Can’t make laws against boofheads. Can walk away.
I’ve never been in a fight. I’m not the macho, hot-headed type.
I get angry, to be sure. People piss me off sometimes. But with the exception of a defenceless real estate sign I beat up when I was 18 (I was pissed, I woke up my mother, I lied about it, she knew it, there were some awkward silences), I don’t channel that anger through my fists.
I may placate; I may be a “pussy”. I may have been called soft a couple of times when I’ve talked mates back from the edge of conflict. But I’m proud to say I walk away, and I always have.
Last week my colleagues at news.com.au and I launched Real Heroes Walk Away - a campaign against senseless violence. We were all horrified by what happened to Thomas Kelly. And to Luke Adams before him. And to David Mitchell and Matthew Stanley. And my brother.
About 10 years ago I woke up one morning to discover my brother nursing a hangover and a shattered jaw. The only thing he’d done wrong was to go out drinking with his mates the night before.
As he stood outside a club in Brisbane, waiting to go in, a drunk bloke was heading out the door. Ejected. For being a dickhead. This dickhead was angry and took that anger out on the first guy he saw. That guy was my brother, an unsuspecting, unprovoked victim of a king hit.
It may sound selfish but the first thing I think about every time I hear a king hit story is: “gee, my brother was lucky”. Sure, he was unlucky in the sense that he was badly injured and traumatised. But he was far luckier in the sense that he woke up the next day. Last week I spoke to a father whose son never woke up from a king hit. The consequences are tragic.
The second thing I think is this: “one punch can kill someone? Shit. What if I’d done that?”
Like I said before, I’ve never thrown a punch. But what if I was ever to find myself in a situation where I had to go to the aid of a mate being bashed or some drunk douchebag punched my girlfriend? You never think you’re going to be the person who throws that fatal punch, but the truth is it could be any single one of us. And it could be the very first punch we ever throw.
You can’t legislate against dickheads. So that’s why, with Real Heroes Walk Away, we’re appealing to everyone else. We need to take responsibility for our actions. We need to understand that we can’t afford to get to a point where we end up throwing that first ever punch. Because we all know now that one punch can kill.
Some people have commented on our campaign saying that we’re telling people to turn their back on conflict. We’re not at all encouraging people to walk idly by while someone’s being assaulted. That’s cowardly. And we’re not suggesting that guys like Thomas Kelly or my brother could have done anything differently.
What we are saying is that we all need to have the courage and the foresight to walk away from trouble well before it starts. We’re saying: don’t be that guy. Don’t be the guy that reacts to some thug mouthing off. Don’t be the guy that fires up over a spilled beer.
Be the guy that walks away, even if your mates are calling you a pussy. Like that father whose son never woke up told me: “I’d rather be a live coward than a dead hero.”
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