Moderator: Van Canna
As a teenager, I once had an opportunity to fly in a police helicopter over a major American city. Naively, I thought the experience might be uneventful. Perhaps there would be no crime between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. However, from the moment we were airborne, there was a fresh emergency every fifteen seconds: Shots fired… rape in progress… victim stabbed…It was a deluge.
Of course, the impression this left on me was, in part, the result of a sampling bias: I was hearing nothing but incident reports from a city of 4 million people, most of whom would never encounter violence directly.
(No one calls the police to say “Everything is still okay!”) Yet it was uncanny to discover the chaos that lurked at the margins of my daily routine. A few minutes from where I might otherwise have been eating dinner, rapes, robberies, and murders were in progress.
In my experience, most people do not want to think about the reality of human violence. I have friends who sleep with their front doors unlocked and who would never consider receiving instruction in self-defense.
For them, gun ownership seems like an ugly and uncivilized flirtation with paranoia. Happily, most of these people will never encounter violence in any form.
And good luck will make their unconcern seem perfectly justified.
But here are the numbers: In 2010, there were 403.6 violent crimes per 100,000 persons in the United States. (The good news: This is an overall decrease of 13.4 percent from the level in 2001.) Thus, the average American has a 1 in 250 chance of being robbed, assaulted, raped, or murdered each year. Actually, the chance is probably greater than this, because we know that certain crimes, such as assault and rape, are underreported.
In the comparative safety of Beverly Hills, assuming the crime rate stays constant, the probability that you will be robbed, assaulted, raped or murdered at some point over the next 30 years is 1 in 16.
(The average risk in the U.S. is 1 in 9; in Compton it’s better than 1 in 3.) Again, these statistics surely paint too rosy a picture, because many crimes go unreported.
It may seem onerous to prepare yourself and your family to respond to violence, but not doing so is also a form of preparation. Failing to prepare is, generally speaking, preparing very well to do the wrong thing. Although most of us are good at recognizing danger, our instincts often lead us to behave in ways that increase our chances of being injured or killed once a threat emerges.
However, instruction in self-defense need not consume your life. The most important preparations are mental. While I certainly recommend that you receive some physical training, merely understanding the dynamics of violence can make you much safer than you might otherwise be.
I once knew an experienced martial artist who decided to walk across Central Park late at night. He was aware of the danger, but he thought “I have a black belt in karate. Why shouldn’t I be able to walk wherever I want?” As it happened, this rhetorical question was answered almost immediately:
My friend hadn’t ventured more than a hundred yards into the darkness of the park before he was confronted by three men, one of whom plunged a hypodermic needle into his thigh without a word.
Our hero bolted and escaped, otherwise unharmed, but he spent the next three months wondering whether he had been infected with HIV, hepatitis, or some other blood-borne disease. (He was fine.) The lesson: Whatever your training, you needn’t be foolish.
Another principle is lurking here that should be made explicit: Never threaten your opponent. The purpose of his verbal challenge was to get you to respond in such a way as to make him feel justified in attacking you. You shouldn’t collaborate in this process or advertise your readiness to defend yourself.
Even if violence seems unavoidable, and you decide to strike preemptively, you should do so from a seemingly unaggressive posture, retaining the element of surprise. (This requires training.) Putting up your dukes and agreeing to fight has no place in a self-defense repertoire.
Putting up your dukes and agreeing to fight has no place in a self-defense repertoire.
Face saving (or saving face) refers to maintaining a good self image. People who are involved in a conflict and secretly know they are wrong will often not admit that they are wrong because they don’t want to admit they made a mistake. They therefore continue the conflict, just to avoid the embarrassment of looking bad.
The so-called "reasons" for disputes are actually triggers. In most human behavior there is a stated and unstated, or conscious and unconscious, motivation. The motivation for traffic disputes is no exception. While the event that sparks the incident may be trivial, in every case there exists some reservoir of anger, hostility, or frustration that is released by the triggering incident.
Mizell & Company analyzed the "reasons" given for violent disputes and collected the following list. Each of the reasons listed is associated with at least 25 incidents that resulted in death or injury:
"It was an argument over a parking space..."
"He cut me off"
"She wouldn't let me pass"
A driver was shot to death "because he hit my car"
"Nobody gives me the finger..."
A shooting occurred "because one motorist was playing the radio too loud."
"The bastard kept honking and honking his horn..."
"He/she was driving too slowly"
"He wouldn't turn off his high beams"
"They kept tailgating me..."
A driver was chased down and shot to death after fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run following a minor collision
A fatal crash occurred because another driver kept "braking and accelerating, braking and speeding up."
"She kept crossing lanes without signaling -- maybe I overreacted but it taught her a lesson."
"I never would have shot him if he hadn't rear-ended me"
"Every time the light turned green he just sat there -- I sat through three different green lights."
A fatal dispute erupted over which car had the right of way.
A driver accused of murder said "He couldn't care less about the rest of us -- he just kept blocking traffic."
A driver charged with attempted murder said, "He practically ran me off the road -- what was I supposed to do?"
And a teenager charged with murdering a passenger in another vehicle said simply, "We was dissed."
There are many other stated reasons for violent traffic disputes. In one case, for example, a man was attacked because he couldn't turn off the anti-theft alarm on his rented jeep.
Dozens of violent aggressive driving incidents have occurred because the occupants of one vehicle "dissed" or disrespected the occupants of a second vehicle.
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