I was in Monterey over the weekend, as part of a program of squiring visiting family members around some of the nicer parts of the state where we now live. Late Sunday morning, after a trip down to Carmel, we drove back into Monterey for lunch. As we entered Cannery Row we encountered a bunch of motorcyclists, who were holding up the entire street in an officious and fantastically self-important way while they steered their ludicrous rides into a couple of parking spaces. They took a long, long time over this, with utter disdain for other traffic, evidently very pleased with themselves. My father eventually tired of the situation, rolled down his window - he was in the back seat - and told them to get out of the way. My wife, who was driving, additionally hooted the horn, at about the same time. Two things happened as a result. The biker nearest my father's window told him to fuck off, and lunged at at him in a hostile fashion. The biker was in his mid-forties. My dad is seventy six. Another of the bikers, a huge and fat-gutted gentleman who must have outbulked me by at least eighty pounds, smacked the wing mirror on my side into the car and yanked my door open. He towered over me, red in the face, loudly declared himself of the opinion that I was a prick and a fucking asshole, and made it clear that it would be his pleasure to have a fight with me.
Now. I am a lover, not a fighter (reviews for even the first of those have been mixed, apparently because of that thing I do with my ears). It was very evident to me that I was a single ill-judged sentence away from having my face smashed in, not least as I was hampered by my physical position. I therefore used a combination or calming gestures and words to signal a total retreat on behalf of my family. He slammed the door on me. We drove away. After we'd parked some distance up the street, I got out and looked back and saw the man and his friends - several of them middle-aged women - laughing it up. Score for the weekend warriors. I felt, of course, something of an ass.
But what else are you going to do? If a guy makes it clear he's not just ready but eager for violence, and does so in front of your wife, septuagenarian father, and eight-year-old son, then you choice is simple: spend the next 48 hours in hospital, or don't. I chose not. As a man, you naturally feel diminished after such an event, but I can live with that. It didn't stop my wife and I coming up with several things we'd like to do, including finding a way of writing DRIVEN BY A **** on the guy's bike in a way that only bystanders would be able to see.
But of course we didn't, and wouldn't. Why? Because we're not like that, in the same way that I don't want to fight him or anyone else. Not because I'm a coward, or a saint. I simply don't covet violence. Some people do, however. They really, really do. It's their thing.
Which brings me to what happened in Boston yesterday. The two events, I'm well aware, are a billion miles apart in seriousness: but they are linked in nature. The guy in Monterey wanted to hit me because it would make him feel good. It would impress his friends, and give him a thrill. Whoever planted the bombs in Boson did it for the exact same pathetic reasons, and the hell with whatever political or cultural bullshit they use to legitimate it to themselves.
There's a well-known German expression "schadenfreude", most often used of a tedency to take satisfaction in the misfortune of others. The literal translation, however, is "damage joy" — and that's what we see in these people. A deep and abiding pleasure in causing damage, and sadness, and grief, a pleasure so compelling that it appears para-sexual in nature. The people who planted the bombs in Boston - whoever they were - must, like those who plotted the WTC attack and countless other vilenesses both large and small, have sat and contemplated their plans over and over, for many hours, gloating in sweaty-palmed anticipation of the results of their intentions. That's nothing to do with political activism. That's to do with being wrong in the head.
As I write this, it doesn't appear to have been established who committed the atrocity in Boston, but I can tell you that we already know what they're called. My son knows the term. You hear it in the playground. We use it to warn our kids. They're Bad People. It's that simple. Sometimes you can overthink things. I don't care what they call themselves. These are Bad People. That's the end of it.
They've lived amongst us since the dawn of time. They're the ones who steal, and rape, and humiliate, and destroy. I'm sure the men (and possibly women) will organised the bombings in Boston have gained kudos amongst other Bad People, just as the asshole in Monterey got props from his fellows for scaring a novelist in front of his family. That kind of peer validation is doubtless important amongst the vapidly psychotic and spiritually dead. But I suspect that it's when they're alone that they get the most satisfaction, when they can leer back over their deeds and feel they proved something (what, and to whom, I have no idea). That makes sense. Bad People are fundementally alone, and always will be, because they're nothing without us, all the people who — with varying degrees of success - spend our time trying to be good, or at least decent.
They're the ones who love damage, but we're the ones who love making, and healing, and putting things back together, and in the end that will always win. If we hold our position, and aim for good, everything the Bad People do is merely another rusty nail in their own cramped and sordid coffins - so long as we're very careful to ensure that in fighting the Bad People, we never take even a single step in their direction.