In my post on How to survive a street brawl, I talked about how people forgo all reason and common sense when they’re in a violent situation like that. You’d think any semi-intelligent person would get the hell out of there when dozens of people start fighting. But as you could see in that video, very few people did just that. In fact, several of them placed themselves in even greater danger by doing foolish acts like turning their backs to the brawlers or walking right into the middle of the fight.
Several people talked about this point, both here in the comments section and on my Facebook page. The question that often comes back is “Why?”
- Why do men feel the need to get in a cheap shot when they see others fighting in front of them?
- Are women oblivious to the danger a brawl represents to their own health, even if they aren’t participating?
- Do men feel (subconscious?) pressure from their girlfriends to act all alpha male when a fight breaks out and join the fracas?
And the list of questions goes on but the theme is always similar: why do people do stupid things like that?
I’m no scientist so what I’m about to write is purely subjective. It’s nothing more than my personal opinion and I reserve the right to change it at any point if additional information or experience tells me otherwise. That qualifier out of the way, here’s what I think:
People are increasingly out of touch with reality.
I’ll give you a couple examples in a minute but let me explain what I mean first.
We’re living in a day and age where most Western societies have evolved to the point where basic survival strategies are no longer seen as necessary. Things that only fifty or even a hundred years ago were considered normal are now more than ever the exception to the rule. People just don’t know any better anymore and why would they? The skills and knowledge needed to survive the routine of every day life have changed drastically in that time. Some examples:
- Electricity: Take a look around your living room and kitchen and count the number of appliances and machines that need electricity. Imagine them gone. How would you live without them? Not having some of them (your Playstation or Xbox) won’t be a big deal. Others are a different matter:
- Refrigerators. Food spoils and becomes inedible or even toxic. If you can’t put it in a fridge, how can you stock food? Do you still know how to preserve food without electricity? People have done so for thousands of years, it’s not impossible. But it’s no longer a skill modern people have.
- Heating. If you live in a cold climate and don’t have electrical heaters (or fueled by another energy source, but I’m keeping things simple for now), you die. Simple as that.
- Air-conditioning.Several years ago, I visited a dear friend who lived in the Sonoran Desert at the time. It was my first visit to an actual desert and it was an education in the harsh realities of such a climate: without air-conditioning, living there is almost impossible. If you make a mistake and either don’t stock up on water, lose the water you have and can’t get anymore, can’t get out of the sun long enough, you die. The desert doesn’t care, it just kills you. Remember Evan Tanner?
- Cooking. You’ll either have to get lots of firewood or start burning your furniture. Barring those two, you won’t be able to cook water to disinfect it or cook food (which also kills a lot of bacteria and other nasties.)
- Food. Without supermarkets and stores, you can’t buy food nowadays. Very few people still grow their own food, let alone do so in sufficient volume to feed their whole family. Imagine all the supermarkets gone overnight and a week later, all your supplies are gone: where will you get your food the next day? How people solved this problem before is no longer a skill for the most of us. People no longer hunt or raise animals for food, nor do they slaughter them to put food on the table. For a great story about that, you might want to read Rory Miller’s piece in my latest book. I agree with him that it’s perhaps the funniest thing he’s ever written.
- Medicine. Pretty much everybody has at least a minimal survival kit at home: medicine against pain, fever, colds, coughing, band-aids, disinfectant, etc. Imagine those gone and you can’t get more. That small cut you otherwise just disinfected and forgot about is now a potential cause of death if the infection spreads. Don’t believe me? Look up the causes of death and mortality rates in Western countries about 100-150 years ago… The same applies to doctors: forget about modern hospitals for a minute. All of a sudden, knowing how to set broken bones means the difference between healing correctly or being a cripple for the remainder of your life.
- First responders. Nowadays, we’re used to calling the police, ambulance or fire department whenever we face a crisis. Usually, they respond pretty fast but people still whine if they don’t get there in less than 3 min. Do you want to guess what the response time was a hundred years ago, before cellphones? Or how about the time before that, when the police was still called the “City Watch” and they were sometimes worse than the criminals they were supposed to protect you from.
- Animals. A vast majority of Westerners is completely out of touch with nature. Now I won’t get all “peace and love” on you but it is a sad fact that city folks know zip about animals. They know what a cat or a dog is but they have no clue you don’t just walk around the back of a horse without risking your life. Nor do they know that geckos are small and look cute but have a very nasty bite and aren’t afraid to use it. Nor do they let go easily and they can infect you with some nasty bacteria.
- Nature. One of the most impressive displays of idiocy I routinely see is people not respecting nature. They get so used to there always being help and counting on emergency services that they forget those are a last resort when the situation is already out of hand. The smart thing is to avoid being in such a dangerous position in the first place but they flat out refuse to take into account the risks of their actions. How about staying inside when it storms instead of insisting on going out for ice-cream because your sweet tooth is whispering to you? Or moving to a different part of the country if you live in Tornado Alley? Or staying the hell away of the water when there are rip currents.
I feel very sorry for the woman who died that way but here’s the thing: if you know the ocean, you know certain things about it:
- Don’t turn your back to it. It won’t think twice about slamming a humongous wave into your back (Thank you Justin… ;-))
- Don’t come near it when the tide is in full swing. If the ocean is wild, you stay away from it. Going for a walk on the beach at that moment is playing with your life.
Here’s another example of somebody not getting it. Please watch this video until the end.
What is most striking here is how the woman focuses on the “intelligence” of the whale. On how it thought about it and then “saved her life” by rapidly bring her back to the surface before she drowned. OK… What about the part where it tried to kill you? Is that suddenly irrelevant just because you survived by sheer, dumb luck? And then you describe that luck to the whale’s intelligence? Re-OK….
For those who don’t get it, here’s my mini-course on self-defense against a whale:
- Whales don’t eat people. This is true for most whales.
- However, a whale doesn’t have to eat you to kill you. All it has to do is grab hold of you and decide you’re a plaything to have fun with at the bottom of the ocean. As whales can hold their breath a lot longer than you, this would be a Bad Thing (TM).
- Whales are multiple times bigger and stronger than you. When a whale grabs you, you will be pretty much helpless to do anything about it.
Now for the self-defense techniques against whales:
- When you see a whale swimming around you: stay calm and either don’t move or get out of the water ASAP.
- When a whale comes closer to you, leave it alone. This means you don’t touch it, no matter how much you want to.
- When in doubt as to what to do: get the hell out of the water.
I’m a cynic, I know but which part of the previous bullets is hard to understand? That whale doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t follow you on Facebook, nor is it attending the same church as you. Look up the word “Anthropomorphism” and write down the explanation. I’ll even make it easy for you: whale ≠ human. So why on earth would you think treating it like one would work out well for you?
The point of all this?
In very much the same way as people are out of touch with what I mentioned in the previous section, they have no clue anymore what violence is. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who:
- Have never been in a fight.
- Haven’t been in a fight since they were in school.
- Have never had to defend themselves or others.
- Have never lived in a society where violence is both a daily occurrence and people expect you to be fluent in its use.
- Their only actual source of knowledge about violence is TV and movies.
- Have been told “violence never solved anything” their entire lives and have been punished the times they did use it. As a consequence, they refuse to consider violence at all, let alone acknowledge it even exists.
Is it any wonder then that people pull the stupidest crap possible when they’re faced with violence? Like, not running the hell away when a huge brawl breaks out. Or even worse, getting involved in it.
Today’s modern, Western societies have in my humble opinion lost contact with the realities of violence. However, the reasons why violence exists have not gone away. People have just become less competent at dealing with it. As a result, they get into situations their ancestors would have known to stay clear of. Or at least know how to handle.
The reason why things have devolved to this point is because of the advances in the fields I mentioned. Because of modern medicine and all the other scientific advances, the consequences of being an idiot are much less severe, if any. I don’t have the statistics at hand but they are staggering. In less than 100 years, science has eradicated diseases, made inhospitable environments livable, increased the likelihood of survival of massive, traumatic injuries tremendously and we’ve never seen such a high level of capabilities and effectiveness in our first responders.
The result of all this is that people can get away with being stupid about many things in their daily lives and not suffer for it.
For the benefit of the slow, Polonius Lartessa, (extra points if you don’t have to Google it…) please note how I did not write “Violence is good.” Nor did I claim we should all start fighting to get some experience in that department. I don’t glorify violence, nor do I think it is something special. It is however a complex field of study. Just like, oh I don’t know, electricity, medicine, nature and all those other things that can get you killed if you use them wrong or don’t know enough about them to survive outside of your comfort zone.
And here’s the weird thing:
Most people completely accept the fact that it takes some serious study to become even a little bit competent in any of those fields. But for some reason, they think they don’t need to study, learn and train to be at least a little bit competent at avoiding or surviving violence.
Like I said, out of touch with reality…
Rick Matz says
Does it make sense to learn self defense (as opposed to a martial art as a form of budo, for example) from someone who has never been in a fight? I have my doubts.
In theory, it doesn’t. That said, where do you draw the line? Is one fight enough so he can teach? Two or three? More? Does a fight between neighbors count or does it have to be a mugger he defends against? And so on. There are a lot more possible qualifiers I can come up with in that regard. I used to think it was black or white on this topic but not so anymore. But that’s just my view, not gospel. :-)
Rick Matz says
… and on the other hand, I don’t think I would want to hang around the type of person who was an incorrigible brawler, either.
There’s that too. :-)