The Topography of Violence: You Need a Detailed Map to Navigate the Terrian


The popularly held view of violence is that it occurs between a Good Guy vs. a Bad Guy. This simplistic view of violence is appealing to many people including my nine year old daughter. When watching a television conflict she always wants to know who the Bad Guy is.  It is easiest and most satisfying for her to reduce all conflict to a battle of Good vs. Evil.

This viewpoint is promoted by everyone from Hollywood, children’s stories, the news media, to the Self-Defense Industry and the Sexual Violence Prevention Industry. They spread the Keep it Simple Stupid violence description because it is an effective marketing strategy for selling products and promoting self-serving agendas. Sell the Good Guys products to defend against the Bad Guys. Donate money and/or support government funding and save the Good Victims from the Evil Perpetrators. It works.
The reality is that violence is complicated. It is multi-layered. It is multi-dimensional. There are multiple factors that surround every incident of violence. There are many levels of violence. There is low level violence, mid-level and high level violence. There is violence that easily predicted and understood. There is logical violence. There is violence that runs darker and deeper than most people can perceive or imagine.
Violence comes with consequences. Sometimes these consequences are beneficial. Sometimes, they are not. Sometimes, Good Guys do bad things. Sometimes, Good Guys attract violence. Sometimes, Good Guys initiate violence. Sometimes, the violence is done in the name of Self-Defense, sometimes it is not. Sometimes, the Bad Guys are really, really bad. Sometimes, the Good Guys are not so good.
When someone wants to learn self-defense. He or she typically views himself as the Good Guy in need of protection from the Bad Guy. But what this person doesn’t really know is WHO or WHAT he or she needs protection FROM. WHAT are the real dangers this person faces, as opposed to his or her FEARS and beliefs? WHAT is this person willing and capable of doing to defend him or herself? WHY is this person most likely to be involved in violence and with WHO? WHAT are the most likely circumstances of the violence?
This person needs a map. Not just a simplistic one dimensional map that tells her how to get “safely” from Point A to Point B. But, a topographical map that lays out the entire landscape of violence with its multiple layers, levels, twists and turns, dizzying heights and bottomless holes. He needs to know that there are some places you just don’t go without the necessary skills, experience, and mindset not common to ordinary man. That means if the line between Point A and Point B takes you to a place you don’t belong, take another route regardless of your right and desire to maintain the straight and narrow.
If you view a typical topographical map, you will notice that the majority of the map is made up of wavy lines some distance apart. The tight concentric circles that make up the steep hills and mountains are less frequent. The wavy lines are the valleys, the rolling hills, the low levels of violence. This is the lower level encountered by most people most of the time. These are the common conflicts and confrontations that make up human life. The tight circles are the high mountain of violence that should be avoided by all but the most prepared and the most committed. The highly prepared, the unwitting and the unlucky find themselves on these Mountains of extreme violence.

What makes the Topography of Violence different than an ordinary landscape is that the terrain is subject to rapid change. Most of the time, these changes come with advance warnings, similar to tremors preceding an earthquake. But sometimes, the changes come quickly and provide only moments to transform a hill into a mountain. Individuals also have the power to influence their surrounding terrain. What they say and do can whip up a steep hill or reduce a mountain into a mole hill. A good Map clearly labels the impending warning signs of terrain change.
Danger occurs when you view a small section of the Map and think that section represents the entire landscape or Topography of Violence. You are prepared for the hills, but find yourself on a mountain. Your fear of the high violence of the mountains inhibits you from adequately dealing with the rolling hills and valleys of everyday conflict where your risk is much lower. Your strategies and social conditioning for surviving and thriving in the low lands may lead you to disaster in the highlands.
The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step. But, the journey of self-defense and effective conflict management begins with an accurate Map. One that allows you to view and negotiate the varied safe and hostile terrain.  A map you bought at street corner dojo or on the internet that claims to guide you to safety with simplistic solutions to stopping Bad Guys isn’t it.