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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > March 2018 > Civilization’s discontents

Civilization’s discontents

Daemon Fairless examines the impulses and provocations – both social and individual – that prompt men to violence

Mad Blood Stirring:

The Inner Lives of Violent Men

Daemon Fairless

Random House Canada

IN 1990, Bill Buford, a Louisiana-born American living in the U.K., published Among the Thugs, arguably the best book ever written about the English football hooliganism that spread like wildfire in the mid-1980s. Though rabid football fans getting worked up and doing damage to property or other people was certainly nothing new, by the time it caught the expat writer’s attention, it had become an epidemic throughout the U.K., something that was greeted with almost taciturn resignation in many corners. As Buford writes, “It was one of the things that you put up with: that every Saturday young males trashed your trains, broke the windows of your pubs, destroyed your cars, wreaked havoc on your town centres.”

Buford’s book is terrifying because of its proximity to the violence it depicts. Using an immersive, first-person approach, Buford attempts to provide some explanation for what motivates the crowd of young men to erupt in predictable, seemingly inevitable violence. Class is a factor, he argues, as is an uncomfortable affinity for ultra-nationalist ideology such as that promoted by the U.K. National Front. But there is one aspect of the mayhem that surprises Buford: “I had not expected the violence to be so pleasurable.”

It is precisely this aspect that goes missing when, late in his new book on male aggression, Daemon Fairless quotes Nathan Kotylak, a 17-year-old participant in the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot: “For reasons I cannot explain”,Kotylak says, “I went from being a spectator to becoming part of the mob mentality that swept through many members of the crowd.”Kotylak disclaims understanding about the root causes of his action, and Fairless is content to let this stand, extending the sense of wide-eyed incredulity to his own experiences with rage and brutality.

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