Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self Analysis

Some comments by e-mail and on the last blog basically summed up:
"If the type of violence you will face is predictable, what about me?"

Fair question. But damn, people, some day I'm going to do a blog on how to read statistics because almost anything I write will be read incorrectly.

Here's the deal: Unless you are making certain life choices, your chances of being exposed to serious violence are very small.

So what are the stupid life choices? Almost all social violence happens in four kinds of places:
  • Where people get their minds altered. Drugs, alcohol, or even ecstatic drumming, things that break down the social conditioning against violence increase the likelihood of violence. Who'd a thunk it?
  • Where young men gather in groups. An audience plus insecurities about status are a recipe for Monkey Dance violence.
  • Where territories are in dispute. War or the edge between rival gang territory, doesn't matter. Violence is more common and even the types of violence are similar: raids and drive-bys; spray 'n' pray and collateral damage.
  • Where you don't know the rules. Groups have rules and those rules will be enforced. In certain groups, they will be enforced with a look or a word. In others if you refuse to acknowledge your error, the correction may be violent.
So, the first analysis-- do you spend time in any of these situations? The first two, guys are at risk for Monkey Dance and women, in general, at risk for unwanted touching. The third, the violence could be extreme, random, and not even aimed at you. Wrong place, wrong time could put you in front of a bullet.

The fourth is rare, sort of, and not bad, unless you are stupid. Every so often something very, very bad happens when some college kids decide to go slumming at a biker or barrio bar. They don't know the rules. If they had the humility to realize that, keep their mouths shut and be respectful, it's not bad. But that seems to be a rare combination of virtues in that demographic. Some of us go into wildly different cultures with some regularity and make friends. What we have in common is the ability to be respectful and shut the hell up.

There is fifth place, too: predatory violence happens in lonely places, without witnesses.

Second analysis: do you spend time with violent people? If your husband has beaten you in the past he will do so in the future. If you decided to marry your prison pen pal child molester, he will molest your children when you have them. If your asshole roommate gets in fights every weekend and you go out drinking with him, you will get into fights. Predictable.

Third analysis: What kind of target do I look like? Big guys who look tough are Monkey Danced on more than little guys. Win or lose with the big guy, you score points on 'heart'. Win with the little guy and you just beat a child-- no rep in that. Worse if the little guy beats you. People who are uncomfortable in their own skin (reads as weak) and labile (literally translates as 'lippy' but a psychology term for showing emotion) are bully targets.

People who, again, are uncomfortable in their own skin, awkward, inattentive and hesitant, are primary targets for predators. Resource predators, the most common, are just in it for the money.

This is the part where you need to understand statistics. Even in a war zone, actual violence is not 24/7. Most people who go to war do not die or get injured and many never even see action. Because you can predict the type does not mean you can predict the event. I am fairly certain that if 130 people died on a jet plane, the cause was probably a plane wreck... but that is no indicator that any given plane will wreck.

Lastly are the outliers, and this is important. There are types of violence that do not follow common patterns. Sometimes that is deliberate. An insecure member of a violent group may do something completely outside the rules of normal social violence to get a reputation for being 'hard' too crazy to mess with. It is often a display of extreme violence against someone who would not normally be seen as a legitimate target-- like stomping a baby.

If you have betrayed a group with a propensity to violence, that can trigger an extreme response... but this one is predictable, too.

There are random acts of group violence as bonding. Very, very rare but very, very violent. There is no victim profile for this.

Home invasion crimes, schizophrenic episodes... This stuff is rare and that makes it less predictable but raises the stakes. Obviously I concentrate on defending the high-end unpredictable stuff, because the predictable stuff is preventable.


Elinor said...

Nice post. Bad people are going to do bad things, and if you put yourself in a situation where there is a chance of getting assaulted or killed, well, there's a good chance it can happen. And it seems to surprise most people. No idea why. It always reminds me of the scene in The Razor's Edge where the British 'boys' are driving the ambulance across land being fired on, right before their ambulance is blown up.

Charles James said...

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! I have been trying hard to come up with some way for a person to decide their needs in this subject but have been lacking ... then whalla, you so eloquently state the obviously now short answer.

Thanks for taking such a huge and complex thing and making it manageable.

Wayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wayne said...

Along these lines, caught this story today: NFL Upsets Could Trigger Domestic Violence


Craig said...

Thanks, @Rory, for putting it so succinctly.

I remember reading an article some time ago where the author posed a 90-9-1 model for categorizing self-defense scenarios. (Can't remember where - I seem to think it was Iain Abernethy, but I can't find a link.) While all models are wrong, some are useful, and I happen to think this is one of the useful ones.

The gist is that for the typical citizen, 90 percent of potentially violent scenarios can be dealt with using awareness and avoidance, and a further nine percent through verbal de-escalation. The final one percent were the scenarios where some level of force is called for.

The problem arises when we spend 100 percent of the time training for the one percent probability. If that 90-9-1 model is even correct, shouldn't we be spending nine times as much training time on "verbal" self-defense?

Food for thought.

Martial Arts Spectrum

Flinthart said...

Interesting assessment. Intriguing enough that I'm going to do a bit of reading through your back catalogue, here.

Mac said...

And, my favorite - not paying attention to your intuition.

Irene said...

Your problem, Rory, is that you keep expecting people to take responsibility for their own decisions. You won't give them the magic one-shot solution that will provide invulnerability and let them behave entirely freely without concern for consequence.

Rory said...

Irene- I was sooooo tempted to say that I'm reserving the silver bullet answer for the inner circle members of my cult but somebody would take me seriously.

Unknown said...

Nice read till last paragraph where I want to split hairs and bust balls.
You've spent a lifetime managing fairly predictable violence during your time logged in prisons. You were good at it. You know it. It's your home turf. Maybe you have a responsibility to write up something for young guys coming up in prison settings, your experience with mentally ill opens hospitals----the need is real, money is there, you know it like the back of your hand.

Who is teaching all the people---the vast majority of the population who happen to be most attached to Disney land fantasies---special needs adults if you will. Most of the growling heard around AL type spots and disdain is focused on this part of the population, yes ?

What are the chances that people going for self-defense classes are going to be lucky enough to receive quality instruction ? What about "good enough--passable" ? It lies somewhere on the ole' Bell curve.
Most people will have average instructors---but that doesn't tell us much. Average instruction might not be good enough ? And what % of providers of self-defense training offer "passable" training ?
I'm going to be an optimist an guess you will say 10 %. You are Mean Mr. Mustand Seed type strict.

Back to AL type guys in dealing with the sheep. The error of succumbing to othering enters here--the sheep tempt sheepdogs to "other" them or "transcending" them as Walker Percy put it. It isn't a good place to set up camp anyway.

Knight's jump:Not playing--who specifically are you targeting in your training work. I ought know but I don't.

Josh Kruschke said...

You mean I'm not in the Rory Miller self-defense cult?

Who did I send all my money to when I joined?

Oh well, live an learn.


Pewari said...

Really good analysis, thank you. This is the sort of stuff that gets left out of many self-defense and martial arts classes (mostly because of time and expectation of the students, I guess) or at best only covered briefly but is so valuable.

Anonymous said...

What about the people that excitedly walk and run towards alarms, sirens and explosions - and then express surprise when they get involved in violence!