There has been a steady increase in physical violence that really seems to match the inflamed rhetoric from the digital media/social media. In order to begin to understand the problem, we should take a close look at the factors involved and then we can begin to chart a course to a solution. This is not a final position, more of a point of departure. This is a surface look at the problem, and we will go into greater detail and more advanced ideas in future articles.
I teach, or at least try to teach people how to be safe.
It isn’t easy. There are a ton of issues that pop up.
For a start, people want to be afraid of the wrong threat. An example: they talk to me about what to do about a terrorist attack. Even though we have proof positive that there are terrorists inside of the United States, as well the fact that they are joining groups of refugees to Europe, and we can all admit that the terrorist threat exists, the threat is still not as great as some of the other threats we all face. The terrorists exist everywhere, and you really should have a plan and train to become fighting fit, and all of that – great stuff. But do not obsess over it or you will miss the signs of some more common threats.
The biggest and most common threat adults face, is the one they do not want to admit.
Ourselves and our big mouth.
Our high-strung, easily offended ego that needs to have the last word, the wittiest comeback, and often feels a need to punish those who offend us is a huge threat or a glaring weakness, take your pick. Either term works fine for me.
That is the base ingredient for much of our trouble.
But there is more! On top of the high-strung ego, we have a self-centered attitude that blinds too many of us to any concern other than our own.
Social media has created a massive narcissism in the world where we seem to need to have our opinions and worldviews validated by all. Through social media likes we feel secure that people know we are right. It feels good to know that many people agree with us. We fret like children when we make an update that does not receive enough likes. We might even delete the post!
But there is another element to this.
Many people also get their “news” from social media.
In truth, you will hear almost the same stories from social media and network newscasts, and because both are in such an all-fired race to be the first to tell the story, facts seem to be less important than they once were. Because of the misguided idea that likes and shares mean anything at all, any mistakes will lead to corrections which will be encouraged by the writer to be shared far and wide.
But social media news gets really tricky. There is so much passed around as “news” on social media that is outright, and probably intentional, lies that the mind boggles. And the social media news/lies are designed to incite anger.
Not that our modern society really needs anything to be angry about, but no matter which side you stand on in any of the hot topics of the time, you will find something on social media to make your blood figuratively boil.
Added to this already volatile mix we have yet another dangerous element – child minds in adult bodies.
Through parents who wanted to the their child’s best friend, and who opted to level the path for the child instead of making the child tough enough to handle any path, we have grown adults who need safe places filled with fluffy pillows and coloring books because words hurt their feelings.
I will be the first to admit there are other ingredients in this mess that I am probably overlooking. I hereby admit it, and will now move ahead.
In self-defense and personal safety classes, one will often hear the term deescalation. When a self-defense coach is using this term, we are talking about the opposite of our human knee-jerk reaction of upping the ante. If you truly want to avoid violence, then you cannot be a willing participant in the escalation of violent rhetoric and behavior. Instead you have to back out, refuse to respond, and also leave the other guy a way out of fighting you that will not cause him to lose face. It goes against our instincts, but it must be done.
Everyone would do well to learn this one trick, the first order of business in any conflict is to deescalate yourself before taking any other action. If you cannot do this, there will be a fight.
The first and biggest step is to calm yourself down.