Geezers need excitement
If their lives don’t provide them this they incite violence
Common sense, simple common sense
(‘Geezers Need Excitement’- The Streets)
In a previous post, I argued that the English curriculum is hyper-feminised. Since writing the post, I’ve become more sensitive to the way we discuss masculinity in the school environment and the post that follows is written with the hope that, having read it, people may be more aware-or at least more sensitive- to the complexities of the male experience.
I want to tell you two stories.
When I was 14 years old I found myself sitting in a fast-food establishment of questionable quality, eating what was advertised as a ‘meat kebab.’ I was minding my own business and eating a kebab. That was all. As I was half way through my meal, a group of boys from my school entered the shop. They were about 4 years older and about 4 stone heavier. One of the boys took an instant dislike to me and proceeded to, as I remember it, ‘rip the shit out of me.’ Totally unprovoked, these four lads rounded on me, a boy 4 years younger, for absolutely no reason at all. I was scared and I was upset and I left. The kebab stayed on the table. I vividly remember getting home; I was fuming. I was humiliated and angered by the injustice of it all. Since that incident, I’ve grown older. I aced my GCSE’s, nailed my A-Levels and worked damn hard to get a damn good degree at a damn good University. I read prolifically. In fact, I’m so well educated that society has deemed it okay for me to educate other people. So how do I feel when I think back to that incident in the kebab shop, 16 years ago? I feel shame. And anger. Burning anger.
Last week, I was in the gym and another bloke in the gym took an instant dislike to me. He couldn’t stop shooting aggressive stares in my direction and later on he shoulder barged me as I passed him. That is, he rammed his shoulder into my chest for absolutely no reason. Some time after, friends of his turned up and they all tried to intimidate me any way they could. If I haven’t told you already, I’m well educated; I read books and I watch films and I go to the theatre. I know what to do to avoid smashed teeth and a criminal conviction: Flight, not fight. So that’s what I did; I walked away, when all I wanted to do was smash some faces up. I went into the changing rooms, sat down and rationalised the situation. My thoughts went something like this:
- I’m more educated than they are, obviously. Educated people don’t go round picking on people.
- It’s brave, walking away
- Walking away is the right thing to do
- I’ve got lots of good qualifications and they, presumably, haven’t
- Aren’t I brave…walking…away….
And there’s the rub. There I was, hiding in a changing room, angry with myself for walking away, humiliated and emasculated, and they were out there, laughing at my flight, blithely unaware of any harm or upset they might cause to anyone ever. And I still feel it now. Walking away has left me ashamed. I don’t feel morally superior, nor do I feel as though I did the right thing. What irks me more, is an awareness that it is more than likely that my education-the fact that I read lots- has rendered me more susceptible and sensitive to the injustices of the situation.
I will always walk away. I like my face too much and I never want to go to prison. But, as a man, I feel an acute sense of shame-genuine shame-every time I think back to a time where I’ve ‘walked away.’ And I’m educated and well-rounded and my parents have done a sterling job in raising me. As teachers, we need to be aware of the complexities of the male experience. In the playground, its the boys who fight who rule the roost and those that read books hold no sway. Unless they can fight also. And this counts for adulthood too.
What does this mean? If I’m honest, I don’t know. But I’m open to suggestions.
I will always tell the boys I teach ‘to walk away and be the bigger person’ and I’ll tell them this because engaging in physical fighting can kill. It can end lives. But can I sincerely and honestly tell these boys that they’ll feel good for walking away? Not at all. Quite the opposite.