What do you do if you are bored with the usual shoplifting and petty theft and gang fighting, and you’re “so over” smoking weed on the corner, and you need a break from impregnating neighborhood girls? The latest solution to endemic urban ennui is called “knockout,” aka “the one-hitter quitter” or “polar bear hunting” (because the targeted victims are more often than not the color of a polar bear).
Considered a game by its teenaged practitioners, knockout consists of assaulting a randomly chosen person on the street and seeing if you can delight your friends by knocking him or her to the ground with a single punch. Some of the victims have died (such as a 46-year-old man whose head was smashed between two fence spikes), but that is the price they are willing to pay. The one-shot rule stands.
What makes knockout different from the crimes we are more accustomed to is that it has no discernible motive or goal, and not even passion to commend it. Knockout is done for the sheer fun of it. As opposed to stealing because you’re hungry or gunning someone down to settle a score, knockout is that end-of-the-line-of-Western-civilization kind of violence: gratuitous.
In the days before I was selective with what movies I subjected my soul to, I exposed myself to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), a futuristic tale of juvenile delinquency that nailed it. Alex and his thugs roamed the streets with a brooding indolence and dead consciences, complaining that the old high jinks just didn’t do it for them anymore. They needed to ratchet it up a few notches because “They have become callous and given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Ephesians 4:19).
God spoke truly of people becoming “like unreasoning animals” (Jude 10), maiming men walking home and women riding bicycles, for pleasure. Look into the eyes of your cat and you will see as much humanity.