I walked out of the pub and woke up in the back of an ambulance. I remember only a little of what happened in between. I noticed five men on the other side of the road, and I turned to my mate and said, ”They’re those blokes we saw on the bus.” They walked over to us and the biggest of them – he had a butcher’s forearms and a boxing bulldog tattoo – said, ”What did you say?” I repeated that I’d seen him on the bus. The next thing I knew, I was on a stretcher, being unloaded in the hospital car park. The bulldog bloke had hit me, then the rest of them had surrounded me on the ground, kicking me in the head. I had two black eyes and my nose had swollen across my face. My back was bruised, my knuckles were grazed.

I was kept in hospital for observation with a suspected fractured skull. I was woken every few minutes by a nurse, who shone a torch into my eyes, and asked if I knew my name, where I was, and who was the prime minister. An old man in the bed next to me wailed, ”Helpppppppp meee” all night long, and I can still hear his voice.

I was upset that I’d been attacked, and I could’ve been killed. But I didn’t question why they’d done it to me. I knew why they had done it: because they enjoyed it.
I listen with despair to the ”debate” about one-punch murders. There is no craze, no spate, no crime wave. Last year’s figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology show the Australian murder rate at a historic low. Every kind of murder has become less common and, in particular, Australians have less chance of being randomly killed by a stranger than ever before.
There are tears in my heart for the parents who have lost a child to stupid drunken sadists, but I know it’s not a likely thing to happen, in Kings Cross or anywhere else. And when I hear people blame youth culture, computer games, or mixed martial arts, it makes me angry because – and I’ll say it one more time – the murder rate is actually falling. If these things have any affect at all, it’s to lessen the possibility of young people being randomly killed. We’re all scared of the new, when we should be frightened of the old, the eternal.
People who attack other people do it because they find it fun. They like it because it makes them feel powerful. It’s the same motivation as rape and involves the same refusal of empathy to the victim.
And if you go out planning to assault somebody because you want to feel powerful and tough (and maybe you have no other power in your life, or maybe you just think you don’t, or perhaps you have power and you just want to feel more of it) then your best bet is to hit them as hard as you can, with no warning at all. Otherwise, there is a strong chance they will recover and hit you back. And this is not what you want.
I look at the losers’ gallery of petty thugs and I know these people are all prized among their mates for their fighting abilities – and if they weren’t tough they wouldn’t be liked for anything, and they know that, too. They’re not loners, introverts, or moody alienated emos. If anything, they identify too closely with the group. They’re people who’d fight for their street against the next street, their pub against a neighbouring pub, who’d fight for their football code, their car, their race or their nation.
Kieran Loveridge, the killer of poor Thomas Kelly, was out with his football mates before he bashed his victims. He was arrested in the grandstand at Belmore where he was sitting watching a Canterbury Bulldogs training session. Nobody blamed rugby league – and I don’t, either – but if he’d been picked up while playing Grand Theft Auto, or in the middle of an Ultimate Fighting Competition DVD marathon, then the fools who want to ban everything they don’t understand would have known exactly where to pin the rap. And people who say they ”don’t understand” random violence are kidding themselves. They may not know why some men enjoying punching others, but that’s another thing entirely.
If you’ve ever taken a thrill from exercising power over someone else, in the workplace – in the home, on the sports field or in the pub – if you’ve ever enjoyed getting one up, verbally, psychologically or emotionally; if you’ve ever felt an ugly glow of self-satisfaction from putting another person in ”their place” – then you understand it completely.