"Europe 2004-05" story # 4

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom           April 2, 2004

Oops. Did I say things were "orderly" here?
     Yesterday, I was walking along in the Centre of Newcastle. Newcastle Centre is like an open-air shopping mall. The streets and buildings are a light-sandy-brown in color, and the pedestrian streets are rows of old-architecture buildings that curve off into the distance. It's generally a safe place, filled mainly with shoppers during the day. A tall pillar marks the central point of Newcastle. Mounted on top is the statue of some guy, probably important.
     It was six p.m., still light. I was looking for work, as in so many days before, but this day I just KNEW I was going to get hired somewhere.
     A boy and I nearly collided as we walked. He'd walked right in front of me - probably, he was drunk. He re-joined his two friends. They were white, dressed in black and blue, and sixteen or seventeen.
     My long hair was down, I had my glasses on, and I was wearing a small, green coat. I glanced at the person I'd almost hit, because most of England is a very courteous place, and usually both people quickly say, "Sorry."
     These boys sneered awful, ugly, "Geordie," freckled sneers at me, sneers that seemed to come out of caves out of dribble-oozing mouths. In a language that similarly seemed to come from foul-mouthed cave barbarians, they said at me, "Fuckin' radgy!" several times.
     I felt like I shouldn't let them say this at me. I responded, "I don't even know what that means, guys."
     They said, "Fuckin' radgy!" again, "Fuckin' (something else indecipherable)!" then "Fuckin' prick!" which I understood.
     Only one of the boys followed me down the street. He held a plastic bottle filled with a clear liquid, and his scent was of alcohol. He kind of walked with his chest up against me, as if we were going to fight. It was the middle of the day!
     My strategy was to show that I regarded him as ridiculous and not a threat. I'll admit, I did this for my ego. All I said was, "How old are you, anyway?" as I kept walking with him beside me.
     He was quite a lot smaller than me. "Old enough to whoop you one!" or something, he angrily said. It had been my experience that people who throw their chests up on others usually don't end up actually fighting, especially if you don't even face them. But, I figured it would be best not to egg him on anymore, so I kept quiet.
     A moment later, he wound up and punched me in the jaw. My glasses flew off my head to the sidewalk.
     Still, I didn't regard him as a threat. My main concern was for my glasses, which were unharmed. I reached down to pick them up.
     The boy wound up his leg, and I caught the image of his black shoe or boot come kicking right into my eye.
     I stood there, not quite believing this. I had no desire to make an agressive move to physically engage the boy whatsoever. I certainly wasn't angry at him. So, I just stood.
     He wound up and punched me again in my nose. He ran off.
     I wiped my face a couple times, and my hand was stained all over with red. A dark pool of blood fell onto my glasses, in my hand. Little drops leaked onto my jacket and sweatshirt, and this was when I became concerned, because I don't travel with many clothes. I didn't really feel any pain, though the boy had thrice made good contact.
     One couple, one guy, and one very concerned lady named Carol all came to help me. The guy got me tissues. Carol called "999," or something, and an ambulance came. I wouldn't have called the ambulance myself, but I wasn't in a mood to argue.
     The guy in the ambulance laughed with me. When I said they'd used the word, "radgy," he laughed. He said it didn't mean anything. "These Newcastle boys have made up a language of their own."
     A nurse at the hospital said I'd probably been hit because I have "an accent" (am foreign).
     A doctor pressed on my face to make sure I hadn't suffered a serious head injury. He asked me to open wide and looked in my mouth. "Are my teeth all there?" I said for a joke.
     My nose was puffed out, cut, and bleeding. I would have to wear thin, white stripes on it for a few days. My right eye socket was various shades of purple, and the eyelid was swollen. That'll be just another fun obstacle to overcome as I look for work ...
     I guess you would have to be insane to come to these Newcastle hooligans. My friends here (my Greek flat-mates, and one guy from the country Georgia) have had many "Geordies" pick fights with them, direct insults at them, and hatefully call them "terrorists." It's no wonder people here walk without making eye contact. The idea of social contact has become a thing to be feared and avoided.
     Uh-oh, I think the Modern Oddyseus is about to philosophize!
     (Some "Geordie" boy beats me up, and my horrific retaliation gets directed at YOU, the reader, who gets stuck reading my crazy rambling. Just try to keep yourself from thinking - as you read the more radical parts - "Gee, it's obvious this writer just got hit in the head several times.")
     Those boys, and many "Geordies," are quite "barbarian" or "animal." (Both those terms are used by my friends, not just me.) The only thing separating humans from animals, I believe, is the humans' ability to care for others. I also believe that a sincere trust in and deep compassion for others - for all of humanity, ideally - is the only path to achieving true and permanent happiness.
     Unfortunately, many obstacles hinder us from having compassion for others. The influences of capitalism and privatization are the strongest negative obstacles. These systems cause people to obsess over their own personal assets. Humanity no longer works together; it works as many smaller elements pulling apart in separate directions, even knocking down, wiping out, and using the other elements during their lonely pulls.
     Other obstacles provide inhuman highs while sowing selfish "want": drugs, sex, luxury, shopping, excessive eating, and - in the case of the "Geordie" boys - alcohol.
     Further obstacles, I might suggest, come in the form of religious teachings. The main one I have a problem with is the teaching that, upon death, some of us will be rewarded with eternal paradise, while others will be punished with eternal pain. Wow, is that a horrible teaching! Such an idea teaches that exclusion is an acceptable thing. It teaches people to be okay with the idea (some even relish the idea) of being "better than" or "better off than" others.
     If there turns out to be an exclusive "eternal paradise," I would thankfully abstain. It would fall quite short of being an "eternal paradise," if not everybody was there. I'd be happier with "eternal pain," because at least I'd be somewhere that accepted everyone, and I could share in my poor friends' suffering.
     Anyways, we could have paradise on earth. We should have paradise on earth. We only need to start caring about others and to stop trying to be rich. Real happiness only requires friends, love, creativity, nature, and a little bit of enjoyable work.
     - I'm sorry. Just a second here, I've got a mistake to correct. Earlier, I compared the malicious "Geordie" boys to animals, and I just thought I should say something in defense of animals.
     A fox would never sharply kick a kangaroo in the eye, when the kangaroo showed no aggression, just because the fox felt better making others feel worse.
     Also, an English fox wouldn't want to beat up a kangaroo just because he thought it different how the kangaroo said, "G'day mate!" Similarly, a brown bear would never hate a black bear just because he was black.
     Sorry, animals! Sorry, guys! Mroooh! Bawk-bawk! Arf!
     And, finally, in defense of the Newcastle "Geordies," some of them are very nice. The lady, Carol, who called "999" was extremely caring.
     And, you've gotta love England's socialist health-care system! My ambulance ride and hospital visit are going to cost me nothing!
     Sadly, though, that's still, for me, a week's wages.

later! - Modern Oddyseus

P.S. - My clothes came clean. whew.

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com