Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recent Viral Media

Last week, there was a delightful little video making the rounds on the internet, depicting a fifteen year-old school kid being attacked by a bully and retaliating in a spectacular fashion. A few days ago, the story gained a layer of depth when the Australian teen was interviewed by that country's "A Current Affair" news program.

Watch it on YouTube.

There's a lot that I could say about this. I could use this as yet another jumping off point for criticism of the news media, as the presentation of this is sort of silly, in the typical fashion of news magazine shows. I could recall some of my earlier posts about children and teens, and praise the young man's articulateness and maturity. I could comment on the problem of bullying, and the public's responses to it, and I could certainly still criticize the tendency of this story to put the responsibility for dealing with it on the shoulders of the victim, rather than acknowledging that more should have been done before he had to fight.

But what most impresses me, and what I most want to comment on is a simple matter of language. I find it interesting, and very encouraging, that both in links to the original video of the kid, Casey Heynes, going all Zangief on his attacker, and in the subsequent interview and commentary on both, that the word "snap" is used in a glowingly positive way.

Think about it. How often do you really hear that word, in the context of someone lashing out or retaliating, used positively? The temporary loss of control or reason that that usually denotes is generally presented as a weakness of character, and as something that needs to be apologized for after the fact. But not in this case. In this case, it is the perfect embodiment of what this blog is all about. Heynes was pushed over the edge, and because he channeled all that pent-up rage and frustration into a perfectly appropriate, justified counter-attack, his life is in all likelihood taking a huge turn for the better.

Nobody who watches the original video thinks Heynes made a calculated, deliberate move against his attacker. He stood against the wall for a few moments, and then he let loose a sudden, powerful burst of narrowly channeled aggression, then walked away, leaving his bully unable to stand under his own power. In short, he snapped. That is the way it is being roundly described in media, and in discussion of the event, and everyone is praising it.

In the interview, the term is used at least three times, both by the presenter and by Heynes himself, who goes on to explain that he has no regret about what he did. Nor should he, and nor should anyone else think otherwise. Some of us probably would regret acting out as forcefully in the same situation. Many of us would probably feel conflicted about it. Even I would. Hell, when I got mugged, I pulled my punches while fighting back.

But I hope that in light of the story surrounding Casey Heynes, the positive usage of the phrase "he snapped" becomes more widely recognized and accepted. I hope this helps people to realize that when you're being pushed in the wrong direction, to snap - to reach a breaking point - and destroy something that's just no good is a beautiful thing. It may mean losing control, and it may even mean going too far, but sometimes the only way that necessary change can occur is by snapping under the pressure from that which is wrong, and fighting back against it in a way you couldn't have mustered when you were better in control.

In Casey Heynes' case, he not only destroyed the punk that would have made a victim of him, but I'll bet he destroyed the Casey Heynes that would be made a victim, that would not be given due respect among his peers, and would let himself put up with all the shit they therefore sought to dispense on him. It is in just that way that I want society itself, through all the breaking points I seek, to destroy its older self, and emerge stronger, purer, better, on the other side of that right of passage.

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