Tuesday, July 12, 2016

About Your Personal Safety...

This is a follow up to the "A Plea... before the bullets start flying."

Folks, in case you're wondering what my concern about rising racial and political tensions have to do with personal self-defense the very short answer is...
"It's getting crazy out on the streets."
It's not being reported. But you have a change in street dynamics and a rise in both unpredictability and aggressiveness. THAT is more likely to directly effect you than the bigger issues I’ve been talking about lately. So, now the longer answer.
This aggressiveness is not in predictable ways. I've spoken to lot of old school outlaws, criminals, gangsters and bad men. They're "What the fuck is wrong with these people?" Although it would be easy to brand it "...with these kids?" it's not just a generational issue. It's a serious, toxic mix of out of control emotions, identity- ideology, lack of understanding, 'attitude' and ... what I can only describe as ...a belief in no consequences.
First the elephant in the room and how it's mixing with another issue. There's always been racial tensions out in the street. The first riot I was ever at ground zero for was between Mexicans and Blacks. Seen a lot of ugly since then. But here's the thing, on the day-to-day running of things each side -- even if they didn't respect each other (as most people understand the term) -- they respected that the other side would shoot back. Reread that last sentence again, because it's closely tied to this: That's a great incentive not to start shit.
Now take away "Don't start shit because they'll shoot back" and replace it with "they wouldn't dare shoot back" 
That '’They’ can't or WON'T' respond attitude is B ) --the other issue. It is far more widespread and isn’t just about race. It's extremely pernicious in it's own right.
Combining the two: This means you -- and that is a direct you, not general you -- can be targeted just because of your skin color. This is not new and improved ‘institutional racism,’ this is old school racism of just blindly hating someone for their skin color or eye shape (a game anyone can play). It is the individual deciding to act against you for a whole host of reasons -- including a hatred of your skin color. He does so thinking you can’t -- not won’t, can’t -- do anything about it. He’s got himself a free pass against you. A pass that reads “Do unto those thou hast ‘Othered’ as thou will...”
Getting concerned yet? 
This belief in lack of consequences is actually the bigger problem than someone hating you for your skin color. In many cases I’ve seen this expanded to the level of ‘It’s my right’ to do selfish/illegal/aggressive/destructive /shitty/pick any combo stuff. And I do mean ‘a God given right.’ But it also goes into negative rights. That is to say, while they can say or do anything, YOU do not have the right to stop them. 
While that attitude may be offensive to you, it has much more practical -- and problematic -- manifestations. These are they have no fear about coming at you and no reason not to! They are in fact relying on your hesitation to react to keep them safe from consequences. They can run up, get in your face, scream, howl, bark and drool and you can’t do anything about it. 
Because if you do, you’re the one who is going to get arrested. 
Which brings us to the next problem. Let me give you a ‘No-BS-Reality-Break’ about “Institutional” attitudes of the police, the prosecutors and law makers. Something that is WAY bigger than racism. That is “Somebody has to go to jail.” 
I’ve long bemoaned cops as revenue generators and removal of officer discretion when it comes to mandatory arrest. But now having dealt with our court system I’ve seen first hand the prosecutorial attitude that can be summed up as “If someone died there must be a crime.” While I’ve long had serious heartburn with people carping about being “arrested for self-defense” (mostly because what they did WASN’T self-defense) over the last ten years that has become a reality under ‘Somebody hast to go to jail.’ This is not the cops choice any more, the pressure to arrest and get back out on patrol comes from above. And straight up, a big part of this is them getting the fines you will be assigned by the court in lieu of jail time. 
 Basically, short and not-so- sweet, unless you are damned good about articulation AND stayed in boundaries of self-defense, you will go to jail if you defend yourself. This means street rats know they can fly off the handle without fear of consequence -- because if YOU react -- they’ll be the ones calling the cops on you. Do not think this doesn’t effect their willingness to go off on you. 
The problem with dancing this close to the edge is it’s both extremely easy to go over it anyway, and a whole lot of them just don’t give a shit. Their hatred and rage is more important than not going to jail -- so they will physically attack. Now let me toss another shovel full onto the shit pile. Remember I said OGs, elder outlaws and the like are saying “What is wrong with these people?” It’s not just that there’s no respect for the rules and how you do things, there’s a growing trend of not even knowing these exist. Sound like a vague, hypothetical problem? Try this... 
When you find you’ve miscalculated or crossed a line and are looking down the barrel of a gun, how do you back out of the situation without getting your brains blown into a fine pink mist? 
 Now maybe in your lifestyle this isn’t much of an issue, so not knowing how to do it isn’t a big thing. But back in the day, it was part of the whole ‘respect that they will shoot back’ package. Looking down the barrel of a gun means although you’ve crossed a line, the guy is giving you a chance to change your behavior. As such, it’s probably a good idea not to continue with the behavior that resulted in that view. 
Not getting shot really wasn’t something you used to have to talk someone through in the old days. But these days it is. These self-righteous, ‘I have the right to/you don’t have the right to stop me’ types are at a complete and total loss about what to do when someone does stop them. I’m talking total bewilderment because it’s never happened before. You literally have to talk them through the process -- especially reassuring them that backing off is safe. You need to factor in both they don’t know how to back off and their fear that if they do, you’ll kill them. I’m not joking when I say “You need...” 
(In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, try this, “If I was going to kill you no matter what, you’d be dead by now. Here’s the deal. I’m giving you a chance to walk away and live. If you do that I won’t shoot. You do anything else though... Now what’s it going to be?”) 
Remember that shovelful? Well it’s time to add a wheelbarrow. While I’ve always been a big fan of having multiple force options (verbal deescalation, crime avoidance, empty hand, knives, guns etc.) never before has having ALL of them been so important. 
Okay, granted that given my career and lifestyle choices I needed to have them all to handle the wide variety of things that came my way. I’ve never been a “Les jes’ bash ‘em onna hed” type or “Prep for Road Warrior conditions” type. I say this despite having been in bad situations that have kicked off. I mean beyond gang wars and shooting bad -- like rioting, looting and burning buildings. So that has never been off the table for me. 
 But things are getting crazy out there. To the point that you are much more likely to run into something than you were before. The question, and it’s a big question, is: What degree will it be? 
I can’t answer that. And until you’re in the situation neither will you be able to. The level of what you’re going to be running into is impossible to predict. Hence the need for a full spectrum of options -- especially the lower end. 
 Wait... what? 
I am the first to point out things have not kicked off -- and hopefully they won’t. But that puts you between a hammer and anvil. On one hand, there’s increasing tensions, hostility, violence and craziness. On the other hand, that means you’re going to be dealing with the aftermath and consequences of violence under existing circumstances. That is to say a system that will try to nail you if you are involved in an incident. Yes the system is designed to nail bad guys, but it’s gotten to the point that -- because of over-prosecution -- self-defense is becoming functionally illegal. Not a good thing with rising tensions and increasing incidents. 
 I’m recommending really honing your de-escalation skills, do everything in your power to not get into situations, and meet certain criteria so your actions support your claim of self-defense. (Like you tried to walk away. And why did you stop? Because it wasn’t working.) Now that may sound odd, but in fact, it’s going to help you in a lot of different ways. First is you will have made a good faith effort to keep it from going sideways. Second, surprise surprise, good faith efforts really do work to keep shit from happening. (This should be your goal anyway.) Third, you’ll understand when it’s not working. Fourth, that knowledge will assist you to mentally shift gears to an alternative strategy. (Nope, not working, Plan B). Fifth -- and this is where it sounds counter to common sense -- often you prepping to go will cause the guy to change plans. (Remember the ‘talking him through not getting shot?’ This is where it applies.) Sixth, knowing that de-escalation didn’t work, you’ll have a much cooler head when it comes to scaling force. Seventh, when you are ‘called upon to answer’ for your use of force decision, you’ll be better prepared to articulate WHY -- even though it was violent -- what you did wasn’t illegal, but was in fact, self-defense. 
 All of which go miles for you not getting hurt or arrested. Like I said, it’s getting both crazy and nasty out there, this calls for a different level of preparation than just bangy bangy or punchy kicky.

A Plea... before the bullets start flying

Congratulations, you smeared distinctions to create a bigger political block, raising an inclusive banner to seem to present a unified whole for your cause. Good idea right? After all, your PR to create and identify a large, unified group to the outside world worked. Except now everyone else can't tell the difference between you and the troublemakers pulling shit under your banner. 
Any group is going to have extremists. It is both the nature of groups and a systemic weakness they can exploit. That last is to say using the same rhetoric and ideas, they push things too far. It’s hard to stand up to such folks because they are using the same words, terms, rhetoric, ideals as you and that -- this is important -- you believe in. But they’re throwing in a bunch of toxic twists. Twists, that if you dare challenge, they’ll turn their fury on you. They’ll blame you, accuse you of being a traitor to the cause, a sell-out and do everything in their power to silence you or get the group to turn against you. This ratpacking and bullying is a very real factor inside groups. Often what happens is people don’t stand up to this hijacking and pull back to a smaller circle inside the larger group. They quietly self-isolate inside the larger group where they can stick with their interpretation of what the cause is about. In the mean time, the extremists are given free reign to twist agendas, rampage and cause mayhem. 
 Let's talk credibility. Often you're now being viewed as same level as the worst of your 'unified' group and/or judged to be dishonest. By that last I mean by not condemning the actions of extremists (acting under your label) you appear to support or agree with them. You may think saying, "Well that's not real _____(fill in the blank)" is enough of a distancing act from you and the troublemakers, but it's not. Remember that ‘we’re unified’ for political power? Well while it may not have worked for political power, it sure as hell worked for creating an “Us vs. Them” environment. And that puts you in both categories. 
You may think being in an ‘Us’ group empowers you, but there’s a whole lot more people who are looking at you as “One of Them.” First off, your little distinction game is up against a massive, decades long ‘We’re all one’ campaign -- that worked. Second, that distinction is seriously weakened if you’re using the same terms, rhetoric, and ideology -- if not same basic tactics (but toned down) -- as the extremists. This includes standing there mutely while they rampage in your name (that unified ‘Us’ thing again). 
I fear we are coming close to a point where -- if we all don’t start doing something -- the extremists will kick shit off. I don’t care which ‘Us’ you self-identify with. We ALL need to start pulling the leashes of the extremists in our own groups -- and very much be seen doing so. Not just so other ‘Thems’ see you doing it, but people in your own group who have been bullied and cowed into silence about this out-of-control extremism will see you doing it and stand up too. 
And a big part of that is reaching out to the moderates. Open lines of communications outside your own echo chamber. Moderate, reasonable and willing to work with other people still exist. The world is not filled with crazies. Nor are the only sane and reasonable people you and the less extreme people in your group. 
This brings us to a bit of a hitch. One of the words I hear a lot of is ‘listen.’ As in “Would you listen to what we have to say.” I’m a big fan of listening. But I have a question: Are you listening too? 
Listening is a two way street. And while we’re at it, communication is a lot more than just someone else shutting up and listening to what you have to say. Where things really go overboard is when someone not only demands that you shut up and listen, but equates ‘listening’ with you having to accept what they’re saying as unquestionable truth. When this is what is meant as ‘listening,’ any questioning, much less disagreement with what the person is saying means you’re not listening (and are by default, now part of the problem). This is an extremist tactic, and it is often used as the excuse to attack -- or bully. That last is because this is the same tactic used to intimidate people inside the group. As things are developing, we’re moving past the point of the attacks just being verbal... 
 When you are listening you have to set your own priorities and interpretation aside and try to figure out where the person is coming from and why they think that way. Listening includes asking for reasons, facts and perspectives. It does not mean accepting conclusions or disregarding your reasons, facts or perspectives. In other words, listening doesn’t mean automatically agreeing -- especially if the whole process is filled with buzzwords. (Part of the problem with the ‘we demand’ approach is they mix reasons and facts with conclusions until they become one homogenized mess. A combo of conclusion and cause that cannot be questioned). If you disagree with someone’s point, don’t rush to interrupt with why they’re wrong. Ask questions to get them to clarify. What do they mean by that. Why do they believe that? What perspective are they looking at it from? (Example, if you look at certain circumstances from a humanistic perspective you’ll get one answer. If you look at the same circumstances from business, law enforcement, economic or anthropological perspective you’ll get four completely different types of answers.) 
Before you start filtering what you’re hearing through your perspective, try to understand the validity of the interpretation from another perspective (why it looks like that way to that person). It may not be the whole picture -- but from a particular perspective, it can look exactly like what they are saying. Then start running it through your filters and see what the same situation looks like. But you’ve done this after you’ve listened to the other side. This is how communication happens. A lot of what are very real problems have wide ranging and complex contributing factors. But you’ll never know these reasons unless you’re willing to listen.

(Oh yeah, here’s a free tip about getting people to listen to you and something I touched on before. Don’t use the same lingo as the extremists are -- especially just before or while they are attacking. It’s that whole, people can’t tell the difference between you and extremists if you’re both using the same language thing.)
I fear we are coming close to a point where the extremists will kick shit off. My primary concern is a whole lot of innocent people getting caught in the crossfire, And by that I mean people who have nothing to do with your cause or others. (In case you missed it, this gives people who aren’t involved in the ‘cause’ reason to stand up and tell those in the cause to knock it off. Unfortunately, history shows us both who suffers the most and where letting extremists run unchecked leads.) Now the bad news for you, if you march under a banner, if you promote a cause and the shooting starts, you're not going to be considered innocent by those shooting back. The police might view you as such, but not the people your extremists open fire upon. You're part of the group that's shooting at them, which means you're a target.
This is why I am pleading with people -- why I am begging you -- not just to withdraw support from the extremists, but to stand up to them and tell them stop trying to hijack your cause. Call them on their hatred and bad behavior. Don't stand by and let them attack others using your position, cause or group as their excuse, for their hatred and violence. Don't support them, don't defend them, don't excuse their behavior (especially if it's the very thing you're against) but most of all don't think that "No True Scotsman" is going to be enough to keep you safe if the bullets start flying.