Timing of interest in martial arts: the year of the Dursleys

I’ve mentioned a few times in recent months that I’ve grown interested in martial arts in the last little while.

I’ve been trying to figure out where this interest comes from. As far as I can remember, the curiosity first began to spring up sometime around the birth of my second child, my daughter. So I’ve wondered to myself if there might be some previously-slumbering biological instinct that was activated by that event; protective dad and newborn daughter?

That could be it. But just today another possibility surfaced in my mind.

I was doing some reading about right-wing extremism during the anti-Covid measures. Right-wing extremism is an interest of mine; I think there’s evidence that it has the possibility of becoming a much bigger problem than many of us seem to assume, though if my guess turns out to be mistaken I’ll be overjoyed to eat crow.

It was while reading about these topics that I realized that the other big event coinciding with my daughter’s birth was the unfolding of the more unhinged pro-virus movements. (I use “pro-virus” as shorthand for anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-distancing, etc.)

I’ve read a lot of fiction in my life, and one thing that always annoys me is when an author tries to describe an obviously and exaggeratedly stupid character or class of characters. Think of Rowling writing the Dursleys. Somehow, an intelligent writer giving voice to a stupid character generally feels unbelievable, unconvincing, and arrogant. Besides, allowing for some variation in IQ and education, are there really people so abysmally thick? It beggars belief. And yet, 2021-2022 was the year of the loud, proud Dursleys, shamelessly out in force. (I hope it goes without saying that I’m speaking less of the people who disliked being told to wear masks and get vaccinated, than of those who were abusive toward law-abiding and civically-minded citizens, or who would hold forth about the need for elected politicians to be lynched.)

That year was an awakening for me. It had been implausible to me to think that Dursleys of this sort could exist in the modern world in any numbers. I misjudged. What might happen, then, the next time that we enter a moment of social upheaval like the Covid years, whenever that might be? I now feel much less sure that I know the answer.

Perhaps that goes some length to explaining the desire that slowly arose in me after that time, to learn something about how to defend oneself.

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