ARTICLE | DON’T DANCE WITH MONKEYS | by Orjan Pettersen
Updated: Jan 22
Social violence comes with a blazing neon sign warning before it hits you.
A wrong look. A mistaken word. An unfortunate facial expression. The reason why you were picked may have been fairly innocent.
It doesn’t matter. You’ve been invited. “What the f*** are you looking at?“, the invite menacingly reads.
This type of violence is mostly generated by social settings where alcohol or and gender-mix is like the tinder in a fire. It’s also far more likely than anything else to affect males, and of those, more than others, the younger ones.
The ingredients to fuel is also the information you need to look out for.
Someone is looking out for their ego to be massaged or maintained, or their territory or status to be defended.
Ego, status or territory defences all require witnesses, mostly of a similar social or age standing to work. Nobody needs to defend their status when there’s no one there, or those present are far away from their normally associated social group. Males particularly feel the need to defend their place in front of a female audience.
Now you’ve been invited to the notorious monkey dance - and the stakes are high.
The good news? You’ve got an instruction manual how to avoid it.
The first chapter in the manual is to recognise the monkey dance for what it is. You can decline the RSVP.
It’s a battle of dominance, not a fight to kill or injure. Humans who feel a need to retain a social or territorial standing have developed verbal and body language; the aggressive tone, the swearing and threats, the puffed up chest and the breaking of personal space norms, to create a combat situation without the ultimate need to use physical force, which carries a risk which our evolutionary brains recognise as a latter resort. Even bad guys, unless psychologically affected, weight up pros and cons of violence and consequences.
That said, accidents happen, especially where too much beer and the opposite sex is involved - if the dominance game isn’t working, or rather, when both parties insist on never backing down.
Indeed, the further the game continues, the backing down becomes exponentially harder, even if physical action then ensues, which can elevate the violence to an even higher degree.
That’s rule #1. Never play the game. Never do the monkey dance.
That is, unless you’re prepared to take the consequences.
Lose, and you seriously risk your life and limbs.
Win, and you risk living with consequences for months or years down the road; injuring or killing another human being, potential prosecution and sentencing, impact on employment and family life and future civil lawsuits.
That’s your call. Balance it out versus the short-lived gratification of ‘winning’ a status, territorial or social argument with someone who you may never have seen before, and maybe likely never to cast your eyes on again.
Self defence experts know that encountering predatory criminals - those already set to hurt or kill you, such as serial killers, rapists or psychologically disturbed individuals - are rare occurrences.
When this happens, you may not have any option but to fight. Even with resource criminals, those who may want to rob or steal from you, the appropriate response is often no action, as your life and limbs are not threatened.
With social violence, you have an instruction manual to identify and manage the problem. Recognise the situation for what it is; it’s not about the fight.
Pride yourself on your humility (you already know you can beat bigger guys than this, right, so what’s there to prove?) or your intellect (what are the intelligent words to deescalate the situation? It may only cost your a round of beer and an apology).
From every one hundred potential violent encounters, your body posture and situational awareness should already have eliminated ninety of these.
With intelligence and wit, you should be able to talk and act your way out of a further handful or more.
This means there’s only two, three or four you may need to handle with your repertoire of physical and technical skills.
Since most ordinary people never even see one hundred potential violent encounters in a lifetime, your odds are now pretty good.
If you play the game wisely.