The Paranoia Straw-Man

Within the study of logic and critical thinking, one will find many items labeled Logical Fallacies. In this post I am going to look at a particular logical fallacy called the straw-man and how it is quite often used against those who try to teach people to be safe.

The fallacy of the straw-man is really pretty simple, and easy to spot if one is actually looking.

In basic terms, what is happening is that a person will first misrepresent their opponent’s argument; framing it in a way that makes it absurd, and then attack this absurd misrepresentation. Politicians do this all the time, as do major news organizations (pick any of them, they all do it).

In the self defense industry, we often speak to people about staying aware of what is going on around us. In simple terms, pay attention.

But we get attacked by certain groups who have a vested interest in keeping victims in a perpetual state of feeling victimized. And they cry foul.

You want us to be paranoid! There is no way to live our life and be on constant lookout for a rapist!

Did you catch that?

We were taken from simple awareness all the way to paranoia without noticing it.

Obviously, I cannot speak for all self-defense coaches. But the majority of those I have spoken with all agree that people need to put away the digital distractions, put away the earphones, and notice what is going on around them.

For you to notice anything out of the ordinary, you first have to be able to be at peace in the ordinary.

Now we will address the straw-man.

While there are some self-defense instructors who use paranoia and any other tactic they can find in order to recruit students, they are easily spotted by anyone with a brain. You can only be scammed by them when you are just not thinking.

When the self-defense people I speak with teach awareness, they are all quick to note that you need to be aware of both what is good and what is bad, what is normal and what is odd.

The state of mind of the hyper-ninja cannot be maintained, and is probably not healthy. No sane person would really want to live like that anyway.

But that is not what we are teaching. This is precisely why it is a straw-man.

We are teaching people to live in a calm, relaxed state of awareness. Distractions are not necessary, so we put them away, and notice what is going on around us. If we see something out of the ordinary, we move to a heightened state of awareness. If there is something to be concerned about we take action, but if there is nothing, we go back to the calm and relaxed awareness.

If you truly give yourself to this way of looking at the world, a funny thing happens; you begin to appreciate the good in people a helluva lot more than you would if you were paranoid that every person you see wants to rape or kill you.

When you can see the good things it makes you better equipped to see possible threats, and this is key to personal safety.

So, when people tell you that awareness is just paranoia, see the disconnect between their view and what is really happening. You could do a lot worse than to know what is happening around you, good or bad.

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