I’ve been putting up some posts on the subject of the tool of Violence. This is very different from most views on Self Defense. I think today’s post clarifies exactly why this understanding is critical to you surviving what most poeple call “self-defense” situations…
SOCIAL CONFRONTATION VS. ASOCIAL VIOLENCE: DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE TRAP
You’re in fifth grade and you’ve had it with the school bully. He’s been at you every day this year; humiliating you, taunting you, pushing you around. Giving you random shots in the arm that leave you sore for days.
You’ve let it slide for months because you’re not a bad person. You’ve been taught to turn the other cheek, to meet violence with peace, knowing that bullies eventually tire and peace wins out.
But mostly you’ve let it slide because you’re afraid.
But today is different. Today he pushed you one too many times, and too far–he pushed you over an invisible line in your head and your fear evaporated in the heat of rage. You want to give it all back to him. You put your head down and charge him, knock him back and start swinging away, landing blow after blow against the sides of his head.
He’s startled but quickly recovers and gets you in a headlock. As the two of you struggle, a crowd of children gathers around you, attracted to the action like iron filings in a magnetic field, all of them chanting in joyous unison: “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Suddenly, a teacher steps in and pulls the two of you apart, much to everyone’s disappointment.
This is pretty standard stuff. We’ve all been there, whether you were a participant, or in the crowd that came running to see.
Let’s switch it up a bit and suppose, just for argument’s sake, that instead of a fist fight the kid brings a gun to school and shoots the bully in the head.
Do you think the other kids would gather around to watch, to cheer him on? What would you do?
You’d do what any of us would do in the face of violence– you’d get the hell out of there.
Both of these situations involve violence. So why are there two very different reactions from the crowd?
We all know real violence when we see it–someone being shot in the head, or stabbed repeatedly, or kicked to death by a mob. We have a primal, visceral reaction to the real thing. It sickens us.
And yet, we can watch a bloody and grueling title bout with nothing but excitement, cheering for our favorite as the two fighters beat each other to the point of exhaustion.
What’s going on here?
It’s very simple, really, and has to do with the difference between social interaction and asocial violence.
The first scenario (the fist fight) is inherently social; the bully, who occupies a position of power high up on the social totem pole, is being challenged. If the kid manages to cow the bully and make him cry, the kid will gain social status while the bully will lose status. Everyone gathers around because it’s important to see who will be victorious–you want to associate yourself with the winner and shun the loser. Such an upset, such a potential drastic change in the playground pecking order, is important to witness. The outcome of this event holds many repercussions for everyone in the social order. If the bully loses, he and his toadies will see their power eroded; kids will be less likely to hand over their lunch money. The kid who bested him will be a hero and automatically rise above the bully in social regard. If the bully prevails, the status quo is not only maintained, but reinforced. Once again, it’s extremely important, as a member enmeshed in this social order, to witness the contest and its outcome.
The second scenario (the school shooting) is inherently asocial, that is, we instantly recognize that it has nothing to with communication and there will be no change in the social order–there will only be mayhem, death, and misery. As such it holds no interest for the witnesses; it holds only terror.
This is what we mean when we speak of a divide between social and asocial violence. They are two very different interactions with very different expected outcomes. And confusing one for the other can get you killed.
Another way of looking at it is that one is a competition while the other is only about destruction. Competitions have rules. Destruction is just about who gets it right first… Happy Hour with all the Happy squeezed out of it!
If we fast-forward the school yard scenario 12 or so years we end up with a bar fight. And what do we see there?
Flaring arms and butting chests, enraged faces, shouted profanity. Throwing things. The biggest guy being ‘held back’ by a much smaller person. Pushing and shoving, trading punches to the head. And, more often than not, grappling and rolling around on the ground.
This is classic inter-male aggression; it’s what you get when you mix alcohol, testosterone, and territorial tendencies in the presence of available females. And it’s the same behavior seen across the animal kingdom. The thrashing, ranting and raving of the silverback gorilla, the head butting of rams, the clashing of male grizzly bears. All of these displays have everything to do with communicating displeasure and the threat of violence, but rarely, if ever, result in killing. The goal is to cow the interloper and run him off your territory, thereby gaining social status.
Every aspect of the display is designed to convince the rival that they should capitulate. The screaming and shouting, the angry faces say “I’m seriously agitated!” The flaring arms and out-thrust chests are to make the person look bigger in an attempt to scare off the rival. Pushing and shoving are for physical intimidation and to show strength and power. Punches to the head are communication as well; interacting with the head and face are an attempt to access and show displeasure with the person who resides in the body. Clinching and rolling around on the ground is a great way to look viciously engaged without hurting or getting hurt.
The bar fight looks and sounds like it does because it is a display, meant to be seen and heard by all those in attendance. The participants are doing these things because no one really wants to seriously injure the other; in fact, if you interrupted them and offered them handguns to shoot at each other they’d probably think you were insane.
Asocial violence is brutally streamlined by comparison.
It starts quietly, suddenly, and unmistakably. It’s knocking a man down and kicking him to death. It’s one person beating another with a tire iron until he stops moving. It’s stabbing someone 14 times. It’s pulling the gun and firing round after round into him until he goes down and then stepping in close to make sure the last two go through the brain.
If you’re a sane, socialized person, those images make you physically ill. That’s because you recognize them for what they are–asocial violence. The breakdown of everything we humans hold dear, the absence of our favorite construct, the very fabric of society itself. It’s an awful place where there’s no such thing as a ‘fair fight’ or honor.
It’s the place where there are no rules and anything goes.
It’s the place were people kill and get killed.
—– end of Part 1 —–
In Part 2… why asocial violence is such a very different beast than we’ve been led to believe, and why you cannot handle it using social tools. In fact, attempting to do so is what makes the average citizen such a brilliant victim.
All for now,
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