*This post is may be considered offense to some people. I am merely thinking out loud and trying to work through and understand some aspects of society and culture as opposed to martial training.*
I have lived in a few different parts of the country and traveled to lots of them. I haven't yet had a chance to explore other countries but I am working towards this goal. One thing I can be certain of is that culture is very different from place to place, even within the United States.
Miller said in the seminar that violence happens in specific places, one of which being a place where we don't understand the rules or the culture. Now, this wasn't necessarily a violent encounter, but it is something that happened in a place I was not familiar with. What I am having trouble understanding is if the rules were different here, or if it is just because there is an epidemic of rudeness in our country right now.
(I know people like Charles James mention rudeness and the power of words and Rory Miller have mentioned things like cultural differences, in their blogs.)
Anyway, so the situation is this. My mom and I stop at a Jack in the Box off the interstate to grab a bite to eat. Its near the highway and the closest thing around and we are starving. So we pull off and head in, because we're tired of being in the car. The place is mostly empty. There is one person ahead of us in line. So we order and sit down to wait for our number to be called.
Then the lunch rush hits, or something, because all of a sudden the place is packed. The lobby is very small and there aren't enough tables. People are giving mom and I some strange and dirty looks. We're not sure why. We're sitting quietly, minding our own business. We are clearly waiting on our food and everyone else is in line, no one is sitting down yet. Eventually it becomes so uncomfortable mom and I consider just taking our food and go eat in the car when they call our number. I decide to run the restroom so we can be ready to leave if that's what mom wants to do.
It figures, the second I run to the bathroom, they call our number. Mom doesn't want to leave her purse at the table, so she takes it with her to get our food. She comes back and some guy and some of his group sitting at our table. He's with a large group and they have several kids with them.
Mom said, "Oh... my daughter and I were just getting our food, thanks for taking our seats..." Or something like that. Either way, she wasn't rude. My mom isn't the type who is rude or aggressive up front. She might get upset and rant about it later but she tries pretty hard to be kind to people. The guy looks at my mom, right in front of all the kids and everyone in the restaurant and says loudly, "YOU'RE FUCKING WELCOME."
This, in my opinion, is totally unacceptable. If I hadn't been in the bathroom, I would have said something. I came out and mom was standing by the trash can trying to hold the tray and her drink and purse and all that. So we took our food and left, she didn't tell me till we got in the car what happened.
Now... here is the conundrum. I wanted very badly to go back in there and kick that guys ass. Obviously I don't have the skills to do it yet but I really wanted to anyway. It's not ok to talk to anyone like that. Especially someone's mom. However, as Martial Artists just, because we can kick someone's ass doesn't mean we should, even if they deserve it, right? (I know that at this point Charles James will link me some things on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense.)
I expect most people to say, "Of course, just because you can doesn't mean you should." I want to know: why not? Why is it not ok to use your skills to stand up for yourself??? Granted, all this guy did was snap at my mom, which doesn't necessarily warrant a punch in the face. But let's consider some other scenarios:
Why is it as Martial Artists we train and train, but we're not allowed to use our abilities unless it is a life or death struggle? This is honestly something I have always struggled with. Maybe I will be more at peace with this as I progress in my studies, but I do not understand why it is not ok to put people in their place if they deserve it. If someone tries to mug me, why can't I break his kneecaps to discourage him from doing it to anyone else? If someone is a bully, why do they just get to get away with it? If someone tries to rape me, why am I expected to run away and let the law deal with it? If he has a good attorney, he'll just get off with a slap on the wrist and will probably do it to someone else.
Yes, I understand the only fight you are guaranteed to win is the one you never have, and how do you really distinguish between when someone deserves a punch in the nose or not, how do you keep yourself from becoming the bully, etc etc etc. I know all this sounds ridiculous coming from me, who has not much experience with violence. I'm sure people like Miller and MacYoung and Wilder will tell me they really hope I never get into a fight, because they are not fun, they are messy, brutal, awful affairs.
I'm sure its safer for people in the long run if we don't have violence running rampant through our streets. (Except, the other day in Joplin, I saw two guys get out of their car at a stoplight and proceed to have a fist fight right in the middle of the street... so... on some level whether we like it or not, violence is going to happen anyway)
But I still just don't get why it isn't ok? If I were better with my skills, why couldn't I have used Aiki to make this jerk stand up and move so mom could have her seat back? Why does that make me the bad guy? (At least in the eyes of the justice system)
Maybe people would be a little more polite and respectful to each other if they didn't think they could get away with being a complete ass hole to everyone all the time? "If I say something incredibly rude to him, or behave in this inappropriate manner, he/she could haul off and knock my teeth out. Hmm... maybe I better not say/do that..."
Does this make any sense to anyone else? Am I alone in thinking that maybe Hammurabi's code "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" wasn't such a bad idea? (Some of his other laws were pretty harsh, and most of them involved putting someone to death, but this one seems to make sense to me. You reap what you sow. Karma and all that.) I don't believe Martial Artists should go around looking for fights. I do not approve of this behavior at all. But if someone starts it, if they make the first move, why can't we finish it?
Why do we have to just stand by and allow people to treat each other like dirt or hurt each other and get away with it? This doesn't seem right to me. I don't care if it's not my business or not, if you are hitting your girlfriend in public while I am watching, or screaming at the cashier while I am in line behind you, or stealing from someone while I am a in the same parking lot, then it is my business and it is my human/moral/ethical obligation to help. For me, in most cases, that would probably mean calling the police. If some guy is beating his girlfriend at the park, or I see someone down an alley way attacking/mugging/raping someone else I am not going to walk by and pretend I didn't see it, I will call the police. I would want someone to do the same for me. If some dude is screaming at a cashier, I would say something. I have worked retail. We're people too and you do not have the right to treat us like trash because you are having a bad day. Not enough people stand up for each other in those kinds of situations, and it sickens me that someone can come into a place of business, scream and throw a fit, and be rewarded for their behavior with apologies and coupons from managers.
This whole dynamic is just so confusing to me. You train and train with the understanding and the expectation that you will never have to use your skills. I really would like to think there is more to it than just my monkey brain seeking to do the monkey dance. This isn't about having something to prove. This is about human decency. When you were little and you misbehaved, you were reprimanded, right? I got spanked, or had my mouth washed out with soap, or sent to time out, or stood in the corner, or grounded, etc. The punishment always fit the crime, but I always knew there was a certain way to behave and that it was not ok to treat people a certain way. So why is it when we grow up, we're suddenly exempt from punishment and repercussions from our actions? Why is anyone who tries to curb or adjust your snobby attitude considered the bad guy? (again, I am speaking from what I expect the legal stand point would be. I'm guess if you go to court and say, "Well, Judge. I just don't believe in bullying. Someone had to put a stop to it, so I punched him in the face." You'll be the one who winds up with a fine or in jail.)
This is such a complex topic and there is a lot more that I could say/ask. But I think this post is long enough and I am talking myself in circles at this point.
I am open to hearing thoughts and opinions from others on the subject, especially anyone with martial arts experience and/or experience with violence. Dialogue is encouraged, I really want to know what other people think, but I do not want to start an argument, so if you comment, do not attack anyone's thoughts or beliefs or comments, I will remove your comment. What I have written are mostly my thoughts, considerations and questions on a very broad subject that is very gray in terms of right and wrong. I do not claim to be right or wrong, nor to have any of the answers. I am merely seeking understanding.