Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Thought on 'Deterrents'

Don't get married to them. By that I mean 
A - don't believe having something that you think will ‘deter others from certain behaviors’ is all you need. 
B - get too convinced that because you have this deterrent someone won't make a run at you.
Those are common traits among people who have deemed an item and/or an attitude as a deterrent. Theirs is an unwarranted confidence. They have mistaken an item/attitude for what makes up actual deterrents -- namely the willingness, knowledge, ability and commitment to act and awareness.
But most of all trust. 
I'll explain that last one in a second, but first, a general thought on the others. It's not an item or an attitude that's 'the deterrent.' In fact, effective deterrence is a combination of factors. Each of these boost the others to make it not a bluff. That is a major problem. See the so-called deterrent many rely on is pure bluff, because they lack willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment.
They want that ‘one thing’ they have invested in to do all the work. That’s all they think they need. They don’t understand it isn’t the one thing. It is willingness et al that are most likely to cause would-be attackers to calculate the odds of success -- and say, "Uhhhh no." 
But know this: That decision is up to him, not you. Sorry for that little reality break, but that’s what-it-is out at the sharp end. But also know a big part of that calculation isn't about you -- it's about his resources and what he can do. Unlike many people in our modern world, the bad guys are looking at other people. But he’s not just looking, he’s ‘reading’ (awareness). If he 'reads' you correctly --as in he figures how far you are willing to go and he’s willing to go farther then -- your 'deterrent' or not, he's going to go. But if during reading you he sees your willingness et al goes as far as his ...well that's not going to be fun. It will be even less fun for him if yours goes farther than his. Around that time -- unless you’ve done something spectacularly obnoxious -- odds are good he’s going to go find another target. 
About that floor show of obnoxiousness...
Funny thing, willingness, awareness, knowledge, ability and commitment aren't loud and showy. In fact, loud and demonstrative are common indicators of their actual absence. (Those two are like chrome, more a plating -- not through and through.) The signs of willingness et al are far more subtle. But you can see them if you look for them -- and unless you're wanting to bleed you better look for them. While cheap ass punks and the young and dumb often don't know the signs, those experienced with violence do. Their lives depend on being able to recognize them. As such, it is the presence of willingness et al that usually cause the heavy hitters to recalculate. 
Which brings us back to that deterrent. See in the comfort and safety of quiet moments or the internet it’s easy to say or think ‘rawr, rawr, deterrent, rawr.’ But you know old Louis L’Amour had a saying, “Adventure is just a romantic name for trouble. It’s swell reading about in the comfort of your recliner, but it’s pure hell when it’s coming at you in a dark and lonely place.” 
I mention this because when trouble is looking them in the face, many people -- who thought that they only needed ‘one thing’ -- suddenly realize it needs a little boosting. Well, it’s always needed the boost of willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment, but until that moment they’ve blown those off. So in the heat of the moment they try to patch it with hostility, threats, insults and truculence. They do this in an attempt to show how scary and serious they are. (“See, how dangerous I am? You better not mess with me!”) 
First, like their deterrent, it’s a bluff. Second, it’s a bad one. Third, this behavior is well known sign among the violent of someone who isn’t able to back it up. Fourth, most of the time it’s obnoxious. (As in Peyton’s, don’t insult, threaten or challenge.) Fifth, which personalizes it. Which now means, the guy has more reasons to attack. Reasons, you haven’t just given him, but like a shovel full of poop, you’ve thrown on him.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that their belligerence to shore up their bluff of a deterrent, is often what is going to tip the scales for the guy to attack. Worse, now because you’ve personalized it, he’s going to be coming in a lot harder than he would have before. Not only because you’ve insulted him, but you’ve also shown him how hard he has to attack you in order to ‘win.’ You’re so-called ‘deterrent?’ It’s not working anymore and -- even if it’s an item -- now you’ve just showed you’re more mouth than commitment. 
Your willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment, are vital elements in helping someone decide to ply their trade elsewhere or find an alternative strategy. But remember I mentioned trust? That’s something that a lot of keyboard commandos don’t understand. Which is a problem in and of itself. However a far bigger problem is how many instructors don’t understand how important trust is either. And how not understanding it, they don’t include it in what they’re teaching. 
See a would-be-attacker hast to trust you. By that I mean he has to know in his heart of hearts that if he continues to do A, you will injure him. However, if he instead chooses to do B, you will not.
Setting aside all the happy horseshit about turning an escape route into a death trap, there’s solid truth to ‘Nothing fights harder than a cornered rat.’ If your behavior puts a person into a corner, you’re going to discover the truth of that. This especially if you’re jumping around, howling and barking, trying to show him how dangerous you are. See you might think you’re telling him not to attack. But are you also telling him that it’s not safe to retreat as well? And that can include you not telling him that he has the option to safely leave. 
All the talk about lying and deception of the bad guy, nobody talks about you have to be trustworthy enough not to shoot him in the back. He doesn’t know you from Adam, why should he turn his back on you? This especially if you’re scared, freaked out and nigh unto panic. You know all the stuff you fear about him doing to you? Yeah, in that state you’re more likely to do it to him. So now you got two violent people stuck in a situation that neither one knows how to get out of safely. And in fact, it looks like ‘the first one to launch’ has the best chances of getting out of that mess intact. 
 Congratulations, in your fear, you just made his best chance to survive is to attack you. That’s why trust is so important. Someone who has the willingness, et al to act, must also be trustworthy. Trustworthy in the sense of if Loverboy acts, the bad will happen. Trustworthy that if he doesn’t, it won’t. 
 Hopefully by now you’ve begun to catch on that ‘deterrence’ is not an end game. It’s more of a calculated strategy to keep things from going to the next level. Often it works, but inherent in it working is having what it takes to take care of business when it doesn’t. And that’s where most people veer off into la-la land. 
First are the people who think all they need is that one thing. We’ve just talked about them, but now we’re going into some flavors. What sets the first set of folks apart is how often they don’t really think about all the things they’re doing that put them into situations where bad things can happen. I’m talking about because they have this ‘talisman of protection’ they can walk home alone from the bar at night. If it fails, they’re either at a complete loss or they try to patch it with belligerence. 
Second are the people who figure it’s going to fail, so why bother? They figure they’re going to be attacked no matter what so they get their ‘self-defense’ in first. Yeah, that’s called “starting it.” These are the folks who usually end up in prison whining about how they’re there for defending themselves. (When in fact they did all kinds of dumb things that took it outside the boundaries of self-defense -- like walking off their property, armed, to confront an obnoxious neighbor.)
Third is a subset I’ve run across in the SD world who both have their own unique definition of self-defense and...well, appear to be itching to unload on someone. I mean they’re looking for an excuse to ‘defend themselves’ against perceived aggression. What they have under their belt isn’t a deterrent, it’s a felony conviction waiting to happen. (These folks often self-identify with comments like “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6” or “There are no rules in a street fight.”) 
The fourth category are folks who never stopped to think that there was something beyond common sense and a deterrent. This group is by far the largest. I’m talking about the average good person who has a gun, knife, golf club or baseball bat for home defense. They don’t go out of their way to find trouble, nor do they do many things that will raise their chances of trouble finding them -- like walking home alone at night. At night, they’re usually home watching TV or doing the laundry. As their lifestyle doesn’t invite trouble it usually passes them by. When trouble does come a’calling, the greatest danger to them is thinking that the item/attitude is going to do the work for them. All they have to do is display it.
It is this last category of people who really need to understand what deterrence is and isn’t. This especially because most of them do not have the willingness and commitment to use an item. “Wait, me just showing it to you was supposed to stop you!” (The same goes for attitude by the way.) While those who do use the item (or attitude) aren’t acting out of commitment, but fear. Usually that manifests as using it at ‘the wrong time.’ Just so you know, fear is NOT the same as ‘reasonably believes.’ Which going back to something I mentioned earlier, is why so many homeowners are in prison for shooting an intruder in the back. (Remember that trust issue?) 
You really need to sit down and do some thinking about what you think you know about deterrents. Do some research and talk to a few folks who actually have been through situations. You’ll find they often talk about things that instructors don’t mention. Things that are present in the field, but until you’ve been out there you don’t know how important they are. 
I mentioned something earlier you need to know and seriously consider. Too many people think deterrence is the end game. It’s not. It’s more of a useful by-product of the combination of other factors. Factors, that if you’re lucky, you’ll never have to use. It is a huge paradox about us humans that the willingness to use physical violence usually means you don’t have to. That is a good thing. But the key word here is ‘usually.’ There are always going to be circumstances that, try though you might to keep it from going, it will go down. You can do everything right and the other guy decides to jump (especially the young and dumb). That’s where you’ll need to use that willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment. 
Having said that, the more willingness et al you have, the rarer those times are. Incidentally, when you have these, the bigger trick is to be able to recognize when the other guy has changed his mind and the threat has passed. (“Oh goody, I can go back to drinking my coffee.”)
Unfortunately, many people want the glorious result of deterrence, without the investment of developing willingness et al. At best, they are bluffing. At worst they are putting themselves into high risk situations with nothing but a bluff. 
So in closing let me say: Your attitude isn’t the deterrent. In fact, attitude often gets you into more trouble than it solves. It’s not the weapon that is the deterrent. While we’re at it, you’re not the weapon. If you’re going to do things that increase the likelihood of trouble finding you, you’re going to have to shift mental gears WHILE you’re doing them. (For example, walking home/to your car at night requires a different mindset than you had in the bar or at work. And it certainly isn’t the same when your inside of them.) 
What’s going to cause trouble to steer clear is you being will do whatever you have to to get home to you loved ones. That’s going to change your body language. That’s a message you can’t fake. If you don’t have that willingness and commitment you don’t have a deterrent, you have a tailsman you’re clutching as you walk by the graveyard. In which case you might as well start whistling too -- it’s about that effective.


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dAWUaoQS_8

  2. I know you've touched on political violence before, but could you comment on the recent UC Berkeley riot. When does staying away from possibly dangerous situations become giving into political violence?

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