“War, as we know, is the greatest game that there is. But we want other more peaceful games, not only to fit us for the great game of war but also to prepare us physically and morally – remember that—for the battle of life,,,,We therefore see that every boy ought to play some game or other…and I give it as my considered opinion that the game of all games is Rugby football…. It is, I submit, a splendid boast to make that of every Rugby club in this country fully ninety-five percent of members joined the Army, and that, mind you, before conscription was put into force.”
This is from an essay called Rugby football: An Asset of Empire, in the Boys Own Paper Annual published in 1917. Has the glorification of rugby in New Zealand changed? Are New Zealand’s commemorations of World War One in danger of becoming a glorification of that obscene waste of human lives between 1914 and 1918? and how can we develop a peaceful society when the culture within which we grow up still exalts the virtues of rugby and its link with ‘’real men’’?
The metaphors we use shape the way we view the world… Should I use bullet points to order these random thoughts on violence? Is there a silver bullet to end male violence against women?
Leaders help to shape our world-view too… If religious leaders don’t condemn violence, and model and teach respectful problem-solving behavior, nothing much will change. In the last month we’ve been to a couple of church services. One priest prayed for the safety of the girls abducted in Nigeria; neither mentioned violence in our local community or encouraged parishioners to seek help if they are victims or perpetrators. Does God the Father have more important things to think about? Would prayers to God the Mother be different?
A prominent rugby coach told sexist jokes at a large dinner gathering, and talked about taking a bra off a woman whether she likes it or not. Fortunately, few people there laughed, many were deeply embarrassed, and probably he was roundly told off behind the scenes. But what’s he been teaching to all those young men in his rugby teams over the years? To respect women? To behave like thugs?
Men commit more acts of violence than women – but… Only too often women collaborate in maintaining violence to themselves and to other women, even their own daughters. Think foot-binding, genital mutilation, tightly-laced corsets, botox injections, stiletto heels, poisonous cosmetics and hair dye, body hair shaved to bristle every day or two… all apparently in the interests of being more acceptable to men. More subjugated by self-obsession and discomfort? More tamed? More easily controlled?
It’s so boring seeing the mistakes of the past being repeated over and over again…