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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 13, 2002
    A reasonable state of mind
    I read Maurice Walsh's New Statesman review of Roy Keane's autobiography today. This quote didn't redeem him for me, but did put some useful perspective on his misdemeanours:

    "aggression is what we do ... I go to war ... You don't contest football games in a reasonable state of mind."

    There is truth in this. I know as one who has 'contested' football matches from the terraces and found that even there, it's a challenge to keep a 'reasonable state of mind'. Even in the cool collectedness of blog mode reason falls away where football rivalry comes into play - as my last Monday's blog demonstrates.

    Friends here, ardent Liverpool supporters (shame!!) tell me how angry their 12-year-old daughter gets when she hears the chants of the away fans at Anfield - "In your Liverpool slums", etc: "How do they know what it's like here - they don't live here?" she demands to know in tones suggesting that she would retaliate if she could.

    Football is wrapped up in glitz, and sanitized so much of the time. At least Keane's outbursts, unpleasant though they are, do contribute a measure of truthfulness. Perhaps that's unsurprising considering that his co-biographer Eamon Dunphy, also authored Only a Game, his memoirs of being in Second Division Millwall's squad in 1973/4. It's an excellent insight into life inside the game, the fears and rivalries and pettiness rife between players, managers, directors, supporters, media. Painfully honest stuff.

    The other good honest footy book I had was Simon Kuper's Football against the Enemy, an astonishing expose of crime, corruption and other shenanigans in the world game, which opened with an passionate explanation about why the Dutch hate the Germans so much (much more than the English do).

    But I lent that out to an ex-work colleague and never got it back. Should never have trusted the robbing Man City fan. Oops.

    Anyway, today I returned to a theme which has obsessed me ever since I first came across the phrase in a Mennonite pamphlet: How to teach peace to children. Returned to it because I spotted a book in News From Nowhere called Understanding the Human Volcano - What Teens can do about Violence. Starting from a recognition that violence is all around us (thanks, Roy) and that 'this bubbling core of violence influences all our lives' the author Earl Hipp says that 'the scary thing is that as these forms of violence grow, our denial grows too. We become desensitised to all but the most obscene acts ... we feel powerless. We may be tempted to believe we cannot make a positive difference.'

    I think that's why I welcome Keane's honesty; because it's a first step towards becoming re-sensitsed towards counteracting the effects of violence in the local situation, towards learning how to teach peace to children. And probably, how to learn peace from them too.