Friday, August 09, 2013

Take Offense

My favorite used book store is Robert's in Lincoln City, Oregon.  Whenever we make a trip to the coast we make a point to stop by.  I've occasionally found some amazingly rare books there, like a copy of "Caves of Washington" with all of the maps intact or "Judo In Action: Grappling" which was going for hundreds of dollars on E-Bay not so long ago.

This time, I ran across two incredibly cheesy 1970's era self-defense manuals.  One is hilarious.  I may write about it later.  The other is Lt. Jim Bullard's "Looking Forward to Being Attacked."  It has the seventies hair styles and clothes and some odd pictures (exactly how does someone get mugged while playing tennis at the country club?) but most of the advice is spot-on and the gimmick of looking at assaults as fun opportunities is entertaining.

Anyway, all cheese isn't cheese.  Or cheese has some nutrition.  Whatever.  It's a metaphor.

But one of the things Lt. Bullard says again and again is both potentially terrible advice and absolutely dead right.  Boldly go into dark places.  Take offense whenever you are offended against.

Right.  This hits my core.  I don't let bad guys be bad around me. I do go to places I warn others about and hang with people that most shouldn't...and I have committed to a cold math.  Behavior has consequences, including mine.  I will be one of those consequences, if necessary.  And, if necessary, I will pay my own consequences for that decision.

I tell my students the truth, however, and encourage them to use it.  Bad stuff happens in predictable places, at predictable times.  The targets are predictable and you can simply not  be one of the targets.  But to follow this advice is to cede a certain part of the world to the predators.  To give them some control over our behavior.  To 'give up freedom' as Lt. Bullard phrases it.

Many good strategies (and plans and especially policies and government programs) originally designed to evade a problem wind up enabling.  We don't want people to starve and we don't want being unemployed to be especially demeaning so we set the social safety net at a dollar amount that satisfies those needs...and people who have no intention of ever producing are enabled to be comfortable.

We do the same thing in self defense:  "Avoid, escape, de-escalate, only in the gravest extreme do you use your skills."  This attitude (and it is not just self-defense instructors, society as a whole condones this, which is why we teach it) makes it extremely safe to be a criminal.  It should not be safe to be a criminal.

But we live in a world of liability, where law-abiding people with legal assets have much to lose and criminals almost nothing that can be forfeited.  You can't garnish profits on drug deals.

And so we teach avoid, evade, de-escalate... But I wish we lived in the world that Bullard imagines, where someone who chooses to rob or rape (these are the bad guys for cryin' out loud) is at immediate risk for their lives, sight or motor function.  Where people felt confident to say, "We don't tolerate that bullshit here" and could go a little commando on the gangs and riffraff that ruin a community.  But they fear that they would be punished quicker and more fiercely than the bad guys.  You see, it is safer and easier to punish good guys.  Good guys take the punishment.  Bad guys laugh at you.  Far easier to confiscate weapons or sue citizens than to get the same thing from criminals.  And if you are deluded, it still feels like you are doing something.

The smart thing is to avoid.  But I wouldn't have leaned a damn thing if I'd been smart.  I went into a profession that let me fight the bad guys.  Because they have to be fought.  Not understood-- we understand them well enough.  Not accommodated-- you give them what they want and you have identified yourself as a victim and there is no limit to what they want.  Bad guys need to be stopped.  Cold.  As a citizen, that is legally problematic.

Josh's comments implied that people become cops seeking power and authority.  That's not my experience.  People become cops because they know the victims.  They know that the only way to prevent victimization is to stand up and fight back... and they also know that under our current system that is a very, very risky strategy unless you have the sanction of the government.

I would love if that was just an expected thing, and I think that is what "Stand Your Ground" laws are trying to bring back.

It should be dangerous to be a criminal.


Unknown said...

While the idea of making it unsafe to be a criminal has its own sense, wouldnt that open the window for criminals to exploit the new legal system as a window to do whatever they want, since the same laws making it dangerous to be a bad guy would require people to be able to act with far less inhibition and more likely than not without being able or needing to be able to prove it to a jury later?

How could this work in such a way that it didnt also work in favor of those who would exploit it?

Unknown said...

"You see, it is safer and easier to punish good guys."
So true. Basically some people I know got problems for being good guys in bad situation.

"It should be dangerous to be a criminal."
Indeed, but sadly it is not. People in fear are usually people who do nothing wrong.

Josh Kruschke said...


Stand your ground.


I've known of a few. Wasn't trying to imply that it was they only reason. Just as there are good dojo & bad. There are good departments & bad.

Just putting on the blue doesn't automatically make you the good guy, and being a 'Profesional' is a mindset not a job. Even if you feel a duty to stop the 'bad guys' as a reasonable justification, a lot of bad things have been done for good reasons.

I'm going to point my gun at you and your family, because I feel I need to search your house for your safety.....

Then Blue line. Leave it to the Professionals.

How much bad training or public perception, if any, is due to the culture, the trainee or policies/bureaucracy?


Josh Kruschke said...

How much is a self-fulfilling prophecy 'leave it to the professionals' creating a victim profile/culture in the US?

Josh Kruschke said...


"I've known of a few. Wasn't trying to imply that it was they only reason. Just as there are good dojo & bad. There are good departments & bad." + There are, also, good & bad reasons for seeking the power and authority of a police officer.

I hate when I don't finish writing out a thought.


Thomas M. said...

There is a principle in German law which says: "The lawful doesn't have to make way to the unlawful".

This is basically one core of our self-defense law. I once thought the US self-defense laws to be way more liberal than ours but this doesn't seem to be the case.

I don't really get the "duty to retreat" - a criminal breaks the law and now the citizen has to retreat from him to keep the protection of the law? The criminal can basically force him to retreat just by breakig the law?

It is definitely often a good strategy but I totally agree with your point.Society shouldn't excpect or even force people to be victims or to tolerate crimes.

Maija said...

I've always thought that the 2 big motivations - acting for personal safety and acting for societal good mean making different choices ... and you can't really change things unless you put yourself at risk.

Like you say, I can avoid danger with a high percentage chance of managing to do so ... but that does not mean that danger is not there ... or potential growing .....
So then the question becomes what am I willing to risk to change how things are? And do I get to judge where the line is?

I understand how the system evolved into what it is today ... and also that humans are incredibly adaptive creatures born to find ways to get around any rule that exists. Nothing is ultimately controllable, or static - there is always creep in one direction or another which is why we should never be complacent.

But what do do? Stop the bad guy, get into trouble and accept the punishment? Or ....?

There were riots in my city not so long ago - a bunch of property destruction which affected some small businesses that could little afford the costs of clean up. By the second night, the staff at various bars and restaurants came together and stood guard outside these businesses to stop the rioters breaking more windows, I thought that was great. Same thing happened in London a few years back. The community came together and basically said 'No', to the rioters by showing a willingness to fight back.

Thing is of course .... there's a fine line between community groups and full on tribalism leading to the disfunctions that can bring. The Guardian Angels seem to have kept it together over the years so successful models do exist ..... maybe that's the way to go?

In this day and age of instant messaging, camera phones, gps etc .. seems like it would be easier to create a new model of shutting down the bad guys through force of numbers, and potentially without the use of physical violence at all ...? Perhaps we need to think less as individuals and more as teams?

It would be much easier to stay within the law as it stands, no? It would be a tactically better idea than individual intervention too :-)

Unknown said...


That took a while to watch, but it was interesting nonetheless. Cheers!

Jim said...

In my experience -- there are three main reasons people become cops. In no particular order:

1. They need a job, and it's steady government job. (You can tell these guys; they come in, do their job, may try to play the games to move up in rank... but they're marking time until retirement. They'll seldom go a step beyond the minimum tasks.)

2. They're junkies... Some of them are adrenaline junkies. (They usually get everyone around them in hairy situations...) Others are power and authority junkies. They've been kicked around, and now it's their turn to do the kicking.

3. It's how they feel like they can contribute their skills in the best way, for them and society. Lump the protect & serve stuff here, if sincerely meant. It's what they want to do, no matter how bitter and cynical, no matter how much they bitch... They're cops. They feel like they can make a difference... maybe just once -- but they can make a difference.

There are some other reasons (family tradition, for example) -- but I think these are the big three. And honestly -- it's usually a mix of at least 2 of them.

I do like the idea of making it dangerous and unpleasant rather than glamorous to be a criminal... or even just rude in public.

Josh Kruschke said...


Sorry! There was no short answer, & the answer to your question lies within understanding what Stand Your Ground actually is vs what people think it is.

This is where "Scaling Force" comes in.


Marc MacYoung said...

There are monsters out there. I just happened to like the look in their eyes when they realized they'd failed.

And yes, you can walk safely in the darkness, if you're willing to pay the price.

Peter Steeves said...

Thanks Maija, for the good words about the Guardian Angels. We do very regularly shut down the bad guys, and often before they get to do any huge damage (not always, unfortunately).

There is plenty of space for the "good guys" to proactively have an impact and make it tough on the "bad guys" but it absolutely does involve some risk: physical, emotional, and legal.

I remember leading a patrol that took us around the block, only to arrive at a fresh homicide. Bystanders let us know that an argument turned into a fight, then into a murder. We would have happily jumped in when the argument started to look physical ... but I didn't choose that walking path, and I wish I had.

We've broken up fights, made arrests, and called for EMS. There is PLENTY to do, and if anyone is interested, I hope you'll reach out to a local Chapter. (And if you're in LA, then I hope to hear from you personally).

Scott said...

Is it possible that "intent" is our blind spot? Martial artists and legal doctrine are obsessed with it. Who cares what a policeman's intent is? I care how she behaves.
Sure, to assess whether or not we need to defend ourselves might involve clarifying someone's intent, but actions are way more important.
Bad guys are morally bad. But our legal system is so tied up in examining intent to determine moral gravity that it hamstrings itself.
If we shift our legal view, so that we treat bad behavior as a self-control problem, we will have a way to quickly identify and contain, restrain or reform those most likely to commit more serious crimes.
This is Japan's approach.

Josh Kruschke said...

(Rory, Thinking out loud here hope you don't mind.)


Who's morality?

Who decides what constitutes bad or objectionable behavior?
 Then doesn't the law then becomes about control?  Does this then lead to the Bloombergs and those that feel they can fix things and people by passing laws & regulations.

Remember law is force.

Our legal system used to be based in/on harm. Was damages or harm done (Over simplification.).  We called this Common Law.

We then broke this up into Criminal - Governmental Prosecution & Civil Law (not to be confused with the Civil Law Tradition of a Codified Law) - that dealt with matters between individuals. One focuses on punishment and the other on redress.

Now we have muddled legal system with no clear goals or purpose (My opinion).

We need to figure out what it is we want our legal system to do. Punish? Enforce Restitution? Act as a Deterrence? Seek justice?*

I don't know why we as humans feel the need to over complicate things.

To me the 'law' should be about restoring balance, as much as is possible in that you can't change the past (*This how I define justice.).

Yes! We need to deal with the reality of the Legal System as is, but that doesn't mean we can't work towards our ideal.

Food for thought:

Bastiat – The Law.


P.S. One of thr most insidiously evil books I've read resontly was a book called "Nudge" Everything advocated in it is all done with the justification, "This is done for your own good, because we know better."

(FYI: As a Free-market Anarchist/Anarcho-Capitalist I'm really against monopolies of force.)

Keith K. said...

I'm glad to see a kindred voice on this topic in Josh K. here.

I completely agree, the problem became that the Police moved from a more professional means of redressing genuine crimes (rights violations against property) and became more a means of enforcing social control, whether that social control was forced segregation on the one hand or in prohibiting the legitimate exercise of one's right to self-defense.

Part of the issue also is the underlying monopoly of force. Law Enforcement is like any other bureaucracy, once it is free from the pressures of profit and loss it largely exists to enhance it's own survival, not necessarily to perform a desired service. In some cases it does, but in many it does not.

This is not to heap scorn and condemnation of those who put on the Blue (although there is some objective room for that depending on the circumstances). It is more a call to look at the institutions at the most basic level and evaluate logically how they go wrong.

And for further reading on this topic I might suggest Bruce Benson's "Enterprise of Law".

Anonymous said...

I can tell you this: enabling poor behavior starts early. In elementary schools, you have the same thing: good kids are easy to punish because they are so bad at being bad; bad kids just laugh at you. And they do learn to take and take and take. This isn't something that falls into place once a kid turns thirteen; we are conditioning predators to work the system from the day they set foot on a public school campus. Once they took the paddles away, the timid bad kids decided they wanted to play too. It's a very difficult situation.

-Geoff Nelson

Rory said...

Josh and Keith-- Be careful generalizing from the outside. things have changed profoundly in the LEO field in the last 30-40 years but NOT, IME to more militant or more hands on. I encourage you to look into this yourself, not read people who are making money by stroking fear. Militarization? Machine guns were set up in a few cases in the sixties to discourage riots, and water cannons were common. Up until 1985 it was perfectly legal to shoot someone just for running away from a cop. Many more examples like this, but look at it yourself.

Teo said...

I feel the same way, wishing that it was easy for citizens to take charge of their security (I felt more accutely about this when I lived in a badder part of the town). But I feel that Stand Your Ground laws are open to abuse, they probably need to be better thought out? At least it seems so from over here. The duty to retreat is stupid but OTOH Stand Your Ground laws look that they can be easily claimed by the wrong party.

Kamil said...

This post is curious to me. Is being a criminal suddenly some kind of safe lifestyle? To be a good criminal would require you to survive a lot of bad situations. To be a poor criminal will see you going repeatedly to jail. Are these things that law-abiding people long for? This is the one thing that I love most about "Breaking Bad". You can't run to the cops if someone steals your drugs. You have to go steal it back. How safe is that? Living outside the law means living without a lot of the protection that us 'victims' take for granted. I frankly wouldn't want to spend my life looking over my shoulder. But if you're a criminal to any significant degree, wouldn't you have done something to someone that make watching your back a good idea?