Everyone, whether in self-defense lessons or not, recognizes the lethal power of firearms – So much so that something as simple as pulling one out of a case or holster can change people’s minds. Guns are often the exclamation point at the end of an argument.
If what we know how to do with our bare hands from self-defense lessons is the same as the work of a bullet, wouldn’t it also follow that we could somehow convince people to do what we say in the same fashion? Can we not inspire that same mortal fear and get things done without having to use what we know?
Can we flash the “gun” of our knowledge?
Most people see the progression in use of force with bare hands being the least effective. Sticks and knives are better. Firearms are the end-all, be-all. It’s a spectrum that makes obvious sense, as most people are completely untrained in how to use their bare hands to inflict injury.
Knives and sticks can amplify effort and magnify trauma, allowing even the untrained to do potentially lethal damage. Firearms pre-package the requirements for injury, and require nothing more than a trigger-pull and a moderately clear shot to get the job done. One, Two, Three. Big, Bigger, Biggest. Good, Better, Best. The progression feels pretty natural.
To truly understand violence as universal and equivalent, no matter what the circumstance or tool, we have to ditch the idea of progression and see the firearm not as the end of the line but as an excellent example of what’s required in violence — that’s it.
This is why, in self-defense lessons, we are fond of saying that the goal of violence is to do the work of a bullet with your bare hands.
Understanding this—truly and viscerally—is the key to making violence universal and equivalent. You want the end result to be identical whether you shot him, stabbed him, or broke him with a stick or “just” your bare hands. In each case, your goal is the same. You want the other guy non-functional.
All of those various methods are really one idea: striking. They are all the delivery of the largest amount of kinetic energy you can muster through vulnerable anatomy. The knife, stick and the ends of your skeleton all driven by your entire mass in motion; just as the bullet is driven by energy stored in chemical bonds. Striking someone with a fist or a bullet can be equivalent acts if you know what you’re doing. Ultimately, the only advantages firearms have are a reduction in personal effort and an increase in range.
Outside of that world, in the world of the antisocial—social confrontation, or “monkey politics”—firearms do have one aspect that we cannot replicate with our bare hands and self-defense lessons: the universal message of intent and mortal threat. Waving a gun around screams, “Do what I say/go away or I will kill you,” in every language possible, all at once.
But what happens when someone trains with us in self-defense lessons and learns how to replicate the work of a bullet with their bare hands, learns the universality and equivalency of violence but still wants to play at monkey politics?
How do you wave that “gun” around?
You can’t verbally warn them—talk is cheap. Your words aren’t going to stun them like flashing a real gun would. How about if you “go easy” or slap them around for the purposes of dominance? Without really even hurting them?
This is a very dangerous way of thinking. The sad fact is there is no way to wave your knowledge or intent around. It is an invisible gun. This is the essential problem of violence in monkey politics. Telling people you know how to do it isn’t going to have an effect.
Demonstrating it hypothetically for the purpose of example — “See, I could do this” — just leads to argument (and is a generally stupid idea). It’s all just wind and noise until you stomp somebody into the curb in front of everybody else. That’s the sound of the invisible gun going off—unmistakable, instantly recognized the world over.
And then you go to jail. And for what? The smarter play is to stay out of “monkey politics” all together.