Below is my shortened version of Sam Harris’ post titled “The Truth about Violence.”
Not preparing to respond to violence is just preparing to do the wrong thing. The most important preparations are mental.
Principle #1: Avoid dangerous people and dangerous places. The primary goal of self-defense is to avoid becoming the victim of violence. The best way to do this is to not be where violence is likely to occur, don’t visit dangerous neighborhoods at night or frequent places where drunken young men gather.
All men should learn to recognize status-seeking displays of aggression. Avoid or defuse conflict of this kind. By law, engaging in avoidable violence means you were fighting—which is illegal.
The purpose of his verbal challenge was getting you to respond in a way that makes him feel justified in attacking you. Putting up your dukes has no place in self-defense. Deciding on an appropriate course of action in advance is your best protection. You must keep your inner ape on a very short leash.
“What are you looking at, asshole?” “Sorry, man. I was just spacing out. It’s been a long day.” De-escalate and move on.
Trust your feelings of apprehension about other people. Most of us take great pains to avoid being rude or appearing racist, suspicious, etc. But violent predators play upon this.
Principle #2: Do not defend your property. Whatever your training, view any invitation to violence as an opportunity to die—or to be sent to prison for killing. Violence must truly be the last resort. If someone with a gun demands your wallet, hand it over without hesitation and run. Unless you or another person is being physically harmed, or an attack seems imminent, avoiding violence should be your only concern.
Principle #3: Respond immediately and escape. When you find yourself without other options, you’re free to respond with full commitment. Your goal is to get away with minimum trauma (to you), while harming your attacker in any way necessary to ensure your escape.
Imagine you’re loading groceries into your car and a man appears at your side with a gun. Your attacker is a career criminal who’s victimized others before you. Don’t imagine you can reason with him.
Anyone attempting to control you – by moving you to another room, putting you in a car, tying you up – probably intends to kill you (or worse). Understand in advance that your natural reaction to this situation—to freeze, to comply with instructions—will be wrong. It won’t get easier. The presence of weapons, the size or number of your attackers are irrelevant. You have to explode into action, whatever the risk. Your overriding goal is to escape.
Assume any criminal breaking into your home when you’re inside it has come prepared to murder you and your family. Mere burglars generally make sure a house is empty. The moment it is clear that an assailant wants more than your property (which must be assumed in any home invasion), you must escape.
Victims’ concern for one another is inevitably used to immobilize them. What if your attacker has a knife to your child’s throat and tells you to lie face down? Don’t do it. Flee the house because he’ll know the clock is ticking. If this intruder is going to murder your child before fleeing himself, he was going to murder your child anyway, either before or after he killed you. Complying in the hope that a sociopath will keep his promise to you is always the wrong move.