I had a chance to speak with Jim Bowsher in the recent past. He built the “Temple of Tolerance” in Wapakoneta, Ohio. His “temple” is an amazing world of architectural and natural stone configured into an almost mystic adventure land he uses for local children to come and just be children, free from outside structure and expectation to promote the natural wonder of youthful innocence and imagination. Everyone from troubled youths to local college students to aspiring artists are free to walk through his property and explore. Mr. Bowsher is a scholar, historian, writer, archaeologist, and a folklore collector. He also speaks at universities, prisons, etc.
Though we have differing viewpoints on many things, I made a connection with much that he had to say while standing in his back yard amidst the amazing “temple” he has built over the years. Mr. Bowsher is of a different mentality than most would seek for guidance for self- defense, especially for insight into how to train for high end tactical work. And, I often am frowned upon for seeking consult from those of a pacifist or some other “weak” frame of mind. But, when we get attacked we are not getting it from someone like ourselves. We are being attacked by someone of “alien mentality” from our point of view.
So, I believe to gain an understanding, a truly diversified understanding of those who are different than me, who may aim to harm or exploit me or my family, I must intermingle and pick “alien” brains as often as possible to gain insight into how others think and believe and adjust my methodology for training. I’m not just training to shoot someone for self-defense. I’m training to prevent it from happening. To possibly, mentally, see it coming before the physical manifestation to reduce the risk of having to enter into a violent course of action. Many train with firearms and yearn for the chance to prove their prowess against the “bad guy”. Having lived through it myself, alone in my driveway with no back-up or tac team with me or premeditated notion that there may be danger at hand, I can tell you I strive to do everything I can to prevent having to use my gun. But, I would never be without it or without the ability to decidedly and swiftly use it if necessary. I now believe if I have to use my gun I may have failed myself given the wealth of knowledge I now have after years of research on human behavior and violence.
Mr. Bowsher stated to me that he has never had his “butt kicked” because his father told him whenever confronted with violence he should “roll into a ball” on the ground and scream. You scoff at this as I did, but he has a point because he said it worked. He has never had his butt kicked though he has been confronted several times. For his particular situation it was effective. Mr. Bowsher often speaks on the subject of “innate goodness”. His belief is that as bad as any human is, there is some part of them, well before the process of their thinking gets in the way that is innately “good”.
I am of the belief that there are many in this world who would love to kill me or others if given the chance. Whether it’s a gangbanger looking to get his first kill to be accepted, a religious fanatic seeking martyrdom, or someone I have taken freedom from and “ruined” their life, there are people who could justify it in their own minds. So it is difficult to subscribe to the notion of innate goodness in every human.
As I stood and talked with him we discussed many things about his work, philosophy and his experiences talking to and helping violent prisoners and those who had experienced extreme violence and were now trying to get through the mental aftermath of those experiences. I was getting progressively more interested in the parallels I was hearing from him in comparison to my own experiences and beliefs. There were points that were so overwhelmingly dead-on with my own experiences that I couldn’t help but get emotional and excited at the same time as the conversation unfolded. Part of it was a new perspective of what I had experienced and believed and part of it was that he was helping me with my own demons, so to speak, that I had not yet found answers for. Before I go further listen to the message of innate goodness Jim gives in this video.
Out of this comes an understanding that if you take away all the logic, however skewed by your personal life experience, there is a basic nature. Now this nature may not be universal across the board when looking at individuals as Jim believes, but there is an underlying message that the logic we employ takes us away from an initial state of mind that is free from interpretation and the resulting change in behavior generated from what our perception and/or preconceived notions of “who” we think we should be.
When you understand this you understand two things;
1. When dealing with a violent person, the only way you are going to get to the innately good character of that individual is through time consuming work at peeling their hard outer shell away to the point you can change their behavior. As evidenced by countless instances of violence where the victim tries to comply in hopes they can appease the attacker and survive, or where an individual believes arming themselves is unnecessary as they can reason with the attacker, the outcome is almost always tragic.
Scholars like Mr. Bowsher understand that there is a way, with patient, nurturing persistence to help these people reverse engineer, in some cases, the issues and logic that lead to violent behavior. In others, a congenital neural deficiency is at play and nothing will help. But for the victim, in the moment, it is crucial to understand that when they decide to take you into that “universal human phobia” that LT. Col. Dave Grossman describes in his literature, there is no hope of convincing them to stop through passive persuasion. You must have convinced yourself of this truth and understand that to put your safety and that of those you must protect at risk to try this on-the-spot therapy is a suicide mission at best. Only by them having a sense of self-preservation will they stop if you convince them you are a lethal adversary. Most likely they will call your bluff if you even have a chance to present the notion that this may cost them their own life. That is their dominant nature and so you must react swiftly and with violence of action.
2. Referring to Grossman’s “universal human phobia” it must also be understood that for those of us who are not violent by nature, there exists a tendency to only resort to violence under extreme provocation. In that, there is that moment I wrote about in previous articles that is often described as “fight or flight”. This is when you are instantly taken back to that state of “innate goodness”. In my mind this just means that you are at a clean white page. You have nothing but absoluteness in front of you. No room for spin, denial, selective perception, etc. It is what it is and nothing you do will make it not so. Your logic center (frontal lobes) has not kicked in and you are hanging on the edge of the abyss, and as Nietzsche wrote, “the abyss looks into you”.
For those who have issues or no experience with violence, there often is hesitation or even reluctance to perform an act of violence against another. It is so well engrained in some people’s psyche that they will not respond at all and be injured or killed before having attempted an act of self-defense. In others there may not be this same reluctance, but may exist a total lack of training so that they have no mental “drawer” to pull from. Others may have a little basic training or training from competitive shooting or some other relevant “sport”, but this has limited application and so the mental “drawer” for response is there, but too shallow to be of benefit. Still others may have proper training, but not of sufficient frequency to have been engrained by the Hebbian plasticity process of learning. Or, if it had at one time been common practice for them to train, but no longer do, that same Hebbian Plasticity will have whittled away the razor edge of proficiency they once were capable of.
To fully prepare, as much as can be, given the chaotic nature of violent encounters, training must be combat based. Not battlefield based or police-interview-during-a-traffic-stop based. It must be based on being taken by surprise to condition a relevant, effective response from that “white paper” mental state when your entire body is controlled by that emotional tripwire that I wrote of in previous articles, the Amygdala. This is why so many law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty and show no attempt at self defense. Even if their training wasn’t tainted by institutional inertia that fails to understand the psychology of proper training doctrine, their frequency of training left their “drawer” shallow and/or their retrieval from that drawer sloppy or slow.
“Innate Goodness” is what therapists may be trying to find, but it can kill you in more ways than one, if it gets in the way.
Another interesting video of Jim Bowsher is the “Story of Rivets”. It’ll get you thinking!