America is a harsh, and maybe even a savage place. We have a higher percentage of our population in prison than any other country. We have a violent crime rate that dwarfs that of Western Europe. We engage in military campaigns around the world with alarming regularity. Our politics are rough and tumble, representing people deeply divided by various forms of tribalism- religious and cultural. We have biker gangs, ultimate fighting, school shootings, crips and bloods and even 9 year-olds armed with automatic weapons. In short, it’s not a place where you want to mess with people. But how did we become such hard cases? Maybe it all originated in our early days, as a country born from a violent revolution. Maybe it the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, hardened by our experiences fleeing persecution and poverty? Perhaps it is the pioneer spirit, where hardy men and women forced their way through to settle a vast and unexplored landscape as part of their ‘manifest destiny?’
Nah, it’s none of those. It’s brain damage from dodgeball.
You can’t truly ever understand America unless you’ve taken your share of dodgeball hits to the head.
You may have seen the 2004 movie: “Dodgeball: A true underdog story.” It’s a funny little film where grown men and women throw balls (and sometimes wrenches) at each other, and try to overcome bullying. But one thing most foreigners would not realise, is that dodgeball isn’t some sporting activity we learned to play with other adults, as a kind of macho escapism. In reality, dodgeball isn’t played in America by adults at all, but rather it is taught to children in school. Think about that for a minute: children in the US for years were encouraged by their educational institutions to play a game where the goal is to ruthlessly eliminate the weakest and slowest children first. You are then meant to work your way up the food chain towards the destruction of the stronger, faster children. A sport where your highest achievement is the satisfaction of having successfully hurled a missile at another child’s head. Congratulations, you get to stay and keep playing, and the loser you have just brained must go away and join the other failures on the sideline watching as the game goes on without them.
Dodgeball life lessons
Just think about what kind of life-lessons these experiences imprint on impressionable young American minds- think about the ‘damage’ caused. There’s no cooperation required for dodgeball- no “greater good.” It’s kill or be killed and every man, woman or child for themselves.
And even before you start playing dodgeball, there’s a darwinistic prelude, as teams are never chosen at random, but are instead hand-picked by alpha children who have already proven their mettle in previous dodgeball matches. It works like this: the two toughest, fastest children select their own teams, while a supervising adult looks on passively. The best children are of course picked first, while the others are forced to watch and wait, hoping to avoid the ultimate humiliation of being picked as the very last, and weakest participant. They are the dregs- last-picked and guaranteed to be the first to be eliminated. They are a burden to your team- cannon fodder at best. They get what they deserve.
Many therapists in America owe their living to helping people get past reliving these “educational” moments.
There is no grown-up American who doesn’t have imprinted on their memory the harsh sting of a red rubber ball thwacking them in the head unexpectedly. The worst part of this experience is that a dodgeball head shot doesn’t just hurt- it “rings.” Your head will actually vibrate afterwards, and each wobble only amplifies the humiliating sting of failure. Next time I won’t be a victim, you might tell yourself. I will pay that child back- I will knock their fucking head off with this little red ball, and I will take a shit down their neck. I am wrath personified, I am Shiva DESTROYER OF WORLDS! ARRRHGHGGH!
Ahem, please do excuse me for that outburst… I think I got carried away by my memories for a moment. Dodgeball can do that to you. But I’m not the only one- I’m part of an entire country forged in this Hunger-Games, Battle Royale, Lord of the Flies dystopian vision of how the world works. Now imagine telling one of these “dodge-children” once they have grown up that it would be nice for them to sacrifice some of their wealth for the greater good, so that poor people have a bit of a social safety net. That they should give money to lazy people who aren’t good enough to make it on their own. That they should worry about losers who are nothing but a drain on society. Try telling them that they should show vulnerability and compassion, and that they shouldn’t respond to the slightest provocation with a deadly barrage of gun fire, smart bombs, ICBMS, whatever it takes to CRUSH MY PIMPLE-FACED LOSER OF AN ENEMY, WHO SHOULD NEVER HAVE MESSED WITH ME TO BEGIN WITH !!!!
Er…..my apologies for yet another eruption. I think I might just have dodgeball brain damage. If you were kind, you would take pity on me for my disability. But if you are American, it is not in your nature to send me sympathetic thoughts and best wishes. Rather, you will try to deliver unto me a little red ball, aimed at my skull, intended to cause maximum damage as punishment for my weakness. And the vicious circle will continue.