Friday, March 18, 2016

Stop Kicking That Dog. It's About to Bite (An open letter to liberals about their hatred.)

I'm writing this during the 2016 election campaign. However, it’s a concept that has been a long time coming and -- quite frankly -- the potential for violence scares the hell out of me. Stop and let that sink in for a moment ... violence professional ... expert on the subject of violence... scared of the degree and intensity of violence we’re potentially heading for. 
That’s qualifier #1, qualifier #2. I need to say this so you can really stop and consider the point I am about to make: I am not a Trump supporter (nor, in fact am I fond of any of the leading three candidates.) So there is no political agenda underlying this post. (I’m registered ‘independent’ and identify myself politically as a ‘pragmatist.’) Having said these two things: 
What seriously concerns me are the conditions that have given rise to Trump's popularity. 
And part of that popularity can be laid at the doorstep of self-described liberals and their aggressive behavior. Now before you get defensive, I fully acknowledge that conservatives do this behavior too. But 
 A ) If a behavior is wrong, then it is wrong no matter who is doing it. 
B ) Screaming they do it too doesn't help fix the problem (a.k.a. help everyone stop doing it). 
The point here the rise of the popularity of Trump -- and it has a lot to do with anger of his supporters. Why are they angry? Well start with the liberal position has kicked that dog one time too many. People who -- often in the names of their feelings, compassion and superior beliefs -- insist on insulting, condemning and giving themselves permission to spew hate speech about those who dare think differently than they do. The scary thing is how often 'anger' is used as justification for kicking that dog that is now growling and baring it's teeth at the kickers. They don't realize that dog (Trump supporters) are about to bite. 
Here's part of the problem, the kickers are lying to themselves about it. See one of the more interesting aspect of tribal behavior, is you need an 'enemy' to help identify who you are (and why your tribe is superior.) Your group is 'right' and those evil rotten horrible bastards deserve anything you do to them. What's more is your status in the tribe is not just confirmed but increased for kicking that dog. In other words you get Brownie Points -- inside your tribe-- by shouting out what stupid, ignorant hateful, greedy and evil bastards those other are. 
Which hey, if you were truly isolated in an echo chamber wouldn’t matter. But you aren’t. That signal is getting broadcast and others are receiving it -- including those you are spitting on. Yet at the same time, we've been conditioned to believe bald faced hatred isn't a good thing -- especially in this giant (supposedly non-tribal) egalitarian, super-tribe called the United States. Great idea, except that is not how the primitive, tribal part of our bigger brain works. This leaves us in a bit of pickle. On one hand huge amounts of our self-identity is based on embracing open minded egalitarianism at the same time, we're wired to be tribal and bigoted against 'outsiders.' And that is what political polarization is, tribalism 101.
The challenge is to work -- hard -- at overcoming the hateful, bigoted part. And it's a hard challenge because it's so easy to slip into that simplistic primitive part and use rationalization and self-justification to deny we’re there. How do you feed that part (spit hate and venom) and still self-define yourself as 'not a hater? Why you rationalize your behavior and justify it using rhetoric, cherry picked facts to support your beliefs, you use (and pass on) limited and selective sources of information that pander to your primitive, tribal hater. And you do this pretending that you're being intelligent and informed in your contempt for those who think differently than you do. It’s not hatred, it’s a legitimate and rational response to what those rat bastards have done...
But let’s look at the associated behavior. Not the reasons why you think it’s justified, but the behavior itself. First you convince yourself that dog deserves to be kicked. Then you give yourself permission to let fly. You ignore the pain you’re inflicting. But, more than that, you’re not ‘abusing that animal,’ you’re showing others what’s wrong with how it thinks and behaves. You’re going to beat that animal until it learns the error of its ways. And you’re surrounded by people who are cheering you on.
Well, to quote Rooster Cogburn “Drop that switch, LaBoeuf. Put it down, I said. You're enjoying it too much.”
Now in case you missed the True Grit (1969) reference, those lines were spoken with a cocked pistol aimed at the fella with the stick. Now being as the story of True Grit takes place in late 1800’s, no matter how angry and self-righteous as LeBoeuf was in his attack, he realized he would indeed be shot if he continued his behavior. That’s an idea many people who give themselves permission to attack and spew hatred about those disgusting others, have lost sight of. 
Indeed their anger is far, far more important than the anger that their actions are creating. Or, to go back to the original analogy, it doesn’t matter that the dog has turned around and is baring its teeth at you. As such you might not want to keep on kicking it. If you do, what’s going to happen is not just pretty predictable, but obvious to everyone else except you.
I am truly and deeply concerned by the growing potential of a backlash. I see Trump’s popularity -- including it growing every time the media plays favorites, protesters shut down a Trump rally and hateful articles are posted on social media -- as a serious growl. A growl that people -- who have long used their anger as justification their kicking that dog -- are ignoring. Speaking as a violence profession, a person who has spent over five decades studying and trying to understand violence, I ask you. Hell, I implore you... 
PLEASE don’t. 
Now I’ve long made a distinction between liberals and progressives (I liken the difference to the same between Catholics and Inquisitors.) I have many self-identified liberal friends -- who themselves are often victimized by progressive zealots. The problem is that growling dog doesn’t. The often passive support of zealots by more moderate liberals (and this includes not standing up to them from fear of being targeted by them) makes you smell the same as the abusers; at least to that dog that is about to start biting. 
Please, stop throwing kicks. Stop encouraging those who are throwing kicks. And most of all, don’t be silent when someone is abusing that dog. Don’t let these folks keep on kicking the dog because -- even if you claim you aren’t doing it (or you only do it a little bit) -- if that dog starts biting you’re going to end up in its jaws.
And yes, I also encourage people of a more conservative bent to go out and do the same about the barking moonbats of their ‘tribe.’ Acknowledge they’ve been kicked 27 times too often, but the consequences of giving in to that anger are too dire. 
Am I singing kumbaya? No. Not really. We as a nation have forgotten that you have to fight to stay in the middle otherwise the extremists of your side will take over and get you into fights with other groups. 
At the very least, quit posting hater stuff on your social media wall. If you feel real strongly about it -- knowing that you have to fight to stay in the middle - try standing up now and then to the extremists in you own ‘tribe.’ You’ll discover first hand why those other dogs are ready to bite.
I don’t know what the backlash will be, nor can I predict how far it will go or what measures will be put into place to quell these issues. But I assure you, none of them will be good. I’ve lived through riots of self-righteous angry people and they are not fun. But long before things get to that point, there has been stewing and carefully nursed anger building. You may think that anger makes you powerful, but when that smoke in the air is your city burning it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s kinda too late.
(And yes, I speak from experience about coughing from that kind of smoke.)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Circle Straddling (Dealing with subtle unacceptable behavior)

There is a behavior I call "circle straddling' (although as you'll see, "line waddling" works too.) Think of a circle of socially acceptable behaviors. Inside that circle social convention keeps you safe. For example, if you don't say certain things (follow social 'rules'), you won't get hit, stabbed or shot (more social rules). Here's a key point of this, the circle is a two way street. The circle limits behaviors of everyone INSIDE.

Outside the circle, those rules don't apply. Here is another key component to understanding this behavior. If YOU are the only person outside the circle, you have the power. For example, you can say nasty things to those inside the circle with impunity. They have rules and you don't. 

Wheeeeee! You're free, powerful and safe to do whatever you want. That is until someone else steps outside the circle. All of a sudden those 'no rules apply' is another two way street. Now, you not only risk the person responding to your behavior with like kind, but they may increase it to hitting, stabbing or shooting you for your bad behavior. If you want to continue your bad behavior you're going to have to crank it up -- and take the inherent risks of the other person cranking it too. 

This is not so fun. 

Often, as a result of someone also stepping out, the person who was originally aggressing (outside the circle) will jump back inside. You may get a Little Bo Peep act. Or you may get an overt "you can't touch me because of rules" routine.Or you may get some weird combo. The point is ALL of them are relying on the rules to stop you from taking action -- especially punitive. 

This behavior, once you know about it, is easily recognizable. It's also pretty ham handed. What's not as obvious -- as well as far more common -- is circle straddling. That's where someone has one foot inside the circle and one foot outside. They're misbehaving, but juuuuuust not enough to warrant punching them in the face ... excuse me, step outside the circle yourself. 

But recognize, this is usually a deliberate strategy where the individual is attempting to get the benefits of both inside and outside the circle. That is to say the safety of insider (limitations on the behaviors of others) and the freedom/power/benefits of outside. Basically they're trying to creates a one way street. Because they tend to behaviorally 'dance' on which side they're on (shifting weight to each foot) you can see why 'line waddling' is also an apt term. 

Once you know about this straddle, the behavior becomes obvious. As does possible responses. As the more subtle ones are relying on social convention you can simply choose to ignore it as if it didn't happen. Know that they'll usually try to do it again -- which reveals to everyone else that they are being the ass. They have to blatantly step outside the circle. This destroys any sympathy for them and the protection of being inside the circle. 

Another way, is to noticeably ignore it. They make a snarky comment, you listen, deliberately pause, then calmly continue with a "As I was saying..." Recognize that the power of subtle digs is that they provoke an obvious response. Their power is in shifting the blame/who's the bad guy/ who is breaking the rules/ over reacted. Someone who reacts to them is the 'bad guy.' (Steps outside the circle.) This response lets everyone in the room know that you heard the dig, but intentionally chose to ignore it because there is something more important to be addressed. This behavior also shows you are the bigger 'dog.' That while you heard it, you chose to ignore it because that person isn't worth your time or attention. This also sends a message to the circle straddler, that it's in his or her best interest not to mess with you because... ya know people they can safely get away with pulling this behavior with don't react that way.

Stepping it up you can "call the ball" on the behavior. This especially if the person is stupid enough to continue waddling the line with little zingers. After their 'last one' you stop, look at them and say "You know, I've been trying to focus on resolving this, but you've been throwing little digs in trying to piss me off. Now if you want, we can escalate this. And I'm fine with that. I don't mind rockin' and rollin'* Or we can set that aside and turn our attention to resolving this situation."

* Alternative (depending on the situation) sentence: If you want to be unreasonable, I'm way better at it than you. 

This announces to everyone in the room that you know the individual is straddling the circle. It in essence, kicks the circle out from underneath where he's standing. The leaves him in a quandary ,either move back entirely inside the circle or knowingly step outside the circle with you and take his chances. 

Those are subtler ways to handle circle straddlers. The more obvious way ... well, let's just say that it has some problems that come with it. That is basically to kick the circle way back over there and inform the individual that his or her safety is reliant on him/her scurrying back over there. And that continued ____ (name the bad behavior) will result in .... well tell you what. It would be a lot better if they got back inside that circle.

Once you know about the circle, inside and outside and the waddle, it becomes way less annoying when someone is straddling it. In fact, it becomes kind of a smile with a "I see what you did there."


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A State Monopoly on Violence? (and how that influences self-defense)

Do you believe the government (the State) should have a monopoly on use of force?
Not just 'violence,' but ALL uses of force. I ask this because if you are of the opinion that violence is always bad (there's never an acceptable reason for it) then your position will more likely lean towards the monopoly ideal. My summation of this position is "Only trained professionals -- that we are in control of -- should be allowed to use force. Individuals should be punished for using it" (That's a State monopoly)
On the surface, this may not seem like a bad idea. I mean hey, violence is bad so higher standards of training, it cuts back on abuse, violence and makes prosecution easier, etc. But when you begin to take it a little deeper, you run into some problems. The most obvious is "If all violence is wrong and the State has a monopoly on it, what does that make the State?"
Personally, I have a bigger problem than an existential crisis of faith in one's politics. What makes me say "Hold the phone" is under a State monopoly --
Self-defense becomes illegal.
Stop and think about that. If the state has a monopoly on violence and all violence is wrong, then there is no difference between a murder and self defense. You are required, you have to allow yourself to become a victim. You NOT allowed to defend yourself. In fact, if you do, you will be punished -- by the State.
But wait, the laws in all 50 states clearly say we are allowed to defend ourselves! I can show you the statute from my state!

Okay, join me in a little reality break here Starting with there’s a difference between the ‘Law’ and our legal system. Followed by the fact that humans are involved in the legal system. And we are clever little monkeys when it comes to finding a way around rules and using systems to our advantage. In case you missed it, what the law says and how those in the legal system interpret it might not be the same thing. And while this may be a new topic for you, they have years of experience playing in the State’s legal system.

One of the ways thing are played with can be found in Sun Tzu “Art of War” in the Military Maneuvering chapter: When you surround an army, leave a means to escape. This doesn’t mean what you think it does. In fact, it’s a trap. Being as it’s a Chinese manuscript, there’s always commentary. As Tu Mu puts it, "Make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of despair. After that, you may crush him."

To bring things a little more up to date than a 2,500 year old manuscript there is the Carousel scene from “Logan’s Run.” In a futuristic, controlled and contained society nobody lives past 30 years old. But you can ‘take your chances’ for renewal (rebirth) by getting on the Carousel. If you can touch the light then you are reborn. If not, crispy critters. It’s a very Coliseum event with the cheering crowds and hope for rebirth.
Except later on the main character Logan, discovers it’s a lie. Nobody has ever survived the Carousel. For generations, the population has been slaughtered on their 30th birthday. But it is the hope for regeneration that keeps the population in line.
I tell you this because while it hasn’t gotten to the point where it’s as bad as the Carousel -- you CAN be cleared for self-defense -- the game is seriously stacked for the House/State. See, the game can be rigged by saying that self-defense is allowed, but then try to set the standards so impossibly high that -- in effect-- everything is prosecuted.
Now knowing that an attorney is going to read this and try to twist it and use it against me. Am I saying that we’ve reached the point in our legal system were there is no such thing as self-defense? Why no. What I am saying that in a metric driven system where careers are dependent on convictions (numbers) we’d be naive to believe that doesn’t influence the arrest and prosecution process. Oh and while we’re at it, wouldn’t it behoove an individual whose career is dependent on number of convictions to lean towards the idea of a State monopoly?

Here’s a cup of coffee. Take a sniff.

You -- as an individual -- have to recognize that just acting in self-defense alone isn’t enough. I could get my geek on and say, “Koybayashi Maru, Baby!” But it is far more complicated than that. Starting with that your training CAN’T just be on the physical elements. Before you ever find yourself in a situation where you might have to use your training, it behooves you to adopt the attitude that you’re facing a system that believes it has a monopoly on violence -- and how dare you try to trust bust! 

But, it has to pretend that’s not it’s position. (Gee, where have I sen this before? )

That is where you really do have a chance. And it’s not a false hope either.
In my book “In The Name of Self-Defense” I talk about it not really mattering what threat assessment system you use (AOJ/AOI/JAM/Five Stages). The important part is that you have a systematic and explainable process for what you did. You must be able to articulate what was going on that lead you to reasonably believe the level of force you used was necessary for your safety.
Otherwise our legal system is going to eat you alive for defending yourself. That’s just one of the many things you have consider including in your self-defense training.