Editorials and Opinions

The punch line

By Ben Seifer
Published: December 2007

Do you ever get so mad at someone that you just want to pop them right in the face? Apparently, many South students feel that way recently.I have seen more fights in the first half of this school year than in my two and a half years at South. Is it a stress issue? A lack of sleep? The weather? Maybe even the school food? Regardless, South students have started throwing more and more punches. When we were little, our teachers told us that although we weren’t going to be best friends with everyone, if we had a problem with a classmate, we could talk to them. That system may have worked then, but now it is considered snitching.

A snitch, not the golden ball that zips around in the Harry Potter books, is the lowest of all positions, the scum at the bottom of the lake. If you snitch, it means that you can’t deal with your own problems, and you need someone else to do it for you. Being the independent young adults we think we are, finding a teacher is not part of the solution to a problem. Like any other problem, we try to deal with it on our own.
So, you have an issue with someone. You start yelling at the other person. It gets louder and louder, and you barely notice the circle of kids that form around you. If you run to a teacher, you’re humiliated; if you stand there, you’ll probably get clocked. You stop thinking about the people around you, the consequences, and then, it’s off to the races.

Yelling, screaming, and even a little laughter. By the time one or both are on the ground, the campus aides intervene, and after 30 seconds of some last minute curses, the show is over. Like I said, the normal response to a fight is cheering. Two people have so much hatred for each other that they are willing to physically harm another person. So why are we cheering? Why does a school full of honor students, community service participants, athletes, and theatre kids support a fight? Human nature. We cheer for the same reason thousands of Romans watched gladiators kill one another everyday, the same reason millions of people watch football, hockey, and boxing, and for the same reason you saw 300.

The Germans have a term for this: schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is the sense of satisfaction from seeing someone else’s misfortune. I don’t think Newton South kids are malicious people who enjoy seeing others get hurt. My theory is that when we see two people throwing punches at each other, we think, “Wow that kid is getting the living crap kicked out of him, and I’m glad it’s not me.”

For instance, there is a terrible car wreck, and there is bumper-to-bumper traffic. This is not because the car is blocking all six lanes of the highway or might burst into flames. It’s because people stop to look at the car and the victims. When I was 11 years old, it was my good friend’s party, and eight of us went to a motocross event to celebrate. We were at the edge of our seats, waiting for some poor guy to fall 40 feet in the air and probably break every bone in his body. Human nature.

So if you’re the guy to catch one in the side of the head, I leave this for you. If you happen to hear some applause right before you hit the floor, they’re not cheering at your defeat, they’re really cheering for themselves.

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