterns, do we not see a response from the legal system that reflects that understanding?
I would argue that when women have been brutally attacked in public, the public and Government response has been as significant as that related to the Coward Punch situation.
Domestic violence is a terrible thing. Often, it goes on behind closed doors and, due to embarrassment and socially driven fears, remains a secret. But it probably only remains a secret to those who do not pay attention to the things they notice.
There are so many directions I can go with this topic, but I will hold to the one I feel requires the most exploration.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
~ Edmund Burke
We live in communities and what goes on in our community can be accepted as general reflection of what is in the minds of the individuals members. What we accept within ourselves, we will accept in our communities.
As I stated in my Cowards Punch article, the thing I must take responsibility for is my own reactions, anger and occasional internal surges of rage. I must own them as mine, and not blame circumstances or other people for their existence. They arise in my own personal universe. They do not come from another person or event, but from how I view that person or event.
As I become more aware of myself and how I view the world, I am more present, deeply calm and very aware. It is a nice place to live. But the work is ongoing. There is no “perfect state”.
Similarly, when I notice something that is not right around me, it is my duty to handle it, or at least help. If it turned up in my universe, and it did if I noticed it, then it is mine to deal with. Hence my exploration of the behaviour of others around me. Do I ignore it, or do I help them with it?
And I do mean help. I don’t like the “right wrong” game. It doesn’t help anything evolve. If I am at a game of football and I see a supporter being abusive to a young umpire, I can ignore it, or I can take notice of what is really happening. I can see a person who has anger problems, and I don’t need to be Dr Phil to know that anger probably plays out elsewhere too. So, I need to help that person, to care for them and those who are in their life. It is the right thing to do.
Now if it is you in that situation, you may not feel confident, but you can go and marshal other capable people and wake them up to their community responsibilities. I am not suggesting you put yourself in danger.
When Rowan Baxter was getting lost in his rage, and at the time the Domestic Violence Order was issued, where were his friends? Where were his mates? Didn’t they have a small inkling that this man was losing control? Where was the agreement between friends to track him constantly and keep him away from his family, to keep supporting him to talk through his rage and anger? Why was he ever left alone?
We can wait for the Government all we like, and we can blame them too. But the reality is that we do not have the spare police to give one-on-one care to potentially violent offenders. Locking them up might be an answer, but does it cure a problem or simply delay it?
The shoe must fit on both feet too.
I have had several friends who have been through the family court system and lost custody of their kids. These were good men, fathers who loved their kids and participated and engaged daily. In court, the lies that were told by the wife and her family were gob smacking. All under oath too.
I had another friend whose wife had a major problem with alcohol and prescription drugs. One evening she went on a violent rampage, punching and kicking him. To regain some control of the situation he grabbed her by the forearms and held firm till she calmed down. The next day she had faint bruises and charged him with assault.
Where were the friends and families of these women, supporting them to be honest and to have respect and to refrain from using deceit to get their way, or to hurt their spouse?
I was once walking with my partner and we overheard a terrible fight raging in the home of our neighbours. We heard the wife yell, “You think you are so smart, but if you push me, I’ll take the kids and you will never see them”.
My partner was horrified, and I said, “Well, it’s your gig. You heard it. So, it’s your job to help her with that.” I agreed to catch up with him and have a chat too.
Abuse occurs in so many ways. Physical abuse ends up in injury, death and horror. It is all still abuse.
Safe communities are places where citizens are prepared to have some guardianship and to act on the things they notice. The most able citizens are the ones who have guardianship over their own minds, their reactions and their emotions. There is never a valid reason for losing control – unless of course it is a moment of extreme danger where fear can overcome a person.
When I am talking to groups of workers in heavy industry workplaces like construction sites and mines, I talk to them about taking care of what they notice around them as a way of making the workplace much safer. This means taking notice of things like broken equipment as much as they take notice of how a workmate talks about their spouse.
In this current economic climate of wealth and abundance, it is easy to get lost in the world of “me”. We get caught up in what we want, what we shouldn’t have to do, our social media status and how other people see us.
If we reflect on the times of the pioneers, they had no time to be concerned about any of those things because fundamental survival issues occupied their time and attention for the whole of each day. Survival issues dragged their attention out onto what was going on around them.
In our world of almost obscene comfort, that is not the case. So, part of our human challenge is to learn how to do it, how to get our attention off our own selfishness and place it on the welfare of our community and our environment. That is the challenge that faces us all.
If more of us did the work to become much more aware, we would be there to help long before Rowan Baxter became a figure of cruel and heartless terror.
Perhaps that is our spiritual journey. Are you up for it? Are you up for stepping up and doing what it takes to extract yourself from your own mind and become an aware and available citizen who can stand guardian and be ready when needed to care for a person or situation in need?
Personally, I think it is the most important task there is in life. But it can’t be done by simply saying to yourself “Right I am going to be more aware now!”, because within hours you will be checking your Facebook status to see if others think you are more aware.
This takes stepping outside your comfort zone and doing the work. And you know, the work is fun. Let me know if you’d like to play a bigger game. I can point you in the right direction. And just a word of relief for your mind, I am not talking about religion. I am talking about you learning to become the Master and Commander of your own mind and all its “ways”.