Can’t fix Stupid, Nor Can You Educate Predator Out of Someone – Brandon Sieg

You have heard it jokingly said that you can’t fix stupid. I have taught martial arts and self-defense at a small liberal arts university for 20 years, so the joke about me trying is too easy. Rather, this article is about a fallacy that I see gaining an increasing foothold in the enlightened minds of university circles that is more futile than fixing stupid. And that is trying to educate predation out of predators.

In my self-defense course we cover boundary setting and use a role play for illustration (this will sound familiar to FAST Defense alumni). In the scenario a timid woman is at the company office party when the sleazebag makes his move. Reading no verbal or body language cues to suggest a boundary, the guy invades space and ultimately forces a hug upon her as she tries to cower away. We pause, and I ask the class, “What went wrong?”

One girl, clearly indignant on behalf of the woman who was just slimed, raises her hand and answers, “He clearly didn’t recognize she was uncomfortable with his presence.”

You think this class is about fixing the douchebags of the world, let alone just all the clueless men? And no, he absolutely recognized her discomfort, he just didn’t care.” This is just one example of students thinking the solution to aggression is fixing or educating the predator.

One night at this same university, a safety alert text was issued that a date rape drug had been used on campus and urged everyone to exercise caution. An opinion piece in the school paper took issue with the text and called it victim blaming. This lauded editorial insisted that the safety alert should not have been telling women to be careful, it should have been reminding men not to drug women. For comparison, the article pointed out that the PSAs for drunk driving don’t warn motorists to be careful of drunk drivers, but rather bluntly tell people not to drink and drive. But I wonder if the high functioning alcoholic really cares? Nor does the rapist care about a text.

The article goes on to assert more time needs to be spent educating men not to rape women and less time educating women how to avoid it. Perhaps that is a worthwhile social goal, but it is a horrible self-defense strategy. What college age male doesn’t know that society frowns upon drugging and raping women? Based on that logic I can fix the campus rape problem in five minutes. On the admission application, add an additional question: is it ok to drug and rape women (check the box yes or no.) If they check “yes,” don’t let them into the school! Problem solved, they don’t meet the educational standards of the university. So apparently the real problem must lie in the admissions office, because they keep letting rapists in!

Or maybe it is that some people don’t give a crap and are going to take what they want anyway. Too many people, however well intentioned, spend too much time and mental effort complaining that someone needs to educate the predators and not nearly enough time preparing to deal with the predators who choose to flunk the lesson.

This same issue applies to other conflict as well. Just recently at the same university, racist remarks were written on a bathroom stall and other public areas of campus. The student body, faculty, and alumni went into an uproar and demanded the administration and the university “do more.” I asked a Chinese student , who was clearly agitated by a bunch of words she only heard second hand about, what exactly constituted more? The first words out of her mouth were “more education.” Now trust me when I say that students at this school are constantly bombarded by messages of inclusion and diversity. But we need more. Because apparently some young adults never got the memo that racism is not ok. Again, I would cheekily assert that you have an admissions problem, not an education problem. Add another question: is racism ok? (check yes or no).

Obviously there are way too many people in the world who still check yes. But it isn’t because no one ever told them racism is wrong. I am sure they have heard it plenty. Most simply choose to ignore the message or vehemently disagree. You can’t fix stupid. And you can’t educate assholes who refuse to learn.

On a grander, societal level, these are very important questions to be discussed. Should we continue to combat and expose racism? Every decent person agrees. Should we get to the root causes of violence against women and do a better job of eliminating them? Unquestionably. Should we resign ourselves to the fact that people can’t change for the better, and that every predator is doomed to a life of recidivism and beyond help? Of course not. These are worthwhile goals for society, but I am pessimistic we will ever see them in our lifetime.

And in the meantime, they have nothing to do with personal protection in your everyday life. When the violent predator is standing in front of you, does it matter if he is there because of genetics, various sizes of parts of his brain, the amount of fish in his diet, upbringing or childhood, or any other host of indicators? None of it matters or helps you in the next few, most traumatic minutes of your life.

Like the one girl who thought a chunk of my self- defense class was supposed to be spent talking about how we need to teach 10-12 year old boys that “No” means “No.” When the predator is in front of you, are you going to have meaningful dialogue and dissuade him of his opinion that what he is about to do shouldn’t be done? Do you want to be armed with skills to deter or defeat him, or do you want to be armed with only rhetoric? I hope I educated the education mindset out of her, or then again, maybe what they say is true and you can’t fix stupid.

Spam and Killing – Marc MacYoung

A study at a University of Granada found that when it comes to species who ‘murder’ their own, humans don’t even make the top 50. Meerkats top the list. However, primates DO dominate the killer list’s top 100. So while humans don’t do it as much, killing our own is kind of a family tradition.

Tribalism is an elephant in the room — especially when it comes to violence. But that elephant is the baby of another, bigger elephant in the room too. Namely that violence comes in many levels, has different goals and there are … well lacking a better terms… many flavors.

Things are far more complicated and involved than “Violence never solved anything” popular among moral narcissists. (I argue that’s an extremist, absolutist and completely unsupportable position and an attempt to keep the adults from talking about the subject).

Let’s take a walk through a few points about violence and killing. Having said that we aren’t very good murderers, humans ARE pack predators.

Also, as a species we’re the most effective predators on this planet. We have literally industrialized our preying on other animals for food. During a visit to the Spam museum at the Hormel factory (long story) I was told 18,000 pigs a day go in one door and come out another — as little cans of ‘spiced ham.’ This industrialization and sanitation of our killing habits removes the normal, modern person from the realities of our food supply. Ask yourself, “What does this disconnect from having to kill to eat, do to our thinking?”

Seriously it’s a simple question, but it gets real deep real quick. The more you gather information to make an informed answer, the more you realize why there is no simple answer, which is why we need to ask it. (An added benefit is when you hear someone who claims to have ‘THE ANSWER” you recognize the following: If you aren’t confused you don’t understand the problem.) The next step is how does that influence our understanding of violence?

I’m about to give you an important foundation, even though at first it won’t seem relevant. Scientists are studying oxytocin. You know that wonderful chemical inside humans that bonds mothers to their babies, is the biological basis for love and bonding? Yes, oxytocin, the stuff that makes us all warm and fuzzy to our fellows. When we’re dosed, we’re compassionate, concerned and giving, which really, really helps make us ‘better’ people.

It turns out there’s some fine print though. The fluffy stuff from oxytocin is reserved for those we consider our ‘tribe.’ The downside of this exclusivity is it’s perfectly okay for us to … well let’s see, ignore, neglect, screw over, oppress, rip off, abuse, attack and even kill those we deem ‘other.’ All the while priding ourselves for being such good people … because you know, what we do for our family and tribe.

Then you get into Jonathan Haidt’s work on Moral Foundation Theory and how our beliefs, bind us together, blind us and separate us form those ‘evil, rotten, selfish, haters and freakish’ groups. Groups we have deemed different than us.

People we have ‘othered’, you know the people that it’s okay to act against in moral certainty. That may sound like I’m condemning folks, but in fact, I’m not. It’s how we’re wired. A wiring that modern society not only insists we ignore, but pretends doesn’t exist in the push to everyone becoming a giant, kumbaya singing uber-tribe of humanity, a push that people are pushing back against and not even realizing it.

According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar the function numbers of our immediate ‘tribe’ ranges between 100 and 250 relationships. Knowing that, you begin to see where things start getting wobbly. To think of groups of more requires certain mental gymnastics — including identifying ourselves as part of a super tribe, (generally along political, racial, religious and sub-cultural lines). We don’t know them, but we’re a super-group. To be able to identify as a part of this super tribe, you have to adopt said tribe’s ‘thinking’ and standards. Like all tribal societies, there are established and perpetuated feuds and tensions between your super-tribe and those evil, rat bastards….

All that opens the door to what I want to talk about next, (I told you this subject gets deep.) When we become most dangerous to other humans is when things go tribal — and ‘othering’ occurs.

As an FYI, every time I talk about humans being such lousy killers of fellow humans, someone always asks, ‘What about war?” – or if not brings up genocide. Well, kiddies, here it is. Tribalism, pack predation and ‘othering’, that’s also where you see our tendency for industrialized killing.

But you don’t have to be in a war to encounter ‘othering’, all you have to be is in the wrong part of town and/or a stranger.

The kind of violence you’ll face in these circumstances is different than what happens between members of the same tribe. This kind of violence escalates faster and has a greater chance of injury. Because you’re an outsider — and especially if the group thinks you’ve done something wrong — they’re often trying to injure you. Maybe even kill you… because you’re not ‘one of them.’ Violence without the intent to injure is usually inside the group disputes or a professional standard (e.g., arrest and restraint).

This dynamic really kicks in when you’re facing multiples. That’s where the pack predators ‘switch’ get flipped, you too have to mentally shift gears.

However, there’s something that’s just as important. That is being able to explain WHY you knew you were in greater danger facing a group than an individual. See people don’t understand it these days, why? Because they’ve seen too many movies where the hero fights off multiple attackers.

Understanding this is a big part of explaining why you ‘reasonably believed’…

Think You Know How to Stop School Shootings? Think Again! – Erik Kondo

School shooting are a problem. Solving this problem requires some type of approach. Here are some commonly discussed and debated proposed solutions in no particular order:

  • Pass stricter gun laws making it more difficult for potential shooters to obtain high powered weapons.
  • Pass stricter laws on gun magazines making it more difficult for shooters to kill so many people.
  • Arm teachers with guns so they can fire back at the shooter.
  • Pass stricter background checks to make it more difficult for potential shooters to obtain weapons.
  • Make it easier to legally take weapons away from people who are deemed to be mentally ill or dangerous.
  • Train students on how to respond to active shooter situations.
  • Provide students with bulletproof backpacks.
  • Make schools more secure from unauthorized entry.
  • Make classrooms more secure from attack.
  • Eliminate male aggression in society.
  • Provide more resources for mental health.
  • Parents provide more discipline for their children.
  • Identify potential school shooters through tips.
  • Put metal detectors in school entryways.
  • Install more security cameras and monitoring equipment.
  • Provide teachers with Less-than-Lethal weapons such as tasers, rubber bullets, bean bag shotguns, chemical sprays, etc.
  • Teach students how to fight back against active shooters.
  • Enact stricter punishment such as the death penalty for school shooters.
  • Put mobile bulletproof backboards in the classrooms for students to hide behind.
  • Instil children with more family values and morals.
  • Stop glorifying violence in TV, movies, video games, and the media.

There are three Primary Methods to deal with a self-defense problem. Each one can be used separately or in combination with the others.

  1. Stop or limit a person’s Intent to do harm. Where Intent is defined as desire or motivation or ill intent to do harm.
  2. Stop or limit a person’s Means to do harm. Where Means is the ability or capability to do harm.
  3. Stop or limit a person’s Opportunity to do harm. Where Opportunity is the circumstances in which it is possible to do harm.

A person requires all three to cause harm. Therefore, stopping or limiting one Primary Method will stop or limit the harm.

All the above listed individual solutions fall into one or more of these three Primary Methods.

Each one of the three Primary Methods can be performed in one or more of three-time frames of:

1. Prevention (before the event),
 Intervention (during the event), and
 Mitigation (after the event) with varying degree of effectiveness depending upon the circumstances.

Therefore, there are nine Primary Method Time Phases to deal with school shootings.

There are Three Viewpoints to view school shootings:

  1. As a Systemic Problem where school shootings are the result of widespread societal and cultural factors.
  2. As a Situational Problem where school shootings are the result of a certain confluence of factors on a situational basis.
  3. As a Personal Problem where school shootings are the result of individual factors of the person(s) involved.

Therefore, the nine Primary Method Time Phases can be viewed from one or more of these Three Viewpoints. That makes for a total of twenty-seven (3 x 3 x 3) categories of different approaches for dealing with school shootings. Each of these categories of approaches comes with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, assumptions, truths, and falsehoods. In other words, for every approach that is effective, there can be twenty-six examples of where this approach doesn’t apply. Given the complete lack of unbiased data, evidence, and expertise on the subject due to the relatively low number of incidents, people select approaches based on their pre-existing favorite solution.

  • If you hate guns, you will say that gun control is the solution.
  • If you love guns, you will say more guns is the solution.
  • If you are for Capital punishment, you will say that the death penalty is the solution.
  • If you think that male aggression in a problem in society, you will say that eliminating male aggression is the solution.
  • If you think mental illness is a problem in society, you will say that more mental health resources are the solution.
  • If you manufacture bulletproof products, you will say that more bulletproof products in the classroom is the solution.
  • If you think that kids are out of control, you will say the more parental discipline is the solution.
  • If you are in the business of teaching self-defense, you will say that more student/teacher training is the solution.
  • And so on.

And every one of you will be correct in some manner AND incorrect in some other manner. For every example of why your pet solution will work, there are likely to be more examples of why your pet solution will not work. There is also the fact that no school shooting is the same. Some are mass casualty events. Some are few casualty events. And some are threats and fights gone wrong. Therefore, an effective approach needs to also take into consideration the various types of school shootings.

There are tens of millions of students in the United States. There are tens of thousands of schools ranging from elementary schools to universities. Given the relatively few number of incidents over time, you have minimal data to base your solution on.  How do you know your solution will not make the problem worse?

Solving the problem of school shootings requires more than applying your pet ideological solution to this complex problem. Solving complex problems starts with open-minded thinking. If you think that you already know the answer, you are most likely wrong. if you really want to stop school shootings, stop promoting your ideology and start looking at the problem with an open mind. Otherwise, you are a part of the problem.


Beyond the Cul-De-Sac – Malcolm Rivers

The first time I encountered the principles of self-protection I was very young. The house had been shot into for the first time, giving my bedroom an oddly soothing breeze, and my father and I were walking to our corner store. On the way, he explained the importance of vigilance and comportment. We encountered a group of young men standing outside the store, affiliated with some gang or other-the names were always changing. My father made a point of raising his voice to an off-putting volume and maintaining eye contact with each one. We were outnumbered, outgunned and unwelcome but the young men were perplexed by his boldness and let us pass without incident. As we walked home dad explained “the appearance of weakness invites aggression.” I pondered that, as long as a young child reasonably would, and came to the conclusion I would try to be strong too.

A combination of divine intervention, awareness, and savvy allies kept me alive and out of trouble until I grew up and had the opportunity to work with young people, frequently from worse situations. All throughout, I tried to reconcile the realities we’d faced with what I saw in  self-defense industry. It looked confusing. Often instructors didn’t come across as aware of the types of violence I’d seen: their answers were too simple, their techniques too complex to function in that reality. Later I realized the reason for the disparity: most “self-defense” was the security blanket business: selling things that don’t work to people who don’t need them.

Valiantly Defending the Suburbs

I found that even solid self-defense instruction wasn’t built for life outside the suburbs. I saw instructors who’d served as violence professionals explain the primacy of escape, knowing that there was little likelihood their students would ever see their assailants again. This didn’t jive with the world my students lived in or how I’d grown up. We all knew that the issue often wasn’t the initial interaction, it was the aftermath. When challenged, I’d heard students credibly reference armed reactions from friends or family and if I’d been robbed or shot growing up, my more serious friends would have…addressed the problem. The first encounter would not have been the last: one side evening the score, the other pre-empting assumed retaliation. Most instructors seemed to have little to no interest in the aftermath: when revenge brought the dulcet tones of automatic fire to a family dinner.  Why not? Because that stuff is messy and self-defense in the suburbs is a whole lot easier to sell.

The Security Blanket Factory

People in nicer places are a much better demographic for the security blankets sold by SD instructors; they’ve more to lose and are more likely to be scared shitless by largely imaginary threats. More importantly, people of means have the resources to make “self-defense” work for them. They can afford the thousand-dollar “deadly technique” weekend class, the DVD set, the CCW license, the lawyer on retainer, and all the rest. Though they’re more likely to get hit by lightning than bullets, their unjustifiable fear persists, often because they have minimal exposure to life outside Mayberry. Folk in rougher areas are a lot harder to teach: they tend to have experience, a low bullshit tolerance, and more complex problems. Taking a “fence” and pre-emptively knocking someone out might work well for them the first time but when they live two blocks away from the predator and his friends, events might play out differently, the next time. Most importantly, folk from violent neighborhoods know a harsh truth that uproots significant amounts of self-defense theory: you can’t blindly trust the state to keep you safe.

Fairly Tales of Super Cops

Put simply: most self-defense instructors I’ve met have levels of faith in the state that confuse the hell out of me. Some are in law enforcement or corrections, with a vested interest or a legitimate belief in the system. Others feel it would be irresponsible to talk about when they wouldn’t get law enforcement involved. Some are probably just trying to avoid accusations of impropriety or lawsuits. Regardless, it seemed strange to me because of how I’ve seen law enforcement handle violence. Early in my stay in D.C. a rival crew began a shootout with the drug dealers next door. I remember hearing sirens approach around 45 minutes later. The precinct was 2 minutes away and, apparently, responded to other crimes in the interim. Nothing surprising there; I’d learned early that depending completely on the state to handle potential threats was dangerous and stupid: they’re mostly people with jobs and no responsibility (or interest) to protect you. More important than being jaded with law enforcement’s utility, was learning that keeping yourself safe required careful balance of the legal and the practical.

Legal v. Practical

The American justice system at the municipal level is a reactive organization designed to catch and prosecute criminals, not to preemptively protect citizens. Often folk who used the law to handle all their problems found themselves in violation of street code and facing enemies who knew the law well enough to get around or ignore it. Shunning, beatings, or more dire consequences ensued. Folk who focused too much on the practical found themselves in unenviable lifestyles filled with paranoia, dead friends, and prison sentences. Often what began as protecting their own evolved into a path they’d never escape. Those able to achieve this tenuous balance developed complex skills to manage interactions.

Survival Skills

In most dangerous neighborhoods, even the citizens know the predators and their politics, helping them survive encounters. Young people I’ve worked were always well versed in the in’s and out’s of these environments: one teen planned his bus routes based on time of day and conflicts between rival crews. Family and friends of mine have also used knowledge of the landscape to help negotiate with predators. Hierarchies, however unstable, absolutely exist and reaching out to members or affiliates of influence can also help address problems in the making or find terms of negotiation to avoid bloodshed.

As these kids traverse the environment, they learn to manage their presentation. The image one presents is paramount and the savvy learn to develop a manner that keeps them off predators’ menus without looking like a threat to the foodchain. Once, at 16, I had to change my shoelaces during a bus ride to another neighborhood after a call from a friend indicated the colors were wrong.  Some teens use social media threat displays like posing with guns to ward off higher order predators. One boy began representing his gang at 8 years old because of the murder of his uncle, admitting in a moment of vulnerability that he felt stronger with a “crew” to back him. Knowing how to cultivate and maintain an image to keep the crowd from identifying a new victim, or new threat, is an essential skill.

The strategic minding of one’s business is as important as air in violent neighborhoods. Knowing which conflicts, yours or others, are essential and which can be ignored can diminish the number of engagements, and thus the risk, without the appearance of weakness. In a recent discussion, students openly admitted a refusal to intervene in conflicts or get police involved. Many had personal examples of folk who’d learned this lesson the hard way. In these environments, the refusal to assist law enforcement and theoretical “bystander effect” are frequently products of careful consideration and years of watching the mistakes of others. Because I’d seen the consequences of such calculus, instructors and students in the self-defense community always confused me when they waxed poetic about sheepdogging and the like. I wondered how many of them had ever smelled the blood on a wolf’s breath.

When legal options are minimal, having allies that can contribute overwhelming force makes a huge difference. In many tough areas, even the most upstanding citizen is related or connected to an individual or group ready to do violence on their behalf. The deterrence of knowing that someone’s gang banger cousin is ready to kill in retaliation is sometimes enough to squelch a more serious conflict.

Final Thoughts

Very few instructors are willing to acknowledge the complexity of regular civilian engagement with violence or the fact that many innocents are forced to manage these engagements, without the resources of their suburban peers, from a very early age. Coaches and sensei wax platitudinous about how anyone regularly defending themselves needs a change in lifestyle without considering how many decent people can’t visit the money tree in back yard to buy a new life. Study of self-defense has taught me a lot, much of it retroactively, but it’s time for the field to expand beyond well entrenched boundaries of the cul-de-sac.

Institutionalized Darwinism – Erik Kondo

Many people have a basic understanding of Darwin’s theory of National Selection a/k/a Survival of the Fittest. The premise is that as a species evolve, the stronger more effective traits and characteristics survive and propagate, while the weaker ones dwindle and die out. As a result, the species as a whole is always improving.

Natural Selection can also be seen in certain fields of human performance and their associated training methodologies. Specifically, those areas where the high end of absolute performance in a given field keeps improving. For examples, look at many fields of athletics or extreme sports where performance records are constantly being broken. Achievements and stunts once considered impossible have become routine. Speed records for running, jumping, climbing, swimming, and more are broken regularly. For aerial stunts, single backflips have morphed into doubles, then into triples.

But then there are also those areas of human activity where improvements haven’t occurred. Or even worse, performances have become inferior over time. How can this be? Shouldn’t the effect of Natural Selection create steady improvement in all areas as better methods replace worse?

The first answer is that Darwinism requires a reason/motivation to create change. Without a reason to change or a motivating threat of some sort, Darwinism doesn’t apply. In that case, inertia rules and nothing changes. Training methods are static and handed down from generation to generation. The philosophy is that it is done this way because it has always been done this way.

Now look at areas where absolute performance is deteriorating.

What if Natural Selection is actually happening, but this type of Natural Selection is geared towards to benefiting the associated Institution rather than the Individual?

For example, look at the Martial Arts Industry as a whole (the Institution) in terms of self-defense. Darwinism as applied to Individuals would mean that martial arts practitioners would keep getting better and better at defending themselves. Absolute training times to achieve reasonable proficiency would get shorter. Self-defense effectiveness would increase for more people, and a greater variety of people. But that isn’t happening.

Despite Institutionalized claims to the contrary, overall martial arts effectiveness for self-defense is arguably getting worse, or at least not improving. Does that mean that Darwinism doesn’t apply to the Martial Arts Industry? Or is the Institution of the Martial Arts benefiting at the expense of individual performance?

Institutionalized Darwinism is my name for the process in which the ongoing change benefits the needs of the Institution rather than the needs of the individual. And that may also mean at the expense of the Individual.

What are the needs of martial arts organizations? A few are: to grow in size and scope, to attract more students, to make more money, to sell more products, to become more influential in society. Making martial arts classes non-challenging to student’s egos and promoting fantasy fighting disguised as self-defense training benefits the Institution, but does nothing to advance Individual self-defense effectiveness.

Institutionalized Darwinism explains the majority of YouTube self-defense videos, moves, and tips. The Process of Natural Selection doesn’t weed out the bad and promote the good from the standpoint of the Individual, but it does benefit someone or something. It is up to you to determine who or what benefits from these promoted training methodologies, most likely, it isn’t you.


Mexican Mob Nearly Lynches Russian ‘Nazi’ in Cancun

We were sent a link to this article from Paul Bowles back in May. It raises a set of interesting points like when is it time to stop inciting people, especially when you are the outsider on their territory. My first thought was that there must be some underlying mental health issues due to the severity and escalating nature of the offending behaviour. We have used the article in full and there is a link to The Daily Beast for those who would like to check out the original. So thanks to Paul and those others who have sent us some very interesting material.

If you come across something you think we should see please send it to us, we will check it out. Regards, Garry.

From ‘The Daily Beast’.

MEXICO CITY—“Kill him! Kill him! Kill him,” chanted a mob of roughly 100 angry Mexicans in Cancun, the popular tourist destination on the coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico. “I’m going to decapitate you,” one man shouted at Aleksei Viktorovich Makeev, as the bloodied 42-year-old Russian resident of Mexico fled the interior of his home for a nearby rooftop while the mob pelted him with large rocks and jeered. When Makeev finally collapsed on the rooftop, covered in his own blood—and that of an unarmed teenager whom he stabbed moments before, after the teen attempted to enter the Russian’s apartment—the townspeople finally let him be, as reporters livestreaming from the scene claimed that Makeev had died.

In fact, after being beaten with sticks and stoned nearly to death, the half-naked Russian was transported to a local hospital and treated for his injuries. The townspeople had fractured his skull.

Makeev is now reportedly in stable condition, but remains in a drug-induced coma, paralyzed and likely brain-damaged, said Dmitry Bolbot, Mexico City’s Russian consul. But the 19-year-old youth whose last name has not yet been disclosed, “Lalo”—a nickname for Eduardo—bled out on the pavement as paramedics attempted to save his life. He was pronounced dead soon after Makeev stabbed him repeatedly in the stomach with a kitchen knife as he fled the home. The horrific stabbing was also caught on tape.

“The Russian has just stabbed this person. He’s losing a lot of blood,” someone said in one of many livestreams of the hours-long encounter, as thousands of social media users watched from their phones and computers, leaving comments like “Cut off [the Russian’s] head! Toss him in a ditch,” and “Finish him off! Get it over with!”

The mob descended on his home after local media reports began circulating on Friday about Makeev, who had spent the previous months uploading videos of himself on his personal YouTube channels surrounded by swastikas.

In the videos, one can see that he had made a hobby of disparaging the people of Mexico, speaking with particular loathing about indigenous women and infants. He was dubbed #LordNaziRuso on social media—Lord Russian Nazi—and outrage quickly grew.

Just past noon on Friday, Makeev posted on Facebook that he was “feeling adventurous,” along with the comment that “Terrorists are trying to kill me!”

Hours later, he posted a crude drawing that read “lick my dick Mexican piece of shit” as he laughed at the angry crowd that had begun to phone him and cover his Facebook wall with angry comments.

By dusk, as the mob formed outside the tiny one-room apartment in Cancun from which he often posted videos at his untidy desk—next to cans of peas and other food lining the windowsill—a local reporter with a drone began to film the lead-up to the lynching attempt, as Makeev sat at his desk and continued to poke the bear and mock the people online.

From that desk—seated next to a family-size bottle of ketchup and more pictures of swastikas and promotional material for his unpopular YouTube channels—the Russian had repeatedly posted videos complaining about both the Mexican people and their police in a mix of Russian and the occasional insult in English or Spanish.

Though he made himself completely unwelcome in Mexico, Makeev—who is originally from the small town of Elektrostal, on the outskirts of Moscow—had also previously made a name for himself in Russia where he was apparently put under review by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2013, after footage posted online showed him shoving an elderly woman and child. He was reportedly interned in a Russian psychiatric facility for his erratic behavior as a result.

“If the government doesn’t want to do anything, if our authorities can’t, we’re going to get together and do this right,” said one man in a livestream Friday night, just before the lynching attempt began, inviting the people of Cancun to come down to the man’s home and get him. “We aren’t going to lynch him, because that sounds bad, but we are going to teach him a lesson.”

“Cancun deserves respect,” the man said, adding, “It’s the most beautiful place you could ever imagine.”

The bizarre videos Makeev became known for show his fanatical obsession with Madonna and knives, and that he far too often sat at the local McDonald’s in Cancun, invasively filming humble Mexican diners—zooming in on the faces of what he called their “bastard” children, and referring to the people as “monkeys” and “pieces of shit.”

In one video, filmed from a local rooftop, he stood shirtless next to a swastika and—wearing a clown nose—referred to “McDonald… Trump.” Many of his Facebook posts, in fact, relate to the various controversies involving the U.S. President’s alleged ties to Russia.

He had been getting on people’s nerves for a while, but had made at least a few friends locally. Just two weeks ago, he uploaded a video of himself interviewing an American man who called himself Roy, who claimed to have been beaten by the local police, after picking up some cash from a local Western Union. He said the cops “took [his] $200,” stranding him in Mexico without a passport.

“When I woke up, I’m on my hands and knees. And when I got up, I seen my teeth, so I picked ‘em up and put ‘em in my pocket, and the muth… uh, they had gone. They left. So, I was left with nothing, and I was left with this,” said a toothless Roy, pointing to a blackened right eye. “So I advise anyone coming here, be careful. The police are very corrupt.”

It was a common theme in his videos. When not complaining about Mexicans, he complained about their cops.

Last December,  he was locked up for a month in an immigration center in Quintana Roo and  declared persona non grata after repeatedly threatening the local Maya people. He complained in videos that he had not been given water, and had been treated poorly in detention. In a statement, the National Migration Institute said that Makeev’s “definitive exit from the country was ordered on January 19” of this year.

But Makeev, who was previously employed as a scuba instructor at AquaWorld Cancun, remained in the country regardless. When contacted on Saturday, the watersports company was unable to offer any comment, but said in a statement that he stopped working with them in November 2015, after they noticed that “his behavior had begun to turn aggressive.”

A statement reportedly from the Russian Embassy did not condone his actions in Mexico, but added that they “categorically reproach the manner in which Mexican citizens did not attempt to denounce [his actions] but instead took matters into their own hands,” asking Mexican authorities to help clarify these “unfortunate events.”

But citizens and residents had reported his behavior to immigration authorities in recent months, even after his recent detention. One local radio disc jockey, 55-year-old Fabricio Rechy, provided The Daily Beast with screenshots of a conversation he had with immigration authorities this past February, in which he sends authorities the worrisome videos he had come across, requesting that the Russian be removed for posing a danger to the local people.

During his conversation, the immigration employee at first implied that the videos were filmed in Russia, but the radio host pointed out that they were filmed inside the local McDonald’s. He even made it easy for them, providing screenshots of the man’s immigration documents.

“They thanked me for the information and said they would investigate,” Rechy said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “But I doubt they gave it any importance.”

“I stumbled on the videos, and saw the way he was threatening people, calling them shit, saying he was going to kill Mexicans, cut off their heads, and I thought he was a dangerous person, so I felt the need to report it. It’s my duty as a citizen,” he said. “There are videos that show him giving babies the middle finger, throwing coins at an old woman in a grocery store, hitting another elderly lady inside a bank, and stepping on children’s lunch on the beach.”

As for the incident that ended one young man’s life on Friday night, Rechy said, “It never should have happened.”

“The police arrived at night, but left saying they couldn’t do anything because the man was locked inside his home,” he said.

Later that night, “about half an hour after the lynching started,” when the riotous fighting was well under way, the police finally returned with backup. But by then the situation had become unmanageable.

As paramedics transported Makeev’s unconscious bloody body to the hospital late Friday night, smiling families cheered and screamed insults at him—at times chanting, “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!”

The National Immigration Institute said in a statement that it would seek his repatriation back to Russia as soon as his legal situation in Mexico is determined.

But, Rechy noted, “None of this would have happened if they had just taken notice when I asked them to.”

“That boy would still be alive,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a national problem in Mexico—the lack of authority, and the authorities’ inaction. I hate to say it, but we are used to corruption here in Mexico.”

“There just isn’t any trust,” he said. “People prefer to take justice into their own hands than deal with authorities. That’s how this works.”

Fatal Attraction Part II – Mirav Tarkka

The love story begins

Back to our “love story”, since the person who feels more guilty and more submissive then the non-victim has been selected (as a victim), he/she has to deal now with a face-to-face aggression. Sometimes, in order to create an emotional defensive mechanism, the victim develops positive feeling towards the aggressor, in order to minimize the damage (in his/her mind) and danger.

Remember also that an attack, an aggression (even if it is not domestic or with someone you know) is a relationship. One doesn’t exist without another. The aggressor isn’t one without a victim, a victim isn’t one without an aggressor. There is a subconscious agreement between these two, a Symbiosis; just like in nature. Changing that balance will change that relationship.

Stockholm’s syndrome

To demonstrate an extreme kind of relationship between the aggressor and the victim I am going to explain a little about the Stockholm’s syndrome – the “capture bonding”.

The Stockholm’s syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”

The victims, in this case hostages, end up defending their captors, would not agree to testify in court against them, and even fall in love with them. “We” (who are not “living” the situation) see it as a paradox, as captives’ feelings for their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain we expect to see as a result of their trauma.

Psychologically speaking, the Stockholm’s syndrome is considered a product of SURVIVAL INSTINCT. “The victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma” (Strentz). A positive emotional bond between captor and captive is a “defense mechanism of the ego under stress”.

The more the victim believes (or led to believe) the likelihood of their survival is poor, the more the victim is likely to develop “love” towards the aggressor in a “face to face” scenario, especially when the captors perform acts of kindness, fail to abuse the victim and so on.

The Stockholm syndrome spreads beyond a hostage situation. “Child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, incest, prisoners of war, political terrorism, cult members, concentration camp prisoners, slaves, and prostitutes” can also fall prey to Stockholm syndrome.

Dee Graham (1994) brought the Stockholm syndrome to the “world” of domestic violence. She claimed that the threat of male violence around women, and women’s fear of the men, defies women psychologically and socially. Meaning, women act in a way they know will please men in order to avoid emotional, physical or sexual assault (caused by male anger). Women bond to men to survive, same like hostages bond to their captor to survive, and therefore women are more likely to develop this condition.

Your call!

You can now understand how every victim is responsible for “being chosen”, and how we all make choices that can change our life courses forever. You can adapt a non-victim mindset (and behavour pattern) and empower yourself mentally, spiritually and physically, creating a harmonic self – immune to the external circumstances as much as possible, or you can develop a victim’s mindset, let your guilt and submissiveness take control over your life instead of you taking control over them.

The question remaining is, HOW? How can you avoid being chosen as a victim or being attacked?

In many of my videos, I speak about situational awareness (SA), pre preparation and avoidance as physical “concrete” ways to not be attacked.  Remember, the more prepared you are the less likely you will have to deal with what you are preparing for. Having a preventive and protective (but not paranoid) mindset and awareness, having always an improvised weapon, keeping your “guards up” and so on is very important, and you can read and watch more about this on my blog (

But here is something new, fascinating and extremely important. I have been discussing in this article the fact that feeling guilt and the need to be punished contributes to your “atmosphere”, to the energy field you carry around you that tells your aggressor if you are an easy target or a difficult one. So the true prevention of these potential “punishments”, and this is related also to your relationships with people and yourself, your habits, your personal life, events that “happen” to you (nothing is by accident!) comes from… the inside – YOU!

Stop punishing yourself! Love yourself more!  Surround yourself with positivity and happiness! Replace the feelings of guilt, self-sabotage, and anger with compassion, love, and gratitude. Once your energy field, your frequencies, no longer match your aggressor’s ones, he will look for someone else to perfect his match. So, self-work always produces a better you, even here.

Free yourself of the idea you should be punishing yourself. Think of it this way; even if you did do something worth suffering for, punishing yourself won’t fix it. It will make it worse not just for you, but for your environment too. You might become an aggressor yourself! Self-sabotage and suffering don’t lead to self-forgiveness.

Into action

I know it sounds simple, maybe too simple. To be truthful, self-work never ends, and there are always ways to do more and do better.  Meditation, self-reflection, and writing (to yourself) help, but there are some really good “quick fixes” that help quite fast, almost immediately (I used them myself).

One is the “Ho’oponopono” an ancient Hawaiian practice that works on your guilt-forgiveness process. You can download it from YouTube and play it to yourself or just say the four phrases to yourself several times a day. It really works like magic.

The second quick way is just to do good deeds, at least one – even little- good deed every day. Make someone smile, give a compliment, help someone struggling with the groceries, and so on. The good energy that your deed will produce inside you, will “fight” the negativity of the guilt and anger.

Surprising, eh? Speaking about self-defense, violence, love, temptation, meditation, forgiveness, anger, guilt, good and bad… all connected together, creating a deadly chaos, or a harmonized and safe being. It is all about your self-awareness, and choices.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

Please feel welcome to contact me for questions or comments via email:

Stay safe and loved.

Personal Security Theatre – Mark Hatmaker

The Transportation Security Administration [TSA], designated cops in schools [aka School Resource Officers or SROs], gun-free zones, random bag checks on subways, and other like-minded safety initiatives have been called security theater by more than a few wise minds.

Computer security maven Bruce Schneier is credited with coining the term security theatre. Mr. Schneier is author of the prescient and illuminating book Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

He offers that the TSA does little to nothing to “keep us safe” and this large outlay of expenditure and labor is there to act as nothing more than a pacifier or Linus’ security blanket for a cowed populace.

Mr. Schneir is not alone in this assessment, Ross Anderson, is a Professor of security engineering, University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory. His research bailiwick is that of the economics and psychology of information security.

Professor Anderson is equally as scathing in the review and record of any of the mentioned displays of security theatre and their purported benefits. [His book Security Engineering is a must-read in the industry.]

Security Theatre is designed [well-intentioned or not] to convey safety/security benefits that dissolve upon close examination.

By this point we are all well aware of the cost-to-benefit absurdity of the TSA’s abysmal record; the TSA’s own internal assessments are less than admirable.

School Resource Officers also come up short, an excellent piece on the perversity of this policy can be found in the Reason magazine article “Why Are Cops Putting Our Kids in Cuffs?” by Robby Soave & Tyler Koteskey [Reason March, 2017.]

Studies of Random Bag Check Policies on Metro Subways in several cities reveal yields of zero arrests despite what many rightly see as infringement of rights. And gun-free zones, well, as we painfully know those who abide by that bit of theatrical law are the very ones we’d prefer to be armed. [At least that’s my preference.]

The purpose for discussing security theatre today is not to provide yet another reason for we the outraged populace to shake our collective fists at our “betters” in bureaucracies but rather to turn the accusatory lens around.

Yes, the aforementioned theatrical productions are unwise, immensely costly [in dollars, time, and in some cases lives] but our outrage seldom does little against our leviathan bureaucratic systems of governance.

Since we can do little to affect security theatre on the macro scale I ask what might we be able to do in the micro, that is at the personal level?

What habits, behaviours, bits of theatrical security showmanship might we be indulging in in our own lives that when we put the cold hard light of pragmatics on it dissolve into TSA uselessness?

Here’s a brief battery of questions to allow you to self-assess.

Do you own a personal protection device?

If so, do you regularly carry it?

Be that device a firearm, a tactical folder, a Taser, hell, it could be a phaser from the future, if it is not carried, that device is no more than a prop in your amateur personal security theatre production.

If you do carry a security tool, have you been trained in its use?

Do you regularly “groove” your training with weekly sessions? [We must always keep the mantra regarding skills in mind “Use it or lose it.”]

Is your device one of actual practical value? This must be asked, as over the years, I have seen many variations of doo-dads that can attach to your keyring or gravitate to the bottom of purses that may be nothing more than teensy theatrical props.

Case in point, the pocket kubatan. I have seen these for years and I ask you honestly how many reports have you encountered echoing these lines?

“I was approached in a parking lot by three shady characters, but fortunately I had my kubaton and lived to tell the tale?”

I’m not picking on the kubaton exclusively, with a little common sense and a little candour evaluate your own tool and ask if it is a benefit or a security prop?

Allow me to ease potentially ruffled feathers by reversing our lens again.

Assuming you think the TSA is an efficient and effective body protecting you from terrorist threat would you approve of a mandate that stripped them of their firearms and instead provided them with kubatons vs. terrorists?

Would you feel safe in a “bad” part of town if you knew that all the cops kept their guns not on their person but somewhere in their glove compartments or at the bottom of their cop purses?

How about if you knew they had never been range qualified for the weapons they carry? Or, if they had been qualified have never bothered to train with the weapon again?

You see what I’m saying, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If it is unwise policy and security theatre for those uphill in the hierarchy, I argue that is all the more unwise and dangerous when we look at ourselves as we are inevitably always the first responders in every incident in our own lives.

Let’s turn that lens around upon ourselves once again.

Have you trained in self-defense?

Notice I did not say tae kwon do, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, or any other combat sport. As formidable, fun, and worthy of merit they all may be in their own arenas, a mere 15 minutes out of your life viewing actual assaults on YouTube will reveal that violent reality seldom resembles a sportive construct.

So, again, have you trained in self-defense?

If so, do you regularly touch-up your skills?

If not, that krav maga class from a few years back or that half-hearted touch-up of skills occasionally is akin to the weapon seldom if ever fired.

Self-defense that does not reflect real-world realties is akin to mime in our security theatre presentation, that is, an art form best performed by oneself for oneself as no one really needs it. [Apologies to mimes everywhere, in truth, I find Chaplin a genius.]

To carry on our theatrical criticism, much lip service is paid to awareness, alertness, mind-setting, and like “eyes of a warrior” mentalities. And yet, I know many [many, too many] folks who preach that message who conduct their lives with heads-down and phones out—this is particularly conspicuous at airports and all large public gatherings where one would assume that this touted “warrior alertness” is most in need.

To give voice to awareness and mind-setting talk is, again, security theatre, the mere uttering of lines in a play. We say the words we think that a high-speed/low-drag seasoned Navy SEAL would utter, but if we aren’t stepping up to the words we are simply playing a role and we may be fooling no one but ourselves.

So, again, I ask you what’s your own bit of security theatre and what can you do to take it from the playhouse to the streets.


Benidorm and Social Reproduction Part III – Garry Smith

Failures in communication of one form or another are almost always the start of conflict, failure to establish meaningful communication in a conflict will result in conflict mismanagement. So with different codes operating between different social classes we have massive opportunities for conflict. Now introduce all the other social variables and you can begin multiplying outwards exponentially.

However, remember where this tale started, over in Benidorm back in September 2016. Well it did not start there but going there brought thoughts from my subconscious to the fore. Like many others I associate with people I like, people like me, yes I have family and friends who will happily tell me when they think I am wrong and we can agree to disagree on certain issues. Take the Brexit vote, all our kids wanted to remain in the European Union but my wife and I voted to leave, they expressed their surprise to us but nobody fell out. Yes we discussed it but not in any detail, we all just got on with life, apparently it has split other families asunder….. I like people like me funnily enough but I can see massive dangers as we move towards fractured communities, countries even, where different social groups inhabit their own cosy feeling echo chambers and I know Marc MacYoung is digging deeply into this at the moment. The thing is communicating across barriers is possible and we do not need pretty coloured beads anymore, but only if the barriers can be relaxed.

When we went to Benidorm we actually spent time with members of other tribes around us, it was for me a socio-anthropological experience, it was superb. Being in contact with other tribes helps you to bring your own practises into question. When you can compare how people talk, eat, move around, relate to each other and to others around them you can also compare how you behave as well. This is where I started to rediscover the concept of social reproduction, the way that different social groups are produced and reproduced.

Now putting to one side the whole education Vs environment debate, free will Vs conformism and the whole gamut of isms wrapped up as analysis there are things that go together like say, fish and chips. Because, and here is a controversial one, not only do different social classes, remember where Erik started this, speak different codes, as the continual process of social production and reproduction gathers pace they are beginning to look different.

Two thirds of British adults are overweight or obese and a growing number are becoming severely obese. It was easy to see that most of the people in our hotel who were how much you could get on your plate.

Well each to their own is how I try to see things but I often fail, the thing is when you are interested in eating healthily, not obsessively though, we all like a few chips, then when you see people effectively gorging huge platefuls of fried foods, platefuls of cakes and washing it down with lots of beers and/or cokes then you cannot help but notice it. As somebody who still actively trains and sees a clear link between what I put into my body and what I can then expect it to do, I just do not get how people can do this to themselves.

I try to make good choices most of the time but I am not a food fascist, I watched and listened as our family ate our food, discussed our food and enjoyed our food, lots of good choices, with a few nice naughty bits here and there. I watched our daughter guide our grandsons as we had her and that was fun too. My father has a saying, strength goes in at the mouth, I have always liked it, but weakness goes in at the mouth too is the reverse. Now let us throw a hand grenade into this piece of revelry.

“Severe obesity is associated with lower educational attainment, reduced employment prospects and lower socioeconomic status, although the directionality of this association is not known.” Health Survey for England

BOOM!!! ­Well life is all about choices, or is it​? Well the old free will versus determinism can take us around in circles but as Haidt (2014?) indicates most decisions are made as emotional reactions then we rationalise them afterwards. He uses the analogy of riding an elephant, according to this model; the rider is rational and can plan ahead, while the elephant is irrational and driven by emotion and instinct.  This is where the differences emerge between those who choose to control their emotions, as best they can, and make more rational choices and those who’s emotions make the choices and then they rationalise the choices made.

So when we are presented with a huge array of choices at our all inclusive restaurant buffet choices have to be made but there are no rules, you can eat what you want in whatever quantities you like. So as we approach the buffet it will depend who is in charge, the rider or the elephant (no pun intended). So given that most of our behaviour is learned and that the primary agency of socialisation is the family, is it surprising that you could see tables of families and each had similar choices on their tables? Choices are informed by our knowledge and understanding, something Pierre Bourdieu (1986) calls cultural capital.

“Cultural capital: forms of knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society. Parents provide their children with cultural capital by transmitting the attitudes and knowledge needed to succeed in the current educational system.”

So the restaurant in our holiday hotel in Benidorm brought into the same room social groups with different levels of cultural capital. If severe obesity is associated with lower educational attainment and lower socio economic status, amongst other thing, then it is likely that lower levels of cultural capital will be present too. Conversely  as Bourdieu demonstrated those who possessed higher levels of cultural capital had far better levels of educational attainment and socio economic status.

Obesity is present in all social groups but evidence from Public Health England it is much more prevalent in lower income households and socio economic groups. The correlation between levels of cultural capital and its transfer through social reproduction is clear, poorer, less educated families are more likely to be obese.

Social reproduction refers to the emphasis on the structures and activities that transmit social inequality from one generation to the next. Much of what we know of human behaviour shows that throughout the long evolution of our species learned behaviours are passed from generation to generation.

This includes the social construction of the worlds we inhabit, they differ by ethnicity, class, gender, name your own variable, we all believe, or would like to that our body of knowledge, our culture, the way we do things, is the right way. We belong, as did our ancestors, to tribes, each tribe can have its own shared customs, values and belief system, we operate best in tribes of around 30 to 40 members, just like our ancestors. If we become separated from our tribe we will look for others like them/us and seek their company, like attracts like. We do this because tribes all have their own style of dress, adornments and/or markings. Youth cultures and sub-cultures are the most obvious examples.

Take a moment here to think about your tribal identity, take your time, look at your hair, your clothes and look at yourself as if looking at a stranger, adopt the position of anthropological strangeness. Do you wear jewellery? If so what does it say about you? Then work outwards from the self to the artefacts you​ possess, what do they say about you and your tribe?

I am concluding this article on yet another holiday this time on the island of Fuerteventura, the Canary Islands. We are in yet another al inclusive hotel but this one cost quite a bit more and this is reflected in the social make up of the guests. However, right back to the march Issue of Conflict Manager and Erik’s article. A person’s social class is rarely chosen, most of us are born to it and inculcated into it before we have any choice. Social class itself is a complex series of interacting variables and influences far too complex for us to do it justice here, in this 3 part article I have merely tried to begin expanding how we think of social class, pardon yet another pun. Social class is worthy of consideration in considering potential causes of conflict, especially as power is distributed unequally in society. The process of social reproduction ensures that the uneven distribution of cultural capital remains relatively constant and self reinforcing. We speak in codes and live in tribes, we are generally physically identifiable by how we speak, act and look.

Erik was correct, social class matters, but understanding the process of how classes are created and recreated over generations matters too. Now is anyone ready for a discussion on social mobility?


The Other School to Prison Pipeline – Malcolm Rivers

It started like it always had: words exchanged between two parties, all part of rituals of posturing and dominance. The dispute followed the conventional script but ended rather abruptly. Uncharacteristically, the usual aggressor seemed to flare up and, for once, declined to take the conflict to its natural conclusion. This time he had a plan.

He waited. The routine was consistent and well established: we spent the first hours of the day in one location, walked them in lines to use the bathroom, and then brought them to lunch. Despite our need to supervise, policy required us to wait outside the bathrooms. It was at that point that I heard the thumping.

The sound was loud but so muffled that it took me a second to register. By the time I’d decided to ignore protocol and made it through the door, grunts of pain and exertion joined the thumping. The two of them were in the stall, one slamming the other’s head against the wall. He’d sat on the issue for several hours, waiting for an opportunity to get make his move without interference.

He’d set it up perfectly, like a pro, and at only 7 years old.

The assault wasn’t even the issue. Though it’s troubling that one second grader had set up another for a carefully planned and executed beating; factoring in witnesses, transition points, and even rules that prevented us from intervening; the bigger problem is what happened afterward: nothing. The boy had followed through on a premeditated assault and there were no consequences or changes; nothing happened. He’d learned, at an impressionable age, that what he’d done works.

Every day in schools all over the country students, staff, and families have similar experiences. Students use violence against each other or staff members; destroy property; and much, much worse and nothing happens. The problems with this dynamic are numerous and complex but there is one central element that supersedes the rest: the bait and switch that society, through the education system, subjects students to. Students spend as many as many as 12 years being conditioned to believe that the system doesn’t have teeth…until it does.

I’ve spent the past 14 years working in education in a variety of capacities. I’ve been a teacher’s assistant, mentor, tutor, coach, teacher, intervention specialist, contracted guest instructor, and professional development director. I’ve worked with, taught, coached, or mentored at every grade level. I’ve had some incredible experiences throughout, but my time as an elementary school teacher in a predominantly poor, low performing school in one of the worst school districts in the country was probably the most challenging and definitely the most illuminating.

For many kids, their first contact with outside authority arrives in the form of school staff. Teachers, principals, counselors, and coaches form students’ baseline expectations for extrafamilial authority in their formative years. When the school environments condition them to believe that those extrafamilial authority figures had no power to provide real rewards, or real consequences, they learn an extremely dangerous lesson that is repeated, for years, until they encounter other, more emphatic, authority structures like the criminal justice system.

Students as young as kindergarteners went on destructive rampages in school only to be ignored or placated. One young boy walked around destroying everything he could get his little hands on and was given a lollipop for his trouble. It worked…until the next day when he, understandably assuming breaking things was the easiest way to get free candy, shattered a window. He’d learned that most of the time, especially for the students with extreme behaviors, the school couldn’t or wouldn’t do very much. The only real leverage schools had was directly connected to what parents would do to deal with their children’s behaviors. So, when parents did nothing or even encouraged disruptive, destructive, or violent behavior, the school was left in the lurch: stuck with a student they had no leverage with and a family that would do nothing to help. I saw repeated cases of violent or destructive behavior that, under any other circumstances, could easily derail their lives very early. The student who strangled a teacher with a telephone wire in third grade and nothing happened. The student who pulled a box cutter on another student and nothing happened. The students who sent a teacher to the hospital with a fracture and nothing happened. All of these students learned, consciously and subconsciously, that they could be violent and destructive and those in authority would not act or might even reward the behavior.

Much has been made of the “school to prison pipeline” the set of practices that supposedly “criminalizes” children by introducing them into juvenile and adult legal systems at increasingly younger ages. What I’ve seen and experienced was the opposite: a school to prison pipeline built by a profound disconnection between students’ actions in school settings and realistic consequences. The students I worked with were conditioned for years to believe that everything from stomping each other out to sexual assault would be met with formalized bluster and bravado but no actual consequences.

The reasons for this dynamic aren’t all that complicated: the education system is in the business of shining shit and calling it gold. Teachers, administrators, and other staff understand that many, if not most, of their efforts to address any but the most destructive of student behaviors will be met with platitudes or unhelpful nonsense, or just ignored. Many bureaucrats of the educational hierarchy, serving politicians whose only interest is the perception of an ignorant public, institute policies that hide, ignore, or placate these students, further conditioning them to believe that breaking things and hurting people are the easiest ways to get a reward or out of the classroom. These young people learn that violent criminal behavior is a safe bet, or even a good idea, and school becomes a staging area for street issues or a fun place to throw a tantrum. As soon as the students cross the threshold to the outside world their conditioning will get them hurt or in trouble.

As the education system continues to churn out students who participate in, witness, or are victims of violent behavior for years with little to no consequences, it’s no wonder than many of these young people find themselves in trouble with the law or otherwise have difficulty being productive members of society. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of families and friends to bring children up in ways that will promote their safety and development but schools can play positive roles in keeping students from being conditioned to take dangerous behaviors lightly or at least avoid facilitating a bait and switch that sets students up for devastating consequences.