I remember describing to some family members, in excited fascination, some new insight I got into self defence and violence prevention. To my amazement, they were horrified by what I was describing. The general consensus was that ‘it’s all so violent’. The discussion went on to the moral opposition of violence, and eventually the following sentence came up:
‘I hate violence’.
Well, I’m here to tell you something. If you say that you hate violence, you are either naive or silly.
Don’t believe me? Well, read on and I’m sure I can change your mind!
I’m going to make reference here to the tragic murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne a couple of years ago (you can read about that and more here).
Eurydice Dixon was walking home alone after a gig in Melbourne. A man followed her for quite a long time. He eventually caught up with her in a deserted field, only a few hundred meters from her house, where he raped and murdered her.
We all abhor his use of violence, as well we should!
Now let’s pretend the situation was different.
Eurydice Dixon was walking home alone after a gig in Melbourne. A man followed her for quite a long time. He eventually caught up with her in a deserted field, only a few hundred meters from her house, where he intended to rape and kill her. Fighting desperately for her life against a homicidal rapist, she kills him in self-defence.
Ahh, things are not so clear now, are they? If that was the case, would you still abhor her use of violence?
My guess is that if that would have been the case (and what a shame it wasn’t!), she would be hailed as a hero.
Let’s add another variable, one which is commonplace in these kinds of attacks – a knife.
Version 1: That monster followed her and murdered her with a knife.
Version 2: As he puts the knife to her throat, she fights desperately and manages to take it from him. As he continues his attack, she stabs him to death.
Here is where this becomes, in my opinion, crystal clear.
In both versions above, a tool was used to achieve an objective.
In the first version, the tool is the knife and the objectives are the rape and murder of an innocent woman.
In the second version, the tool is the knife the objective is the prevention of the rape and murder of an innocent woman.
In either version, did you find yourself hating the knife?
Well, there’s you answer.
You can use a knife to cut vegetables for soup, or to cut someone’s throat.
You can use a mallet to mash vegetables for soup (I’m old school), or bash someone’s head in.
You can use fire to cook your soup, or to burn someone.
But you don’t hate the knife, or the mallet, or the fire.
Violence, just like the knife in the scenario above, is nothing but a tool.
And just like a tool, it can be used in a variety of ways. Some are horrible. Some are honourable. Some are bad. Some are good.
Please note that I am, by no means, advocating the use of violence. What I am saying is that some times, the use of violence is justified. If it wasn’t, then we would not have self defence laws in place (which I’ll get to in a minute). To borrow a phrase from self defence expert Tim Larkin, violence is rarely the answer but when it is, it’s the only answer.
Would you still be debating the moral use of violence if it was you or someone you love in the example above?
Let’s look at some of the common responses to this argument:
- The worst thing you can say to yourself is ‘this will never happen to me’, or ‘this only happens in bad areas of town’ or other some such nonsense which disempowers you from taking ownership of your safety. Got some bad news for you. Bad things happen to good people every single day, and most of them think it will never happen to them. Don’t be one of those people. More on this here.
- Avoidance or de-escalation – ‘I’d just run away’ or ‘I’d talk the person down’. Fantastic! If you do find yourself in a potentially violent situation, these are the best options. The problem with this argument is that these are not always available to you. If you think otherwise, refer to point 1.
- Sometimes when I discuss this with people, I get responses like ‘I would restrain the person’ or ‘I would only hurt them enough to make them stop’. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s generally the gist. Excellent! This is what is known ‘use of force’. In my opinion, everyone should have an understanding of use of force and self-defence laws. In other words, you should know what levels of force you can and should use - legally, morally and ethically - in different situations. Where this argument falls apart, in my opinion, is when it comes from people who have no training in doing this. Ask anyone who has experience with violence and they will tell you. Restraining an aggressive person can be incredibly difficult. Controlling how much damage you inflict on someone can be incredibly difficult. Violence is dynamic and situations can evolve quickly. These solutions are not always easy to implement.
But what is the best way to make sure that you have a better chance to implement them if you need to?
You guessed it – train in self-defence.
In other words, your best chance of making sure that you don’t get hurt, in events where you have no other option, is to have better tools, and know how to use them better, than the bad guy.
One more point. If you think self-defence training or martial arts are just ‘violence’ you have a gross misunderstanding of the two. Martial arts are about control of the self and learning good values so that if you do have to use the tool of violence, you use it in the right way.
Lastly, don’t forget that good people who are skilled in violence protect you every day – police, military, security, corrections, etc. They have a heavy, heavy burden. They have access to the tool, and have to make hard decisions, every day, on how to use this tool to keep our communities safe. I am thankful that they are choosing to learn how to use this tool for the betterment of our society. And you should be too!
Stay safe, stay tuned.
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