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: A life of violence
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Aug 6th 2010
When things come up repeatedly, you should try to take notice of them.
In the past few days, I have been coming into contact with the idea of the psychological toll of living a violent life.
Hurting people makes you start to see people as things that can be hurt.
The act of physically enforcing your will on another person (even for the best of reasons) dehumanizes all people.
So, how does this affect the superhero?
What is the mental cost of rearranging your life for the purpose of practicing benevolent violence?
Maybe I am leading Kinetic toward a breakdown. Or worse, maybe he is moving toward some kind of larger acceptance of the violence in his life.
It is exciting to see where this will end up.
Aug 7th 2010
I don't fight as much as I used to, but I probably get into more physical confrontations than the average person, imho.
When I was younger, the idea that I had power over others, coupled with personal issues and a young twenty-something mindset, I fought often, carelessly, recklessly, with little thought as to consequences or fallout.
As I got older, and had more violence under my belt and having seen first hand the results of not just my own violence, but the violence of others (on both sides of the legal/illegal fence), I just plain grew out of it.
Now, I still have to get physical with people now and again, but my goals have changed regarding using physical violence.
First of all, when I encounter a physically violent or impendingly violent situation, I stop, step back, and make sure that I am calm, even though my adrenaline has just spiked. I assess the situation (try to determine who is the aggressor and who is the victim, if at all possible. Sometimes it's easy to confuse that with who is winning versus who is losing), and I use my command voice to make the people fighting or getting close to it, to realize that they are in a public place, and that they are about to be outnumbered (vs. me plus the victim), and also to reinforce the idea that what they are doing is wrong. It's kind of like shaming a bad dog. It works more often than you'd think.
Once I put my hands on someone, my goal is to subdue them. Not to win a fight, but to either restrain them, or get them to submit. I'm not boxing someone, or getting into a macho match. I'll use a combination of wrestling moves (Greek), pressure points, hand-to-hand marshal arts or even Akido when I need to gain distance. All of these concepts are to do as little damage as possible while attempting to contain the situation. None of them include using a weapon, unless a weapon as already been introduced. Then, if I'm in public, I'm getting distance and just calling 9-1-1.
My point is, that due to the past 10-15 years of my life having an above average amount of violence, fist-fights, on the job assaults, etc., my views on actually hurting someone are very strict. If I witness someone being attacked, especially man on woman, adult on child, or hate crime, I'm getting in there and I'm going to hurt people to stop that heinous behaviour. But more often than not, the idea of "minimum use of force to accomplish compliance," is my standard. Not because it's my bureau's policy, not just because it makes sense, but because it works.
In the past two months, off duty, in public, I've had to get physical with people on the street in order to defend someone. One was a meth addict attempting to jump and old man as he got on the bus. I had to literally pick up and throw the meth head off of the bus. He looked quite shocked, and we left him in our dust. I could have taken him down and restrained him and waited for the police to arrive, but it simply ended the conflict when I just threw his ass off of the bus, and the driver did the rest by leaving him behind. Problem solved. Yes, I had to put hands on him as he was assaulting an old man. I could have physically fought the kid, but it was far more economical to evade his hands, block his attacks, and grab him and throw him, and most importantly, to let it end there.
Now, when I watch people, I do look for signs of gang tattoos, weapons, and I do try to place myself in a position where I am the most aware of my surroundings. I have to have my radar on continuously while out in public. I wouldn't say I'm on edge a lot, but I don't look at people as things that can be hurt, I look at people that they are capable of just about anything.
Now, obviously, I'm not a superhero. I'm not even an average hero. Due to the fact that I rarely carry a gun on the job, and I don't work in public like police officers do, I can't even compare myself to a cop. But I am an average law enforcement officer, and I think my mentality is fairly common. And, not entirely related, I used to be a punk kid on the street who got into too many fights in my youth. As far as relevence to your thinking, I imagine the superhero mantality is like a cop mentality on steroids. Pumped up, a bigger ego, more sure that they are in the right.
Now certain things would seriously affect my point of view. Like superhero wise, if I were invulnerable, I would take more risks with myself. As it is, I still ramain fairly conservative when it comes to my own defense.
Hopefully, this contains maybe some info that you were thinking about. But in general, I do not feel that just because a person gets violent now and again, that they just get accustomed to it, or used to it, or feel blase about it. I'd say, compared to my gun-toting Texas buddy who thinks "a-shootin people" is the answer to everything, but has never actually had to do anything. Myself, I watch a situation start, and I pause, and look around, and when I'm confident that none of the sheep around me will lift a finger, I get involved.
I do want to state, that although I am using my law enforcement experience as a jumping off point for where I get my belief system for what I do, the violent conflicts I'm talking about are (for the most part) off duty. It's one of those things, that, as you come to identify what is right and wrong to you, that moral system that you decide for yourself, at some point you have to include that it is against your moral code to stand idly by while innocents are hurt, and the rest of the people around you fail to notice or care.
I guess one of the psychological issues that arises is that even though you care so much about the victims of violence that you need to intervene, your general opinion of the public drops until you almost hate them for their sheep mentality. Or maybe that's just me.
Aug 9th 2010
Thanks so much for that insight.
To over simplify what you are saying... it seems like you are approaching these confrontations as an approximate equal to the other people. Which is why you have to maintain your high awareness and vigilance. i will come back to that in a minute....
I have been thinking about violence form a very unbalanced point of view. Imagine coming into these situations knowing that you had NOTHING to worry about. How long would it take for you to get arrogant? And then how long would it take for you to start objectifying people?
Like you were saying about starting to see the worst in people..... imagine if you coupled that with also seeing that they could all be easily bent to your will... with no cost to you personally. How long could you stay sane like that?
Again, thanks so much for your input.
Aug 9th 2010
I was starting to come around to that point of view... If I had nothing to risk during these encounters, I imagine that one would be swift and exact, using exactly what they needed to strike. For example, instead of keeping distance to defend myself and protect a victim, you would just move in and hit someone in the throat without regard to anything else, because you knew you would be faster than the perp, and strong enough to take them out before they could hurt the victim or you. You might not notice that instead of temporarily cutting off their oxygen, you just broke their windpipe comepletely, but hey, you just saved the day.
The "least amount of force neccessary" would quickly become "shortest distance between point A and B" because this one victim you're saving at the moment is just one on a long list of today's rescues, and the perp wouldn't deserve you taking your time to ensure that you're being less than lethal. It just might stop being a consideration. The rescues, or the amount of crime you're stopping would eventually start to matter more than the human lives saved or lost along the way. Ideas like "acceptable losses" might become, well, acceptable. The human side of things, when you are risking nothing, would slip away, as you seperate yourself from the people you started this for in the first place.
Aug 9th 2010
This is getting scary.
Starting to see people as things-that-can-be-hurt turns them more and more into objects.
Why do I need to consider your opinion when i know that it will change as soon as I hurt you?
It is a slippery slope into brutality and abuse.
Aug 9th 2010
I hope you don't think I'm being literal... That last comment was purely theoretical...
But yes, I think when you add the old "absolute power corrupts absolutely," it does become terrifying.
Aug 9th 2010
Of course I didn't take it literally.
I meant that it was scary how easily I could imagine that slip happening. I could see myself doing that.
On top of that, as I was in the act of typing that response.....
I work in a juvenile detention facility. I can't really say what I was over hearing... but suffice it to say that I work with some amazingly compassionate individuals who come face to face with violence on a daily basis. It is amazing the power relationships that are established, and the lines that are NOT crossed.
Aug 10th 2010
Look into combat stress.
Aug 11th 2010
I don't know if my characters will ever reach the prolonged exposure levels that result in
. For their sakes, I hope not.
I did, however, use wikipedia's list of PTSD symptoms when I was writing
issues 9 and 10
in which my main character comes home from the hospital after experiencing some brutality and violence close up.
It is a superhero comic book, so I didn't feel like it needed to stand up to rigorous scientific review... but on the other hand it did not feel right to just say "Whew, I am glad that's over." I know that I simplified it a bit, but I hope it feels about right.
Aug 13th 2010
You work in juvee? I work in a Federal Prison, and I wouldn't go near juvee. You've got balls of steel, man, I tip my hat to you.
Aug 14th 2010
I teach in juvee.
Funny coincidence. As you were posting that comment, a kid was hitting me. (maybe. Both event happened yesterday. For dramatic reason I suppose they happened at the same time)
Anyway, this kid was upset about some charges that he had potentially becoming more serious and he simply has no way of dealing with his emotions with anything but violence. So, I told him he could not use the computer sand he responded by shoving me into the wall and hitting me as many times as he could before the security staff dragged him away.
All I did was cover up and try to avoid getting hurt. (wuss!) And by the time I looked up, staff had him completely gone. Not sure what happened to him then.
But now, with a day to piece the facts together, I am starting to feel bad for him. Kind of.
I know that he is dangerous. His crimes are heinous. And he committed extremely calculated acts of violence in the time that I have known him. He does not "lose his temper", he is a kid that is in control of what he does. Plus, he's lock-up strong.
But he didn't hurt me. He just hit me a few times. Just enough to get the staff members to drag him out of there.
I think that he was so upset about something that he needed to have that emotional catharsis of a physical restraint and new that attacking me was the quickest way to it.
Also, something about me being one of the most reliable, and positive, adult males in his life... somehow... in a completely messed up way... I think it was an affectionate gesture.
Man, I never thought my life would have me assaulted by gang-bangers in the middle of teaching them how to draw The Hulk.
Aug 15th 2010
I used to work with some old school guards back in a small (pop 5000) town outside of Austin, TX. One of the older school Lieutenants told me once about how he got his ass-whupped by a group of inmates. But they didn't hit his face, and they didn't break anything other than ribs, and no internal damage.
"That's respect," he told me. (I'm paraphrasing, because it's been about ten years, but roguhly what he said was) If they didn't respect me, they would have messed up my face to make it harder for when my family visited me at the hospital. They would have stabbed me, or broken my arms or legs, to make my recouperation harder on me. Instead they just laid me up for a few days. Because they respected me, and didn't want to cause me any permanent damage.
It sounds crazy to anyone that hasn't worked corrections, but I've seen it more than once, and been told it by more people than I can count.
As far as being a wuss, you withstood something most people can't deal with. In an enclosed space, it's hard to defend yourself, especially against someone in prime physical shape with more experience than you. Sometimes doing what you did is the best way to survive, especially if you know help is coming. If you had fought back, it's possible that kid would have reacted more violently. *shrug* It's hard to tell. Either way, don't beat your self up over it (pun not intended); it just goes with the job. Obviously, if you couldn't handle it, you wouldn't be here.
Aug 15th 2010
The whole "that's respect" thing is so bizarre. It is completely true. I completely agree... but it is so strange that experience has led me to understand that.
I don't feel like a wuss, I only mentioned that so that I did not come off like "I just stood there and took it and said 'is that all you got, son?' "
I have seen utterly pitiable situations.... things that might really rattle other people..... and just gone on with my lunch.
And I have seen frighteningly violent outbursts (like the one of friday) that leave me feeling bad for the aggressor. How troubled must he have been to respond that way. I am mad at him for betraying our trust, but I feel sad for him as well that he did not know any better ways to handle his emotions.
I still do not know if he will be in my class tomorrow.
Aug 15th 2010
I get what you mean. It's very sad sometimes, when you see an inmate with the potential NOT to come back to prison, but to actually lead a fufilling life, and then something minor and stupid comes along, and they act out, and take themselves another step off of their path to freedom.
I'm sure, like me, every day you see inmates, people even, who have no hope of escaping prison, either because of their sentence, or just their attitude, or their behavior, whatever you want to call it, they are bound and determined to continue to come back to prison as soon as they leave. You kind of have to wash your hands when dealing with them and move on.
But the ones that actually have a chance, those are the ones that it really hurts to work with. Because you actually start to care, and you want to help them, when have of the time, they aren't even interested in helping themselves. In fact, most of the time, they (and their egos) are their own worst enemies. And every time they hurt themselves, and make it harder for them to get a second chance, it' hurts like you're a rookie all over again. And then you get mad at them for making you care. That's why I usually get a drink after work. Or eleven.
Aug 15th 2010
The kid who attacked me is so intelligent.
I have to fight like hell to get him top do school work, and then he does a great job at it. He sat silently in my class for months when I first met him. I assumed that he could not read. But then buckled and wrote some great paragraphs and I was amazed. And he kept on like that. But then the day he left, he went in to teh computer and deleted all of his work. I have heard from other teachers at similar facilities that he has torn up his work as he leaves.
It is like he is afraid of any life other than one that ends in prison or early death.
And I have seen this a lot.
Kids. Little kids. Kids who cannot read their own gang tattoos.
And they live their lives locked up because they know and understand that world.
Aug 15th 2010
I hear you man, it's rough. I'd share a pint with you and commiserate if I could.
Just curious, whate state is your facility in? How long have you been working with juvees/corrections? What led you here? Where do you plan to go from here?
A lot of the people I know who actually care get burnt out so fast. How do you cope? (Mine's drinking and bitching)
Aug 15th 2010
I work in Boston.
I've been doing this for 5 or 6 years.
What led me here... huh... well, I teach and I am good at it, but I don't like all of the school structure stuff that goes along with it. So, when I found a job where I did not have to worry about community politics... just my four walls and what goes on within them, I took it.
I have a few good co-workers with whom I can bitch. Plus I have always had ego problems... as in too big. So teenagers with extremely limited vocabularies have never been able to get to me.
And then there's comic books. I really can't overstate the powerful positive impact that reading superhero comics has had on my career. Almost all of them are stories about individuals doing what only they can do, because it is the right thing to do. I get a lot out of that, and so do my students.
It's funny, as destructive, selfish, and amoral as most of them are, they almost all acknowledge the rule that you treat Josh's comics with respect.
Drinking does help, but not as much as escapism.
Writing really helps. Having my comics script project as something that is utterly unrelated to work helps re-assert my humanity.
Also, I customize and paint action figures. Sitting down in my work room and focusing on tiny, tiny, details. And doing something that makes a clear, observable, change in the world (or a very tiny portion of it) is incredibly relaxing.
But all of that does not tell how I don't get burnt out. End of the day, some people can do it and some people can't.
Aug 16th 2010
Had a sit down with that kid this morning.
He was back in my class this afternoon.
Sep 3rd 2010
Hey there guys. I've been eavesdropping on your frankly fascinating conversation. (Uh, I hope y'all don't mind.)
I have some interest in correctional issues and I wanted to ask you both this : what kind of resources are available for ex-offenders once they're released? I'm sure the sad answer is "Not nearly enough" because anybody who's been incarcerated has had contact with violence of some sort while inside and they ALL are going to be released some day. So somebody who's been beaten up or sexually abused, what resources are available to keep them from just "repeating the cycle of violence"? And wouldn't putting more resources into these types of programs greatly reduce recidivism?
I'd be keen to hear any insights you guys might have.
Sep 3rd 2010
Absolutely right, on all counts.
Most offenders in the U.S. are realeased into a halfway house, which, depending on the organization, can either help the inmate find a job and set up a new living environment, and keep the ex-inmate drug tested and alcohol free, OR it could be prime hunting grounds for gang recruitment and drug peddling.
Here's a link tho the BOP's Ex-Offender program list:
All of these programs are benefited by the amount of effort the inmate has put into his own future; i.e. has the inmate completed GED or ESL courses while incarcerated, did he or she get a job and work while incarcerated, or did they wait until released and then demand that Uncle Sam provide them with room, board and a job?
There's probably a few links you could jump to in the link I provided, and that's mostly for Federal Inmates.
Now, that's all the official info. Realistically, even though some employers are aware of the Job Tax Credit for hiring ex-cons, most that do don't pay very well, or have good benefits.
As far as, would more resources help ex-offenders, absolutely. Unfortunately, we exist in a system that repeats itself . The cycle bounces between warehousing (no programs at all, lock-em-up-throw-away-the-key) and rehabilitation (the far end of which is where we provide them with college degrees and a multitude of programs). The problem is with us. When people see how much funding ex-cons get, they end up all offended that we aren't providing their children with the same benefits, and then we slide back to warehousing, until someone gets fed up with that. (I may have said all of this somewhere before)
The best low-recidivism rate I saw was actually a private prison here in Texas that doubled as a drug treatment facility. If you were serving time for a drug-related offense, you could complete a year or two of this program, and receive extra "good time" and be released early. The majority of offenders released through this program did not come back to prison. One of the problems was that a lot of drug dealers were not drug abusers, and were using this program, lying that they did have a drug problem, just to receive the extra good time and go home. Honestly, if they weren't coming back to prison, or continuing a life of crime, I could care less, although officials felt otherwise and the program was closed (for a multitude of reasons).
I don't know what they answer is, to reduce recidivism. Personally, I think that locking up all of our illegal immigrants and pot smokers is a dumb way to ensure that we have over-crowded prisons. If we changed the way we handled those two issues, we would reduce a lot of the inmate population, and through that, less people would continue the cycle. But that's bad business in America--reducing the inmate population reduces the Federal Budget, and we can't have that, can we?
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