I am thinking about tribalism again, and in the very overblown way we are seeing it play out in our culture right now. I don’t really want to pick apart what I see happening politically and in our wider cultural war unfolding, but it has been on my mind, and any other thoughts I find interesting enough to write about keep falling aside. So, suffice to say that what I see happening boils down to tribalism, or the us versus them dynamic. Seriously. Football players kneeling? Protesting how an *us* are being treated by a *them.* American self-anointed patriots damn near rioting because a handful of black men sit during the national anthem? An angry *us* versus a terrifying *them.* Football team owners linking hands with their players, many of whom a week ago stated “I would NEVER kneel!” Well, an outraged *us* of owners and players angry at a *them* who had the AUDACITY to bully them and tell them what they should do.
The way tribalism ends is with one side beating the crap out of the other until the loser scurries away with its tail between its legs. If it still has working legs. In the absence of true conversation (and by that I mean no off limit topics, the terms *trigger* and *safe space* are not shields to hide behind, and respect for opinions other than your own is the expectation) we are left with what we see now- a bunch of primates beating their chests, baring their fangs, and howling at each other.
Which brings us to punching things. I recently started kickboxing again. There are more parts of me that feel sore than I remember from last time (a decade ago?!?!) and I don’t move quite as fast, but a lot of it feels familiar. Muscle memory is an amazing thing. But the part I like the most is the sparring. It isn’t all-out, the focus being on pushing your partner, not beating them. But you still get hit, and that is a beautiful thing. In the last sparring session I decided to block my partner’s knee with my face. An unorthodox move, and I am sure his knee regretted it. My mouthguard did its job and I wasn’t too rattled. However the instant clarity was wonderful. As I have mentioned in previous posts about Wim Hof and cold exposure, there is that instant clarity of mind that comes from putting your physical body into an extreme circumstance. The static and noise instantly ceases as your brain and body unite around a single response, something that, in my head at least, sound a lot like “oh, holy crap!”
I recently read about a Bengamin Wittes, editor of the Lawfare blog, who has publicly called out Putin over his judo skills. He has offered to spar with Putin any time, and anywhere (provided it is a location where Putin lacks the power to arrest him- important detail, that.) I like it. I hope Putin accepts. In fact I hope that members of our own political system discover the many benefits offered by martial arts and decide to master one of them. I can totally see the Clintons forming their own style of kung fu, and Comey would have dominated with some Muay Thai and those long legs of his. Then, once a week, they have to get together and spar. Not a blood sport or anything like that, we get enough of that out of them already. But they have to step into the ring, on their own, and face off against another human being. Maybe a political opponent, maybe someone from their own party they are working with, maybe a frustrated constituent. I don’t know, the picture just looks so damn good in my mind.
And maybe, just maybe, getting punched in the head would help them with their mental clarity. Then they could sit down and actually talk some of this craziness out, while icing their knuckles and joking about the futility of blocking a kick with your face. Because once you have actually figured out who the biggest, fastest, most skilled ape in the room actually is, you can forget about it and go about the business of getting shit done.