Sometimes I feel like giving up, throwing in the towel and taking a good long walk. Sometimes. Rarely though, we have all been there at some point when it gets tough, life, and we wonder why we bother. We think we have reached rock bottom, when really for most of us there is actually a lot further to fall, mentally and socially, before we really land in the brown stuff and it is this sobering thought that pulls us through. Luckily for me this has only happened a couple of times in my life and, tough as things are at the moment, I still feel good. I am surrounded by a loving family and superb friends, things are tough but I will tough it out and some of the stuff in the pipeline for next year is very, very exciting, I keep having to pinch myself. Every now and then though, often from out left field, something pitches up that causes a ripple in the normal run of life.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a clip on you tube of captured police and military men in I assume Iraq, being paraded before the cameras before being made to kneel and then, one after another, and there were a lot of them, executed with a single pistol shot to the back of the head. Their lives ended in the dirt, bound blindfolded and waiting on your knees for your turn as your lifeless comrades body hits the ground beside you, horror unimaginable. I did not watch the whole thing and it was taken off Youtube pretty quickly.

This was not some kind of sick voyeurism on my part, I watched it, as a colleague in a group I belong to that is to be launched in the new year, raised a question arising out of what was graphic and extreme violence sadly carried out in the name of religion. I watch many videos containing real life, often extreme, violence, I have read extremely widely on the subject too and out into neighbouring academic fields to find explanations and theories that help me to understand what it is that underpins a person’s ability to commit such acts, ideology, religion, group needs, personal gratification, sexual gratification? There seem to be as many conflicting explanations as there are acts and as a sociologist and student of human behaviour and interaction I am not surprised.

However, not for the first time it was a stumbled upon work of fiction that had me joining the dots together. I rarely judge a book by its cover but the cover of this one did attract, and an author I had read nothing of before strangely, despite his fame or possibly because of it. I digress, When I saw this on the library shelf it shouted out to me to take it home and read it. Once I started it I remembered another fictional character I had used in a blog back in August 2012, ‘Enter the Bear Pit’, Dennis Pike. Dennis was a violent man but a thinker who questioned his ways, and changed them until events conspired to make him become violent again, try ‘Full Whack’ by Charlie Higson sometime, it is great. But, I need to stay on track and come to the point and stop mixing metaphors.

Last week I read ‘Lionel Asbo’  by Martin Amis, I have read a number of his father, Kingsley Amis’s novels but none of Martin’s It was a great find and unexpectedly quirky.


This is a different cover but the graphic theme is the same, I read it very quickly and will not give away the story but here is the back cover description;

“Lionel Asbo – a very violent but not very successful criminal has always looked out for his nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. He gives him fatherly advice (carry a knife) and introduces him to the joys of Internet porn. Des on the other hand, desires nothing but books, a girl to love and to steer clear of Uncle Li’s psychotic pitbulls, Joe and Jeff.

Lionel is going about his morning duties in a London Prison when he learns that he has just won £139,999,999.50 on the National Lottery. This is not Necessarily good news for Des who has a secret that could unleash his uncle’s implacable vengeance.”

So are your taste buds salivating, the pleasure receptors in the brain tingling? Well they should be. My wife is reading it now and as a criminal lawyer she can see some clients of hers in there, plus how they think and reason. This is my point They do not think like you (pun) ordinary people, they think but in a strange, to us, and convoluted way. I listened to a pod cast by Teja Van Wicken today as part of an online women’s self defence course she is piloting, Teja is a board member of the yet to be launched group, and she covers the fact that crime is a process and there are ways to understand precursors and prevent acts of crime developing in many if not most cases, it is an agreed theme of our group who class ourselves not as experts lecturing others but seekers of the truth.

It is in the role of seeker that I really loved the tour through Diston, an impoverished in every way, fictional borough of London, that world city, and the characters that inhabit it and for me the skill of the novel is the accuracy of the observations made by Amis. Our own world view  is shaped by our own socialisation, our beliefs, values and morals that we have absorbed and adapted to our own that allow us to participate as members of our wider culture. As many of us are practising martial artists we hold dear things like patience, discipline and fairness, we recognise the benefits of living a good, wholesome life, training hard and earning respect the right way. This colours our life view too, it feeds of and reinforces the effects of ’normal’ primary socialisation (in the family) and secondary  socialisation (in school). So what happens when over numerous generations some sections of society and the individuals that make them up evolve into things the rest of us dislike, the Jeremy Kyle section of society. Here is an example. Mad Dog Deon;

Many people disliked Charles Murray’s theories about the underclass back in the nineties, but were his views and dislikes any different from those of Karl Marx and his loathing for the lumpen-proletariat several generations before? Both right and left of the political spectrum have railed against the rump of the social system, that layer beneath all others and mostly because they do not understand them.

On Facebook today there is circulating a story from today’s Daily Mail, must be true then, of a girl who is about to be a mum at age 11 years old, smokes 20 cigs a day and her own single mum is proud of her. If you look hard there are plenty of similar underclass stories around. On a short drive through Sheffield yesterday we saw a number of Lionel Asbo stereotypes strutting around with their big muscled status dogs on great chain leads leading to studded leather collars.

I doubt the feed their dogs curry soaked in extra Tabasco sauce and get their dogs drunk of Special Brew like Lionel but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The thing is we all know that the Lionel’s are out there, they come in all colours shapes and sizes and allowing for regional and ethnic differences the all think in a similar limited way. Because for them the world is a small mean place where their limited intellect deals with getting through one day then the next. Very often there is no life plan, no objective, no dreams to chase as they do not possess the vision. They are the proles from Orwell’s 1984 singing happily whilst hanging out the washing. It is a mean view of a mean world and when their strategy for survival includes the use of violence it endangers us all. Is that not why most of us train and train others, to prepare for the day we meet our own personal Lionel? We do not need to be psychologists, sociologists or even psychiatrists to know these people cannot be dealt with using social skills and sadly, as I tell my students, whilst avoidance, escape, de-escalation are priorities, with Lionel violence is probably the only answer because it is his answer to everything.

By the way, the book is really funny if the subject is frighteningly serious, I recommend selected readings to my students and  as you guessed they are not always text books. It is important that they learn many things as part of their self defence training or as a self defence application of their martial art, sometimes reading something humorous can be a novel way of achieving that, for me it helped me rethink some issues re social breakdown and a fragmented social structure. Joining the dots helped me reshape my views on certain members of our society that are not part of my culture. To understand them you need to think like them, a very difficult task indeed, then you can add value to helping your students and training partners to understand them too, lets hope we never meet our own personal Lionel.

Now join in for a little sing-song but changing Jesus for Lionel, it’s catching.