Invariably, when we’re giving instructions on how to protect yourself, we get questions along the lines of: “Okay, I get all that violence stuff — but what if he’s bigger/faster/stronger and has a knife/stick/gun/three guns?”
That’s a great question. Or it would be if that were what they really meant. More often than not, people build a monster in their head around a single overarching fear… And that fear is—
Not to be revealed until the end.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at some specifics:
When people look at a larger, stronger man, what they’re really registering is his potential ability to generate power. He could pick you up and throw you across the room, right? Heck, he could probably pick up and throw a Volkswagen. What they ignore is that though he may have more human tissue than you, he’s still made of meat. And meat can be butchered.
“Fast” and “skilled” fall into the same category: the desire for a duel. This typically comes from people who are worried about finding themselves in one. But what if he’s armed? Well, if I have a knife and he has a knife, I stab the knife, right? Of course not. So why the hell does this make a difference if he has a tool and I’m using fists and boots? It just means, in order to protect yourself, you’ll beat him to nonfunctional instead of shooting or stabbing him to nonfunctional.
Ah, but now we’re getting to the super-secret fear that is hidden at the core of all these questions. These questions are all saying: “I’m afraid he has intent to do what I won’t.”
Everyone builds a better monster around the idea of superior intent. The bigger/faster/stronger smokescreen is just worry that he’s shown up willing to deliver a serious beating that ends in a brutal curbing, while you’re just there to look the hard boy or have a manly slap-fight rather than actually protect yourself. You know, the kind where no one really gets hurt.
The tool, though, now that’s different… When he pulls out a laborsaving device whose sole purpose is to rend meat and break bones, well now he’s showing superior intent — intent you’re worried you can’t match. If you’re just there to posture and look the part, if you’re just there to duel and teach someone a lesson, then what the hell is he up to with that man-mangler? We all know the answer to that.
Everyone recognizes, on a visceral level, that the armed man is displaying intent they don’t have.
That’s what everyone’s afraid of. Superior intent. All the sideways questions about how to protect yourself are just dancing around this issue: “What if he’s really here to kill me?” The recognition that this just might be so, and you can’t or won’t match it, intent-wise, is the core fear that everyone harbors.
My advice is to build YOUR better monster — bigger, faster, stronger, meaner, armed in a dark alley. Add in a dash of rainy, moonless night, any element that will ramp up the fear factor of this monster.
And then become him.