Friday, August 22, 2014

Bleacher Thinking: Yay us! Boo them!

Imagine you're sitting at a high school football game. Yeah, I know, that's pretty old school right off the bat. But now we're really going to get into the Way Back Machine. Your set of bleachers sit across from the other team's.

Yay us! Boo them!

From where you're comfortably sitting in the middle of your side's bleachers you can  -- if you look -- see the entirety of the other team's bleachers. The significance of this is you can see the well behaved folks up front. You can see the dedicated fans in the middle and you can see the rowdy assholes up on top in and in the back.  

Now those folks in the back bleachers are the people who really are doing all the bad things that your cheerleaders (pundits and bloggers) are telling you that other side is 'all' about. (Yay us! Boo them!) You look and sure enough, that behavior is right there. Those people are saying and pushing for exactly what you're scared of -- or are convinced is such a social evil.

Conversely, that side is saying all kinds of horrible things about your side. Accusing your people of doing bad things too. How dare they! That's not true at all!

How do you know? From where you're sitting you see what your side is about. Those folks down in front are well behaved and reasonable. Sure the people whom you're sitting with may be passionate, but they're not about what the other side is accusing you of. These are reasonable concerns and reasonable solutions ...

For the record, a blind spot isn't just a place you can't see, it's you don't know you can't see it. And you're not going to see it, until you actively change your position -- even for just a moment. (It's kind of like looking in the mirror when you're driving to see what you can't see from your current position).

It is not until you turn around and look up at the back of your own bleachers that you see that the 'accusations' of the other side have a degree of truth.

Not the entirety mind you, but a degree. You've just seen the extremists of your own side for the first time. Those wild and exaggerated claims of what your side is doing is exactly what those folks back there are all about. They are doing what the other side is accusing your side doing. They are demanding an absolute and unreasonable conditions. And most of all, they are not willing to compromise. Hell, they don't want to come to the negotiation table with the other side. In fact, they're not even really willing to compromise with you. They want their way and fuck everyone else because they are RIGHT!

Are they whole of your movement? No. But just as you condemn the other side for the behavior of a small few, the other side is doing the same to you. Just as you make strawman arguments of the other side's position based on their rowdies, your side's extremists are giving people reason to dismiss your position.

And why shouldn't they? Let me explain why. When you look over your shoulder, it puts you at a crossroads -- a crossroads that is going to determine your credibility. It will demonstrate to others how 'intelligent and rational' you really are.

Or it's going to demonstrate that, at best, you're a liar. In the middle, it will convince people you secretly support the extremist position. At worst, your choice will show other that you are one of the people who are indeed doing what your side is being accused of. In short that you're untrustworthy.

The reason I say this is because you're going to be judged by what route you take from the crossroads.

Are you going to flat out refuse to look over your shoulder? In doing so deny that said bad behavior exists on your side. This while:
a) still condemning the other side's bad behavior
b) claiming the same kind of behavior constitutes the whole of that side's agenda.
c) calling anyone who sees your side's bad behavior a liar.
d) deny those people's experience because 'that's not what we're about' or 'well, I've never seen it.' ('personal incredulity' logical fallacy)

Are you going to look over your shoulder and then start to rationalize and excuse the behavior because that's not what 'real' _____ (insert group here) are about? (No True Scotsman/apologist.)

Or are you going to point to the other bleachers and decry that they're doing it too? In doing so justify your 'side's' bad behavior because 'they started it?'

Or are you going to minimize that behavior and dismiss it as unimportant? Or dismiss it as minor in comparison to the greater wrong and noble intentions of your side for trying  fixing said wrong?

Are you going to justify said because your side is so angry and outraged?  That this behavior is acceptable because of how strongly they feel? (These approaches are common branches apologist rhetoric tree)

Or are you going to say that they're not really with your group by making some kind of micro-division about them being left handed, purple haired ____ (insert group here)?

That last tactic is particularly weasel-ish. It goes beyond 'no true Scotsman' and -- outside your bleachers -- is the most damaging to your credibility. Not just with the 'other side' but with everyone.  Micro-division make perfect sense to people 'inside' a group, but to outsiders it's easier to dismiss the whole group. They're not about to waste their time with such shadings. Also this is a common dodge for people trying to benefit from extremism while pretending to be Little Bo Peep *

Now all those roads are comparatively easy. You just turn a blind eye and you stay safe inside the doctrine of your side. You can continue identifying yourself as a member of the elite fraternity of 'right thinking people.'

More than that a common reaction is to dig in deeper (hence move further up the bleachers). I liken this to turning around and starting to sing your side's anthem. This serves many purposes. First, you keep the tribal identifiers (Yay us! This is our song!) Second, the louder you sing your side's anthem, the more status you get from those in your bleachers. Third is in the exuberance and passion of singing your side's fight song you can conveniently forget what you saw about your own side's behavior. Fourth it revs you to keep the fight going -- instead of solving the problem

That fourth point sounds snarky, but it's way more accurate than snide. Let's be honest. Being passionate and involved with big issues is fun. It's exciting. You're changing the world. And man, isn't that power? You're getting praise from those on your side. You're getting attention. You're making a difference! Who wants that to go away? 

See if you are involved in the negotiation of a working compromise the problem goes away. When the game is over, everyone goes home. When that happens, you're no longer needed. You're no longer 'involved' in such big issues. You basically have to find a new hobby. Or, if you turned 'the cause' into a career, a new job.

Actual success means you'll become obsolete. This motivation to keep things going is very much the elephant in the room. It's also an important consideration when it comes to understanding why people are so steadfast against compromise and absolute in their conviction; when that's your attitude, the problem isn't solved. Which makes us ask: How much of this refusal to find a working solution is coming from -- what is in essence -- job security? Or as the case may be, hobby security?

This is why ignoring the back bleacher behavior effects your credibility. Even if people don't say anything. (And most won't. They'll just walk away.) They'll quit listening to you because either recognize you're less interested in solving the problem than keeping the game going. Or they'll think you're one of those barking moonbats and leave you to your ranting about the issue. They'll do this because they've lost trust in you.

Going back to the crossroads of having looked over your shoulder. When you really are interested in fixing the problem, the hardest road to take is the one where you first walk up to your own rowdies and say "You're not helping."  

I say hard because odds are good they'll turn their dragon's fire onto you. How dare you try to tell them how to behave to help the cause. You will be accused of everything under the sun. You'll be called a traitor to the cause, a turn coat. You'll be accused of being one of 'them' You will be targeted with hate, venom and abuse (mostly verbal and emotional, but physical isn't out of the question). Why? Because you will be considered guilty of betrayal. Humans treat betrayal very harshly. And this by the way will not only be from the rowdies from your side, but also those nice and reasonable people you were sitting with. **

Here's an important safety tip: If this is the reaction you're getting, it's not about the cause. It's about loyalty to the team -- right or wrong.  (If the idea of "my country right or wrong" makes your teeth itch, consider the same attitude about loyalty to your team.)

The second hard part of this process is sitting down with the moderates of the other side and acknowledging bad behaviors on both sides. Not blaming, not accusing, not denying, and not giving up, acknowledging. Then convincing those folks that you don't agree with your side's rowdy's bad behavior. You too find it unacceptable. You have to communicate you are actively trying to pull those folks leashes and -- most of all -- the other side can trust you not to let the barking moonbats have their way. In other words, you have to work twice as hard getting people from other groups to trust that your side will honor and abide to any agreements.

On the plus side, as a condition of negotiation, they have to pull the leashes of their own side's barking moonbats. This is both a sign of good faith and a serious warning if they refuse.

This hard path is critical because nothing will flush your credibility down the toilet faster than standing by mutely while someone from 'your side' abuses someone else. People don't remember your words, they remember your actions -- or in this case, lack of action. When one of your own starts misbehaving, your action or inaction will either show your true colors or paint you with the same brush.

So why would you want to risk all this?  Why should you look over your shoulder at your own side's behavior? You're right. You know you're right. You know your friends are right. What possible purpose would taking this big, bad horrible chance serve?

That answer comes in several parts. First is if life was truly as simplistic as only two teams (Yay us! Boo them!) then the fact that the other side doesn't like you doesn't mean much. The problem is that isn't how things really work.

There's more than just two sides. It's not just your side against the other side.

There are lots of different perspectives and considerations other than what your side thinks or the other side thinks. All of these influence the subject.  But more than different 'sides,' there are a lot of people who are independent -- they're on nobody's side.  Often such people see other considerations that undermine the positions of your side and the other side.

These independents are the people who you want to convince and sway. This is harder than you might think because they don't have the tribal identifiers -- ergo the automatic assumptions that your group's perspective is 'right,' much less reasonable.  You're actually going to have to explain, support your contentions, provide evidence and address other evidence. Evidence that  may undermine ideals you accept as unquestionable fact.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of what they see are legitimate 'oh that is a problem' Be warned, this in combination with you trying to explain your position can result in you actually having an open mind and understanding the issue. Not just saying it.  But recognizing that the issue is more complicated than you thought.  This is much more emotionally disturbing than you might think. Certainty and the comfort and safety of being firmly in the group evaporate.  (Which is what mostly bleacher thinking is about, not addressing the problem.)

Also, while we're talking about dealing with independents, now isn't the time to try to persuade them to join your side by pointing out the evils of the other side. Straight up, when they're talking to you, they don't care about past bad behavior of the other side towards you. What they care about is the bad behavior your side's rowdies have directed at them. The wrong doing done to you by a third party is less important to them than the wrong doing done to them by someone claiming to be from your party. If someone on your side has abused them, you're starting out with a credibility issue already by simply identifying yourself with that set of bleachers. Oh, and for the record, No True Scotsman and/or micro-divisions don't work to build your credibility. Sympathy, empathy and explaining how you're working to keep the barking moonbats on a leash does.

Now why in God's name would you want to take such horrible chances? Why should you leave the comfort and safety of the bleachers? Well the answer is down on the field. That's where the actual work and problem solving is getting done.

See most people never leave the bleachers. Or if they do they put on little cheerleading outfits and basically lead the "Yay us! Boo them" rah-rah booster club -- from in front of the bleachers. Thing about cheerleaders, sports announcers and sport show hosts is they aren't actually in the game. In fact, they're promoting and encouraging bleacher thinking. Sorry folks, your political commentator, talk show host or comedian is an entertainer, not someone working on the problem. In fact, he's the one making the money off your 'Yay us! Boo them!' attitude. His game isn't what's happening behind him. His game is facing the bleachers. The more tribal and whipped up he can get your side's bleachers, the more money and power over you he gets.

The truth of the matter is if we want to bring about change, solve problems or prevent them, we don't belong on the bleachers. We have to get up, leave the barking moonbats and our comfort zone behind, walk down the steps, past the cheerleaders and join the game. But if you join the game with the attitude of Yay us! Boo them! -- then everybody loses. There is no compromise, negotiation or even listening to the concerns of others. In other words: Nothing gets fixed because the different sides are too busy screaming they're right and everyone else is wrong.

Now obviously, the first thought about this article is about politics and great social issues. But the raw truth is it's about a lot smaller stuff too. Personal aspects of your life, job, social status and relationships with others. And yes, this includes the rowdies, because a lot of time we hide our own bad behaviors from ourselves behind a curtain of rationalizations of why it's okay to for us to do that. We hide from ourselves how often we give ourselves permission to let these bad aspects of ourselves run amok. If you want to know why people react negatively to you, don't like or trust you, take a look at what you're actually doing rather than being your own cheerleader.


* It's kind of like the Sinn Fien denied association with the Provisional Irish Republic Army. Yet the Sinn Fien reaped the benefits of the radical's actions while singing about their peaceful political intentions. That's the problem with you making micro-divisions, the only people who believe it are idiots. While those using it are deemed liars.  If you use this tactic, you immediately get put into one of those two categories.

** As an exercise -- both for seeing how much of what we believe is 'truth' is subjective and a litmus test on just how 'reasonable' the people you're sitting with really are -- try this experiment: For a week argue the other side of an issue. Not a strawman, but voice the legitimate concerns and problems the other side is on about. First is see what that does to your thinking and position about the subject. Second, Don't tell anyone that's what you're doing until after you're done.
Although I said a week, that will be hard. Stick it out as long as you can, but do not be surprised at the pressure you will put under to get back into line. (For the record, this is not some diabolical trap, it's actually Debate 101 -- where you are called upon to debate both sides of the issue.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Demanding 'No Guns' in Businesses

There are a bunch of jpg's floating around where illegal activities are being encouraged against armed citizens and businesses who allow firearms. Putting it mildly, this seriously grinds my gears.  On the plus side, I figure if you're stupid enough to try and assault someone who is armed in 'political protest' that's just natural selection in action. What annoys me is the attempted bullying and threatening of businesses that is being done and -- in one jpg -- encouraging if you see a gun leaving without paying (which is a crime).  I'm disturbed because the one who loses here is the business owner.

Here's what I said to a bunch of people going 'yeah, yeah do it!'

First off, I highly recommend y'all don't have lunch here if you feel that making a scene -- much less breaking the law -- in the presence of an armed person is a good idea.

Rights come in bundles. Often these rub up against each other. That is where we must compromise and come up with a working solution.Falling under property rights (a big issue in our way of life) is the owner/legal holder can prohibit firearms on a property. If you don't want them in your home or place of business, then you have every right to say no.

Someone who insists, can be refused service (another right of the business owner) and if that person doesn't leave when asked is now trespassing. (A property right issue.) If said individual makes a scene that is disturbing the peace (criminal) and possibly menacing/committing assault (again, criminal).  But it's those other behaviors that are what is going to get him arrested, not bringing a firearm onto your property.

Conversely, people have the right to be armed -- within the boundaries set by property owners and limits of the statutes of the state. Concealed carry is a licensed practice, tactical consideration and -- most of all -- a courtesy to one's fellow citizens.  However, neither tactics or courtesy are mandated by law.

One of those pesky one bundle meets another situations is government can prohibit the possession of weapons in buildings they control, but are often mandated about providing and ensuring the safety of those they demand be disarmed. (For example in Colorado, yes you go through a metal detector in certain government buildings, but armed guards are also present. If they don't pay for it and provide, they can't prohibit.) Also, communication of this is a key element because bringing a weapon into such an area is actually breaking the law.

A property owner or business owner is not under this mandate. However in many states, if firearms are prohibited on private property, that information must be posted at the entrances. Again communication is the key. If a company policy is no guns, it must be posted. Otherwise you are likely to have employees and customers freaking out and calling the cops on customers who are legally carrying. Worse making up company policy on the spot without the consent of the owner.

'Mostly' you have the freedom to chose where to spend your money and which businesses to conduct transactions with.  (Some argue taxes and utilities are forced). Where you spend -- most -- of your money is not a right, it's a freedom. You are under no compunction to shop at _____ (fill in the blank). Here's a nice discussion on the difference

This brings up trying to blackmail a company/business owner into doing what you want them to do because you're threatening them with removal of your business.  Yes, you have that freedom, but you don't have that right. (And by that I'm talking about legal definition of rights,
not the fucked up interpretation of positive and negative rights that is used to justify so much selfish, aggressive and hostile behavior )*

As an individual you have the freedom to talk to a business owner about policy. You also have the freedom to threaten him with the removal of your business if he or she chooses to allow firearms into the establishment. BUT he or she has the right to agree or tell you to stick it into your ear. Your business is just as valid as anyone else's. Now the question is, what makes you think your business is so special that you demanding the business owner alienate a significant number of his customer base is worth it?

More than that, you demanding this puts the business owner between a rock and a hard place. Because of your making a fuss, business is going to suffer no matter what he or she chooses to do. (Unless of course you push hard enough to provoke a Chick-Fil-A response ... which can and does happen.) Often businesses who put up 'no gun' signs suffer a significant decline in business -- are you willing to make up the lost revenues?

But what grinds my gears --as a business owner -- is you are basically demanding that a business refuse service to your fellow citizens 'cause y'all don't like them kinda people. You'd be screaming in outrage if someone else demanded a company not do business with people because of race, religion, or sexual preference. And you'd be defending those people's rights -- you know 1st, 10th, 13th 14th, 19th, but somehow you want to deny people both service and their 2nd Amendment rights?

Bigotry much?


*Sneaky trick, a lot of people are using this 'philosophical' interpretation when they use the words "rights" not the legal interpretation. Often -- appalling enough -- they don't even know it. So when someone goes on about their 'rights' always make sure which definition they're using. Otherwise you're talking apples and ... wait, I'm going to have to lean over and squint to figure out what that is.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Assessment, Alternatives and Articulation

In speaking of "In the Name of Self-Defense: What it Costs. When it's worth it," Anthony M. mentioned that his firearms instructors talked about the "Combat Triad consisting of Marksmanship, Gunhandling, and Mindset." 

My response:  Good model there.

Dropping into a similar mode I'll say there are three important aspects of mindset (not only three, but three biggies)

Assessment -- what is going on. This is big (lots of little elements). Not just what you think is going on, but what kind of violence is developing (and why). What is the danger level? Is force necessary? And if so what level? (Scaling force).

Alternatives -- Starting with preclusion. But a big element of this is viability. In INoSD I extensively cover how changing your behaviors reduces the chances of certain kinds of violence, while on the other hand increases the chances of others. Thing is there are always alternatives, just not always good ones.

Articulation -- The third rule about any kind of violence -- but especially self-defense is: Someone is going to be unhappy with with your use of force decision. Gone are the days when cops could look at a situation and tell you "I could arrest you both or you can both go home." Now days, 'someone has to go to jail.' This has to be factored into your strategies. Also gone is the cop looking at a body and saying "Well someone finally did this douchebag" and going for coffee.

This is doubly important because when you claim self-defense you are -- in essence -- confessing to a crime (the first rule of self-defense). But there's more, self-defense is an affirmative defense defense (no I didn't stutter). You are saying "Yes I did this which is normally a crime, but I had good reasons. And they are ...." YOU must provide sufficient evidence that what you did was not -- in fact -- a crime, necessary and that you should not be held accountable for the crime that it looks like.

Believe me when I tell you the unhappy brigade is going try to 'prove' that it was a crime. Usually by nitpicking your assessment and attacking your choice (why didn't you ....?) This is why, like it or not you HAVE to be able to articulate your assessment, show you considered alternatives (and assessed why what they are saying you 'should have done' is unrealistic and be able to articulate the whole mess.

Later Anna V asked:
"So should you try and almost articulate as you go? I'm thinking that it may help find alternative solution when no violence may be necessary, but slow things down too much in real emergencies.
Does it help keep the monkey in the back seat?"

My response:

Four points
1- Most violence comes with instructions how to avoid it
2 - The monkey is already in the building if you're thinking well that won't work in 'real' emergencies

3 -- While not entirely true -- "your thinking is done in training." I'm going to put this into an analogy. It's in training, learning and skill development that you learn to tell the difference between a crocodile, a bunny rabbit and a tom cat. 

That way you become able to spot them in the field -- especially when one of them is coming towards you. At the same time you've learned what the dangers/non-danger of each are, how they act when they're being dangerous, etc., etc.
4 -- you have a preexisting check list of known danger signals. If you see this, there's a potential for danger. If you see this and this, there's a probability of danger. If you see this, this and this, there's developing danger. If you see this, this, this, this and this, just take your pen and instead of 'checking' each box just slash a line through them all and act.

That's a crocodile on the opposite river bank. That crocodile just went into the water. That crocodile is moving towards me...


Or -- and as opposed to that schmuck -- when that bastard unexpectedly comes out of the water at you, you handle it because you know how they hunt and you readied yourself when you went down to the river. But see in that situation, you'd already checked off some boxes before you came close to the river's edge.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Environmental Knowledge

When it comes to self-defense, violence, and crime, the fastest way I know to:
a) get your brains blown into a fine pink mist
b) spit teeth and blood onto the floor
c) park your ass on a jail bunk
is to utter four simple words before you ever find yourself in a situation.

Those four words? "I know that already."

Violence has been my life. I do not remember a time in my life when I wasn't doing it, dealing with it, studying it, preparing for it, stopping it from happening, living with the consequences, writing about it, teaching it, or testifying in court about it. I have over five decades of experience dealing with and trying to understand violence. Yet, every morning I get up and I'm nearly overwhelmed by what I don't know about the subject.  It's that big, that deep, that wide.

So when someone looks at me and says, "I know that already," my response is "Okay, you also know e=mc2. Explain it to me. What does it mean? How does it work?"

Yeah they 'know' it, but they don't understand it.

I told you that to prepare you for this. There are lots of so-called self-defense experts out there who throw a term around. That term is situational awareness. Every time I hear it I want to turn it into a cereal commercial, "Situational awareness is part of a balanced tacti-kool breakfast!" That's how much credibility the term -- and most the people who use it -- have lost with me. Think 'knowing' e=mc2 and you're in the same neighborhood.

The reason for my disgust is situational awareness is one of those 'everyone knows what it means' terms. They all know it -- at least the term.  They claim to have it. They all use it as dire warnings (you must have situational awareness). But nobody can explain what the hell it means.

Okay if you know it, what are the components? What is the process? How do you apply it? What are you looking for and why? Most of all, what's involved in developing it?

Important safety tip: If someone can't answer these questions they're talking out their ass.

Where that transitions into outright 'full of shit' is when the person who can't rattle off these aspects is a teacher. If a teacher can't fully answer, "What's situational awareness and what do I need to develop it?" turn and walk out the door

I'm not talking about vague answers or sound bite 'rules.'  An example is an instructor saying, "Situational awareness is you never let anyone approach you closer than five feet." Oh great. So you're going to shoot your waiter for coming to take your order? And you'll be stepping out of an elevator littered with broken and unconscious people who dared to move within five feet of you. You're going to look really cool ninja'in' your way down the hallway at work.

Another example of sound bite stupidity is "being aware when a mugger is approaching you." Oh, really? And may I ask -- since muggers don't tend to wear shirts that read "mugger" -- how is one supposed to determine the job description, much less the intent of said approaching individual? Or again, do we just ignore this small detail and start blazing away?

There are entirely too many people who don't have the vaguest clue about what situational awareness is, but, man, will they tell you that you need to have it. Magically along with situational awareness will come full and complete knowledge of when you get to pull your gun and start blasting or unleash your deadly fighting art on someone.  Man, if you're looking for 'going to prison for defending yourself,' I cannot think of a better way.

So let's start with developing a functional definition of situational awareness. Try this: Having the ability to read the environment and the process of accurately assessing particular situations within an environment.

Okay, kind of vague, but ... but ... it has nothing to do with danger. Funny that because putting that spin on it we step it up to: Primarily to monitor when things are normal for that environment and therefore safe.

Normal? Safe? Situational awareness is about danger, excitement, and crime! It's about when it's time to unleash my kung-fu awesomeness. Normal has nothing to do with it.

The hell it doesn't ...

Clint Overland made a comment about "In the Name of Self-Defense" (my recent book), "Every other book I've ever read about this subject presupposes the reader knows something already. This book doesn't." Okay... so?

I have a saying, "Awareness without knowledge is paranoia."  That right there is the source of my problem with how many people use the term situational awareness. Be aware! OF WHAT?

If you don't know what normal is for a situation, there is no way you can tell when something is abnormal, much less dangerous. Situational awareness is more than just receiving information (looking around and being aware). It's having a working knowledge to process that incoming data, shift through, file, and pick out anomalies -- especially ones commonly associated with trouble, unacceptable behavior, and danger.

This brings us not to situational awareness, but one of its foundations, environmental knowledge. What is environmental knowledge? Well, it's kind of like a blend between cultural anthropology, psychology, data collection, and reading. But most of all, it's knowing that you can know this stuff and apply it.

Let me give you an example. A big problem the U.S. military was having soldiers knocking Middle Easterners on their asses (or shooting them) for getting up in their faces. The danger of suicide bombers aside, the beaten citizens maintained the soldiers were committing unprovoked attacks. So how does this work with environmental knowledge?

Anywhere you go, there are certain elements that must be addressed when humans live together.
Knowing that is the first step in understanding environmental knowledge. Among the many issues that must be worked out among the locals is acceptable distances between different people, personal space, and tone of voice appropriate to the situation. These change according to the relationship and the task. There are also scripted behaviors and patterns on how you handle different situations.

Knowing that, we can add another layer. Americans tend to maintain a greater distance and a more neutral tone unless they are particularly aggravated and threatening violence. Middle Easterners tend to function closer and use different tonal qualities. Are they about to attack? No. That is the cultural norm there. But their cultural norm is interpreted by American soldiers as "getting up in mah face." BOOM! "Uhhh, Sir. We have a bit of a situation ..."

But we don't have to travel around the world to apply environmental knowledge. We can start working it right here at home. I recently asked a fellow American if he could tell by just looking if someone was an American Black, an Ethiopian, or a Jamaican. He said no. I told him facial features and, because of diet growing up, there are common, recognizable differences in fat distribution patterns. Ordinarily -- and by that I mean you just walking past the person -- this makes no difference. When you deal with the person, there are differences in attitudes, values, and beliefs. What are they? That is environmental knowledge. You cannot assume everyone of the same skin color thinks and behaves the same way.

What are the cultural norms? What are the socioeconomic differences between places? What behavior is acceptable among the locals and for that situation? Quick what are the circumstances where you expect to see a woman in a bikini? Where would the same elicit a WTF response from you?

These are things you don't tend to consciously think about (or worse, automatically assume) that undermine your environmental knowledge. Start thinking about them. Start consciously looking for the standards and rules of behavior you subconsciously follow in your everyday environments. Then start looking at the same in other places you go. They're there. If you know to look for them, you can see and understand them.

Why? How can you tell when something is abnormal, if you can't identify what is normal? Without the baseline of environmental knowledge, your situational awareness is meaningless.

Years ago there was a TV show called "NYPD Blue." Detective Sipowicz is sitting in an unmarked police car with his estranged son (who has just become a cop).  He tells his son there are four things a cop must know about his beat: the people, the places, what they do, and the time they do them.

That's environmental knowledge. Fictional or not, that's a good starting point. In fact, an officer even wrote an article about it:

In closing, I'd like to share with you something an old guy told a young guy:
You're smart, so if you don't understand something, it's not because you're incapable. It's because you're missing information. You need to start asking questions to fill in that missing information instead of making assumptions about what fills in the gap.

Here's the problem with what most people think they know about situational awareness. It's not just that they lack environmental knowledge, it's what they're filling in the gaps with. Starting with in the rush to get to the tacti-kool stuff, thinking they already know and have situational awareness.

Kind of hard to have situational awareness without having a clue about what the components are. What the process is. How you apply it.  What are you looking for and why? Most of all, what's involved in developing it?

We'll go into what else is involved in situational awareness in another piece. For right now, start working at replacing your assumptions with verifiable knowledge of the environment.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Stand Your Ground and the Slaughter of Innocents

Read this first. 
> Christian Science Monitor
 > By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer

Until this, I'd liked the Christian Science Monitor as one of the few remaining news sources that tried for a working balance between speed and accuracy. Apparently, Mr. Jonsson did all of his 'research' on the internet, borrowed from other media sources and only asked academic/political sources instead of talking to people who actually work with the subject.

My wife read this article to me and before she got to the second paragraph, I was
snarling, "BULLSHIT!"

Here's the first paragraph:
 > Two recent cases in Montana and Minnesota where homeowners appeared to
 > set traps before fatally shooting teenage intruders suggest that US
 > society may be drawing some limits on the controversial "stand your
 > ground" defense at the heart of major recent court cases, including
 > the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

First there is the difference between the castle doctrine and the stand your ground.

Starting with the general ideas: "Castle doctrine" means being INSIDE a residence you own or one you legally occupy

"Stand your ground" laws apply to more general circumstances (i.e., being outside)

Is there a lot of overlap between Castle and Stand? Yes. Are they different? Yep. Both came about because of prosecutorial 'interpretation' of Duty to Retreat

The reporter needed to know these three distinct elements before he sat his wobbly ass down his computer.

Why? Two points.

A) There is NO nationalized and homogenized standard. Each state words their laws and interprets them differently. (That's why I had to use Wikipedia, a source that's about as a reliable as Jell-O.)

B) Because these laws *have* a boatload of 'limits' on them already. And more than that each and every state interprets them differently. So Pudknocker there is comparing apples, envelopes, and fencing materials. The very least Bozo could have done was stayed inside the category of fruit make his comparisons.

Second, except for a specialized version in Texas, overwhelmingly life is given priority over property in the U.S. justice systems. Basically, you can't cap someone for just stealing property (we'll get to the Texas 'thaing' in a bit but there's limits on it too).

This is critical because it underlies the distinction between theft (the illegal taking of property)
and robbery (the illegal taking of property by violence or the threat of violence)

Putting that in simple terms, one is taking your stuff. The other one is that and is dangerous to you.

Oh BTW, 'justifiable' means something very specific in a legal context. Specifically, "Lucy, you have some 'splaining to do." It isn't just  saying, "I was in fear for my life" and pulling the trigger. Built into the definition is you gotta be able to provide a metric fuck ton of evidence that this conclusion was reasonable.

Third, where you *can* justifiably cap someone is when *you* are in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily injury. But now (and this is technically wrong) the burden of proof shifts to you. (It's actually production of evidence.) You must provide evidence the act was reasonable. That means show up with a boatload of evidence that your life was in danger when you took the life of another citizen.

Fourth, self defense is an affirmative defense. Again, not exactly right, but for laymen, "When you claim self defense, you are confessing to a crime." ("In the Name of Self Defense") But you are claiming there were extenuating circumstances, so you shouldn't get your pee-pee whacked.

In criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the state. The prosecution must prove you did it, how you did it and that you knew it was a crime. With a claim of self-defense the state doesn't have to prove you did it, you already said you did. After claiming self defense you have to convince the cops and court your actions were justified. And therefore not a crime.

Fifth, if your behavior in the incident (e.g., your participation in the creation and escalation), the manner you did it, lack of threat, or the circumstances undermine your justification, then you weren't acting in self defense. You *did* commit a crime.

For example, if I shoot someone who is swinging an ax and charging at me, I can reasonably claim self defense (immediate threat). However if I escape, return, drop a construction zip tie over his head, and leave him to strangle to death, I've just committed murder (premeditated). Conversely, if I'm robbing the person's store and he charges me with an ax, I can't claim self defense for shooting him because I was already committing a felony. Yeah, little details like that matter.

Oh yeah, with both the zip tie and the robbery — technically speaking — I could squeal self-defense all I want, but I'd still be charged with murder one. Just saying it doesn't make it true.

Take a look at those three scenarios, only in the first could stand your ground even remotely apply. The castle doctrine in none. This is a *big* part of the reason I'm having such a hard time with the journalist slopping these terms around like they're inter-fucking-changeable.

Sixth, both stand your ground and castle doctrine came about because of the way prosecutors were interpreting duty to retreat.

I have a saying, "Good ideas make bad laws." This makes more sense when you add in a quote from Lyndon Johnson: "You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered."

Retreat from violence is a good idea. Turn it into a legal requirement and you cause some major problems — like making it functionally illegal to defend yourself.

To give prosecutors some credit, a majority of claims of self-defense are bullshit. That wasn't what the person was doing. Then I will add when that's the case, it's a slam dunk for the prosecutor. Chalk another in the win box. (Really important for your career — especially when your boss is elected.)

The problem is that prosecutors were taking it too far. They were using duty to retreat to prosecute everyone, including actual self-defense cases. I know of a case in Massachusetts where a home invader broke into a woman's house, chased her upstairs, broke through the locked bedroom door, and was shot and killed by the woman. The prosecutor basically got her convicted for failing in her duty to retreat because she didn't climb out the window.

This kind of behavior by prosecutors is what started bringing forth stand your ground and castle doctrine laws (including Colorado's famous "Make My Day Law"). It wasn't that 'innocent' people were being killed, but innocent citizens were going to prison.

With the castle laws there's also is the added issue (and acceptance) of property law — especially when it comes to the expectation of safety within your own dwelling.

While we're here, let's talk about the increased risk of someone coming into your home when you're there. Start with home invasions, but don't stop there. A raw fucked-up reality is a good number of serial killers save all kinds of hassle and clean up by killing you in your own home. Same goes for a certain breed of violent serial rapists. The privacy of your home gives him privacy too. Also the only DNA and fingerprints he needs to clean up is his.

Eighth, neither castle doctrine nor stand your ground give anyone carte blanche. These are the limits I mentioned that are already in place.

Starting with the fact, there *still* has to be an immediate threat to you. If you find an intruder in your home, there is already a high presupposition of danger (and rightly so). That alone is not enough, however. If that guy turns  and bolts, you can't chase him down the hall and shoot him six times in the back, twice more to finish him off. By running, he was not offering you any threat, much less lethal force.

*Nor* as in the case in Minnesota —and as it's looking in Montana — can you lure someone(s) into a trap. If Dingleberry the Wonder Reporter had actually looked at the statutes, he'd have known these provisions already exist. And if he had then knowingly written this tripe it's deliberate deception and misinformation presented as 'news.'

Whereas, if someone breaks into your home in the middle of the night, you confront him and he charges you, that's a different story. But it is the addition of other behavior that creates more jeopardy (danger).

Here are some more limits. There was a hellacious fight in Colorado over does 'dwelling' include the garage. It was settled as attached yes, stand-alone no. Another thing that is up in the air is enclosed patios.

Legislators are having some problems with shooting through doors, though. As in, are you in immediate danger from someone on the other side of the door, especially if you have room to move out of the line of fire of anything comes through that door. Think the difference between your bedroom door versus the door to your garage.

I tell you all this so you'll understand when I say the standards in Florida are going to be different from California, Colorado, Texas, and New York. As they will be in Montana and Minnesota.

And that brings us back to the article. You can't compare cases by saying they are all under the same 'law,' when you're talking different state laws and interpretations. You really start stepping on your dick when you start using two separate concepts interchangeably.

Does Montana have a castle law? Does it include the garage? Was the garage attached or separate? These are just some of the already existing limits written into the castle laws. Now let's add other elements about use of lethal force. Because Markus Kaarma had a video feed in his garage, did he have prior knowledge the intruder was unarmed? Thereby unable to offer him a viable threat? Gee other behaviors, other considerations? Where have we seen that before?

The Minnesota case wasn't castle doctrine, it was flat out luring, ambush, and murder. That batshit motherfucker crossed the lines in about eighteen different ways. Which is why he went down. Castle doctrine doesn't allow for what he did. Oh gosh ... more limits. Whudda thunk?

I mentioned the Texas thaing. Force, up to and including lethal, is allowed under Texas law to protect property — especially at night (Section 9.41: PROTECTION OF ONE'S OWN PROPERTY)

This is why the violence against women opponents got their knickers in a knot over the acquittal of Ezikiel Gilbert for shooting the 'escort,' who had just ripped him off and was fleeing. They say he got away with murder. Uhhh, well, no. Under the Texas Penal Code, that is allowed. It wouldn't have been anywhere else, but that's what I'm talking about when I say it's important to look at how laws differ from state to state. As well how such laws are interpreted locally.

That's important because it starts out about property. Whereas, self defense starts with the threat to self, whether from robbery or other form of attack. Now you do have property rights. And often intervening with someone attempting to steal from you will result in danger and violence. But the situation has to morph to that before you can use force. Unless you're a Texan, the force you're using has to be in protection of yourself, not the property. And most of all, it must be appropriate to the threat you are facing. Damn, more limitations.

Person versus property is a not-so-subtle and important distinction. Starting with the fact you can't run out with intent to do or threaten violence to protect your property. This gets a lot of people, who charge outside with a bat, gun, or knife, into trouble in states other than Texas. I can't point a gun at someone for stealing my stuff. I can only point a gun at him for offering me a threat.

What I'm really going to rip is this journo's contention that the Zimmerman/Martin case had fuck all to do with any of this shit (other than to trigger people's emotional monkey brain reactions and get them stupid) but before that let's look at this little gem he wrote

 > The philosophy of self-defense and home defense have deep roots in
 > English common law and more-modern American jurisprudence. In 2005,
 > additional protections for self-defense began to emerge: That year
 > Florida became the first state to expand the castle doctrine - the
 > idea that one's home is one's castle - to include public spaces.

Okay, last time I checked, there was this really popular crime in Florida called 'carjacking.' It is a form of robbery, often exceedingly violent robbery. Like lots of people get killed or injured by carjackers.

The Florida 'expansion' of the castle doctrine included vehicles and someone trying to carjack you as you were getting into your vehicle. (Two common carjacking strategies involve running up, opening the door, and dragging you out of the car or jumping you as you're getting in or preparing to get in.) The key element here is violence being offered to you in or near your car. Florida prosecutors were having just a little too much fun and keeping their numbers up by prosecuting people who fought off carjackers by claiming they had a duty to retreat.

While stand your ground does apply to being attacked on the street, the castle doctrine doesn't. At least in states that haven't deemed your car as your castle. So once again, using these terms interchangeably? Wrong! Applying them to *all* states as if it's some kind of homogenized concept? Again, wrong.

Then Captain Dingleberry gives us this:

 > "If somebody breaks into your house in the middle of the night, the
 > presumption is you have the right to assume that they are armed and
 > intend to do you harm," says criminologist and gun policy expert
 > Edward Leddy, a professor emeritus at St. Leo University in Florida.
 > The question in the Minnesota and Montana cases, he says, is, "How
 > reasonable is that presumption? The problem is there's no clear-cut
 > answer to that. It depends on the situation and the reasonableness of
 > the person's fear."

Does what that 'criminologist and gun policy expert' say make more sense now? Although I agree with what the expert said, personally I'd have been more impressed if the writer had gotten it from an attorney instead of an academic. Ya know, like someone who actually deals with the interpretation and application of the laws? Such people often have other really important tidbits to add. But that leaves us with the question of would the journalist have even known why those extra distinctions were important? As of this moment, you certainly do.

Furthermore — and this may just because I'm a professional writer and I know the odor of spin when I smell it — slamming criminologist and gun policy 'expert' together in the same sentence creates a subconscious connection between criminals and guns. How far the reader takes this depends on how informed said reader is. But it's a real subtle and deniable way to imply that anyone with a gun is a criminal.

 > At least 22 states now have stand your ground laws, according to the
 > National Conference of State Legislatures, but all US states give wide
 > latitude to homeowners who kill intruders, as long as their fears of
 > injury were reasonable. Since the national uproar over the Martin
 > shooting, lawmakers in seven states have attempted unsuccessfully to
 > weaken or even repeal the new breed of self-defense laws.

Again, knowing what you know now, the first part of that should make more sense (even though they are quoting NCSL —who lost one of their only two registered Republicans when my wife left). It's the second part that's both sort of correct and what the fuck does that case have *anything* to do with the subject?

One of the reasons I take exception to that paragraph is the 'new breed of self-defense laws' comment. It would have been more accurate to say a return to old school interpretation of self-defense laws. The last 'new breed of self-defense law' was adding duty to retreat.

Another reason is that he's not reporting on the Martin/Zimmerman case, he's reporting on the media. The stand your ground law was *never* used in the Zimmerman case. The defense was presented *as* self defense. As in lethal force was justified because of an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily injury posed by Martin. That is why Zimmerman was found not guilty.

See, here's something that even the most career-driven, convict-them- all-let-god-sort-them- out prosecutor can't get around. When the attack is happening, duty to retreat is an unreasonable expectation. A duty to retreat (and by extension stand your ground) applies *before* the violence starts!

Could you have walked away? That is where duty to retreat and stand your ground become relevant. The reason it wasn't relevant to the Zimmerman case was he was getting the back of his head jack hammered on the concrete already! Oh, does getting your head pounded on concrete constitute an immediate danger of death or grievous bodily injury? To quote Bugs Bunny, "Cooooould beeeee"

The stand your ground angle was *entirely* a media creation. It was the media pundits and legal 'experts' called in by those pundits who introduced this concept to the Martin/Zimmerman 'narrative.' Not the actual case mind you, but the story and brouhaha that kicked up over it. Stand your ground was used to fill air time while pontificating about possible defenses. Stand your ground had nothing to do with the case itself, the laws he was tried under or why Zimmerman was found not guilty.

It was pontificating pundits that led politicians to make noises about repealing stand your ground  (that Cowboy Attitude is what killed that poor innocent child who was slamming Zimmerman's head on the concrete). Because of the media created the connection stand your ground is inextricably linked with the Zimmerman case in the minds of the public. The media didn't report the news. They made it. The author of this piece is perpetuating the falsehood.

 > "The terrible reality is that there's a certain percentage of the
 > population who do not look at these laws as protection but rather as
 > an opportunity," says Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George
 > Washington University.

True. But I notice this paragon of journalistic integrity and professionalism doesn't mention there's an even bigger segment of the population who qualifies as a professional and heavily armed criminal subclass and who thankfully mostly limit their violence and killing to each other, but are not above robbery and violence against innocent civilians. But that would have required talking to someone other than an academic or research deeper than other media sources.

Oh and while we're at it, except for the Japanese exchange student he's about to mention, what our champion of truth *doesn't* report is that everyone of these slain individuals were in the process of committing crimes.

 > The case in Montana has some similarities to a Louisiana incident in
 > 1992. In that earlier case, a Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro
 > Hattori, was killed by a scared homeowner in Baton Rouge after he
 > knocked on the door, looking for a Halloween party. However, Louisiana
 > prosecutors declined to file charges.

Ummm you really gotta turn your head and squint to see 'similarities' between someone disregarding the order to"freeze," and being shot approaching an armed homeowner standing in his car port and Kaarma  leaving the garage door open as a baited trap. Then the Montana man running outside and around to the garage entrance and  opening fire on the guy he just cornered in his garage.

Uhhhh, they had garages and carports, they involved shooting of exchange students, but past that saying 'some similarities' is awfully fucking weak.

 > But in a potential sign of changing attitudes, prosecutors have
 > decided to go forward with charges in the Montana case. Prosecutors
 > say Mr. Kaarma had told his hairdresser that he was "ready to shoot
 > some [expletive] kid" after getting repeatedly burglarized.

Or maybe what the dipfuck Kaarma did was *not* self defense or castle doctrine, but premeditated laying a trap to murder.

Hey wait, don't most castle laws have provisions against that? If so, how are attitudes changing? Much less potentially?  Damn. There's that smell again.

 > Kaarma, prosecutors say, will have to prove that he could have been
 > killed or seriously hurt by the intruder. "The state doesn't believe
 > that Kaarma identified Dede as a threat to commit a forcible felony in
 > the garage," prosecutor Andrew Paul told the Missoulian newspaper in
 > Montana. "He actually sought Dede out by essentially trapping him in
 > the garage."

Wait. Is he quoting another newspaper as a source? Boy, he really did do his research. I wonder how many other quotes he got from other articles instead of directly from the source.

That aside though, does the prosecutor's statement about Kaarma make more sense knowing about affirmative defense, production of evidence, immediate threat, and  reasonable belief of danger?

One thing about the Montana case that is *not* mentioned in any of the sources I could find is whether or not the garage was attached to the house or a stand alone (including a breezeway). That would make a difference in Colorado, but I don't know about Montana.

Having said that. I don't know about you, but Montana kinda looks like another trap to me. This invalidates application of castle doctrine as a valid justification.  Ain't it just too bad there's no limits on these laws that allow for Wild West shoot outs and cold blooded murder of innocent children?

 > The Minnesota shooting, meanwhile, is similar to a 2007 Texas case in
 > which a man named Joe Horn corralled two burglars outside his home and
 > killed them on the front lawn. Mr. Horn had a clear understanding of
 > changes in the law that protected homeowners, which he discussed with
 > a dispatcher before he went outside and shot the men.
 > A Texas grand jury refused to bring charges against Horn.

Gee, you think that maybe the fact that it was in TEXAS! had anything to do with that last part? As in remember Penal code 9:41? HELLOOOOOoooo!

This kind of slipshod journalism and lexus-nexus search for making comparisons and finding quotes just pisses me off. It's become endemic in our 'need for speed' news media. That really hurts because like I said, until now the Christian Science Monitor really seemed to strive for presenting well researched articles.

Mutter, mutter, grumble, growl, mutter.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Our Fear of Conflict (or 'be polite')

Back in the '70s, I was a young, selfish street thug. But I also knew that something was wrong with my approach to life. Getting into a lot of fights was a clue. While it sometimes seemed like trouble would go out of its way to find me, I had a strong suspicion what I was doing might have a hand in the results.

Fortunately, I also liked to read. So I figured maybe that could help me with the other. One of the books I read was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

It changed my life.

Now granted it took a few decades before I could pull my head out of my ass enough to truly apply the principles. Still, not just in the end, but all along the process; this cheesy titled book, written in 1936, turned me on to effective ways for positively dealing with people.

Kind of important because often the people I was dealing with would shoot you in the face for fucking with them.

Usually when someone says something's a 'lifesaver,' it's a bit hyperbolic. Not this time. This advice actually works to help keep you from getting shot, stabbed, beaten and thrown through windows. But surprise, surprise, the information in the book isn't just for extreme situations. It works for dealing with everyday people. Where it may not be a life saver, but it is a relationship and career saver.

Recently the kid brought home from the library a newly updated, How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age.

On a lark I started reading it. While staying with the original principles, it's a very good look at what we  -- as a society -- have become. How technology, media, and social media have affected our assumptions, expectations, communications, and where we often go wrong in our interactions.

Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees.

Or putting it in a more updated version, it's hard to see our own habits and patterns that we do in our modern, technological, high-speed 'normal.'

While reading, I came across a particular line that set off explosions in my head. Many have mastered the ironic art of increasing touch points while simultaneously losing touch.

Such a simple statement. Yet it helped clarify something that has been bothering me for a long time. Something I knew was big, Something I couldn't quite define even though I was running into it all the time. Something that just didn't make sense, but made me go "WTF?"

Remember, I teach people how to survive and function in both physically dangerous and emotionally stressful environments. When teaching both personal safety and Conflict Communications, I tell people "be polite."

With a lot of people, you'd think I was telling them to cut themselves and jump into a pool of sharks. I mean there is active resistance to the idea of being polite -- especially while in conflict.

This went a whole lot deeper than "I don't wanna." It often shades into outright hostility to the idea and -- to quote Hunter S. Thompson -- 'fear and loathing.' You'd think, by the reactions, I was disarming and telling them they have to be victims.

If that's the attitude, then there's a serious problem with definitions.

In teaching people to be safe from physical violence and handle conflict, I often run across a whole lot of people who self-define themselves as 'nice.' Basically, they're telling me, "I'm a nice person, but I'm getting threatened by bullies and taken advantage of."  Inevitably with the 'nice person' self-definition there comes the 'how they are conditioned to be polite' argument -- and excuse.

I add the excuse tagline because the next step seems to be: Well gawd damnit being polite doesn't work, so I need to learn how to be an aggressive asshole -- to stop those aggressive assholes.

Now I admit I'm from the Los Angeles Unified School District, but even I can do the math on this. One asshole plus one asshole equals two assholes.

But join me in a much bigger reality break. If you're a 'nice person' and he's an aggressive asshole, he's better at it than you are. He's got more practice time and experience than you do. So try as hard as you will, you're playing catch up with him. He has a head start with that strategy.

In the meantime you're hurting other people because you're now being an asshole too. So much for meeting the criteria of being a 'nice person.'
Unless of course you believe that self-identifying yourself as 'nice' is the same as being nice. (And incidentally we'll get to that in a bit -- especially with what's wrong with people's self-certification of being 'polite.')

I often encounter two 'extremes' with what I teach. One is the person who is afraid of conflict -- so they put up with unacceptable behavior from others.

The other is someone who assumes there's going to be conflict and skips over everything else to physical resolution. They call the resulting shit storm 'self-defense' whether it be empty hand or with weapons. Uhhhh... NOT!

Oh look, forest, trees ...

So how about we take a look at what's happening here?

First and foremost: Where is it written that dealing with other people automatically means conflict?

This especially when it's a disagreement or negotiating how things are going to be. If that's your assumption, then odds are it's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, odds are it's going to be a fast track to it.

Second, have you ever sat down to think about how much of it 'becoming a conflict' has to do with how you approach it?

Kinda like when I was getting into so many 'fights.' Dead smelly fish on the table time: Automatically assuming it's going to be a conflict, usually comes hand-in-hand with an approach issue.

Third, how much of what you're doing -- especially around your politeness -- is touch points instead of being in touch?

That third -- but not last -- point is why the line out of the Carnegie book clicked. You can do the form and totally miss the function.

Start with it isn't that being polite doesn't work. It's that aping politeness -- while thinking to yourself 'what a fucking asshole' -- ain't gonna work.

There's this thing called nonverbal leakage that speaks louder than your words. This is especially true if you're being a condescending, self-righteous snob who looks at the other person like a turd. A turd that you're forced to deal with because HE is daring to infringe on your sacred space.

I see this attitude a lot among people who claim they're being polite. They have the veneer, but not the reality. They lack both the sincerity and the intent. That is what is coming across louder than their word choice. Way louder.

A common variation of this is if you're only being 'polite' to get your way -- especially from a stranger.

In Conflict Communications, I tell people, "Relationships are economies. A healthy and balanced exchange of needs and services." As humans, we're designed to have empathy for and are willing to work with those we have established economies with. We do things for people we have economies with. Others, well, not so much.

The problem is a lot of people approach others only when they're trying to get something.

Wait. They want to get something from a person they have no economy with? Yet they want the other person to go out of his or her way to accommodate their desires? And once that's over, they're done with you.

Wow ... nothing like being used as a cum catcher, then thrown away after the other person has got their nut to make you really want to cooperate with someone.

And yes, it's about that rude

This approach is especially obnoxious when it demands a change of behavior from, or attempts to censor, others. This is particularly common among the 'I'm offended' crowd, professional victims and social harpies.* If you want a screaming example, look at social media. **

When you want to bring about change -- despite what many people want to believe -- just being polite isn't enough. This especially applies to just aping the forms while you're a bubbling cauldron of resentment and/or selfishness under the surface.

Even more appalling is how many people don't even pretend to be polite before they demand others change behavior or censor themselves. They're out and out in your face about it.

Even if you do the touch points if you bring a shitty attitude along with these demands that's what's going to come across loudest. The fact you're being shitty, selfish, and demanding is what's going to win out over you being 'polite.'

Let's take a look at bringing something else in rather than just politeness. Your neighbors are having a party. It's getting late and it's still loud. You go over there, knock on the door.

"Hey Joe. Man, it sounds like you guys are having a good time. That's great. But it's getting a little late, so could I ask you to ask your guests to keep it down to a dull roar? Great. I appreciate it. Have a good time. Night."

Oh, so you don't know your neighbor's name? Because you've never bothered to introduce yourself and establish a friendly coexistence and economy before asking him for something? An economy so you can talk to him as an equal in the spirit of cooperation?

Shame on you.

But even if you don't know your neighbor, now's a good time to introduce yourself. Hell, even apologize for not introducing yourself earlier. And then, chat with him at a later date to keep the economy going. You have to establish an economy to get results.

Before we look at all that's going on -- other than just 'politeness' -- with that version, let's consider the other option.

That's you knocking on the door with a shitty attitude and saying to a complete stranger -- in his own home -- "Would you PLEASE turn that music down."

Really, how's that going to go over?

But, but ... you were polite. You even said 'please.' Yeah? So what? Everything else outweighed the 'form' of being polite. Oh yeah and when you call the cops to 'enforce your will,' he's going to know who did it. Wow, great way to establish a working economy with someone who lives next to you.

Being polite is about more than just following a formula and mouthing certain words. And yet, how many people have been told again and again 'to just be polite?'

This to the point of it becoming a meaningless ritual? To the point you assume that if you perform the ritual -- no matter how sloppily -- you'll get your way?

Truth is, in small stuff, faux-polite works -- like passing someone in the aisle. You say, "Excuse me," they step or lean out of your way. But in bigger things -- like changing behavior -- not so much. The sad thing is, we know this. Turn it around, how well does someone being superficially polite, but looking at you like you're a turd work with you?

Yet not only is this faux-polite a lot of people's main strategy, but they don't know what to do if it doesn't work. Well except to become an asshole too. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but 'becoming' and 'too?' I think that last word might be misspelled.

I strongly suspect this failure of faux-politeness is a big part of why I get such resistance when I say, "Be polite." People want politeness to work without having to bother to establish a win/win economy.

But let's look a little deeper at the goal of politeness -- and what it has to do with our fear of conflict. Let me give you a paradigm shift about being polite.

Because of my past, I always resonated with Heinlein's summations of politeness and manners.

One: Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untravelled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty,"  "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

Two: An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

The first one should give you pause all by itself -- especially when it comes to people who believe they shouldn't have to be polite. I think Heinlein was cutting such folks a bunch of slack by suggesting that these motives are 'pure.' It's been my experience that behind the rationalizations -- even if they're idealistic and 'empowering' -- there's a whole lot of selfish going on. As in: "Fuck you. I don't have to be polite. My feelings and what I want are more important than you and your feelings."

But I also want you to look at the first one from the standpoint of people watering down their version of politeness until it becomes an empty ritual. Often such folks have been raised 'to be polite' and claim they are. But they've lost faith in it. Or worse, feel it's a burden they must grudgingly bear. As such, they do a real shitty job.

Yet how often do such people still self-certify themselves as polite?  You don't have to look hard to see this. Try standing in a check out line and watch how people treat the checkers. This especially if they're on the cell phone.

Once you start looking for 'touch points, but out of touch,' you'll see it everywhere. There are a number of folks out there trying to get by with the bare minimum -- unless they want something from you.

But what about the second point? Isn't it ... extreme?

Let me speak from having been out in those extremes. First off, when being killed or having to kill someone else is the cost of not being polite, being polite becomes way less onerous.

Oh, getting your brains blown into a fine pink mist is the cost for not finding a way to get along? Uhhhhh ... whaddya say we find a way to get along?

The interesting thing about environment is the 'form' is different. It's not a Ms. Manners type of etiquette. But there are very distinct rules and protocols about how you conduct yourself with others in these places. And the higher the firepower of those involved, the more strictly followed these rules are. While they are different, they are both learnable and serve to avoid keeping things from escalating to physical violence. Here, like everywhere else -- even though the rules are different -- sincerity counts.

But here's a brain popper, even in environments where violence is not uncommon there's a lot more violence that doesn't happen.

How? Through compromise, negotiation, and 'working things out.' And yes, in these circumstances often working it out involves yelling, screaming, threatening, and posturing. It also often uses the intervention of others to keep it from going bad. If that doesn't work, it goes physical. But very few people actually want it to go that way.

Keep that in mind, it's important.

Because it's something people -- who revel in being verbally and emotionally violent, but detest physical violence -- both refuse to acknowledge and rely on.

How's that for a contradiction?

Generally you'll find that rude people rely on others having too much self-control to throw them through a window for their behavior. I put it in this extreme because a lot of people would misconstrue it if I said, "They rely on other people being polite." Polite has little to do with it.

There is a common limitation -- not on part of the rude person -- but the people he or she is affecting. The affected often don't have the people skills to have options other than:
1) suck it up and suffer in silence
2) get offended and pretend to be polite while confronting the person
3) get verbally aggressive and openly confrontational
4) go physical.

Very few people are willing to deal with the hassle of Number 4. And that's what the rude person is relying on.

This is enhanced by the image the rude person often projects that he or she is willing to become violent. The person already has proved he or she is willing to break social conventions. So it's easy to believe that they'll take it that extra step into being confrontational, out of control, and even -- oh mah gawd -- violent.

Oooohhhh skaarEEEE!

Realistically, this lack of options by others is a free pass for the rude person. The worst thing likely to happen to the rude asshole is he or she encounters someone who yells obscenities and postures and poses back. Gee, that's emotionally unpleasant, but in the end that and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

In most circumstances, there's no real danger or negative consequences for rude and aggressive behavior. The rude and obnoxious person knows it and relies on it when dealing with the average person trying to be 'polite' and address his or her behavior.

So, in case you missed it, overwhelmingly being a rude asshole is both safe and a 'win' for that person to get what he or she wants.

That is until the person runs into someone who has other resources and different ways to deal with the situation than just being faux-polite

This especially means someone who doesn't necessarily believes it has to be a conflict, but isn't afraid of it turning into one -- up to and including it going physical.

Such a person doesn't have to be rude and/or aggressive. In fact, they can be sincere, open to compromise and polite. But that same person doesn't cave in or get freaked out when the other person is rude and aggressive. Which sends a serious message about the effectiveness of that kind of behavior around them. Like getting the rude person wondering, "Why isn't this guy reacting in a predictable manner? Someone who's scared of me shouldn't be remaining calm and polite when I'm huffing and puffing. What am I not seeing here?"

Believe it or not, under these circumstances being legitimately polite becomes a whole lot more effective.

I know it's hard to believe, but when everyone has an equal chance of dying, nobody wants to start that wheel of fortune spinning. When that's the cost of not being polite, manners and politeness make all kinds of sense. In such circumstances if someone is politely offering a chance not bleed, you'll be amazed at how fast everyone wants to be polite.

I take it to that extreme to show you an important concept. People are rude, bullying, and obnoxious when they don't believe that physical violence will be a result. Or if it is, they'll be the 'winner.'

But long before it gets to that extreme, there are lots of other ways to steer things away from it turning into conflict. Yeah, yeah, it's on the table, but what do you say we try something different instead? Trying to establish a win/win outcome for example.

Someone actively working to keep it from becoming a conflict has a lot more options than someone confronting a person with faux-politeness.

The first step in keeping it from heading into conflict is to always remember Hillel's version of the Golden Rule: That which is hateful to you do not do unto others.

To give that teeth, I'm going to pull two lines out of HTWF&IPITDigital Age: At the core of this skill is an understanding of one of the most foundational truths about human nature. We are self-preserving creatures, who are instinctively compelled to defend, deflect, and deny all threats to our well-being not the least of which are threats to our pride.

Stop and re-read that again. It's that important.

Here is the no brainer Yet one people, who only want to invest in the forms, totally miss. If it would piss you off, don't fucking do it to someone else.

The same shit that triggers you, triggers others.

Not specifics, but in general. And the list is pretty simple. Don't disrespect. Don't demean. Don't treat other people like shit. Don't insult. Don't verbally attack. Don't go out of your way to confront.

And most of all don't be a hostile, self-righteous asshole -- no matter how self-righteous you feel.

If that tone of voice would light you up, don't use it. If that look of contempt would infuriate you, don't look at other people like that. If someone being more concerned about their own shit and not caring about you lights you up, don't do the same to others. If people not listening to you flames you, listen to others!

When you put it in this context. Being polite is NOT a sign of weakness. It's a sign of respect, reliability, and the willingness to cooperate with someone. Doing that other shit, says the exact opposite.

This is the fundamental fuck-up people who fear conflict do all the time. I say fuck-up because there's a big difference between a mistake and a fuck -up. The difference is what we do about it. We all make mistakes. But it doesn't become a fuck-up until we refuse to own it and do something about it.

Folks who swear politeness doesn't work
1) are using faux-politeness
2) refuse to believe that's what they are doing.

The problem is that politeness doesn't work with assholes, not that they're turning a mistake into a fuck up.  Don't be that person.

Here's both a freebie and an aside, don't be afraid to apologize if you make a mistake. Well it's actually not that much of an aside. Believing you can't admit a mistake -- for whatever justification -- is often the first step on turning it into a fuck-up.

But here's another version. Many people fuck up about conflict because -- upon hearing about these other options -- they whine, "Why do I have to be the one doing it?"

Excuse me? You're the one who doesn't like conflict. The one who's afraid of it. But now you're bitching about 'having to' develop people skills, investing in creating healthy and working economies with others (so people will want to cooperate with you), having to work at negotiation and compromise? This so you reduce conflict in your life?

If 'why do I gotta' is your reaction take a real hard look about that quote about us being 'self-preserving creatures' because we are talking about pride.

More than that we're talking ego. Even if that ego is coming from the place of shame and terror of not being perfect. Nobody is perfect. And we all have room for improvement. It's called being human.

But way too often, fear of not being perfect is a great excuse to not try. To stay stuck in the same uncomfortable circumstances. If you keep doing the  same thing, you're going to keep on getting the same results.

There are some simple, but profound, truths in this article. Truths I had to spit blood to learn. Prove that you're smarter than I am and don't wait unti  your blood is the price before you start applying them.

But here's the real question. If you really don't like conflict and you want to reduce how much of it there is in your life are you willing to break certain habits and ways of thinking? This in order to both reduce conflict and come up with better solutions?

It's really that simple.


*Social harpies -- the virulent shriekers who swoop down on anyone who dares to question certain dogmas, asks uncomfortable questions or has a 'wrong' opinion.

** Hell, often on the internet, if you were the change liberal/conservative to a ethnicity, what you see them calling each other would qualify as hate speech. This behavior is seriously not impressive coming from people who not only swear they're intelligent and open minded, but also that they're nice and polite.

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