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Freedom, anger and violence

The violent man, meaning, usually, the angry man is a man who has been denied freedom. Or has, through some self destructive urge, propelled himself into places where freedom is denied. Prisons make men angrier, that energy, though negative, spirals back through society- hence the ubiquitous cool of prison garb as a street fashion- sagging belt-less jeans, grey trackie pants- I'm angry, give me space. Lebensraum, camps, the strategic inculcation of violence- all part of the same dynamic. How to break it or use it healthfully?

Anger and its obverse, depression affect the body as inflammation. We become enraged, inflamed. No wonder that inflammation, often cited as an auto-immune disorder is so widespread. what have we got to be angry at- we're living longer than ever, better than ever? Freedom, of course. Our sense of personal freedom is under constant attack - we can go to fewer places without permission, we can say fewer things without offending someone, we need more money just to have a roof over our heads. Many realise there are a great many freedom opportunities out there- more than ever before in some ways. At the weekend I met a man who has walked round Britain- along the beaches- 'It's the freedom, isn't it?' he told me with that urgency that commands attention - yes, he was on to something. Art, too , brings immense vistas of freedom. Making things brings the joy of endless childlike occupation but also great possibility.

So we seek travel and we do art and that helps. But we are forgetting that man is a tool user with a capacity for necessary violence. Chop a tree down, fashion a hand axe, use a bow drill to make fire- all these require a certain measured violence. Percussive bursts where you MEAN it. No shirking, bang. It's why we love chopping when we cook- it's the first thing kids want to do when they see a real chef- chop carrots as fast and well as he, or she, does. It isn't a wholly male thing but through the strange distribution of hormones and brain patterns men seem to need more chopping than women.

At Wigtown festival this year I met Lars a friendly Norwegian who promoted axe work and chopping wood as a universal cure all. He was on to something for sure. I had simultaneously discovered that using a mattock- which looks like an adze- to clear my vegetable garden was far more beneficial in mind and body than using a spade or fork. The adze chops. Not in a crazy aggressive way, in fact if you watch women using axes in the third world they do so with a minimum of fuss and wasted energy, they raise the axe and let it fall. The axe does the work, they add direction and a little committment. That little extra, directed violence, is what has built this overbuilt world we live in. We chop, we pick axe, we break down walls- we escape to freedom and then build those walls all over again.

Every exercise routine needs an element of simple percussive action- chop wood, do karate or aikido, break the soil using a mattock, do press-ups on your fists, chop everything before you cook it. Control and use the violence. Find freedom.

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