Being able to prevent violence and being able to do violence are two very different things.
That’s obvious, right? When stated in opposition like that, it’s self-evident. And yet, I get enough feedback to tell me it’s still fuzzy in most people’s heads. Nearly everyone we train shows up looking for the former — they want to prevent violence from happening to themselves — while only paying lip service to the latter. If given the choice, sane people would rather prevent violence than do it to another person. This is fine as long as everyone understands the difference between the two.
The Empathy Problem
No one wants violence done to them. Once a person has heard, seen, or unfortunately experienced enough of it, they start looking for answers: How do I keep that from happening to me? What can I do in that situation? These questions would be fine if they were looking at the right side of the equation. The problem is one of empathy — we naturally look at the guy on the ground, the one getting kicked, or stabbed, or shot.
We empathize with the victim, feel his pain, and the questions become about preventing what’s happening, rather than owning the situation…
No one looks at that situation and asks the real question: How do I maim, cripple and/or kill the other man? Most sane people will not reflexively see themselves as the victimizer, look at the situation and say, “That guy’s obviously got it handled. I want to operate like he does.”
Confusion sets in when people believe that violence is a tool to prevent violence. In other words, that they can maintain their safety by using physical action to prevent the other man from hurting them.
Blocking, countering, “using his energy against him,” etc., are all dangerous conceits that do little more than make us feel good about violence — prepared, and wearing the white hat (since we don’t stoop to the criminal’s level) — while doing almost nothing to solve the essential problem.
They don’t do anything to shut off the other man, or otherwise degrade his ability to function. At best, such tactics delay the inevitable; at worst, they give the other man free time and opportunity to carry out his work by hurting you and shutting you off.
I take a lot of heat for constantly wanting to couch the discussion of violence in social, antisocial and asocial contexts. The primary argument I hear is, “Who cares?” The second one is that I must be a simpleton, because “that is not how badasses talk.” The funny part is, if most people show up to learn how to prevent violence from happening to them, well, this is the key.
I always thought this stuff was common sense — don’t go looking for it, defuse and de-escalate when given the option, only hurt people when that’s the only way out — and then I meet people who think knocking someone out is the answer to the smart remark, social posturing and territorial disputes.
Of course, it makes my hat hover. For those who don’t listen, or don’t care, I hope they are lucky. Luck is the only thing between them and something really horrible, or, at the very least, life-changing. And not in the good way.
TO BE CONTINUED IN NEXT WEEK’S BLOG…