2006-08-10 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

The anger bar saloon
By Sam Bari

Leave it to the Chinese to take a great American idea and improve it beyond our wildest dreams. But before we look at the accomplishments of the Chinese, let's explore the history of today's subject - anger management.

In the good old days when Dodge City, Kansas, set the standard for acceptable saloon behavior, protocol, and propriety, the local watering hole was the place to go to settle differences, add fuel to feuds, and get revenge. In other words - vent, the first step to anger management. That was the American way.

To avoid the trouble of filing a lawsuit, expensive and not so speedy trials, and processing endless paperwork, all that was required to alleviate anger was to use as menacing a voice as possible to challenge the nemesis of the moment to step outside and settle differences. Then in a good old-fashioned quick-draw contest, the opponents would attempt to shoot the object of their afflictions right between the runnin' lights and call it a day.

Nonetheless, these contests were not without ceremony. No siree. A well-defined couragegathering ritual preceded every challenge. Copious amounts of whiskey were consumed, trash was talked, and invectives were exchanged. After alcoholinspired bravado took effect, the contestants stumbled out of the saloon and onto the street with encouragement from enthusiastic audiences. Then wagers were made and the contest was observed at a safe distance.

The winner, when there was one, was usually carted off to jail to sleep off his inebriated state until he was released the morning following the altercation, which he probably didn't remember. If they both missed, which was usually the case, they would both endure the same end.

Law enforcement recorded the incidents in their log books (if they knew how to write) as fair fights whether they were or not. If a crime was actually reported, taxpayers' money would have to be used to feed prisoners until a judge was available to hold a trial, and that could take months. Even when a judge arrived, most trials ended in acquittal because witnesses would be long gone, and the sheriffs were generally too terrified to testify, fearing reprisal.

This system of anger management worked well until too many dead bodies littered the streets and jails constantly filled with more prisoners than local law enforcement found manageable. So to take up the slack, and provide additional ways for the masses to vent their frustrations, some bozo invented the NFL, which was quickly followed by the NHL.

The latter is a combined activity for those who are not capable of deciding which fascinates them more, two men bashing each other's brains out with their fists, or a team of men knocking as many players as possible senseless with hockey sticks. Important decisions like that are apparently not taken lightly and lengthy discussion with knowledgeable peers is highly recommended.

Clearly, these forms of anger management by venting through vicarious means are not working. If they really worked, we wouldn't be experiencing so much "fan violence." You know the kind - like after soccer, football, basketball, and hockey games when thousands of young men are inspired to set fires, overturn cars, loot. and create general mayhem because their team won or lost. They celebrate both with the same idiocy. It doesn't make sense.

The Chinese, long recognized for their wisdom, apparently analyzed the situation and came up with an ingenious concept that should solve a global problem - the anger bar.

This, folks, is anger management at its best. A bar has been opened in Guangdong Province, in eastern China, where customers can release anger caused by problems of daily life by beating up the staff. This is not a figment of my demented imagination. It was on the Reuters news wire directly from Bejing this past weekend.

"The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar in Nanjing lets customers smash glasses, rant and even hit specially trained workers," state media reported.

The owner, Wu Gong, told China Daily that he was inspired to open the bar by his experiences as a migrant worker. Most of his customers were women working in the service or entertainment industries, he said.

The bar employs 20 men who have been given protective gear and physical training to prepare them for the job. Clients can even ask the men to dress as the character they wish to attack. Most thought it was a good idea.

"Pressure in today's society comes from just about anywhere, from family or from work, from your boss or your girlfriend. We get no place to vent anger," said salesman Chen Liang.

"The idea of beating someone decorated as your boss seems attractive," said another.

But another man, Liu Yuanyuan, said violence was not the answer.

"If people really feel angry, they should adjust their lifestyles or seek psychological treatment," he told the daily.

However, Mr. Wu Gong can meet that need, too. For the most stressed-out cases, counseling is available from psychology students recruited from local universities.

What a concept! Drink alcohol, beat up another live human being with impunity, and if that doesn't work, get therapy from a student shrinks over a few cocktails.

And we wonder why we live in a system we can't understand.

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