The 2014 holiday season is over. If you ever want to see the ramp of aggression that is exhibited by primates, the malls during the holiday shopping season are the perfect Petri dish. All animals show aggression in some way. People have a rather unique ability in the animal kingdom to rationalize aggression, and to control it. Most people do anyway; there are always those who will give in to their animal instinct.
So what is the violence ramp, and how does it apply here? Ever since a monkey learned to beat another one to death with a stick over territory, food, resources, or confusing sci-fi movie plots, aggression has been a tool of primates.
Aggression in primates usually escalates in stages. This is the ramp. Starting from very benign, and ultimately culminating in abject brutal violence. I am not a scientist but you can see the levels of aggression in people pretty much anywhere. Knowing the signs of aggression is a good way to avoid them.
Unfortunately, in an effort to exert and affirm dominance, displays of aggression rarely subside, but rather increase as conflict progresses.
At the lower left of the graph we have basically non-threatening behavior. It will escalate from there.
- Action – Posture
Violence Level – 1 – 2
Threat Level – 0
Description – Squared shoulders, head tilted slightly down, flared arms, clenched fists. I have heard this behavior referred to as “I’m the big monkey” on a video from the “Active Self Protection” facebook page. (You need to subscribe to that and watch the videos. Absolutely worth it.)
- Action – Noise
Violence Level – 3 – 4
Threat Level – 0
Description – If the previous posture is not effective, then the noise making starts. Chimpanzees scream at each other. Drunken bar idiots insult each other’s parentage. It’s the same thing. For those who don’t know, this is simply someone making their insecurity public and having to prove that they are better than someone at something.
Fortunately both of the above behaviors are relatively harmless. If you carry a firearm, now is the time to make an exit if you haven’t already. Even if you don’t carry, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to leave at this point. Nothing good is going to happen if you hang around.
- Action – Pushing or shoving
Violence Level – 5 – 6
Threat Level – 1-3
Description – Now we are hands on. Pushing and shoving aren’t meant to cause any damage, but are rather just a means of encouraging the other party to back down. People rarely do.
- Action – “Casual” punches
Violence Level – 7 – 9
Threat Level – 4 – 8
Description – Again, these aren’t meant to cause any real damage but more for show and to encourage the other person to back down, thus asserting dominance. One or two swings which may or may not connect, but not a lot of force behind them.
- Action – All out attack
Violence Level – 10
Threat Level – 9 – 10
Description – “It’s go time.” This is full on, all out, no holds barred attack. Grabbing, grappling, punching, kicking, biting, etc. At this point the fighting parties are not looking for surrender, they are looking for submission. The difference being that in surrender, one party can leave with their dignity still intact. In order for this conflict to end one will have to submit to the other, either by completely giving up (and allowing himself to continue to be beaten as punishment for his transgression), being knocked out, or killed.
Recognizing the signs of violence and aggression in individuals is absolutely crucial to avoiding conflict. My ex-wife used to reach across from the passenger seat and honk the horn in our car if she suspected we were the victims of even the smallest slight while in traffic. This would really get under my skin, because she was trying to make noise (second stage listed above) on my behalf. Just something to keep in mind with some people; the aggressor may not be the individual fighting, but someone behind them who is encouraging them. Unfortunately for my ex-wife, the channel of my aggression would not be at the other driver, but at her for trying to instigate a fight I did not want.
For those who choose to carry a firearm for self-defense, the ramp is very different though. (Or at least it should be.) Instead of a gradual ramp like what was shown above, it’s more like an on/off switch.
There is precious little that should ever motivate us to participate in the violence ramp to begin with. However, threaten our lives or the life of a loved one, and the level of violence goes completely off of the scale to “I will bludgeon you with your own offspring and feed you feet first into a woodchipper” levels. As someone who carries a firearm, we don’t ever want to resort to violence like that, so we tend to avoid any situations that would cause any rise in aggressive behavior.
So whether you are armed for self-defense or not, don’t let someone drag you into a conflict. Avoiding most situations is as simple as staying off of the ramp.