I was drinking on a porch with a woman named Maria the other night. She did eighteen months in prison awhile back, she didn't say for what. Dropped the 'I don't have to look for trouble, it always finds me.' I let her borrow my phone to call a homeboy of hers. She has two friends who killed people. One of them got in a fist fight with another guy, lost, and then decided to change the outcome after the fact by going home, grabbing his gun, and then returning to shoot the winner in the head.
Her friend arrived. Apparently the night before they had been drinking and Maria punched him a few times in the head out of jealousy for some amorous attention that the man had been showing to another woman. He was still angry, had walked three miles to tell her he was still mad, instead of telling her off over the phone or ignoring the call. 'If I were a bitch you would be knocked the fuck out right now' he said. She alternated between apologizing and daring him to hit her. He said that he didn't hit women. It continued this way for fifteen minutes before I made my way away, how long it went on after that... I've seen arguments reach the threshold of a fight and then stay at that level for hours before, usually between friends or lovers on the low end. They know that it would be wrong to fight each other, but if they back down; their anger is all they have you see.
We've all met people who take pride in claiming that they never back down, never compromise. Maybe you're such a person yourself. I say take pride in claiming because you, me and everybody knows that it isn't really true. If you drove to work this morning without killing anyone then you backed down to someone. But what if someone who takes pride in this conceit has no job to drive to, 'nothing to lose' as the cliche goes?
Think of the way that the old Greek heroes, the demigods, feel emotion; how they are never just cheekily aroused but always bursting with the love-venom of a thousand arrows of Eros, never merely annoyed against one who wrongs them but always filled with all the wrath of a thousand lions, vowing to tear down heaven itself if that's what it takes to gain their revenge, and empowered by their wrath to do exactly that. Or think of people who either remain in abusive relationships or drift from one bad relationship to another because they seem to equate any strong emotion, positive or negative, with erotic passion. The Eminem song from last summer 'Love the Way you Lie' captures this mindset very well, annoying top 40 tropes aside. Or take Joe Jackson's 'Fools in Love' which observes a similar quality more artfully if less dramatic and more generally.
"Fools in Love, they think they're heroes, cause they get to feel more pain."
Behind everyone who expresses guilt, however sincere, about a bad temper, you may be assured that a part of them takes pride in being capable of an anger strong enough to destroy windows, closet doors, neighbors cars, faces. 'What a grand creature I am, that my feelings can destroy, how the universe must tremble before me.' Behind any violent feud or low-scale gang tribal warfare; you will find this arrogant idea taken to its extreme. 'My feelings are more important than life and death. My feelings are more powerful than life and death. The fact that my emotions can move me to kill and die make me more than a man.' Hatfields and McCoys, Grangerfords and Shepardsons, Bloods and Crips, this religion vs. that one vs. that one vs. that one....
To turn to music again, if you've heard the Clash's 'London Calling' (which you probably have since this is only the world wide web and isn't accessible to creatures trapped in black holes.) you may have noticed that many of its songs are partly about poor people enchanted with the idea that their own capacity for violence is the greatest power that people can have, the Only True Power that human beings can have. Those who seek and gain wealth and political clout are living lies. But everyone is born with a pair of hands that they can kill somebody else with. So let's go forth and die for the cause of -------- and be the only creatures that are truly alive. Yo te quiero infinito.
Of course, the general sentiment is usually a good deal more mild and mundane then that. Another row at the Henderson house, a few dozen arrests over the course of a lifetime for mutual assault, two friends horrified at the thought of making the other bleed but still compelled to express their outrage, minute after minute into hour after hour, until either the tension breaks and someone throws a punch or they just get too tired to keep it up any longer. Annoying, pathetic, and even a bit comedic, is usually all it is. But then again it might be you who runs into the guy who really, really, can't stand to lose a fistfight.