The purpose of this post isn't to get a huge debate started about gun control. It's about the psychology of fighting. Actually, the psychology that dictates whether a fight occurs at all, or is avoided.
In the wild, fights are EXPENSIVE. Literally. They can cost you. If a wolf gets a small bite on it's mouth from a fight, it could get an infection and actually die. Even though it "won" the fight and got the food (or whatever)..... It died. That was expensive food. It's not hard to see, how even little "scraps" can have horrendous costs. So, all animals (intelligent ones anyways) have an ingrained genetic urge to posture, and use other methods to "settle" disputes without actually trying to "fight".
Or we have ritualized fighting. And I'm not just talking about sport fighting. I mean fighting on the street, that has inherent "rules".
If you google around on the web, you can find a million street fight caught on tape. And while they look like insanity, they're actually being very cautious. Go watch. There's crowd control. People most often don't let a lot of others get involved. There's acceptable damage levels. They'll hit each other, but if someone goes fetal, they usually stop. I have yet to see someone roll over an unconscious person and curb-stomp them "American History X" style. Why not? That's too far.
"Dude, we're just fighting. I'm not trying to kill him!"
Then you realize for most, fights aren't about trying to hurt or kill the other person. They're about getting a resource. Maybe your money, or your car. BUt often the resource isn't an item. It can be an act. Rape, giving up information, forcing an exit, reversing positions in a dispute. These are all example of them creating an action as a result of threatened violence.
Or, from an economic perspective, creating a "risk-reward calculation". Doing, or allowing said action seems to cost less than engaging in a fight.
OK. Fine. What the hell does this have to do with guns?
I'm getting there. Give me a second.
Here's 3 things that have COMPLETELY screwed up the natural order of violence as communication in humans.
1. Our unfamiliarity with violence and physical hardship because of the comforts of technology.
2. Our awareness of the efficacy, of our medical technology.
Whether or not a fight (or assault) takes place, is pure math.
(please note, I'm not talking about pure insanity, it's outside the scope of this discussion.)
First both parties must calculate the certainty of the result. Then, they must weigh the perceived result, against the cost. Then, they decide. Pretty simple.
In a "natural" setting, this actually works pretty well. It's how we avoid fighting in the natural world.
It's how a pack of wolves can devour a carcass WITHOUT fighting over any of it.
But, now....... It's all screwed up. We're all screwed up.
The things on the above list mean humans can't do the math anymore.
No, that's not right. We can totally do the math....... We just don't understand the variables.
You can know how to solve x+y=z. But, if you don't know what x or y is, you can't possibly get to the right z!
The problem is in the reaction. If you feel like you have to solve the problem above. You either assume the variables and proceed (incorrectly) from there. Or you try to become certain of the variables.
OK, here's the Point By Point from my list:
1. Our unfamiliarity with violence and physical hardship because of the comforts of technology:
When you don't understand violence, or even what physical suffering feels like, you can't possibly know what the cost of a beating actually is! If you don't know the value of "x", you CANNOT solve the problem. I watch the resolve to fight erode from the population daily. Do you realize how many kids will eat dirt, or endure some other similar humiliation, to avoid a beating, and then RIDE THEIR F**CKING BICYCLE HOME. WTF? Do you realize how much worse a bicycle crash hurts, than a schoolyard beating? Seriously do you? See, that's the problem. If you don't..... How can you do the math properly. Worse.... How can you teach your kid how to do the math properly. If they think "x" is a million, then they will come out with a huge number, that they feel unwilling to pay. So they don't stand up. And, they eat dirt, or get slapped around. Or later on in life, beaten, raped, or whatever. Our disconnection with physical suffering, particularly of the interpersonal variety, is ruining our ability to make the right call. Millions of people mountain bike, and rock climb, and shit like that every day for fun.... and those same people will shame themselves to avoid a punch to the face. It's absolutely nonsense. Real martial arts, or rugby, wrestling, boxing..... Christ, just letting your kid play fight and rough house. These are NECESSARY, for proper development. Or they will live their lives doing the math wrong and being the perpetual, and unnecessary victim.
2. Our awareness of the efficacy, of our medical technology:
The other side of the coin is the people who are VERY aware of how not a big deal (in the scope of things) a fight is. Now, back in the day, or in the wild, punching someone in the mouth, wasn't something you did lightly (no pun intended). You knew that if you punched them getting a tooth in your knuckles was very likely. And, before antibiotics..... That could literally kill you. Maybe your lucky and just lose a few fingers. Best possible case scenario.... You get sick as hell for a few days. Knowing this, means you don't punch people cause you're a little miffed. Or, because you want to impress your bros. It means assault is expensive. The cost reduces the occurrence. Or even "regulates" "fights". They stay at a low level. Shoving and jacket pulling.... Cause they just cost too damn much. Enter modern medicine. Now... If someone doesn't fall into the aforementioned "Price over-estimators" crowd, they tend to fall into the "Sweet, this is on SALE!" crowd. I fell into that crowd. I knew catching a beating wasn't all that bad. And I knew that I could dig teeth out of my hand, and just go get some neosporin. Cost was was low.... Sadly, so was the barrier to entry. So I entered. A lot. Now, the answer to this conundrum. Goes back to parenting. Not only should you get your kids (or yourself) involved in activities that teach them the low cost of a fight, you should also involve them in a system of honor/morals, that gives them another reason to not view fighting as cheap. People do it with laws, religions, and moral codes. Wow, martial arts again. Imagine that. Teaches them that fights are PHYSICALLY not that expensive, but they CAN cost a lot, if they're for the wrong reasons. In economic terms they teach you/your kid, to shop for a good bargain. In moral terms, they teach that you definitely shouldn't fight unless the circumstances are a certain way.....And if they are.... Go without hesitation. But, without a moral, code to generate expense, the current legal system, and medical system make it just too easy for the people that aren't scared unnecessarily.
3. Guns: (Here we go)
I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT GUN CONTROL. I am talking about the effects of a tool on the equation we're discussing. This all got started by a "freakonomics" podcast on guns. Now they did get in to gun control, and regardless of your position, you should check it out. There is some AMAZING critical thinking in it. But regardless..... A small portion of it talked about how guns change the equation. I'll let them explain:
"in the old days in the fifties and sixties when there weren’t that many guns around, disputes would be solved with fist fights or maybe with knives, okay. And the thing is, look when you fight someone who’s much bigger and stronger than you, you know who’s going to win. And if you already know who’s going to win you don't need to fight, because if you know you’re going to lose, why bother? So actually in that setting, where disputes are decided by fighting, you know, with your fists, you don't have to have many fights because there’s not a lot of uncertainty. But guns, okay, and this is Canada’s point, guns really destroy that order because anybody with a gun can beat anybody without a gun, right? It doesn’t matter how strong you are or whether you’re popular or unpopular. The gun basically makes it so that uncertainty of the outcome of the fight is immense. And then that actually has the opposite effect of deterrents, because now if anybody can win the fight there can be more fights, because it’s not like you’ve got a certain winner and certain loser, which means you don't have to fight in the first place. And I think that’s a really powerful idea." (read/listen more)
See, hand held weapons still require engagement. And that interaction has physicall limitations. A 12 year old with a box cutter, is no match for 10 200 + lb dudes. But, a gun..... Kid might win.
If you change the "certainty" of the values of the equation. You change the outcome.
As for the answer to that one...... I have no idea. Don't bring up gun conrol as the answer though, because you sure as shit didn't suggest limiting access to medical treatment, or mandatory physical hardships to fix the other 2!
So, without discussing controling the technologies that are allowing/causing the problems....
We are left with my only answer:
Learn, and understand human violence. How to navigate it. In all it's forms. Learn about unarmed, fighting. Learn about guns, and knives. Learn about the psychology of combatives. And learn about guns. You can't defend, condemn, or even rightfully discuss, what you don't understand. Get comfortable with it, so you can make informed decisions about it, without fear, or bravado.
Get yourself or your kids into BJJ as fast as possible. Not the sportive kind. Real BJJ. Here preferably. Learn not to be scared of fighting, but develop the moral code to keep it down to acceptable levels.
Photo Credit: "anatomy of a street fight" by shay sowden is licensed under CC BY 2.0