Unintended Consequences (of Violence)
One thing I think we martial artists have to do in our training is to think out and plan for the unintended consequences of what we do.
Every time we engage in violent conflict for whatever reason, we risk seriously injuring or killing someone else.
I know some of you reading this are thinking, "So what? They deserve what they get!" and that is certainly one point of view.
I think that's a rather nonchalant way to look at matters of life and death, myself, but I do understand the reaction some of you are having.
With respect, though, it's also naïve as all get-out. The full consequence of someone getting killed by you, even in a self defense situation, is not just "they're dead" and you go home to your family.
The consequence is that you, probably, will have to spend a lot of time and money defending yourself in court, and there's a strong possibility of you going to prison.
So the Dunkin' Donuts worker case got me thinking long and hard (yet again) about the full ramifications of using violence, for everyone involved.
If you don't know what I'm referring to, the Dunkin' Donuts worker case is when a black man who works at a donut shop had a rude customer who (allegedly) came in and said a racial slur - twice - to the worker's face.
Upset at the slur (understandably so), and in an escalating conflict, the worker punched the customer, once.
The customer, who was elderly, fell down, cracked his skull, and died. The worker is now facing prosecution for murder.
Here's some media reports of the story:
The merits of the case - did the customer actually use a slur? Was the worker justified for whatever reason in punching the customer? - is not what I want to debate here.
What I do want to talk about is this: in the moment, I believe the worker felt he was justified in what he did, and I doubt he intended to kill the customer.
He just didn't think about - probably never even considered - the fact that a single punch like that can and does kill people. Especially old people.
But, it's not just dangerous punching the elderly, y'all.
This case of a 13 year old boy killed when he was punched and his head hit a concrete pillar in a fight is absolutely chilling. Again, do I think the kids who punched the boy intended to kill him? I bet not.
This case of a man who actually sucker-punched another man in a bar, who fell, hit his head, and died is also pretty scary (watch the video embedded in the link). You think that man intended to kill the other guy? Again, I don't think so.
Three people dead. More than three people going to jail. All those families and friends devastated. All those futures, destroyed (both for the victim and the perp).
THOSE are the consequences, at least the immediate ones, and there will be ripples throughout that whole community those folks live in.
I could do a big ol' list of these incidents - it's more common than you might suspect - but one thing to me seems clear.
Nobody here thought they were going to kill someone, and had zero understanding or awareness of the consequences of engaging in violence like this.
We don't know if any of these people were trained martial artists - my guess is probably not.
But you, and me, people who DO train, we have absolutely no excuse not to think about this.
This doesn't mean that we don't defend ourselves if someone attacks us, because of this risk.
It's that we know better, and we understand ALL of the consequences, and prepare accordingly.
What does that mean? Prepare accordingly?
Well, all of the examples above I shared with you are cases where the person who initiated the violence is the one who killed someone else.
This is yet another time to really, REALLY recommend you include de-escalation training, understand what Rory Miller calls The Monkey Dance, and understand the legal definition of what is, and is not self defense.
In the first example of the Dunkin' Donuts worker I mentioned, I am willing to be that worker believed in that moment he was acting in self defense, but I don't think the law will see it that way (nor a jury).
So we, as martial artists, just have to know what is actually self defense, what isn't, and for Pete's sake, use violence as a last resort, and understand what you can, and can't do.
Think it all through. What are all the things that could happen if I hit or kick or stab somebody?
Legally and morally.
After all, it's risking taking a life. Killing a child, a parent, a loved one, someone others depend on. Regardless of the legal consequences - maybe you won't go to jail - it's something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.
We martial artists have to know and do better. And we should be advocates for everyone doing the same.