People like who they are

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

People like who they are, Rory Miller (Meditations on Violence) says — to a point:

They may not think it, they may not say it, but if “just bein’ me” becomes a burden or dangerous, people, except for the most ego driven or stupid, change.

When some idiot’s wife asks or tells him to slow down and he speeds up and snarls, “I drive like I want!” he’s just being an ass. He sees a patrol car in his rear view mirror and suddenly the big man who does whatever he wants drives like a little old lady. People who say they don’t change do change if they perceive the stakes as high enough. But they don’t like it and they resent it.

It’s human nature to prefer everyone to change to accommodate you acting the way you want. Most of us understand that there are limits to this and it is a two-way street. Those that don’t understand this become criminals. I’ll go so far as to say that most acts defined as crimes are simply what happens when you think you are too special. Too special to conform to rules, to special to work to buy things, too special to be told “no.”

He’s writing a book about police and their use of force, and his advice to ordinary citizens — written a few months back — is oddly apropos:

Usually when I write I can subconsciously read like a naive reader and have a pretty good feel for what buttons I am pushing. With this short section, I can feel defensive walls coming up. Up to this point, the book has been largely anthropology — how the strange tribe known as police think and why it makes sense in their world. In this section it is a travel guide — this is how to act when you run across a member of this tribe. Simple stuff, in a way. Never force an officer to make a quick decision. Show your hands. Reason, but don’t argue. and if you can’t tell the difference keep your mouth shut.

But here, when it gets personal (not just advising some random imaginary criminal to keep quiet but specifically you, if something happens to the point that officers show up, especially with guns out, don’t argue with them.) Suddenly, defensive walls go up. Because people like themselves. The most unreasonable people I have ever met felt that they were completely reasonable, even logical. They shouldn’t have to change. The public servant who gets paid from their taxes should have to change…

Cool, except you see the logic when force is used on someone acting just the same as you… but it’s not you… so you’re special?

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