Articles

Re-writing an attacker's script -- getting in practice

By       Message George Lakey     Permalink
      (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

storycon.org

Originally Published on OpEdNews

A ship's engine telegraph from the Great Lakes Naval Museum. (Flickr/Steven Depolo)

Have you heard the story about the woman who realized she was being followed on a dark, deserted city street? It was the night before trash collection. She went to the nearest trash can, lifted the lid, and had a brief, animated conversation with the contents. Cheerfully replacing the lid, she continued to the next trash can, lifted the lid, and chattered away as if with a long-lost friend.

She also noticed that her stalker turned around and left.

This is one of the favorite stories told at nonviolent self-defense workshops. Then there's the one attributed to Marj Swann, a leader in the pioneering Committee for Nonviolent Action in the 1950s and 1960s. In her student days she was heading home one night from the library with a pile of books in her arms. Almost home on a deserted New York City street, she heard footsteps behind her getting closer and closer. As she reached her door she whirled around and placed the load of books into the arms of the startled man behind her, with a loud, "What a relief that you came just when I needed you! These books are so heavy and I need to get my key." By which time she'd found her key, opened her door, retrieved her books with a jolly "Thank you!" and went inside.

In both these stories the person targeted as victim re-wrote the script for the would-be perpetrator. Attackers know what their targets "ought" to do. The man who decided to be a mass murderer in a Georgian elementary school probably expected Antoinette Tuff to cower under her desk, or make a dash for it -- a likely signal for his trigger finger. The signal never came.

These and many other stories show people refusing to do the expected thing. Stories are important in preparing ourselves for effective nonviolent responses to attack, because if we don't hear of alternatives, the traditional script becomes hegemonic: react violently, or submit. Stories expand options and invite creativity.

Becoming okay with conflict

Training for nonviolent response to threat means facing the challenge of conflict-aversion. Many people are brought up to avoid conflict, sometimes at heavy cost to themselves and their loved ones. Such people are especially in wonderment that Antje Mattheus could find a way out when confronting a dangerous motorcycle gang in a deserted subway station,  but she admits that she'd prepared herself for years through acting out in her head, and through play, stories of combat. Gandhi, a famously pro-conflict figure, especially liked to recruit soldiers to join the Indian independence struggle, because soldiers were more relaxed when performing nonviolent action in bloody street confrontations.

Military veteran and peace activist Albert Bigelow told me his inner reaction when a white segregationist was hitting him in a bus terminal during the Freedom Rides of 1961. Bert was part of the Congress of Racial Equality campaign to force integration of Greyhound buses in the Deep South. He'd been a ship commander in the U.S. Navy before becoming a pacifist, and he prided himself on his boxing skills.

At an Alabama bus stop, a mob surrounded the Freedom Riders and attacked them. One man used his fists to repeatedly hit Bert in the torso and head. Bert told me that what went through his mind in those moments was, "If I had even 15 minutes with this guy I could show him how to do some damage."

In the turbulence of the mob scene, Bert suddenly realized that a number of the segregationists were standing in a circle watching his assailant try to get him to crumble. Bert's nose was bleeding badly. Wanting to re-write the script, Bert turned away from his attacker and walked over to some watchers, held out his open hand, and asked for a handkerchief for his nose. Startled, they refused, and he continued to "work the crowd" in this way until someone gave him a handkerchief and the tension broke. Bert and his comrades walked calmly out of the terminal and re-boarded their bus.

 

Train yourself

We don't need to be former U.S. Navy boxers to be able to expand our awareness when threatened. Even people brought up to be shy of open conflict can do self-training. Like Antje Mattheus, they can "rehearse" in their imaginations the roles they might play.

It helps to adopt a principle that I teach at Swarthmore College: "When a conflict erupts near you, move closer." If a couple is loudly arguing on the street, or a fight breaks out at a sports event, move physically closer to it. For some people, crossing the street to get closer is a victory; for others, moving one foot closer is a shift. Even taking a moment to stay where you are and breathe might make your day.

And it is okay to sweat -- the colder the sweat, the better. The point is to use your awareness to de-sensitize yourself to an old fear.

Next Page  1  |  2

 

View Ratings | Rate It


Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Related Topic(s): , Add Tags

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Re-writing an attacker's script -- getting in practice (1008 views)

Total Views: 1008

 

Top Content
in the Last 2 Days
(by Page Views)

Solutions Journalism and OpEdNews by Meryl Ann Butler (28)

Rory O'Connor-- The Future Of Media is Social by Rob Kall (5)

Douglas Rushkoff-- Present Shock and Presentism: Interview Transcript by Rob Kall (5)

When Truth is Vilified or Ignored, Story is the Solution by Rob Kall (5)

Three Centuries of U.S. Writing Against War by David Swanson (5)

HOPKINS, THE SELF, AND GOD is Ong's Crowning Achievement (Review Essay) by Thomas Farrell (5)

Authors Buy Their Way Onto Best-Seller Lists Posted by Rob Kall (4)

Emerging Archetypal Themes: Libra, Dangerous Beauty and The Art of Relationship by Cathy Pagano (4)

U.S. Social Forum: Storytelling for Real and Lasting Change in America by Kevin Gosztola (4)

New York City Book Expo = Book Exposure by Scott Baker (4)

Emerging Archetypal Themes: Service Without Self-Sacrifice: Virgo: Mistress of Spices by Cathy Pagano (4)

The difficulty of practicing narrative medicine by Lewis Mehl-Madrona (4)

Behind the Scenes with Hollywood Screenwriter, Robert Avrech by Joan Brunwasser (3)

How Do You Finance Your Writing Habit? by J.L. Morin (3)

Journalism and Government Corruption by Reginald Johnson (3)

Pretty Profiles Are Fine, but Where are Stories of Powerful Women? by Elayne Clift (3)

Chris Vogler author of The Writer's Journey-- Thinking about applying the Hero's Journey and archetypes by Rob Kall (3)

My Campaign to Change the World (and also sell some books) by Scott Baker (3)

James Bonnet's Seven Day Writing Adventure Posted by James Bonnet (3)

Serial Thriller - Megan Garber - The Atlantic Posted by Rob Kall (3)

The Worlds of Story-- so much bigger than books and movies by Rob Kall (3)

Donald Maass; How Good Writers Can Write Better by Rob Kall (3)

Chuck Palahniuk; Nuts and Bolts: "Thought" Verbs Posted by Rob Kall (3)

Just Story It Scoops Posted by Karen Dietz (3)

Engaging Emergence; moving toward Order From Chaos by Rob Kall (3)

Go To Top 50 Most Popular