I love movies about the old west. I love the no nonsense heroes. The cowboy who is carving out his piece of the world, the local sheriff standing alone against corruption or the outlaw with a good heart. These aren’t complex characters in many cases, one commonality unites them; the expectation that people act civilly and responsibly. If they don’t the repercussion is swift and definitive; a punch in the face.
Not unusual in these movies is the occasion where someone is shooting off his mouth or disrespects a woman or just in general is being a public nuisance. That is when someone will step forward and punch that guy in the mouth. Of course someone is there to catch him or pick him up off the floor. There is a brief pause in the action where onlookers wait to see if anything else will come of it. Sometimes a friend or relative of the recently struck will appeal to local law enforce, “Sheriff, ain’t you gonna do someth’n.” His reply will consistently be something like, “He had it a com’n.” And that would be that.
Today we view those times as crude, uncivilized, even barbaric. But what if they had it right?
In movies today, set in present times, it is not uncommon to see someone take a well deserved shot to the face. Generally it comes with a painful shake of the hand and a great sense of satisfaction for the character and the audience. But when was the last time you saw someone take one to the chops in real life?
If that happened today, instead of the piano player halting, the barkeep staring and the clobbered being helped to his feet while wiping the blood from his lip; you’d have people calling 911 on their cell phones and most assuredly a horrified bystander questioning the puncher, “What is wrong with you?!”
As a society we’ve progressed to a point where it is unacceptable behavior to knock someone down who is acting a fool. I teach my children to use their words when faced with a conflict. That’s what civilized people do. All that is fine and good except for one small thing; we’ve enabled the fools.
You see, two rational intelligent people can work through their differences without physical confrontation. But what happens when a rational intelligent person is crossed by a clown without a shred of decency or common sense and no regard for the general welfare of humanity. The fool can act as he pleases, disregard any plea for civility and go about his business while the rational, sane, intelligent person is left frustrated and unsatisfied. So you do the right thing and the offending party leaves unscathed and largely unaware of the damage done. This situation will, most likely, be repeated again and again because rational intelligent people are bound by the expectations of society and are unable to correct the fool’s behavior through reason and discourse. So the fool will continue being a fool because he can.
Now before you get too carried away I’m not suggesting that anybody go around willy nilly throttling people who upset or annoy them. However, on the occasion that you run across a fool and all attempts at reason have failed wouldn’t it be nice if, in the end, someone could help that fool to his feet with a shrug and onlookers and authority figures alike could say, “Well, he had that a com’n.”
Taking it a step further just look at what happened at Felcher & Sons when they brought in an office linebacker. Productivity went through the roof. The Terrible Terry Tate brand of justice produced immediate results and put the fools on notice. (excuse his language)
What if people could expect a measure of instant justice when they were out of order? The acts of thoughtlessness would decline exponentially. If you give people license to be fools then you are left to deal with fools. However, if you put fools on notice then they’ll be forced to snap to attention and act right or suffer the consequences. Think of it as an adult spanking.
What if the punk talking during the movie who’s rebuffed repeated petitions for silence or the incompetent colleague whose perpetual thoughtlessness puts your team under the gun time and time again could expect a clothesline or a well placed stunner or DDT? You think they might modify their behavior? You bet your sweet bippy.
At one point or another we’ve all wanted to belt a deserving somebody; a coworker, a neighbor, a stranger; I don’t know a wife out there who hasn’t wanted to pop her husband from time to time. That thought has probably crossed my wife’s mind while she read this.
Look, I’m not condoning random acts of violence or saying that you should start punching people in the face…I’m just saying imagine a world where people had to think twice before they said or did (or wrote) something stupid.