Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, February 07, 2020

Injuring Someone Isn't Self Defense

At The Way of Least Resistance, there was a post about how the notion of horribly injuring an attacker in the name of self defense really isn't a good idea. An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.

A particular approach in reality-based self defence (RBSD) is becoming increasingly popular: that of learning how to inflict maximum damage to dangerous attackers.
On paper this approach looks like it could have merit - and correspondingly any criticism (of the kind I'm about to make) might seem to be totally inappropriate.

After all, consider this example:

"He came in the door of my office and shot two people already. I saw him drop down for a reload. When he dropped down for the reload, I was able to tackle him and get him on the ground. Then the first thing I saw was his eye, and I gouged his eye out, which stopped him from going on." 
I got this from an article titled "How to Horribly Injure Someone". And yes, it is worded in such a way as to be rather unobjectionable in philosophical terms: first an horrific scenario is created - one where the worst violence is not only justified but arguably required. Next, the use of that violence is posited and you are invited to challenge that use (which, of course, you cannot).
All that's left is for a particular RBSD school to point out that while most people can stomp quite effectively on a can of Coke, they can't really stomp on a human head. It seems that people need to be taught to be violent. Enter the aforementioned RBSD school.

Anyone like me coming along and criticising this sort of approach will seem like a namby-pamby, goody two shoes who is all about "theory" rather than "reality".

And it will seem particularly namby-pamby of me to argue against such approach when 2 other examples where such violence would be totally inappropriate have already been canvassed, namely:
 "A guy comes into the bar and pushes me, and tells me that's his seat, so I reach out, and I grab his hair, and I gouge his eye out." 

"I'm pulling into Whole Foods. I'm waiting for a parking spot for two minutes. A guy comes in with a Mercedes and grabs my spot. I get out of the car, pull him out of his car, throw him up against the car, and gouge his eye out, your honor."
Um - no. I guess those aren't appropriate...

But I'm sorry to say, I can't let this one go through to the keeper. Because, in my view, the "injure your attacker horribly" approach to RBSD is so totally flawed that I can't help but see it as the height of irresponsibility as regards self defence advice/training.

Look, don't get me wrong: in the first scenario where it's justified, I haven't got any issue with the approach (at least, not in principle: if you think gouging someone's eye is easy, you're in for a rude shock). If you have some terrorist or other mass murderer coming at you after killing other people, you're probably going to want to know "how to horribly injure" that murderer. But as a general RBSD guiding principle, the approach is highly dangerous (for you and others) and deeply inappropriate. Why do I say this? For the following 3 reasons:

1. What kind of violence are you likely to face?

Violent crime rates are plummeting in the US and the rest of the developed world. They have been plummeting for many decades now. Your chances of facing a scenario of the kind warranting eye-gouging are slim. That's not to say the chances are non-existent: they just don't register much on the scale of things you should prioritize.

Consider: the odds of encountering terrorism for US residents are still around 1 in 45,808. Yes, they face a much higher risk of murder (1 in 249) or assault by gun (1 in 358) but the latter statistics include killings and assaults that are carried out when people are sleeping, breastfeeding or in myriad other situations where they would be unlikely to have the opportunity to pre-empt the attack with an eye-gouge or other "horrible injury".

Statistically speaking, what kind of violence is someone in the West far more likely to face? How about a domestic altercation? Or (if you are a man) a fight outside a pub with a drunken yobbo? Or (if you are a woman) a sexual assault on a university campus?

In respect of the last of these, consider the case below and ask yourself how "necessary and reasonable" an eye-gouge etc. would have been in the context of such an assault.

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