Someone sent me this video of a kid dishing out the comeuppance. "Little Zangief" they call him, which is funny. He power-slams some other kid, which other people find funny, but I actually don't. Leaving aside, the lack of any real context, and the assumption that what we're seeing is actually what happened, leaving aside the fact that the other kid is still a kid...Wait. Let's not leave that aside. It's sort of the point.
You know there's a seductive righteousness that comes from being victimized: My people did some dirt, but we never stole anybody's labor. Or my girls can be mean to each other, but we're not going to rape anybody. Or yeah we might be poor, but we don't sneer at people because they didn't read the most recent New Yorker.
It's sort of the same thing here. This kid--who shouldn't have put his hands on anyone--gets power-slammed on a concrete driveway, is stumbling out of the frame, and for all we know could be concussed, and you read the comments, and everyone's yelling "Damn right." This is a world filled with people who've been bullied--but no people who are, or ever were, actual bullies.
I watched that video wondering where that boy's parents were. That kid--the aggressive one--was out of his head, and there was no one to put the right kind of hands on him. And now he's famous.
And I say this as a Malcolmite, as someone who believes in the sacred right of defending your person, and has told his own son as much. But you don't do it because it makes you feel "good," because it makes you "right." To the contrary, defense is usually the best of a bunch of really awful options.
Ugh. SXSW has made me all emo and reflective. I should stop being so lame, and have a beer. Too many Coke Zeroes. Too little TV On The Radio.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power