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Sunday, October 11, 2009
Another metaphor, or maybe a string of metaphors. A wise man, Mac, once said to me during a short conversation about the finer points of professional intimidation: “I want him to look into my eyes and see the price of admission.”
I love that line.
If you crunch the numbers, it is impossible for a small woman to resist a committed attacker. He will be stronger, bigger, have surprise and a plan on his side. (Trust me, in general, a threat will rarely pick a larger, stonger, more alert victim. That’s not the way the game is played.) Purely crunching the numbers, the victim doesn’t have a chance.
But victims have won. Many, many times they have fought their way to safety or scared off or incapacitated the threat. Statistics are statistics, but I have heard or read that fighting back increases a women’s chance of escaping unharmed by 50-80%. Full disclosure, (this is from memory, so don’t quote me) one of the studies in the eighties reckoned that fighting back increased the chances of getting away unharmed by about 80% but also increased the chances of being killed by 13%. Tell me if we need a short post on reading statistics.
So what’s going on? The math (size + strength + predator surprise) of what should happen in an assault doesn’t match observations from the field.
So here’s the metaphor- in any conflict each party is willing to risk a certain amount of chips. If the other party raises beyond what the other is willing to risk, they have the advantage. It’s a clumsy metaphor and I already hate it. It implies bluffing, but this is very real. It implies that only the chips on the table count, but the cards matter too.
Still, bear with it a little bit. When a rabbit turns on a fox and drives it off, it isn’t because the fox couldn't beat the rabbit; the fox leaves because he doesn’t want to pay the price to stay in the game. The fox, the predator, the threat makes a mental note of the risk they are going to take, what they are willing to do to take down this rabbit or that co-ed. They have estimated the price of admission. When the price goes up, they often leave (and this gets messy, too, because sometimes it can trigger a rage reaction as their manhood is put into question. If I can pretend the statistics are all about my little metaphor, raising the stakes works about 80% of the time and backfires about 13%). If the threat is surprised enough to freeze, the rabbit-turned-feral can not only escape, but destroy the threat.
Just a thought. I like the image of raising the stakes. When you are accustomed to a penny-ante, nickel limit game it just makes sense to walk away from the guys playing for rent money and paychecks.
But another reason to hate the metaphor- it sounds too much like Marc MacYoung’s ‘escalado’. Not the same thing at all, and the metaphor works better for escalado then for this…
But do you see it? There is size, strength, skill, speed and ruthlessness… but there is also an ability to take this conflict to a level that the other party isn’t prepared for. You want to chip your teeth and try to intimidate and I’m willing to put you face down in the concrete… who is going to win? Still want to play? You want to push and shove and I want to break bones and joints? You want a good old-fashioned fistfight and the knife appears in my hand?
Achilles and Hector- Hector was a good, noble man, possibly the best human being in the Iliad, and he was willing to kill, to risk his life and fight to the death. Achilles wanted to humiliate Hector’s dead body and drag it around the walls of Troy. Who won?
There are higher levels you can take conflict to, and as long as you leave a face-saving out, once you raise it too high the threat may walk away. But god help you if he was willing to call and you were only bluffing.