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It was one of the women at the jail who first told me that middle school and high school kids film their fights with their phones and then post them on Youtube. Then last week one of my high school tutees was talking affectionately about one of her younger sisters. "She's so bad," she said, laughing, and showed me a video on her phone of her little sister and another girl fighting. They had hands in each other's hair. "Ouch," I said, "that looks like it hurts!" "She's so bad," my tutee repeated, shaking her head and smiling.

I went online and found other videos, with breathless remarks from the person doing the filming. None of the ones I happened to look at were cases of someone being beaten up (though I'm sure that happens too), and none of them were mass melees (though same). These were ... well, in some cases they seemed like duels: there were seconds hanging back on both sides, and the fight was very short, and then it was like the seconds decided it was over. And in other cases it kind of reminded me of training? Like, instead of boxing or mixed martial arts, you're doing homemade fighting.

And the people filming. They seemed from their voices and their excitement levels so YOUNG. "Come on, hurry up, Celie! Somebody grab my sister!" exclaims one kid, and then, "Come on, fight fight fight, yo!" And in another video, a similarly young-sounding kid (a boy whose voice hasn't changed yet) shouts out advice ("keep your head up"), and when one of the fighters says "I can't breathe!" he calls out for everyone to stop. The girl says, "This asthma," and the kid says, "I fucking hate asthma too."

I know there are way worse fights. I know people get really badly hurt--I've seen scars my students in the jail have. That's not what was going on in the videos I happened to see, though.

I remember one of my other high school tutees, a *tiny* girl, talking about finally having to fight someone to get people to stop taunting her. I couldn't believe that having a fight would do that--I would have thought it would just escalate things. But apparently not.

Me, I'm wrapped in a floor-length robe of ignorance, with a fluffy hat of ignorance on my head. I don't have any summarizing statement to make or judgment to pass, beyond to say---I mean, maybe this is picking up on the high spirits of the people making the videos? and the casual attitude of my student?--but I felt surprisingly un-bad about the fact of the fights. I don't want kids to be ganged up on and beaten up, and I **definitely** think there are other ways to settle differences or strut your stuff. But ... maybe this is one possible way to settle differences and strut your stuff that isn't as bad as all that if all parties are willing? I don't know! See above: ignorance.

a fight


This entry was originally posted at http://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/851051.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2017 10:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, we monkeys!
May. 17th, 2017 11:29 pm (UTC)
"play" takes all kinds of surprising forms... is one thing I'm thinking, I guess.
May. 18th, 2017 01:48 am (UTC)
on the way to the coliseum
maybe we are returning to roman times ..

war as a way of life
May. 18th, 2017 08:11 am (UTC)
Re: on the way to the coliseum
War as a way of life I **definitely** think is a bad idea. I think what's going on with these kids--whatever it is--is something else, though.

I think the thing I feel very uneasy about in the fight scenarios is the coercion element. If I decide to go take martial arts or boxing or wrestling for fun, and you do too, and we spar, that's one thing. Or even if you and I decide to freestyle fight, just because we feel like it. But I can't honestly think of a situation where I'd want to settle a grievance with fighting, but some of these videos, that's what the kids were doing, and I'm wondering as I type this how many instances are one person really itching for the fight and the other feeling like they have no alternative. That, I feel pretty unambiguously negative about.

I would hate to be corralled into a fight. It would have meant just getting beaten up.** I'm lucky I was never in that situation. ... Maybe some of these kids never wanted to be in a fight, but seeing no alternative, just made themselves as ready as possible. I feel kind of depressed thinking that. I'd rather think that they were both willing... but maybe that's super naive of me.

**although I wonder. I remember in grade school, this one boy I was terrified of. He was coming at me for some reason, or so I thought, and I threw sand at him, and it got in his eyes and he was really upset and backed off. His friends said how mean I was. This was bewildering to me because to me, he was big and a threat and I was defending myself, but maybe that's not how it seemed to them. And when push came to shove, I was the one who got violent. Hmmm.....
May. 18th, 2017 01:37 pm (UTC)
Re: on the way to the coliseum
do they play war video games?
May. 18th, 2017 02:08 pm (UTC)
Re: on the way to the coliseum
The kids? I don't know.
May. 18th, 2017 04:08 pm (UTC)
Re: on the way to the coliseum
first, i just want to say i like your drawing

i remember one fight i hadwhen i was 6 with a bothersome kid who called me ugly in front of a group of kids. it angered me and i started to beat the crap out of him. it was totally against my nature to fight, but when provoked, i just lost it. i was only 6. that was the do unto others lesson for me. he never bothered me again.

my son played RPG games with his friends a lot when he was young 5 yr old, he always wanted to be on a "team" and would rally his friends to play with him. his mom helped him write a letter to nintendo about a glitch in the mario game which inspired him to study game design now build video games as a career. although his focus is mostly on RPG team play, he has played some first person shooter and kick boxing games, and even RPG has an element of battle to "win" the levels against the "boss". he is not violent, but i sense that he holds back his anger and one day may explode into rage.. i have never liked video games, but i think his mom saw it as a baby sitter giving her time to do other things as he was our only child. i tried to teach him how to draw but he didn't show much interest in it. he liked the social connection with his friends the game gave him, which i perceive as healthy. he is a man of few words these days. that's him.

on the other hand i see some fairly dysfunctional youth who have assaulted total strangers when they hit their anger peak and those same fellows play violent video games. i'm not saying that the games are actually the cause of the real life violence, but i think it goes hand in hand, so that they become self-focused, disconnected and desensitized to the consequences of their actions around others and how it hurts others. one in particular burns his friendships over and over. violent movies i perceive do the same. they reflect our pent up frustration of the individual against an uncaring society.

thanks for giving me the reflection of all this. i am revisiting a lot of things from my past these days. i guess change does that to us.

without all that media hype in our society, i think that young children who fight or "wrestle" are testing their boundaries and scuffles are just part of learning to play and get along with others. the problem comes when some of them choose superiority over weaker kids that pumps up their ego and they get addicted to it. like trump, he's a bully.

May. 18th, 2017 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re: on the way to the coliseum
I feel you on the dilemma of video games. In our family, the three older kids were pretty close together in age, and then the youngest was five years younger than the others. The older three had only a single gameboy between them, and we limited the time they could spend on it. The youngest played a *lot* more, both on her own and with friends, and yeah, for her too, there was both the good side of it being something that connected her with friends (both in-the-flesh friends and ones she only knew online) and yet also something that could provoke her into a rage, and sometimes, like you, I wished we'd laid down the law with her the way we did with the older three. ... It's impossible to know if or how that anger would have manifested itself if the games hadn't been the focus.

Cause and effect... it's really hard to know about. But I definitely agree that some video games are just awful.

The dysfunctional youth you come in contact with--is this (if it's okay to ask; if not, I understand) through work?

Thanks for sharing this. I'm nodding vigorously in agreement with your last paragraph, too.
May. 18th, 2017 11:27 pm (UTC)
Re: on the way to the coliseum
dysfunctional youth you come in contact wit

no they are young people from family friends and extended family. i'm old school.. i grew up playing monopoly and sorry board games
May. 18th, 2017 11:57 am (UTC)
I tell myself that before one gets involved in a culture change, one should understand the culture as much as possible. I work with Somali women who were probably cut and a very bright young Syrian who is betrothed and will be kept away from education and a Yazidi woman who is excelling at education but is being discouraged from getting a job. What does the woman want, I ask myself? Should I speak to her? Should we get a man to speak to her husband since he is the decider? Your students need a better way, I think, but maybe the idea for a change should come from someone who has learned that the hard way. ... So many unanswerable questions that we still need to ask.
May. 18th, 2017 01:44 pm (UTC)
I hear you, and yes, to everything you say. I'm trying to mainly *listen* ... but I need a space to process and think over what I'm hearing and seeing--and this is good place for that.
May. 18th, 2017 02:05 pm (UTC)
I think there is a continuum between disagreement and outright bullying, and this seems innocuous. I also think kids are so much meaner to each other today because they are supervised all the time and don't get to jostle around, take risks, see what they can do, and be free. We used to go out to play from the time we got home from school till supper time with absolutely no supervision except 'what direction are you going in?' We made hideouts, climbed trees, made bows and arrows, played war, made snow forts and had snowball fights, ran around, wore ourselves out. Now they don't even have recess... All that energy needs to go somewhere.
May. 18th, 2017 02:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Continuum
I agree: I'm very grateful I grew up when I did, with the freedoms I had. And yes, that energy **does** need to go somewhere.
May. 18th, 2017 10:41 pm (UTC)
I hate the thought of someone having to fight to stop taunts/bullying. And maybe it stops the bullying now, while the children are young and almost play-fighting, but later would the loser of the fight just be subject to more and worse bullying? (Did it matter now whether the bullied person won or lost the fight?)
Yes, I'm speaking from way, way outside the culture, and I can see how it could be fun and a physical release of energy and group bonding, but I can see how it could feed into lots of rotten things, too. :(
Your illustration's great.
May. 18th, 2017 11:44 pm (UTC)
The questions you raise are good ones, pointful ones, and what you say about the potential for fights to feed into lots of rotten things is very true.

... For all of my life, fighting-is-bad has been just a given, so it opened my eyes to see that it's *not* a given in some circles. (If I'd stopped and thought about it, I would have known this was true without this evidence--but the evidence came along without my stopping and thinking about it.) And I guess it kind of knocked me off balance. Maybe my assumptions are incorrect, I thought.

But in talking about it here, I've been reminded about the reasons why I had those assumptions, and the reasons are good ones, valid ones. It's just that now, I have a sense of "and yet..." --with nothing to add after the "and yet..." just the ellipses hanging there.

I don't mind not having an answer. There may not *be* an answer, particularly. Anyway, it's good hearing people's thoughts and stories, that's for sure.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )



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