A snippet from today's news from the Netherlands..

Venlo, October 24 2002

The 22 year old man that was assaulted on Tuesday by two 18 year olds died this morning around 2:20. The student suffered a severe beating after he addressed the two boys on their reckless driving. Apparently, the boys nearly ran over an elderly lady in the parking lot of a local supermarket. Mr. Steegmans then told the boys to have some respect for the elderly. After bludgeoning Mr. Steegmans, the two boys went into the supermarket to do their shopping. They were arrested moments later.

Source: NOS news: www.omroep.nl/nos/nieuws/index.html

I got beat up once for no apparent reason, almost two years ago. Me and two of my flatmates were out in Delft, where we live. Delft is a small, but not tiny city according to Dutch standards. It has a population of about one hundred thousand people. About one fifth of these are students, including me and my friends. That night, we had been drinking. Badly. We don't get drunk regularly really, we are not frat boys, but for some reason the three of us felt frustrated with one thing or another and we went out and tried to forget about it.

Around 4 a.m. we wandered into a local grill to get something to eat. The owner told us that he was officially closed and that he would only serve us if we stayed outside. There were more people eating outside, so we agreed. At some point a guy walked into the street. He was completely wasted and unlike ourselves, he didn't hold up very well. He tried to pick a fight with .. well, with anyone who would really. With us not being the fighting type, we ignored him.

Some of the other customers did not. They could not take his racist remarks ("Go home! You people are eating Jewish food!", it wasn't even an Israeli grill, but what the hell did he know!). At first, I asked the grill owner to call the police, but he refused. Afraid as he was to get into trouble for serving customers at this hour. Eventually somebody, not me or my friends, chased him out of the street. There was no fight.

A few moments later we walked home. We were so out of it that we had to carry one another. As I said, this was one of those rare occasions when we really had a lot to drink. Once we were around the corner, we walked right into the guy who had been bugging us earlier. This time, he brought friends. Big friends. There was really nothing to do for us but run, or at least try. We were mildly successful: my two flatmates got away. I was the slowest runner and I got tripped. My friends never noticed. You can hardly blame them. I didn't anyway.

The kicking didn't hurt me much. I remember thinking that it was quite bearable. At one point I felt it had been enough and I got up and ran away. They let me go. I noticed a slight pain in my wrist, but apart from that I felt fine at first. One of my friends took me to the hospital and they X-rayed me. I had a broken scaphoid. I am a musician and a computer science student. Needless to say, I was not happy with a broken wrist. The next day I woke up with a very painful shoulder. Apparently it had been dislocated and now it started to hurt. After about a week, I started to notice the background headache that had been with me since it happened. I hadn't noticed it at first, but at one point I picked up the bus schedule booklet and I couldn't make sense of the tables in it. I just didn't understand. Then it struck me that I felt 'different' since it all happened.

To cut a long story short, I had suffered a severe concussion. I had to stop studying for six months on doctor's order. Those were the most excruciatingly boring six months of my life. I couln't read, I couldn't watch t.v., I couldn't have a conversation with any depth for an extended period of time, I sure as hell could not play any musical instruments with one hand. In fact, I couldn't even cut cheese to put on my bread with one hand. I was forced to just sit. Like a vegetable, only with the burden of conciousness.

Perhaps I should add, as a little background information, that 2000 wasn't exactly my lucky year to begin with. At the end of 1999, a man had beaten my 77 year old grandmother to death during an argument in her own home. Granted, my grandmother could be an unreasonable pain, especially during arguments, but this was clearly unnecessary. Two days later, he did about the same thing with his own mother. He plead insanity and was acuitted. They told us that he would spend the rest of his days in a mental institution. The last thing I heard was that he was elligible for a weekend leave a few months ago. My grandmother is still dead. She never gets a weekend leave. As if this wasn't enough, in the months between these two events, my stepfather's brother died of unnatural causes (on which I do not care to elaborate) and my two year old niece was diagnosed wit leucaemia. Luckily, she has been declared 'cured' now, to the extent possible.

My point. Well, I guess the point is that my guess is as good as yours. I find it increaslingly difficult to cope with all this. I am a nihilist. Not the belly staring, black dressing "life sucks and then you die" stereotype, just somebody who doesn't believe in an afterlife, a raison d'etre or a governing force. I am an optimist, although I really know better. I enjoy life and all and I am surely not the quitting kind, but I carry a knot in my stomach about all of this.

I used to believe that all people had at least a sense of justice in them. I used to think that respect was just a matter of common sense, of "I won't bug you if you don't bug me". But it isn't so. Apparently, some people find it very reasonable to beat other people to death over a petty argument or to just shoot at random people from a hidden location without any particular reason, really. Of course, I have always known about this, but it seems I have never fully realised that we are really confronted with these people everyday. They are around us and amongst us and even if we can catch them, there is no appropriate form of retribution imaginable. Perhaps this is the hardest thing to accept in a person's life. I am talking about the fact that justice does not really exist. It is just a very good idea, but nothing more than that.

I understand you religious folks. To an extent I even envy you. I just wished it were that simple..