Top Gear: Jeremy on Violence

Sunday, July 22, 20120 comments

Your whole life has been wasted. So who could blame you, in the heat of the moment, for running up to the official and hitting him with your racquet?

Remember Nelson Piquet kicking and punching the useless Eliseo Salazar? Remember Michael Schumacher charging down the pit lane to ‘discuss' things with David Coulthard? We quite understand why. And more than this: we like it.

They're moments we savour and cherish. Over in America, people go to see a game of ice hockey not to witness speed and precision but for the fights. And here, the rugby crowd is always cheered immensely when two number eights start beating the living crap out of one another. Especially when the rest of the team joins in.

The trouble is that today we are programmed to stay calm. To turn the other cheek. And that's fine if you're me. I would hate to be punched. But in sport and politics where emotions are - and indeed should be - as charged as an equatorial summer storm, it's inhuman to take a deep breath and carry on. Perhaps that's why so many top sports stars and politicians these days are so robotic and dreary.

All of this brings me neatly to a picture we saw in the newspapers recently. It was of a middle-aged gentleman trying to cycle along a country lane while being kicked by a young woman. Apparently, he had been going too slowly in the middle of the road, and the woman had decided to teach him a lesson.

Everyone shared the opinion that the woman was a menace and should be locked up for the rest of measurable time. Because, while it may be all right to lash out in the heat of the moment on a sports pitch, it is extremely not all right to behave like that on the road.

However, before we lock away the woman, let's ask a question: what if she had received word that her mother had been taken to hospital and didn't have long to live? And, what if, while stuck behind the cyclist, fuming at his slow progress, word came through that her dear old Mum had died? Would it then be acceptable to kick the man who'd prevented her from having a last goodbye?

Very often, I am held up by someone who is driving along the A44 at a speed that they consider to be safe. They are often elderly. Their reactions are slow, and they do not feel confident going above 25mph. Plus, they are in no particular rush and feel the world would be a far better place if others were in no particular rush either. So they have no sense of guilt about the tail of overheating metal in their wake. Secretly, they may even feel empowered.

Mostly, I put up with it. If I can overtake, I will, and if I cannot, I will put on a nice tune and relax. But what if I were in bomb disposal and I had just moments to get to a terrorist nuke? What if my wife were in labour? What if a child needed its Dad? Then the moment is charged, and the rage will build, and it's only human to barge the elderly couple and their infuriating Peugeot into a hedge.

Cyclists lose their temper all the time, and I don't blame them, mostly. Because when a bus driver, fuelled by stupidity or arrogance, turns left without warning and you are nearly killed by his rear wheels, you become a skin bag full of dopamine, and serotonin and adrenalin. You are as psyched up as a frightened rabbit. And, in that instant, you can't really be held to account if you board the bus, unzip your flies and relieve yourself all over the driver.

So, there we are. Violence. I loathe it. I'm frightened of it. I wish the human knuckle was made from kapok. But sometimes? Hmmm.
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