“There is a certain worldview that comes from violent experience”

The title of this post is a quotation from a very interesting article in Taki’s Magazine. Here’s an extended excerpt.

The cause of civilizational decline is dirt-simple: lack of contact with objective reality. The great banker-journalist (and founder of the original National Review) Walter Bagehot said it well almost 150 years ago:

History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it.

. . .

I think there is a certain worldview that comes from violent experience. It’s something like . . . manhood. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest badass to be a man, but you have to be willing to throw down when the time is right.

A man who has been in a fight or played violent sports has experienced more of life and manhood than a man who hasn’t. Fisticuffs, wrestling matches, knife fights, violent sport, duels with baseball bats, facing down guns, or getting crushed in the football field—men who have had these experiences are different from men who have not. Men who have trained for or experienced such encounters know about bravery and mental fortitude from firsthand experience. Men who have been tested physically know that inequality is a physical fact. Men who know how to deal out violence know that radical feminism’s tenets—that women and men are equal—are a lie. We know that women are not the same as men: not physically, mentally, or in terms of moral character.

Men who have fought know how difficult it is to stand against the crowd and that civilization is fragile and important. A man who has experienced violence knows that, at its core, civilization is an agreement between men to behave well. That agreement can be broken at any moment; it’s part of manhood to be ready when it is. Men who have been in fights know about something that is rarely spoken of without snickering these days: honor. Men who have been in fights know that, on some level, words are just words: At some point, words must be backed up by deeds.

Above all, men who have been in fights know that there is nothing good or noble about being a victim. This is a concept the modern “conservative movement,” mostly run by wimps, has lost, probably irrevocably. They’re forever tugging at my heartstrings, from No Child Left Behind to Israel’s plight to MLK’s wonders to whining that the media doesn’t play fair to the overwrought emotional appeals they use to justify dropping bombs on Muslims. The Republicans are even taking seriously a pure victim-candidate: Michelle Bachman. As far as can be told, she’s a middle-American Barack Obama with boobs and a slightly loopier world view.

There’s more at the link.

I think the author’s put his finger on something very important. I hadn’t expressed it to myself in quite the same way before, but I found myself nodding in agreement as I read further. I’m aware that I sometimes react to the world around me very differently from many of my friends and neighbors. One of my more frequent remarks to friends who are stressing out about some problem or other is, “Relax – no-one’s shooting at you!” I really mean that, too. Being shot at gives you a whole new perspective on stress! Difficulties such as a broken-down car, or a missed deadline for a report, or backed-up traffic on the highway, are relatively minor by comparison.

I’d be interested to hear the reaction of my readers to this article, particularly those who’ve “been there and done that” in military or law enforcement environments. Go read the whole thing, then please add your voice to the discussion in Comments below.



  1. Peter, I share your idea that being shot at does give one a different perspective. Years ago when I was in a high pressure job that required being on-call 24/7, and if I didn't do the job properly multimillion dollar computer systems would "crash and burn" and I would get to meet new and interesting people. Some of my fellow CEs would freak out (gosh there's an old reference) and wonder why I was not as exercised as they were. My answer was usually:"well these people can't send me back to Vietnam, so this is easy" That perspective has allowed me to at least be a step removed from immediate panic when confronted with a stressful situation.
    As far as the author writing the article, methinks he is using hyperbole to some extent, to try to get one to think about the "leadership" of the so called Conservative Movement. I agree that as a "movement" (whatever that means) some people have acted more like the new "Castrati" (sp?) than take charge type of leaders. The real problem I see with most of these leaders is that they want to be liked and accepted by the main stream media and the opposition. I don't give a rat's behind if my opposition "likes" me or not, in fact I'd prefer that they fear me. But that's just me. I'm just a old dumb country boy from Texas, so what do I know?
    Sorry this was so long, for so little content. I really enjoy your work here on your blog- very prolific,entertaining, and informative. Thanks.

  2. I'm thinking I could write volumes on your post and the article.

    It's all about trust. When that's gone, you may be exposed to defending everything you are in some manner other than a verbal exchange. Knowing somebody has your back is more important than knowing they know a good attorney and do their own taxes.

  3. Ten years of fire service. Seven years as a 911 dispatcher.

    If it's not on fire, I tend not to get too excited.

    Flat tires? Keys locked in the car? Burned dinner? Dishes didn't get done? Minor inconveniences.

    My only real pet peeve is tardiness.

  4. In my work environment at the Pentagon I associate almost exclusively with current and past active-duty military people from all the services. The vast majority have seen the elephant. A constant source of wonderment is how the civilians outside see and characterize the world. Totally different frames of reference never seen before in America in my lifetime.


  5. I haven't seen the elephant, nor been shot at it; indeed aside from the (in my opinion) expected dodgy late night encounters that will occur between feral individuals and a lone woman working through the late shift, I haven't encountered violence. For which I am thankful.

    On the other hand, I have spent the better part of my life working with ex-racehorses, agricultural equipment and now logging equipment. None of the above is terribly tolerant of hysterics or temper tantrums, and all are quite capable of reminding one that gravity exists. To be effective with the horses especially, you have to be able control your own emotions. The old saying that five seconds of anger can undo five years of training actually read true for many of them. My emotions had no place there (excellent anger management for a teenager) Agricultural work doesn't create the same sort of situational awareness as combat (I would think), but it does tend to create, for lack of a better term, grounded individuals interested in getting the work done practically and effectively. They may explode impressively after the work is done, but not during the work. But a farming background is about as rare as military background these days…

  6. I'm not one of y'all. Never been there, never done that. So my opinion on what that does to a person, and whether or not what it does is worthwhile, is worthless.

    However, this raised an eyebrow:

    "We know that women are not the same as men: not physically, mentally, or in terms of moral character."

    Physically, there are differences between the sexes, sure. Mentally? In some ways, sure, but the author doesn't explain what he thinks the differences are or why they're important. But moral character? Say what? I have to read this very generously to avoid thinking the author is a misogynist.

    I don't know how to trust anything this author has written, after reading that.

  7. @Wayne Conrad: I think you may be misinterpreting the author. He makes specific reference to "radical feminism", which regards 'equality' between men and women in the sense of regarding them as identical and interchangeable. I don't agree with that perspective, and I don't think you would either.

    I don't think he's a misogynist – he just expressed himself poorly in that particular sentence. I may be wrong, of course, but that's the way I read his words.

  8. Very good article, and timely.

    Since I was very young I've known deep down that what passes for civilization is a thin veneer, and likely to crumble when SHTF.

    Not that we can't get it right, but we seem to be a long way from doing so. And in this country, at this time, the chickenhearted sensitive bunch is holding sway.

    The world still is full of teeth and claws, and we'd do well not to forget that fact.


  9. Wayne, I beg to differ with you. You are one of us after all, you just didn't realize it. You see, you jumped immediately to the defense of women, an act of chivalry which would not likely be reciprocated by a member of the fairer sex. That is exactly the kind of moral character the author was talking about…not better or worse, just different. It took a certain kind of courage, one of many kinds, to step up and be the defender. Perhaps the author would have been more easily understood if he had used "moral code" instead of "character."

  10. I like including farming and firefighting along with the references to "being in a fight" because they all have something in common; your "feeling" are irrelevant and reality is not optional. You can't change the reality just by wishing, you have to deal with what is in front of you RIGHT NOW using your wits and your skills. I think this is missing for a lot of people.

  11. This guy is right on. In the past two decades we have been witnessing the pussification of the American male. If a boy shows aggressive behavior he is labeled. Particularly in the public school system. Boys are supposed to be aggressive. The effeminate metro-sexual version of the American male is a deviation of the breed standard. The word pacifist in my opinion is synonymous with parasite. They enjoy the freedom provided them by good men willing to do violence on their behalf and then sit back in judgement of those who allow them to be free. It is a despicable belief not fit for free men. A man not willing to fight and die to protect his own home or family is in my opinion worthless. They serve no practical value in the natural order of things.

  12. While I've never been fired at, I've been under fire. A few years back, when I changed from one paying job to my current paying job (I'm a software engineer working for a massive defense company) I was asked how I would handle the stress of the job. I replied that there would be very little stress on the job. Every one goes home at the end of the day, no one's house will burn down, no one will even get a hangnail. I don't have to worry about sending someone into a nasty situation, I won't have a kid saying "save my mommy, save my mommy, is she going to be alright?", I won't be on Plan C trying to pull a dying woman out of a car while trying to keep her airway open and I don't have enough people or equipment to do the job. Here, it is just money. Time and money.

    I'm not sure if they understood.

    I cannot imagine being a combat veteran. I cannot imagine being a 2nd Lieutenant with a patrol walking down a dusty alley where you KNOW there is an IED someplace. But I've seen, and my guys have seen… some stuff. Stuff that most people have no idea of.

    Medics, cops, firefighters, and especially soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen would understand.

    Yeah, we see things a bit differently.

  13. I pretty much agree. I grew up in an Anglo-American working class neighborhood, where if you would defend yourself you were beaten up everyday. I have had the same kind of conversation with many folks in my line of work (military) and other similar careers (like law enforcement), and had the same kind of experiences with those who do not deal with reality or hard competition. Getting shot at does put everything into perspective. I am trying to remember a quote, something about the prospect of hanging focusing the mind in a wonderful way?

  14. This one comes squarely under the heading, "Never thought that, but wish I had." Explains a few things I've noticed but not really throught about. With the exception of a couple of word choices, I believe the author is spot on.

  15. I understand what's being said here, it's all about a man's personal 'COMBAT'.
    Not necessarily being shot at.
    "What event in your life would you label 'your personal Combat', where your own life was mortally threatened, but, by your actions, you, and/or those around you survived, because of your actions.

    For me, it was the night of Christmas eve 1974, Darwin, Australia.
    In a nutshell, Cyclone Tracy destroyed the city, I was in a house on stilts, as was the normal construction), the only male, (I was 24) my young wife, and best mate's wife, we had three babies under two years of age.
    The storm lasted about five hours, Darwin was destroyed, including our house.
    I was utterly terrified, but I had to project purpose and calm, as I desperately sought shelter and safety, as the storm destroyed everything around us.
    The three of us used everything to protect the babies, and when we had nothing else, we three lay our bodies over them, hoping to save them.
    Death was hunting us, I was utterly scared, but dare not, could not, show it.
    I knew fear that night.
    After that, for the rest of my days, "At least you're not being shot at" pretty much says it all.
    That night was my personal 'combat'.
    Yes, one does certainly look at life from a very different perspective.
    One last thing, I know within myself, that as a Man, I did'nt fail them.
    Stu Garfath.

  16. @Stuart: That definitely counts. Kudos to you for keeping it together. I contrast that with someone I knew way back when I was working in a law school library. (I was not a librarian – he was.) Anyway, a pipe broke in the basement, flooding it. He was so concerned that if the water had reached one of the boilers it would have exploded. He was stunned and totally useless the rest of the day, while the other librarians comforted him.

    Nothing bad had actually happened, yet he went all to pieces. I thought, tongue firmly in cheek, "Yep, he's the kind of guy I want next to me in a foxhole." Then I went back to work.

  17. Yeah, no. Read his other articles. One of his major concerns is modern women don't look sexy enough for him and he feels women were better off in the 1960s. He's a misogynist, or at least 90% of women don't live up to his standards and the ones that do, do because they are very feminine and bring him coffee. If the aforementioned, and "Michelle Bachmann is a pure victim candidate" (funny, I thought she was a run of the mill right wing social/religious conservative in a dress) didn't tip you, the rest should.

    Look, I agree the experience of Real Bad Shit Consequences changes one's mindset completely, and that in terms of leadership we need more people who have that kind of perspective. I am not so much impressed that guys who've been tackled on the football field have so much more perspective, trustworthiness, and finer character than, say, an ER nurse.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *