The Essential Differences Between Social Aggression and Asocial Violence
Social Confrontation is:
- Can be solved using social skills.
Asocial Violence is: Guy with Gun
- Unaffected by social skills
- and requires decisive action.
The violence that comes from social posturing is avoidable; it is often loud, dramatic and instantly recognizable. You get to see it coming. And that means you can dodge it if you choose to.
If you don’t choose to (or cannot) leave, these sorts of problems can be handled with the social tools we’re all familiar with. We’ve all talked our way out of a bad situation-you wouldn’t have made it this far in life if you weren’t good at negotiating.
We all know how to calm someone down. We all know how to capitulate. We also all know how to act like a jerk and add fuel to the fire and turn an argument into a shouting match, a shouting match into a fist fight. The important point here is that in social situations, you have a choice.
Social aggression is also eminently survivable. The typical goal in a bar fight is not to kill anyone-it’s simply to best the other person and dominate them physically. Does this mean you can’t be killed in a bar fight? Of course not. What we’re saying is that the death rate in the typical Saturday night punch-up is far lower than one would expect, with the bulk of fatalities being accidental, and the rest because one person really did want to kill the other. You can get killed in a bar fight, or an argument over a parking space, or any other trivial social status confrontation. It’s just highly unlikely.
Asocial violence, on the other hand, cannot be handled with social tools and is far less survivable. Negotiating with a serial killer is like arguing with a bullet-if it’s coming your way words are not going to deflect it. If someone has decided to stab you to death, capitulation only makes their work easier.
Confusing the Two
The big problem arises when we confuse the two-when we don’t know there’s a difference between competition and destruction, between social and asocial violence. No one’s going to get confused in the ring; we are all very good at recognizing social competition, a contest of strength, skill and desire. We cheer for our favorite and the best man wins. It works out great as long as we’re all playing by the same rules.
The big problem is competing with someone who wants to kill you. As social beings we try to drag our rules into a realm that is completely devoid of them-the asocial violent act. This is where things go terribly wrong. While we try to impose our rules to keep everything fair and above board, the killer is only recognizing the laws of physics and how they relate to physiology.
In other words, he’s going to stab you when you’re not looking, he’s going to kick you in the throat when you’re down. If things don’t look so hot for him he’ll capitulate to get you to let go so he can pull a gun and shoot you. He’ll use your social baggage against you.
Violence has nothing to do with competition or communication. It’s purely about destruction. The scariest person in the room is not the shouting, screaming, gesticulating weightlifter making snarling faces-it’s the 5’4″ gangbanger quietly sliding a blade out of his pocket. He’s not going to draw attention to himself; if he wants to kill you, he’s not going to talk about it. He’s just going to get it done.
The good news is that true sociopathy is rare. The bad news is that you can’t really tell the difference. Nor can you read people’s minds to find out their intentions. Faced with these realities, you need a tool that is going to work 100% of the time on 100% of the population-one that is going to work equally well on everyone you use it on. Social persuasion techniques like pain compliance and submission holds require the other person to play by the rules and capitulate.
It’s not going to work on everyone, and the people you want it to work on most-criminal sociopaths-are just plain not going to cooperate. This begs the question: why is it that the people who are most successful at using violence have almost no training? What makes the criminal sociopath so effective?
Social Permissions: Monkey See, Monkey Do
As social, sane people, we tend to think of violence in social terms-either by framing everything as the schoolyard David and Goliath or by believing that if we take our social rules with us into the void place we can somehow hang onto our humanity and therefore not stoop to ‘their’ level.
We tend to think of violence as a force continuum where if he yells at you, you can yell at him. If he pushes you, then you can push him. If he throws a punch then you can hit back. We also believe that the worst kind of violence, that which results in death, happens somewhere out at the end of this progression, if it gets pushed far enough.
The problem is that it is not necessary to get “worked up” or walk through all these various steps to get to serious crippling injury or death; punching someone in the throat or stabbing them in the neck is readily available at all times, in all places.
This is what the criminal sociopath knows.
Can someone ramp up through all the steps and whip themselves into a frothy frenzy that ends in killing? Yes. But what the criminal sociopath knows is that he can get there instantaneously. He can go from smiling and shrugging to stabbing in the amount of time it takes him to reach into his pocket.
And the really scary part is so can you.
Violence is always available; you just have to choose to do it. You don’t need to walk through the social dance one step at a time to get there. You don’t need to get ready, or drop into a fighting stance, or give a verbal warning. You can swing the tool of violence whenever you wish, at a moment’s notice. And this is exactly what you must to do in the face of asocial violence in order to survive.
Wednesday… Part 3, the final installment of this Social vs Asocial Violence post.
All for now,