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Editor’s Diary: the moral lesson of a (mildly) bloody restaurant brawl

The other day, I saw a pretty classic drunken fight.

I was just at the beginning at what I assumed would be a delicious nap – having drunk a concoction that contained heated-up rum, coconut milk and banana syrup – when these guys sitting at a table nearby decided to start punching each other. It took me a while to figure out the different sides involved in the conflict. Broadly speaking, there were two, with two guys against two guys. Since the fight went on for some time, though, I was able to understand that there was some nuance to what was happening.

Out of the two sides, one presented a pretty cohesive unit – two young guys in fashionable, well-fitting leather jackets, not doing a whole lot of screaming and swearing, mostly focused on beating the crap out of the opposition.

The other side showed less unity. One of the guys was older, and clearly disapproving of his comrade. It was apparent that the older guy had been drawn into the fight against his will. When he threatened one guy with a vase, he did so as a show of solidarity, as opposed out of any genuine violent intent. The two young guys in leather jackets must have known this as well, because they didn’t really go out of their way to hit him.

The guy the leather jackets had a genuine beef with was loud, drunk and obnoxious. I could actually see myself punching him, in a variety of scenarios. After security got involved, and the fight had all but broken up, with minimal injuries to everyone involved, obnoxious guy decided that he wasn’t quite done yelling. Before anyone else could react, one of the leather jackets went ahead and punched him in the face, knocking him out.

“See that? He must be left-handed. Or else he trains,” my boyfriend commented sagely.

The leather jackets made a not-entirely-hasty exit, their stride and pace telling the world that “yeah, so, dude’s down, but we’re totally relaxed and casual about this whole thing. You should be too. Enjoy the rest of your meals.”

I was worried for obnoxious guy for a couple of minutes, but he promptly sat up and began swearing at his friend, the one who stayed behind to look after him.

After the cops showed up, the guy tried being rude to them as well. “Be quiet,” his friend said. And to the cops he said, “He just suffered massive trauma, I don’t think he knows what he’s saying.”

The paramedics walked in about a minute after the cops did. Obnoxious guy tried swearing at them too. The paramedics shrugged and told him that if he didn’t want first aid, no one was going to force it on him. More swearing. The paramedics turned to leave.

“I’m embarrassed for you right now,” obnoxious guy’s friend said, quietly.

Everyone filed out: the paramedics, followed by obnoxious guy, followed by his friend, followed by the cops. Some muscular dude with a headband began cleaning the small amount of blood off the floor (I assume none of the waiters really wanted to have to take care of that).

What I thought about as I watched the floor getting wiped was that loyalty is generally a good thing – but that sometimes, it really sucks when the people you must be loyal to couldn’t really give a crap about you. I felt bad for obnoxious guy’s friend. He looked old enough to be someone’s young-ish grandfather. Unlike his friend, he wasn’t that well-dressed. He would have been better off putting his feet up and having a beer at home.

This spring, a person I like and care about got the crap beaten out of him when he stood up for his friend. The friend had been piss-drunk, violent and horribly in the wrong. The person I like and care about had no choice, though. Otherwise, it would have been one against two – and who could let that happen to their friend?

I just wish that sometimes people would stop and think – “hey, this person is a great friend of mine and they’ll always be there for me, and perhaps I shouldn’t make a mockery of that.”

Just a thought.

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Natalia Antonova

Natalia is a writer and journalist. She’s the associate editor of openDemocracy Russia and the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute.