Friday, October 05, 2012

RGI Review

I've been letting things settle, thinking things through.  The three day "Ethical Protector" class from RGI was good.  Important.  As far as I know, no one else is doing this.  Jack and his crew are aiming their program at rookies.  Not everyone there was-- actually most weren't-- but this is stuff that lays a foundation for a career free from burn-out.  And that's huge.

Pick any war and most values we shared with our enemies.  Courage, sacrifice, dedication.  There is always a code of honor in some form.  Given that, can there be good guys?  Bad guys?

There is a poster I have seen on line-- I don't have the rights to it so I won't post it-- of American soldiers in Afghanistan taking fire while Afghani villagers hide behind them.  The caption says "Bad guys use human shields.  Good guys are human shields."  That simple.

Are there good reasons to fight?  To go to war?  Yes, but there are bad reasons as well.  RGI has laid out what constitutes good and bad, and it is surprisingly objective.

Most of the instructors are former marines.  A couple, including Jack, were instrumental in the development of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).  But it's not a physical class.  There are a few physical techniques that are simple.  More confidence building, I think than practical.  And two workouts that are killer if you want to push (running, squats with a human body, body drags and the like in soft sand...)  But much of it was ethics, communication and stories.

One of the thoughts behind "Campfire Tales From Hell" was that there is an important piece missing from modern martial training.  Not just martial arts, but police academy and BCT.  And that is sitting around the fire, listening to stories from the old vets.  They know things that can't be really taught, but sometimes in a story, you can understand.  Hearing someone you admire talk about fear and pushing through means more than reading a clinical description of the Survival Stress Response.  There are subtleties and sometimes just some weird crap (intent literally changing someone else's behavior, for instance) that can be hard to process if you think it is new and unique.

So that was one of the beautiful things about the program.  The method.  Exhaustion, education, skills, stories.  For every sit down class there was a stand-up physical class to give a break.  The physical started with uber-basics.  How to stand, how to move and maintain orientation on a potential threat.

The lessons were about ethics, respect and communication.  Communication with the emotionally disturbed was taught by a Registered Nurse.  General communication was taught be a retired NYPD officer who spent a lot of years in anti-crime.  That man could talk.

The ethics part is unique, though.  Powerful.
I've always been one of the good guys.  There is a huge amount of psychic armor in that.  But it is sometimes risky and dangerous.  Not in the 'running towards danger' sense (although clearly that) but also in the, "I would rather quit this job than follow that order-- do I have the skills to take care of my family if I walk away?" sense.  That gets harder if you have doubts that your idea of 'good' is any better than the person giving you the order.  In retrospect, my instincts were dead-on.  But now I have the words to explain why.

And that is the reverse of one of Jack's observations.  Being the good guys, with an ability to explain beyond doubt why you were the good guys is powerful armor against PTSD.  And if you fail to live up to that standard, you know what you did wrong and what you must become and how you must atone in order to regain your balance.  As such, it is less a matter of teaching ethics than of clarifying them.

There are some language issues here.  In "Facing Violence" I used a model taught long ago at the police academy: Beliefs-Values-Morals-Ethics.
Beliefs are the things you hold to be true.
Values are your subjective preference in true things.
Morals are the squishy general feeling of right and wrong derived from your values.
Ethics are your attempts to codify (rules and laws) your morals.

In the RGI lexicon, ethics means something different.  Morals are right and wrong.  Ethics are morals in action.  If you know something is wrong, you are moral.  If you have the balls to do something about it, you are ethical.

Both work for me.

Last thing-- There were a few areas where the training lost me.  And it was just me, monitoring the other students it was some of the most powerful aspects for them.

Some of the stories were convincers, and I walked in already convinced that ethics has always been a part of my jobs and life.  There is a qualitative difference going into a fight as a good guy versus a bad guy.  So I drifted on those.

And pure exertion as a team-builder doesn't work for me anymore.  Twenty years ago, yeah.  Now it's just pain with strangers.  Not the first time, won't be the last.  Danger still works for team building.

I can quibble.  Is the ethical underpinning innate or taught? My opinion likely differs from Jack's crew, but it matters very little.  I think ConCom is better for that part... blah blah blah.

But this is important stuff.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

American soldiers in Afghanistan taking fire while Afghani villagers hide behind them.

I believe those Afghanistan Villagers used to be called "collaborators"

Anonymous said...

Or maybe they are people who don't want to take orders about every facet of daily life from a bunch of fanatical whack jobs?

Anonymous said...


That's why the American troops were taking fire .DUUUUH

Anonymous said...

Correct, the fanatical whack jobs have AKs; not rocket surgery....

Tiff said...

Anyway... about Rory's post...


Sounds like an amazing course -- especially for rookies. Wish stuff like that was a fundamental in every academy in the country. I sincerely believe law enforcement can survive/prevent/avoid things like media backlash -- change the perception of civilians -- if the collective LEO mindset is altered in this way. I feel as if the bad news arises when some of us forget that; I'm not that surprised that it snapped some rookies in the class awake.

(I was actually thinking a lot recently about the necessity to tell ourselves certain stories, not to justify or rationalize, but to reinforce an ideology that motivates you to achieve a goal. Could still work both ways, though, for "bad" or "good." But I think RGI offers a vital tool that all first reponders/military should adopt.)

Mark Bruns said...

I am too clumsy or unable to come up with the best combination of tactics and strategy, but I am quite ready to fight, kill and die for the independence of others. I'm not alone in that.

I believe that commitment is the highest American value ... a lot of times, I do recognize that the highest American value I prize has been co-opted to serve the private interests of powerful individuals. That's the way it goes ... just because some jerk or criminal uses a positive value does not invalidate the value in its entirety or in its use in the majority of applications.

Independence and self-reliance are what defines America ... Americans don't want to be governed by Liberals, they don't want to be governed by Conservatives or by ANY Party that can be subverted by a group of individuals who use the Party for their own ends ... Americans want to be governed by themselves ... that's what independence and self-reliance are all about.

However, when I discern that anyone is willing to restrict the independence of others for his own benefit or the benefit of some group of religious zealots [whether those zealots are Liberals, Muslims, Christians or any sort of goofy cult with ridiculous hypnotic belief in an arbitrary, vague half-baked set of values] ... I start plotting a strategy for what I can do to thwart the objectives of that group or Party that would restrict the independence of others ... especially as that Party becomes a "democratic" lynchmob that threatens to punish polluters or employers or companies that provide products ... of course, I would prefer to develop a creative and dynamic strategy that focuses on something witty or pithy or creative to stop people who restrict the independence of others ... ultimately, I will scale and escalate force, attempting to do the minimal amount of harm and respecting the rights of others, but I am willing to kill [and to die fighting] to STOP others who want to restrict the independence of others. I am certain that I am not alone -- there are multiple millions of other Americans would also kill and die fighting, if necessary, to defend American values of independence and self-reliance of others.

Independence and self-reliance of others are ~articulated~ values we hold that precede the formation of America by 1000 years or even more ... the example that I am personally familiar with is the formation of the first republic of independent citizens by my Frisian ancestors in 892 AD -- I'm proud of that heritage because it has shaped who I am and everyone I'm related to. I am also quite proud of the fact that my ancestors turned a colonialist serving the emperor and pope in Rome [i.e. the asshole named Boniface] into a martyr for the dubious cause of spreading the reign of Pepin's and Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire ... people like me consider ourselves to be Christians, but we are NOT necessarily too excited about the history of Roman Catholic church -- Christians have been killing Christians for a long time.

Partly because much of the Constitution is based on the documents that my Dutch and German ancestors crafted over the centuries after 892, I am as big a fan of the Constitution as anyone, but I know that document is still pretty trivial compared to what God has created, we'll see if the Constitution lasts 2500 years ... the older that I get, I find that I don't really value democracy, honor, valor, willpower or any moral value or any sort of artificially legislated set of morals for their own sake ... but the golden rule matters to me; it matters that all children of God have the independence necessary to develop their own relationship with God.

Anti Money Laundering said...

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

Travis said...

I object to non-violence because when it lets evil have it's way there is no short term good and only lasting evil, often of a higher magnitude.

Even positing your assertion is true for the sake of argument "some good, some evil" clearly outweighs "all evil".

Justthisguy said...

"Ethical Protector" puts it less crudely than I did a few years ago on a gun-nerd forum, discussing proper behavior among policemen.

"Virtuous Badass" was the phrase I used. And yes, Rory, I think you might be one.