Monday, June 15, 2009

Protection from Violence

My last two posts on protection from war and crime bring up the issue of protection from violence in general. For those of us imagining living in a post-oil, post-industrial society, this is more than just a theoretical discussion. An issue as we try to figure out how to meet everyone's needs is how to cope with those people who will try to use power and violence to meet their needs.

No one can promise complete protection from violence--unfortunately,that kind of safety is an impossibility. Years ago, when I worked in a psychiatric hospital, I was trained in nonviolent ways of dealing with out of control patients. The trainer commented he often got questions about what if the patient comes at you in this violent way or that violent way, and while he often had answers, there comes a point where there's not much you can do. He joked that when someone pulls out machine guns and nuclear weapons, there isn't a manuever to deal with it.

A lot of what those trainings were about were how to deal with and de-escalate situations so they don't become violent in the first place. This is a good thing to know. One way to avoid violence is not to provoke it. If someone becomes threatening, back off.

A good way to have protection from violence is to have a good attitude. Buddhist scripture claims that if you do 'Loving Kindness' meditation (where you wish everyone--and that means absolutely everyone--well) "Devas will protect you" and "External dangers will not harm you". While I doubt that doing the meditation will make you invulnerable, I don't doubt that it changes your attitude so significantly that those around you will change their behavior toward you. A great example of how this works is the Frances Moore Lappé story I referenced in my last post (but I told the story in my post of 8/11/08). The kindness, generosity, and forgiveness that the reverend showed his attackers got them to save his life.

In line with this, learning things like nonviolent communication, 'verbal self-defense', and general nonviolence training may be very useful--especially when it comes to de-fusing a potentially violent situation. Having some type of martial arts training (particularly Aikido, which is a explicitly nonviolent art) may also be helpful to prevent violence. The training in self control, particularly in difficult and challenging situations, may be invaluable.

Ultimately, I believe that living simply, having an open, caring, generous attitude, and practicing loving-kindness toward all, may be the best protection from violence.

Resources: place to start for information on aikido; includes links to other sites and ways to locate a 'dojo' near you
Suzette Haden Elgin's Verbal Self Defense Home Page--A web page devoted to the 'The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense', a model to deal with verbal violence developed by a linguist
Pam McAllister, Reweaving the Web of Life--A collection of articles by many writers exploring the intersection of Feminism and Nonviolence; it includes pieces on Assertiveness, Physical Resistance to Attack, and Nonviolent Self Defense
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication--A communication model that focuses on getting everyone's needs met and responding honestly, even in hostile situations, without attacking the other person; there is a Center that offers trainings and resources in this method
Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness--An American Buddhist teacher lays out the practice of metta (loving-kindness meditation)

Quote of the Day: "Common sense as well as nonviolent principle dictate that an aggressive response to threat is the last choice for self-defense. Any physical response by the victim is likely to be perceived as violence by the attacker, and the defender should use the least amount of force necessary to stop the attack." - Pat James


CrackerLilo said...

*smile* The aikido thing makes me think of my wife's frustration with Asian martial arts: "What is the point if you don't use it?" She teaches savate and capoiera. She tells her students, "I will not change your spirituality or make you a better person. I want to give you something to use at the bus stop tonight if you need it." I'm guessing you wouldn't take her classes!

We have seen, however, that kindness and verbal de-escalation can help a lot. (I am thinking of a convenience store clerk right here who averted a robbery/shooting in his store by giving the would-be shooter $40, a meal, and a listening ear.) I wish verbal de-escalation was taught in schools, starting at the elementary level. It would help so much! I don't understand why diplomacy is so under-rated by so many people. You don't have to go in hitting right away, you really don't.

Interesting series.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for your astute comments. You are right--I probably wouldn't take one of your wife's classes. I'm glad she's teaching them though.

And that story about the man who fed and listened to the robber is a great example of what I am talking about. Wow. Good for him.

I really wish verbal de-escalation was taught in schools. I think we would all feel safer.

SoapBoxTech said...

I like how it is put in the movie Roadhouse:

"Be nice until its time to not be nice".