Saturday, April 12, 2014

Societal Norms And Just The Right Amount Of Rudeness

By Dave Dargo

It is very difficult to over-emphasize the importance of preparation, awareness and readiness. Two of the critical components of preparation are a determination to never give up and a willingness to use force in self-defense.

Avoiding trouble, however, is the cornerstone of surviving a dangerous encounter. There are a couple of things that predators count on:

  1. The ease with which a potential victim can be profiled.
  2. The socially acceptable behavior to which a potential victim is committed.
The first is easy to understand and correct. Study after study have demonstrated that criminals will profile their potential victims in search of an easy target. It's easy to find news stories that discuss the serious iPhone theft problems occurring in New York City where people engrossed in their devices become easy targets.

Lack of awareness certainly makes one an easier target for criminals.

Societal norms also contributes to one's chances of becoming a victim. We are raised, most of us anyway, to be polite and helpful. Societal norms lead us to be polite to the approaching stranger. Odds are the person really does need directions or assistance. However, a lack of awareness combined with a blind devotion to societal norms can contribute to one's chances of becoming a victim.

One article discusses how the serial killer in the fictional movie Silence Of The Lambs feigned a broken arm to lure a victim inside his van so she could be subdued with little physical force. The article also highlights that the serial murderer Ted Bundy actually employed this technique.

The question is, can you be just rude enough to the approaching stranger to maintain a safe distance? Can you tell someone to leave you alone or to back off and give you more space or would you be too embarrassed to protect your personal space?

Years ago I was on my honeymoon in Rome, Italy. My wife and I were walking near the Spanish Steps when a group of 12-15 children started to approach us. I started yelling at them in a not-so-polite way. My wife was horrified by my actions until I explained to her that they were pickpockets counting on tourist's unwillingness to break with societal norms. Like the Artful Dodger trained by Fagin in Dickens' Oliver Twist, these miscreants counted on their victims unwillingness to make a scene. My wife and I saw this group move from one tourist to another searching for that one person willing to remain quiet as their pockets were emptied.

My behavior towards those children can only be described as rude. However, it was quite appropriate given the situation and I wouldn't hesitate to make the same scene again.

My willingness to make a scene counters the predators unwillingness to be noticed.

I remember a force-on-force exercise where a student approached a predator after convincing him to drop his knife only to be shot by the predator. When debriefed afterwards, he said, "I'm from Louisiana and we just don't yell at someone across a distance, it's rude." That exercise, I think, did more than any classroom training could do to teach the victim the importance of maintaining distance and tactical advantage at the cost of being considered rude.

Are you prepared to make a scene to keep someone away from you? Are you willing to appear rude or weird in order to encourage a predator to pick someone else as a victim?

These are important questions to consider. One day it may not be a mere pickpocket you're discouraging. Encourage predators to choose another person by being as difficult as possible.

The title of this piece talks about "Just The Right Amount Of Rudeness." Please don't take this article as a call for rude and obnoxious behavior. I go out of my way to be polite, helpful and just plain nice. However, my willingness to make a scene without personal embarrassment is an important component in my kit-bag of preparation.

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