It’s not about Tony.

Imagine you own a restaurant, and things are going well. One day a man called Tony walks in, looks around, compliments your set-up, and then tells you that it’d be a damn shame if something terrible was to happen to it. Like yannow, a fire, or an explosion. Luckily he’s got friends who can help you make sure that nothing like that ever happens to you. Oh, there’ll be a modest fee, but it’s totally worth it for your peace of mind. And by the way, he just happened to see your children going to school, and they look like lovely kids.

It’s you and all your employees with all your combined ninja skillz against one dude. Kitchen knives are sharp and skillets are heavy. You could throw Tony out the door. You could even throw Tony at the wall so hard that he will make his own door on the way through. However, if you do, there will be a cost, because you’re not really just dealing with Tony. You’re dealing with Tony and all his friends and all their arsenal. Tony on his own may not be very powerful, but he is the representative of a much greater force. He can bring down a veritable river of retribution upon you and yours. So, although not all the force is present in your initial confrontation, it pays to bear in mind that it’s there, and it’s significant, before deciding how to respond.

This doesn’t just work for bad people operating at the fringe of society. Much the same applies when you’re dealing with law enforcement officers. You can run away from or even fight off a cop now, but that will mean having to deal with the entire police force later.

These are not unusual situation; they are extreme representations of a very normal aspect of the human condition. Most of us don’t stand alone, unless we make it so. If you go against the member of a family, you may find yourself dealing with the whole family. (Whether this means people tutting at you at the country club or getting down to some serious feudin’ and fightin’ will depend on your circumstances.) If you go against a gang member, you may find yourself dealing with the whole gang. If you go against an employee within an organisation, you may find yourself having problems with the entire organisation.

I find it hard to understand how some people find this hard to understand. Yet many people do; and not only this stops them using it to their advantage, but it makes it impossible for them to understand how it may impact other people self-defence decisions. This seems to be particularly significant when they are looking at situations where the aggressor was physically weaker than the attacker.

So you get people absolutely convinced that a woman can’t harass or, god forbid, sexually assault a man, because the man is “obviously” physically stronger. How could a man be intimidated or coerced by a member of the weaker sex? What’s wrong with him?

No consideration is paid to whether that particular woman has the tribal power to have that particular man stomped into the dirt. No consideration is paid to whether she has the social power to turn the tables on him and have him p̶e̶r̶s̶e̶c̶u̶t̶e̶d̶ prosecuted as the attacker. No consideration is paid to their respective social status; the current narrative doesn’t encompass the possibility of a higher-status woman using this fact to exploit or abuse a man. No consideration is paid to the fact that, ultimately, the only power any of us really has is the power they’re both able and willing to yield. If I’m willing to stab you  in the eye and you’re not willing to injure me even to fight me off, the odds are in my favour. And that’s not just about people being saint-like pacifists or pathetic weaklings; this can be simply the result of the fear that the powers that be will side with me because I’m a poor fragile petal.

Even though as a society we’ve worked very hard to ensure that most of our conflicts are not physical, we still often evaluate the balance of power in a given situation as if only the immediately present physical force counted. We discount all other factors, even though they’re the same factors we use to resolve most of our conflicts most of the time. I don’t get it.




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