What did they say that stuck?

There are a few phrases that have stuck with me throughout my entire life — some of which I have already spoken of in recent articles.

  • When in doubt, throw it out.
  • They all take a shit the same way you do.
  • You shall not kill.
  • It’s better to be good because you have to be than to be bad because you can be.
  • The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

Many more come to mind, of course, yet all of these have some things in common. They’re all fundamental precepts that I live every day. They’re all practical advice. And they’re all things that were repeatedly said to my by family members, whether that be my mother, my uncle, my grandfather, my grandmothers. They have certainly served me well. It’s the last one that I think might be mostly on my mind this morning, though.

The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. In other words, being noticed is dangerous. Being invisible is safe.

Nearly half a decade ago, I was brutally attacked in the middle of the afternoon by a stranger in a public place. I have still not recovered either physically or mentally from the attack yet it is only one in a long series of targeted assaults on me, nearly all of which have taken place in brightly lit public places within view of groups of bystanders who simply let it happen.

We have laws in this country. Any developed nation has many laws. But what people often forget is that laws aren’t designed to stop a person from committing a crime. They’re designed to make a person weigh their choices. It’s not about not doing something. It’s about figuring out before you do it whether the punishment is worth suffering for the crime you are about to commit. For example, if you wanted to steal a car, you would know that if you are caught you may spend several years in a prison. So you would weigh the likelihood of you getting caught with the car (if you’re not going to drive it, there’s not much use in having it and disassembling the thing for parts is a whole lot of complication that I’m not even going to think about here) and the years living in a cell against the possible benefit of having the car. The vast majority of people will look at this equation and quickly decide that, whether or not they lust after a new set of wheels, it’s not worth years of prison time to get it. The vast majority, though, is not everyone.

The same goes for physical violence. If, for example, you live in a disastrous situation, prison suddenly doesn’t sound nearly as prohibitive. Perhaps living in a room that’s not freezing in the wintertime with three meals a day prepared for you and no requirement to go to work, that could be an improvement on your daily life. This is a huge problem with modern society — we allow people to drop into situations that are far worse than prison and expect them to still see criminal prosecution as a prohibitive determiner on behavior. There was a well-known sixth-circuit judge from New York whose name I cannot remember who once said that a college graduate with an apartment on the upper east side can’t understand why anyone would risk years in prison to steal a few hundred bucks from someone at gunpoint. A banger from Queens, though, sees it not simply as no worse than his life already is but as an escape, even in some ways a vacation, often with friends from home, all expenses paid. That’s of course not to say that this jurist had anything against people from Queens, just that socioeconomic background is a pretty good determiner of motivation and how much of a deterrent criminal procedures are going to be for someone.

But for some people, it’s even stranger as an equation. Some people simply don’t do the thinking. They don’t do the calculation. Perhaps more people than ever have been taught that they should embrace their emotions and desires and act on those. We live in a society that pushes the notion of being proud of who we are and indulging in it rather than always striving to be better people. So when you think you want to reach out and hurt someone, perhaps because you think they deserve it or because they’ve done something of which you don’t approve, you do it. No law is going to stop you if you don’t think about it. That’s the key to laws. They only work if they train people into a mindset of stopping action because they are afraid of the consequences. To be afraid of them, you have to think about them. And if you don’t think before you act, they can’t possibly stop you from acting.

Sometimes this happens because of our society’s acceptance of alcohol and recreational drug use. Now I have to comment at this point that it would be incredibly odd for someone to smoke a joint and then go out on a violent rampage. The vast majority of drug users are using them for personal relaxation — marijuana, for example, usually has the effect of diminishing any potentially violent thoughts and actions. Those taking tranquilizers are very unlikely to become violent offenders while using the drugs. But there are a few drugs that do tend to make people more violent. And what’s worse is that those drugs also tend to make people unlikely to be able to think about things like consequences of their actions.

So we have a society that encourages drug use (in particular, alcohol, the worst offender in these cases) and compounds that by encouraging people to act on their desires and impulses without either thinking or feeling guilt about the consequences, especially not before acting. We are creating a society that simply doesn’t need laws as we know them anymore. They’re obsolete. Preventing crime by making people fear the consequences of their actions doesn’t work if people are neither afraid of nor thinking about them.

So what about the hammers and nails?

I am different. My Japanese culture is strikingly odd to people in the west, especially here in the UK. My fundamental allegiance to equality — not to equal opportunity or equal worth but equal everything, everyone having the same things, nobody owning more than others, no wealth or privilege or status or authority — tends to get a severely negative response from people. My hatred of democracy and conviction that propagating representative government simply becomes an exercise in mob rule and persecution of the minority along with a disaster in that the majority almost never chooses the right path, this makes me an object of derision among western populations who have been raised to believe that democracy and self-government are synonymous with freedom and happiness. I believe that we should never indulge in what we want or what we desire or express emotion in our actions. I believe that all life should be preserved — that we should never kill or cause to be killed, which is a huge problem for those who wish to put dead animals inside their bodies and call it lunch. As I said, I am different.

And, of course, I am genderless — nonbinary, if you prefer the awkward yet more common term for it. I am reasonably comfortable being called “she” if people really have to. I will accept “they” if people have a weird relationship with object language. I prefer “it” if people have overcome their silly arcane prejudices against nonhuman items of discussion. What I cannot abide is being called “he” or, far worse, “sir”. Every time someone calls me “sir”, I feel tears in my eyes. “He” is nearly as bad. It’s just an emotionally painful experience when people look at me and for some reason see a societally-determined gender of male, that in some way I am masculine to them. Gender is artificial. It has nothing to do with biology. It’s about expectations and performances. Somehow I am not performing well enough to be rewarded with an acceptance of my being completely lacking in gender. And this is sad.

But that is what makes me a target more than anything else. I have been brutally assaulted on more than one occasion because of the way I speak, the way I dress and the beliefs that people know I hold. Particularly, those that relate to gender. Why do people feel they have a reason to do this?

It is about how they are trained to see violence. They believe many things about violence. They see wars and read the history of battles. They are taught to believe that men are strong and powerful, that they seek conflict and are only men because they can overcome and overpower others, control and possess and conquer. This is the notion of masculinity that is propagated. It leads to many things, including the rape culture in which we live, yet I believe the most problematic thing it leads to is that people believe that violence is justified and acceptable. It’s far larger than using that violence for sexual things, which is a huge problem in itself. But the greater problem is that people are trying to make a decision as to when violence is permissible, justified and acceptable rather than accepting the moral absolute that violence is never acceptable.

If you fight, you are wrong. If you think about fighting, you are wrong. If you display anger, you are wrong. Always.

I am attacked with words and fists because I am different. Sometimes I believe that’s because people are afraid of what’s different. Mostly, though, I believe it’s because people want to exercise their violent desires and society has taught them that you can use violence against others under certain circumstances — when you feel disrespected, for example. And since I have nothing but disgust and disdain for most people, they certainly feel that. It is, of course, absolutely no justification for being violent. I am no threat to these people. I will not hurt them. But they hurt me.

What’s worse is how that reaction is received. Not by me, of course, as I am likely unable to respond in any way, either departed or unconscious on the ground. By society in general. When I was attacked most recently, one might expect that a fractured skull and shattered bones would result in a quick prosecution and a lengthy prison sentence. But no. They quickly found the person responsible and summarily dismissed everything. Video evidence and a dozen witnesses? No problem. But they had no thoughts of conviction not because they couldn’t prove that the thing happened but because they imagined that the judge and jury, either in this case, would be lenient because they would see it as justifiable violence.

As if there were such a thing.

If someone attacks you and you defend yourself, perhaps that would be explicable. I don’t think it’s justifiable but I could see a sensible argument for it. But when someone beats another person nearly to death and that person has neither attempted to make contact with nor succeeded in doing so, with objects or fists or feet or anything — what is the justification of which they speak? Cultural justification. They feel their beliefs are threatened. That their way of life is under siege from my thoughts and words. Because when you can’t fight back with words, it’s ok to fight back with fists. That is the society in which we live.

I have learned to be the invisible short nail.

I spend my entire life well aware of the hammer that seeks me.