We may have made a mistake.

Not our first, certainly. But a generation ago… maybe a little more… when people had a problem with one another they often chose to handle it in a direct manner by attempting to punch that other person in the face. This went about as well as such things do–with varying degrees of success or failure. The winner of the altercation would go about their business and the loser would nurse his or her wounds. In many cases, especially among juveniles, fights between boys ended up engendering friendships. It was a way to establish a place in the pecking order that all pack animals seem to like to establish. And, face it… we’re not sheep. We’re predators. We don’t have herds, we have packs. A tribe or clan is merely a large pack. I believe one of the reasons we integrated so well with the canines is because our natural social structure is so similar.

We really want to leave killing violence behind. But we may be making a mistake by trying to excise all violence. Now many of the people who might have once punched the boss in the face end up leaving, getting a gun, and coming back and shooting the boss and anyone else who’s around. This is not an improvement.

Once such physical altercations between two adults was seen as between them. In some cases this was clearly wrong, as when one clearly overpowered the other in domestic violence cases. In fact, it was the DV cases that changed the way we looked at such things and gave the authorities the power to press charges even if the combatants didn’t want to press charges.

Unfortunately I think this had the unintended side effect of suppressing a less lethal form of violence and encouraging a more explosive expression. Especially when combined with the proliferation of deadly weapons. This notion that a man would need a gun to defend himself would have been laughable in the fifties. This wasn’t the wild west, after all. If a man couldn’t use his fists, he wasn’t seen as much of a man.

Now there are some pretty horrible assumptions wrapped up in that as well. I’ll admit that from the get-go. The natural conclusion, from the perspective of someone like me, is that as someone who could defend ourselves, it’s our obligation to protect those who couldn’t. In fact, in many of the cases I had to bring my martial arts to the fore, it was to protect others… not myself. And I only responded to one fight challenge. I was sixteen. Sue me. It came out a draw, despite the fact that I had a broken hand at the time.

No one pressed charges. No police showed up. It was a scrap between two guys who didn’t really like each other, who henceforth avoided each other.

I often talk about how we must understand our drive to violence in order to control it. We are biologically the same beings that hunted creatures much more powerful than ourselves with little more than sharpened sticks. We’re the same creatures that used variations on those sticks to war on neighboring tribes who threatened to take our prey. We’re the same creatures that made war on predators much fiercer than ourselves, beginning again with little more than sharpened sticks. And eventually won.

We are biologically programmed for aggression and violence. We must accept this and learn to control it–not suppress it–in order to successfully manage it.

My personal recommendation would be martial arts taught in our schools (I know, right?) with a great deal of it spent on philosophy. How to spot potential conflict, how to defuse it. How to communicate effectively, including communication of intent and resolve. I’d also teach respect for others. Empathy. Compassion. Conflict resolution.

As I’ve mentioned before, the USMC has long recommended outside martial arts training because it reduces brawling.

And in this kind of environment, if two people had a personal grudge that they could not resolve in any other way, they might square off in a ring, under the watchful eye of instructors, with suitable protection. This wouldn’t preclude injury, but it would make something other than injury the ultimate goal.

I’ve been thinking about this stuff and observing for the past 40 years or so. As first a bullied kid, then a young bullied teen, then a teen who was no longer bullied, who’d learned to hold his own. One of the things about being bullied and/or abused is that you’re punished for hitting back. It takes a while for some people to get past the idea that they CAN hit back. And some people never do. So there will always be those who cannot afford to fight, emotionally speaking. That’s why it’s on others to defend those who can’t defend themselves.

Our modern world has turned firearms into the end-all object of self-defense. An object that has only one purpose. To kill.

I’d really like to turn that around, but I don’t know if it’s possible. Just desirable.