I wondered the other day, “What prevents persons from having compelling interactions with each other as a matter of course. Why does it seem like these kinds of interactions are only enjoyed vicariously and within the conventions of theatre?
The answer occurred to me today, on a cramped OC Transpo bus: the risk of violence — both emotional and physical.
Whether it be the hurt of having a friendly overture rudely rebuffed or the pain of a physical assault, it’s the ever-present risk of violence that holds us apart.
Moreover, I doubt this obstacle will ever be overcome entirely. Even in the wealthy and affluent west, where there’s an abundance of resources for everyone, the cruelest and most hurtful people in a person’s life are often the very people who we’d expect to be the most loving and caring.
When I was a volunteer phone room counsellor at the Calgary Distress centre in 2000 and 2001, the woman who lead the training session on abuse asked us, “why do many men (and some women) abuse their partners.” After we offered a few suggestions, she offered this straightforward and sensible answer: “because it works.” People are violent simply because it’s an effective means to their ends.
Unfortunately, some people will always think violence is the most effective means to their ends. Our only recourse, I think, is to do whatever we can to make it much less effective and only to employ violence as a means of last resort to prevent violence. And, perhaps, if everyone on the bus knew we’d all intervene if a spontaneous interaction turned violent, we’d be more inclined to interact with each other.