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.
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