An address delivered at the ‘White Ribbon Day’ rally, Marrickville PCYC on Noverber 22, 2012.
I must say that I was a little surprised to be invited to address this gathering today (surprised but delighted, I might add). Even so, as a representative of the church and, to a lesser extent, a representative of the boxing community, I appreciate that when it comes to taking a stand opposing violence against women, these two thoroughly patriarchal institutions have a rather poor record with regards to the rights of women and violence respectively!
I do believe that the church historically has regularly failed to uphold the rights of women and to see that the vulnerable in our community are properly protected, which is why I consider it all the more a privilege to be able to say to you as a Christian man, and as a Christian man who boxes, and simply as a man, that I abhor all forms of violence against women and urge my fellow Christians, my fellow boxers, and my fellow men to do everything in their power to see that women are protected against violence and indeed that all those who are vulnerable in our community are shielded from abuse.
I suspect in fact that the boxing community may have a better record in this regard than the church, for boxers have always upheld that the only good fight is a fair fight – held according to sporting rules between people of equal size, strength and ability, surrounded by officials whose primary job it is to see that nobody gets seriously hurt. If only all conflicts could be dealt with in this sort of context, what a happier place the world would be!
I appreciate of course that for some people the very concept of male aggression is something that our world can do without. Let me say to you that from my perspective aggression is actually a very vital commodity in the community. Mother Theresa had plenty of aggression. Martin Luther King had plenty of aggression. Julia Gillard seems to have plenty of aggression. The key, at any rate, I believe, is not to try and do away with aggression but to see that it is controlled and appropriately channelled.
I am fond of drawing on the wisdom of Socrates as recorded in Plato’s Republic, where the question on view through the book is ‘what is justice?’ Socrates there gives us a model of society which has three components – the rulers, the workers and the army, and he suggests that when all are fulfilling their proper function (the rulers ruling, the workers working and the army fighting) we have a just society. The individual parallels the larger model, according to Socrates. The individual has a ruler (the mind), workers (the limbs) and an army – what the Greeks called the ‘themos’. According to the ancient Greeks, an individual is just and complete as a human being when these same components are all working together properly – the mind is ruling, the workers are working and the themos is doing the fighting!
I think there is much wisdom in this model that values the role of human aggression. The problem is not aggression as such but uncontrolled aggression and men in particular, I think, need to be educated in how to control and channel aggression.
What we do in our Fight Club is teach people to recognise their aggression, to harness it and to learn to control and channel it, which is why I believe that amateur boxing can play a vital role in our community in helping young men in particular grow up into responsible adults who can form meaningful and positive and nurturing relationships with women.
For in truth many men need help in learning how to control their aggression and how to channel it creatively into words and positive action. This is not in any way to excuse those who resort to their fists to express their anger, but it is to point to the positive role we all can play in helping to educate men in more creative ways of dealing with the warrior within.
Real men are aggressive men. Real women are capable of aggression too. But real men and real women know full well that there is no place for displays of violence against the vulnerable – no way, never, ever!