In The Two Drovers by Walter Scott, an Englishman thumps a Scot. The Scot’s honour is impugned, so he gets his black knife (so called because it is hidden) and stabs his friend to death. If we all carried knives in our socks, in the six o’clock commute on the Tube, packed like sardines, perhaps no-one would get out alive. Yet in Rob Roy, set in 1715, Scott shows the elaborate courtesy of the Highlanders, necessary in a society where every man carries a blade; and the contempt they have for the lowlanders who have no blades, or fighting skill.
When I presented male, and wore a kilt for country dancing, I carried a sgian dubh with no thought of self-defence, and indeed we have seemed to get this civilisation thing, living together in conurbations of ten million with surprisingly few murders. And yet we still have anger and hatred, which we exorcise vicariously through sporting contests, or by “kicking the cat”, picking on a safe target where the true object of our rage is too frightening to contemplate.
All that energy, dissipated; or turned inwards to self-hatred and depression; or turned outwards, to the effusion of blood. I want to use that energy, constructively, in my own interests (which are pacific- connection, creation, love). A good step forward is seeking not to be so frightened of it.