Monday, May 9, 2011

Hot tempers and flying fists

I've heard a lot about it, but never witnessed it happening live until today.

Georgian men are, generally-speaking, very hot-tempered and aggressive. I know that I am making a large generality here, but they have earned this reputation for a good reason. I see it in the boys at school, among Koba and his friends, in the men hanging out on the road, and pretty much anywhere I go where there are Georgian males. If someone says or does something that a male doesn't like, he immediately flies off the handle, bellowing waves of I-don't-know-what at whomever he disagrees with. And I had heard that knock-down, drag-out, fist fights commonly break out. Boys have come to school with black eyes from fighting, but I'd never seen anyone fight until today.

My bus from Tbilisi entered Zugdidi, and I had a couple of errands to run before catching the marshutka to Shamgona, so I didn't take the bus all the way to the station. Instead, I got off in the center of town. Shouldering my backpack, I walked down the wide sidewalk along the main street toward the market to make my purchases.

Suddenly, shouts rang out from a group of people on the sidewalk just in front of me. Shouting is nothing unusual -- everyone here shouts. But when I looked up and focused on this group of people, I saw two men fly at each other as if each were bent on annihilating the other. At first they locked each other into a wrestling move, but then they broke apart and threw punches instead.

I stopped dead in my tracks. They were about 15 feet in front of me, but they were taking up the entire sidewalk. Their struggling carried them all over the sidewalk, out into the road (thank God no cars were coming at that moment), back onto the sidewalk, and into the closest of the crowd that had begun to gather. I didn't want to get caught in the middle or receive one of the punches they threw, so I stayed where I was.

Five people tried to break them up. They intervened a couple of times, succeeding in pulling them off of each other, but the second the friends let go of the assailants, the angry men dove for each other again. The crowd around the fighters grew by the second, the shouts drawing the attention of everyone around including a police officer who drove by. The officer stopped, and at the lull in the action, I scooted around the outside of the ring of onlookers and went on my way.

When I got home, I told Tea about the fight. She said that each of the men who were involved would be fined 800 laris and thrown in jail for three days for fighting in a public place. I said, "Good."

I don't understand fighting. Maybe it's because I'm not a violent person -- I'm a pacifist, and I don't believe that fighting helps any situation. But as I watched these two grown men go at each other, they reminded me of the middle school boys at school who don't yet have any self control. Immature and childish -- that's what fighting looks like to me. Of course, I have no idea what they were fighting about, but what can physical violence help? What would punching someone -- not just once, but repeatedly -- gain either aggressor?

In the long run, nothing profitable or constructive.

The hot tempers and aggressiveness of the Georgian men are good for one thing: they have a great national rugby team.

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