Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mac and Cheese Idealism

I want you to think about a subject that you actually know. By this I mean some field, endeavor or task that you routinely produce tangible results in. (A good standard is when you're done, there's something you can put into a wheelbarrow.)

How complicated is it to produce that?

What are the requirements to do it? What processes must you do? What steps must you take? What tools, equipment and circumstances do you need? What knowledge and skills must you have in order to produce a tangible result? Why do you do it this way (to get this result) vs. that way? What do you NOT do and why? How do you assess and gauge the countless factors that go into the process? How complicated and in depth are these so-called 'simple' things we do every day?

If this is too broad of a question, ask yourself these questions about cooking a meal. Even if you're a wit and say 'I put it into the microwave' you're only half right. First you need to be able to walk and move. Second, you need electricity and a microwave. Third, you need the prepackaged food that has been grown, harvested, manufactured(prepared), packaged, shipped, sold and refrigerated. All of those require massive technology and distribution systems. Fourth, and you'll know the experience if you've ever tried to figure out another country's electronics, you have to know how to program and start the microwave. Then there's getting it out of the microwave without burning your fingers. Lacking these, the microwave quip is meaningless. With these, it's both the end of a many complex processes and the point I'm trying to make.*

That's just microwaving, not actually cooking it yourself. Tracking back to the original questions, 'just' cooking is way more complicated, deep and involved. Yet with training and experience we easily navigate through massively complex processes in order to produce.

That's actually a double edged sword. We tend to minimize the complexity of what we do actually know. At the same time we become vulnerable to anyone trying to 'sell us' that complex issues are simple and all about 'one thing.'  The latter especially in the form of soundbites, advertising and narrative.

Things are ALWAYS more complicated, involved and variable than what someone is trying to sell you. And yes, anytime someone tells you it's ONLY about _____(fill in the blank) that person is trying to sell you an idea. Or worse, they've weaponized a reductionist cliche or term to get you to shut up.

Human behavior is one of the most complicated, variable and fascinating topics I know. I've dedicated my life to studying just one aspect of it. Yet every morning I get out of bed and am nearly overwhelmed at how much I don't know about the specialized field I'm considered an 'expert' in.  That's after five decades. Yeah, it's that deep and complex.

Oddly enough, this makes me less appealing as an expert, because I don't come out and say -- with complete confidence -- 'This is all there is and there is no more!" See simplistic answers and an abundance of confidence really appeals to the part of our brains that want to reduce the complexities of life to simplistic narratives and never mind reality (much less all those messy complications).

So the next time someone comes up at you with a soundbite and a claim of 'this is what is the cause' of ______(fill in the blank),' don't fall for their confidence or the claim of simplicity.

Stop and think how complicated, involved and variable ANYTHING you routinely do is. Then ask yourself, if I know how complicated making dinner is how likely is it that this person is the possessor of an absolute truth about not just society, but all of humanity to boot?

This allows you the response, "Sorry fella, but making macaroni and cheese is more complicated than your philosophy/politics/position/beliefs/idealism"


*Although, it's arguable that the complexities of the microwave and electricity are so far above the individual's head that the button pusher is more of a trained monkey.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Addition to the Five Rules of Violence

I've long been a fan of simple, but profound concepts.

The difference between simple and profound and a sound bite is the latter is a conclusion. Whereas the former is a fundamental. Now in case you don't know the difference between a fundamental and a basic, it's subtle, but important.  For most of the definitions, basics and fundamentals are pretty much the same. The difference shows up when you get to 'a basic is an introduction to a subject' (like basic training or kindergarten). A fundamental is something a system is based upon and rises from (like the primary colors) So while fundamentals can themselves be simple, all the ways they manifest can be complex -- really, really complex.

This as opposed to sound bites. Or what I call 'Puddle Profundities' (they sound profound, but they're actually about as deep as a puddle in a parking lot.) Unfortunately, the self-defense world is filled with these cliché, cool sounding and grossly over-simplified sound bites about what to do, 'what it takes to survive' and what is 'self-defense.' It's arguable this is an unfortunate result of business requirements. The  market (students) strongly dictates what is taught as self-defense. A whole lot of people want simplistic answers to complex problems -- and by gawd they'll pay lots of money to anyone who can provide such in training. This regardless of how quick -- in real life -- that advice will get you killed or thrown into prison.

Now it's real easy to boil complex subjects down to overly simplistic sound bites -- like what people have done with Cooper's "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."  Which to me is about as obvious as saying "I'd rather be alive after a self-defense incident." Really? No kidding? (DUuuuhhh!) But it doesn't help keep you out of a violent situation. Sound bites can be specific help for some people during an incident, but for the most part they don't help you in the middle of an incident. They're not useful guidelines for your behavior in a crisis. Nor do they prepare you for the legal, emotional or ethical  aftermath of successfully defending yourself. This especially if you used lethal force in a situation that didn't require it because your thinking had stopped at '12 and 6.'

On the other hand, it really takes skill to sum up complex circumstances down to a few -- reliable -- fundamentals. Fundamentals that no matter how far into complexities you get, still apply. I don't want to say 'that apply anywhere' (and you'll soon see why), but really apply to most circumstances.  This to the point of even though the manifestations can be -- and often are -- wildly different, it's still the same fundamental idea. And that is where the simple but profound comes in.

One example of this skill is Peyton Quinn's 'Five Rules' about violence.
1) Do not insult him
2) Do not challenge him
3) Do not threaten him
4) Do not deny it's happening
5) Give him a face saving exit.

If there is a better, more concise list of fundamental ways people step on their dicks when it comes to potentially violent situations, I've never seen it. I use the trodding on a particularly tender appendage comparison for three very simple reasons. The Five are not only the fastest ways to escalate a potentially violent situation into physical violence, but the most reliable ones too. Those are first and second.  The third reason is they cover the widest possible spectrum. When I say this a number of folks involved in self-defense training immediately jump to tacti-cool or kung fu related scenarios. Mostly having to do with why they're too smart to deny it's happening. They're trained in self-defense doncha' know?

But number four is really, really, REALLY important for the average citizen. I'm not just talking about the person pushing a cart out of the grocery store, who, upon seeing three thuggish looking guys spread out along a wall, decides, getting home is far more important and they won't bother him/her -- and then walks right into an mugging. Yes there is that. It also applies to someone who is so hell bent on a behavior and their 'right' to do it, they don't notice how close they're coming to being attacked. The worst -- and most common -- form of 'denying' is someone telling him or herself "That person wouldn't dare..." In doing that they fail to recognize they're pissing someone off enough to throw them a beating. 

Funny thing is those five rules go miles for keeping you from getting into fights -- much less taking a beating.

So like I said, those five rules are really good as they apply in all kinds of circumstances -- and this includes when they won't work to keep violence from happening. How's that for an unexpected left turn?

Rory Miller came up with the social, asocial model of violence. Basically there is violence for social reasons and for asocial reasons. Rory's observation that while the five rules will (most likely) prevent social violence, they won't stop asocial violence.

When Rory said that, I flat-out agreed with him. They won't stop an asocial predator. That predator will blow right on past these attempts to prevent violence. However, that doesn't mean they still don't apply...

See, after I told Rory what I'm about to tell you, I picked up the phone and called Peyton. "Peyton, I says to him. Here's what I just told Rory Miller about your Five Rules. They won't prevent asocial violence, but -- if you violate them -- they'll make it worse."

See to a robber (a type of asocial violence), you're just an ATM with legs, a walking Happy Meal if you will. And that's what you want him thinking about you. That way, he'll come up, rob you and go away. Once he's got HIS money, he's done with you. He -- and the danger he poses to you -- are gone.

That is unless you make it personal -- usually by violating rules one through three.  Rule four means you've made his life easier by walking into it. Rule five shouldn't be an issue ... well, unless you yell obscenities at him or try to chase him as he's leaving. Then you've just made it an issue.

But violate rules one through three and you'll have hell to pay because -- still sticking with robbery -- the ATM just started talking shit to him. Whether it is resource or process asocial violence, you've just given an attacker the excuse to really unleash hell on you. If he was planning violence anyway (process predator), he's really going to tear you up now. So violating these Five Rules is going to make the violence worse, this whether social or asocial.

I tell you all of this to show you something important. That is how professionals kick ideas around in the field. In doing so, they make things better. This in contrast to people who steal a good working model, twist it around to make it sound like they invented it. This unique spin often makes a much more generally effective model, narrower in application.

This isn't as cut and dried as it may seem. Where we run into a problem It's often hard to tell a difference between 1) someone with specific experience who is tweaking for particular application, 2) someone who is trying for unique branding of themselves (but still trying to pass on good -- if limited-- information) or 3) someone who doesn't understand the model and yet has changed it just to say it's 'his.'

Here's why it's not easy to tell.  I tell people that there's only so many ways to describe a shark. After a while, all the descriptions are going to start sounding the same. So when someone starts telling you they saw a fur covered saber toothed shark with antlers, if you know what a shark looks like, it's going to be obvious he's making shit up. If you don't, well isn't that what sharks look like? My combatives instructor said they did...

Still in specialized fields there's hammerhead, thresher sharks and whale sharks. Those suckers don't look like normal sharks. But until you realize these are specialized critters, stories about weird shaped heads, giant tails and sharks the size of whales sound wrong. Same thing with specialized fundamentals in a field. The fundamentals for bouncing, prison guards and police are often very different than what Joe and Jane Civilian are going to be dealing with.

This is why when I saw a jpg of Richard Dimitri supposedly promoting
1) Don't insult
2) Don't threaten
3) Don't order
4) Don't tell him he's wrong

I went ?????

Okay I know those first two trace back to Peyton, and I know the last two from hostage negotiation strategies. Which seriously struck me as 'going into a specific field' direction (narrowing of applicability).

'Order' just sounded too much like a sound bite and not a fundamental. Whereas telling him he's wrong -- while very good advice -- is kind of specific situation advice  (as is not calling him a liar). True, but just not fundamental and general enough to guide someone's behavior in a situation.

Not ordering was a sticking point for me. This especially when I'm training cops, the protocol for establishing a pattern of non-compliance -- thereby legally justifying use of force --  is 'Ask. Tell. Order' For example: Ask him to step out of the car (complete with please and thank you), tell him (Sir, step out of the car) order (Get out of the car NOW!) After three, you physically pull him from the car. And if he resists, you drag his ass out.  But again, without some tweaking, that's heading down a narrowed applicability hole of police use of force. (Granted that tweak can also help you articulate why what you did was self-defense, but that's another article.)

Mix into that the number of times I've ordered people to 'walk away'  as a clear -- non-insulting or threatening -- communication on how to avoid violence, the 'don't order' didn't make sense to me.  You can upgrade this to the number of times I've snarled "BACK OFF" with the clear, yet unspoken, message of 'or mayhem will immediately ensue.' So ordering is not an absolute. Yes, you have to be careful about ordering someone, but to make it a 'don't?' That's an awfully big word.

The best thing I could come up with on my own was 'don't order if you're not ready to back it up.' Which is eight more words and a world apart from just 'don't order.' And it missed the whole, 'and don't be an arrogant ass while doing it' aspect.

When I questioned the jpg, a few people came forward to explain how smart Richard is for this good advice (Yes, I knew Richard back in the day, thanks for the update.) But they seemed to believe that was all there was. Nobody could really give me a good reason for 'don't order.' Then Richard came onto the scene...

He phrased it another way. A way that made me stand up and declare "YES!"

What Richard said is: Do not command.

NOW you're talking! In this context, command means (to me) being an imperious, arrogant, contemptuous asshole. Do not command is a fundamental that both addresses a common problem behavior and dovetails nicely with the 'ordering without the ability to back it up' issue. It also specifically articulates the most common way someone can violate Peyton's insult, challenge and threaten in one single sentence. With a fair dose of not giving him a face saving exit thrown in to warrant the last parting kick to your face as you're laying on the ground.

Let me paint you a mental picture. Imagine a woman walking through an otherwise empty parking at night. She's approached by a strange man and, with contempt and anger dripping from every syllable, sneers, "Get away from me!"

That is an imperious command. It is how you treat slaves, servants and peasants. It's also an insult and challenge, but more than that it's usually an implied threat. For example, "Or I'll call the cops" It is a command that the woman is most likely neither able or willing to back up by herself. It's an imperious command that relies on social mechanisms, standards -- and usually others -- to be enforced. Again, "Or I'll call the cops," which roughly translates into "I'll summon another servant [lesser being] to punish you"

It's also very much a threat display (also called display aggression). Basically it's a bluff to show that the woman is too high of a social status for the man to safely attack. But it comes across like a self-righteous noble commanding a worthless peasant.  Although, with many younger women, it's an attempt to show that they aren't afraid of being violent. The ugly truth about these bluffs is how fast they fall apart when the other person busts the person-using-commands' jaw for disrespecting him like that.

That's if the person doesn't just pull a gun and shoot the 'commander.' My all time favorite (not) is when the commander tries to bluff multiple individuals. Not only have you insulted, threatened and challenged them, but you've humiliated them in front of witnesses. Yeah, that's going to turn out well...

In case you missed it, imperiously commanding someone doesn't give him a face saving exit. Which is really dangerous because something else Rory talks about is:  You cannot shame a predator, but you can humiliate him.

To which I will add two things. One,  if you do humiliate him you're going to increase the level of force he will attack you with." Two, you become a participant in the creation and escalation of an incident, which is drilling holes in your lifeboat of 'self-defense.'

So I'm adding one more good, generalized fundamental to make the Six Rules

1) Do not insult
2) Do not challenge
3) Do not threaten
4) Do not imperiously command
5) Do not deny it's happening
6) Do give him a face saving exit.

Simple but profound fundamentals that can guide your behaviors to keep you out of violence, dictate your behavior in a situation and save your ass when -- later -- explaining to the cops (and hopefully not the jury) how you did everything in your power to avoid having to use force.