Has aggression become institutionalised?

Whilst driving home from work on Monday, I approached a junction, and paused as I considered whether or not it was safe to pull out. As I was glancing from left to right, I was pipped by the driver of a large Range Rover, just behind me.

I looked into my rear-view mirror and watched him throwing his arms around to express his impatience. Despite his prompt to pull out, I still paused. My vision to the right was obstructed, and I could not see oncoming traffic. I was not 100% certain I could pull out safely. I was not moving. Four peeps later, the car blocking my vision had moved (this took MAX two minutes), and I was able to safely, and swiftly pull away.

As I did, so did said large Range Rover – fantastic.

Anyway, as I shook my head in frustration, I glanced into my rear-view mirror and watched his lips as he yelled: ‘Don’t you f***ing shake your head at me’. Sat to his left, in the front passenger seat, was a child, who was no more than 10.

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Emoji representative of Range Rover Man. Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

I was so ready to jump out of the car and remind him that it was MY CHOICE as to when I chose to pull out of a junction. Not his. Also, that I hoped when the young child sat to his right, in years to come, had passed his driving test and was in the same situation – he would not be pipped and panicked into pulling out, without fully assessing his surroundings. As we all know that frantic decisions made whilst driving can be fatal.

And breathe.

(I didn’t jump out of my car by the way, I locked my door, turned the radio up, and awkwardly tried to avoid my rear-view mirror).

That evening, I was watching the regional news with my Mum & Dad. The opening news story was about an Ambulance crew who had been forced to hide in a house, after they had been threatened and their van attacked, in Hull. The journalist then considered the wider issue of attacks against paramedics and reported that between April 2018 – January 2019, there had been 221 physical attacks on paramedics working for Yorkshire Ambulance Services. 221 physical attacks in just ten months. I was disgusted. If you’d like to know more, here’s the link: Ambulance crew forced to hide in house in Hull after attack

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It really got me thinking.

How many times have you been somewhere and seen a sign that looked something like this?

Warning

Doctor’s surgeries, Post Offices, hospitals, shops, restaurants, bars… I could go on. It’s worrying.

Why do we need to be reminded to act like decent human beings with respect for others?

Society has reached a very sorry state when aggression and hostility start to become something we expect from others.

Working in retail over Christmas (did I mention I work in food retail?!) opened my eyes to a whole new type of being. Who knew turkeys could ruffle so many feathers… (sorry, could NOT resist). A colleague of mine had to deal with one very displeased customer, because the turkey she’d ordered from Norfolk had not arrived, so she’d been given one from Pembrokeshire (apparently turkeys from Norfolk are far superior). When I say displeased, I actually mean: she absolutely lost it. Her behaviour and reaction has become something of legend, and more so how my colleague dealt with it so calmly and politely.

I’m sad to say she was not the only aggressive customer that walked through our doors over those stressful few weeks, or at any time of the year, for that matter.

So how have we got to this state? I have several theories.

Theory One: Technology has made everything in our lives instantaneous. An outfit for tomorrow night? It can be delivered tomorrow morning. A recipe for dinner? You’ll be overwhelmed with choice. A playlist for a party? No need to select songs, just pick a couple of genres.

Questions about everything from history to health can be answered in seconds. The internet provides knowledge, quick service, a wide range of products, even software to help us design and create whatever we like. We don’t have to be organised, we don’t have to prior-plan, we don’t have to be patient. We expect this efficiency, and immediacy in other aspects of our lives. When we don’t we get, we lash out. E.g. Range Rover, Ambulance Staff, Norfolk Turkey lady etc.

Theory Two: Normalisation of violence. Violence is constantly presented to us, both fictitiously and otherwise. It is accessible via the internet, our televisions, and within a wealth of films on Netflix and in our cinemas. Violence has become something that no longer shocks us anymore. Newspapers are full of abuse, brutality, and death. When you normalise something, frighteningly, you make it acceptable. Is this low-level aggression the first stage of our journey towards a more violent society? Does verbal aggression on our roads and in our shops pave the way for the normalisation of physical aggression, even against paramedics?!

Theory Three: We’re too scared to call others out on their behaviour. Political correctness, customer priority, and ultimately: a fear of the repercussions, have stopped us from reminding others when it is not okay to behave in a certain manner. A sign is simply not enough. Passivity is dangerous.

I believe it’s a mix of all three. It frightens me.

I’m aware this piece, in parts, is very negative. I want to make it clear that there are still lots of wonderful, kind, patient, generous, thoughtful, and empathetic people in the world. I’m very grateful for their existence. They’re not gone, they’re just not as common as they used to be. We need to do something about it.

Sometimes all it takes is: ‘I’m sorry?’ when you feel as though someone has spoken to you in an overtly aggressive way. It makes the individual second-guess their reaction, but in a calm, non-confrontational manner.

Equally, we as individuals need to challenge this behaviour on behalf of others who perhaps cannot. In a queue and watched someone lash out against the server? Just state the facts! ‘I’m sorry, but what you just said and how you said it, was not okay.’ I appreciate it is not that simple, and I understand that passivity is the safer option. Being brave is never easy.

Ultimately, unless we do something about it, aggression will become totally institutionalised. We have a duty to stop this from happening.

Range Rover man (who was probably between 40-50), was watched by a young boy, as he pipped, yelled and swore at a young woman, on her own. Simply for being cautious. What kind of message did that send?

One thought on “Has aggression become institutionalised?

  1. Well written Jess and well done too for not allowing an idiot to affect your decision making. Wonder if it was same “Range Rover” guy who lost it with Nic and I once because we were running up a public right of way which happened to be his route home (back of Belton Hotel). He too was very abusive and also had a young child in front seat! It was probably that young child grown up now repeating the cycle and aiming for the lowest denominator of behaviour in society!! Ending on a positive you can soon tuck into the gorgeous Easter eggs at a discounted rate from M&S haha xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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