Ah, a perfect night out with friends: a restaurant, a bar, karaoke, and a club. Oh, and a short, brutal, and bizzare altercation on the steets of Roppongi.
Around 5am, we stumble out of the club and onto the streets of Roppongi. Everyone has that post-dancing glow about them; that euphoria. Eriko and Paul are planning to go to a karaoke together, the rest of us are going to share a taxi to the Yamanote-sen, when Paul and Gordon are accosted by two gents who seem friendly enough. WARNING SIGN: one of them has a raised welt on the top of his forehead. Typical drunken banter ensues:
‘Who are you guys meant to be?’
‘We can be whomever you want us to be!’
‘Can you be wrestlers?’
‘Please be wrestlers’
‘Where are you from?’
‘Norway’s got it going on! Norway’s got it going on!’
A quiet smack, a wet smack. Concussive. The shaved headed Scandinavian who now has two bruises on his forehead looks strangely puzzled and is restrained by the Norwegian. I turn to my left, where Paul is standing with a stream of blood emanating from above his right eyebrow. He is smiling; dazed. Filipina hookers and Nigerian night club callers are surrounding him with concerned looks. Some run off to get towels, ice. Gordon is screaming at the Scandinavian:
“What the FUCK was that, man? What the FUCK was that? Walk away, asshole, just walk the fuck away.”
Gordon attacks the skinhead; he is restrained by, well, everyone.
Then: “He need a hospital.”
I think this Filipina is right. She is looking at me; concerned. She would have told gordon, the more vocal member of our party, but he’s already running down the street.
It’s not just a cut, it’s a slice. Deep, and the edges beginning to swell. Paul wants to keep walking. He is in shock. He laughs at the idea. To him it was just a little head-butt. How can you go into shock from a little head-butt? But then the spike of adrenaline fades, and he loses his legs. We get him to a barrier. He is shaking and pale. I am worried about the combined effects of alchohol and shock. I want him to lie down. he says he is comfortable where he is. Yuuko is gone. I want him to go to a koban at least; he is going to need stitches, but he is refusing. Where’s Gordon? “Paul, can I get you to lie down?” “I’m OK here.” He is worried about his suit. It is covered with blood. Gordon comes back. “I got him, man,” he is repeating over and over. “You got him,” asks Paul? “Yeah, man. Two times. Once here, and once over there. Where’s yuuko?” Yuuko comes back from the conbini with some bandages… he needs more than that. Someone suggests a hospital again. Gordon refuses. I say he needs a koban, at least; Gordon agrees, I go to look for one.
When I get back, the Guardian Angels are on the scene. They manage some quick first aid, but they do not have any butterfly bands that will hold the cut closed. The Angel that is bandaging Paul has shaking hands. He touches the edges of the cut and hesitates, uneasy.
“Tabun, byoin ni itta hoo ga iin desu…” he mutters.
Paul has no insurance. The Angels bandage him as best they can, a Turkish guy is explaining what he saw in Japanese to the leader of the Angels. Just as they start bandaging paul, the Norwegian comes back.
Gordon takes a swing at him, and the Norwegian falls to the ground. The Angels restrain them both, the Norwegian is in an arm lock on the ground. head bent.
Gordon is screaming again: “Where’s your friend, tough guy? Where’s you fucking friend? I’ll kill you!”
The Norwegian is silent, restrained, pinned to the ground. “I just came to apologize,” he says, palms up… eyes wide. The Angels escort him a few meters away. Gordon is hugging Paul. Yuuko is crying. Eriko has her head on paul’s shoulder… the Norwegian is scared and held up against a wall by the Angels. He does not understand their English or their Japanese. I decide that I need to help the guy out.
If he had any malicious intent, there is no way he would have come up to Paul amidst a red-jacketed swarm of volunteer crowd control specialists. The police are coming soon, I know, and I have not been impressed with the way Japanese police deal with foreigners, particularly foreigners that do not speak Japanese. One misstep; one incorrect answer to a misunderstood question, and I know that the Norwegian’s holiday can take a litigatious turn.
I talk with him about what happened, and certain things become clear. He did not know the attacker. He was just walking him out of a bar to help him find a taxi as he had clearly been drinking too much. They had met at the bar when they discovered that they were both Scandinavian. Our Norwegian friend, now bearing the brunt of the responsibility, is of all things, a fucking pacifist.
His friends showed up, asking what had happened. Their well-meaning, gentle friend is pinned to a brick wall by Japanese police and Guardian Angels and they are not allowed to approach him. They get angry. The Japanese police get tense. I eye their batons nervously, and am worried things are going to get out of hand. His friends to not seem to share his pacifistic tendencies, and they are getting irate.
I go to them to explain. I tell them that it will take a bit of time, but that I don’t think their friend is going to be taken in. They calm down a bit. Say they will wait. They wait.
The Angels and the cops are talking and I go back to the Norwegian.
“Maybe I should have let that guy keep hitting him,” he says, talking about Gordon’s revenge “but I didn’t want to see the violence.”
“You may have caused more trouble for yourself by coming back, my friend,” I say.
“I know. but I wanted to apologise. You can’t just head-butt a person cause you don’t like the way they look. What is that about?”
The police are done. The Angels are done. I exchange emails with the Norwegian in case Paul or anyone need to get in touch with him later. His friends are mad. They didn’t trust the attacker at all because he was a Swede.
I offer to help them get a taxi, but they are OK. His big friend is telling me how the Norwegians hate the Swedes because in 1939 they let Hitler march through their country into Scandinavia. I have heard stories like this all my life. The Chinese hate the Japanese because of blah blah blah. The Dutch hate the Germans, the Lithuanians hate the Russians, the Quebecois hate the Anglos. The Canadians hate the Americans, the Arabs hate the Jews… same old song with infinite verses.
I used to think it was ridiculous. A hold-over from a more violent time, but I have come to realize that it all stems from a basic element of human nature. If an attack on a friend of couple months can incite violent anger in a borderline anarchist philosophy major, imagine what a blinding maelstrom of rage an attack on your family, culture and comrades can engender.
As members of varied cultures we are all more different than the current political model in the West suggests. I think that the answer to the last generation’s question “Why can’t we all just get along” lies somewhere in that phenomenon. The question is a false one, spurred by the notion that such a “we” exists. It is a myth born out of the various social movements that swept the globe in the sixties and seventies and it is a legacy that we need to sweep from our eyes like so many other utopian dreams that have repeatedly poisoned our politics and history through the ages.