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  1. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    A New Way of Dealing with Conflict

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by A.M.P., Nov 7, 2015.

    I figured I would make a blog post for this topic since I do want to post it but I don't want everyone to comment/debate/derail the thread... My posts tend to have that happen to them.

    *I guess I can't help but need to know what others think... I suppose getting to know others, is a pretty good way to reach a third option...

    So, recently, I started thinking about conflict resolution between multiple parties and points of view from a storytelling perspective. In lots of interactive and visual media, it simply is kill or be killed.

    In video games, it is so natural and normal to kill enemies, and sometimes harmless NPCs, without a second thought for experience points (so you get stronger) and loot (so you look cooler and are stronger)

    In the popular-movie world, its natural to have buildings topple over, gun fights, gore porn, highway accidents, without ever thinking of all the innocent bystanders or whether the conflict had to come to this in the first place.

    We're a culture that believes in the idiom: "Violence is never the answer" or any variation of such yet our popular media is filled with the exact opposite.

    Now, I'm an amoralist, I do not believe in a set of holy ways to be or think certain guidelines are borne naturally in humans. So, I cannot accept the idiom and therefore I am not trying to make a case against it or call our society hypocritical or cruel.

    There are times where an opposing force, whether it be another human, a group, or ideology, cannot be reasoned with or a middle ground cannot be found. I wouldn't ask anyone to turn the other cheek or allow something so dangerous to another to exist. It would be counter-survival.

    In past media, it was natural to see in black and white as the "bad guys" could be aliens, evil forces from the beyond, or whatever else which its existence solely depended on hurting humans. You can't find middle ground against something that does nothing but hunt and eat humans for survival or some amalgam of dark forces that only wishes to destroy the world. They don't have a better nature to appeal to, they have no desire for peace, but only to rend, consume, and destroy.

    That is the black of black and white.

    However, more and more, we're seeing media that showcases intelligent creatures and humans who are capable of communication and often end up fighting for 'victory' rather than settling differences or finding a third option.

    Why? The third option is hard and, arguably, less cool than an all-out fight.

    Could it also be that we are simply accustomed to resorting to violence or that our views are superior and therefore we have no choice to put an absolute stop to another set?

    Now, violence does have its place, and I am not saying it's lesser or even wrong to have violent media or to beat up orcs in video games. However, is it a bit too habitual to kill or be killed?

    Now, in the Marvel universe, we have heroes that do no kill. They incapacitate, jail, and reform villains. We have villains with humanizing motives that stop their ways when ultimately confronted or realize their folly. Friends, family, and even foes help them let go of their grudges, their sadness, and they move on before imploding the world with their high-tech rockets.

    In anime, we have the same thing and many of those scenes are often considered the best and most emotional in a series where people can overcome their differences and choose a happier alternative. All the giant mech robots and absurd weapons won't make you forget the brutal murder of your parents, but dang it does a good cry help.

    And isn't that why we believe the characters we root for are the strongest even if they can't hold themselves in a fight, even if they let others push them around, even if they themselves can't come to grip with their own feelings? Because they help others to let go of their pain that causes them to go "evil".

    As writers and futures authors who may be read by a few handful people, millions, and even generations, perhaps we should start thinking whether our antagonists are all that bad and whether there is a way to create less violence in our stories.

    No, sometimes killing is the answer, but sometimes there is a third option.
    It's harder to get to, and it certainly is the long way around, but perhaps that'll be the reason why someone chooses to try harder to overcome difficulties rather than have a "me vs. them" mentality and perhaps it will bring forth less violence where none is needed.

    It's silly to think such a butterfly could exist but when almost all our media is violent perhaps it's not so silly to try and create less of it.
     
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  2. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you are starting a good thread here. I find a lot of violence is written, or enjoyed, by people who have never experienced it.

    I am of a generation when fighting at school was not only accepted, but encouraged, insofar as dealing with bully. At around age ten, I was chased out of the lunchroom in my Catholic school by one of the parent/cooks who said if I was being bullied, I had to deal with him, or avoid him. I spent most of the recess doing the latter, until at the end, he stood behind me in the drinking fountain line and shoved my face down, to mash my lip on the water shield. I turned around and there he was, laughing, smirking, and I remembered what Mrs M. had said, "Punch him in the nose if you have to, but you can't hang around here!"

    So I did, he fell down on his backside, came up with a bloody nose, started crying that he was going to tell on me, and ran off to the kitchen to see the school nurse. Oh yes, that was Mrs. M's other duty. And no, I never heard any more about it, and afterward, Jerry and I became friends. But what I remember most was the great fear beforehand, the sheer impossibility. But no amount of adult intervention could have shaped my life the way that event did.

    I spent 25 years in the navy, and 25 years more supporting it. Though I was fortunate never to have been in combat, nor my father before me in WWII, I knew plenty of people who had, even more so Dad (he was offshore for Iwo Jima, swatting flies so bloated with human blood they simply could not avoid a slap when they landed on your arm) and I have yet to find anyone who enjoys the act of killing, particularly if it is done up close and personal.

    My WIP has a particularly poignant scene where the heroine is confronted by her former abusive consort (she was his concubine), after having learned to be a very good 1st century fighter with sword and knife. It is her first fight, and when she draws her dagger, she fully expects the man to back away and leave her alone.

    However, he does not, and she is hesitant and tentative when he fights back until she is wounded, and she realizes she must fight or die. After that she remembers very little, until she finds her knife buried deep in the man's guts.

    And still, as he collapses on the floor, she apologizes to him. After all, this is a man she has known for ten years, not always bad to her, and when he dies, she closes his staring eyes, and she wishes the poor troubled man to be at peace at last. She then - just sits there, partly in shock from her wound, part from what she has just done.

    Violence is not simple black and white.
     
  3. Acanthophis
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    I agree with you, but what does the third option look like in most cases?

    The concept of a third option is lacking in every corner of civilization. You're either pro climate change or against it, religious or irreligious, straight or gay, female or male, etc.

    We look at things in black and white by default, as it is much easier for the brain to process.
     
  4. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you are committing mass violence, as in war or revolution, it is almost impossible to motivate humans to do so without dehumanizing the enemy to "nips", "huns", "gooks" or "mudges" and so forth. But I think we as writers don't want to succumb to that, and we want to remember that the enemies in our novels are human beings also, not one dimensional bad guys.

    I think "Bridge over the River Kwai" was one of the first post war books made into a movie, that showed the Japanese as human beings, without glossing over the fact that they were extremely brutal on the whole toward their POWs.

    Another recent book, "A Higher Calling", is a WWII true story, about an ME109 pilot who escorted a badly shot up B-17 over the channel, rather than simply finishing it off, and how the two pilots eventually found each other in the 1980s. The interesting thing was the opportunity to see WWII through the eyes of a patriotic, though not Nazi, German Luftwaffe officer, and also the wartime and immediate postwar Germany and their bitterness toward a Luftwaffe they saw as having failed them. Nicely done emotional complexity in a non-fiction book.

    As former military, I certainly see the utility and necessity of violence in some conflict resolutions, but I like to remind those who have never seen it how horrible war tastes, smells, looks to those fighting it. Because it is those who have never fired a gun in anger that are the majority that will pick the people who will make the next decision to launch, or not launch, a war. And to portray a false picture of war and good guys vs. bad guys in a video game, well, it's not that way.

    "Battle Cry" by Leon Uris did a nice job of capturing WWII and while he did not attempt to humanize the Japanese, for the simple reason that the 3rd Marines did not encounter many Japanese in situations where mutual humanization was possible, it certainly did capture the battle field as something other than a push button video game..
     
  5. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps this thread should be moved to the lounge? The examples used here are all from video games and anime, and to be honest, I don't think literature as a whole suffers from too much violence.
     
  6. A.M.P.
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    @Lew
    Third Option is the path that allows both parties win or doesn't result in destroying the other.
    It's not about compromise or right vs. wrong but about humans dealing with very human things and choosing not to murder one another over it, if that makes any sense.

    @Acanthophis
    I don't think that's completely true.
    I think we look in the world in x or y only because we have little to no information on it.
    When you're actually well versed in a subject, you're suddenly finding all sorts of letters.

    @123456789
    It's about characters and their actions, so the subforum makes sense.
    Just cause the examples I used aren't particularly from books, doesn't mean that novels are exempt from what I describe.

    And I am not speaking of "too much violence" but that violence always seems to end up being the path taken or obstacles are placed in a MCs path where it becomes the only option or it just turns out that way when it didn't have to.
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    In that case, have you seen the Facebook movie? It was a great movie, but there was zero violence, not even a punch, and I felt it.
    I think violence (like sex) helps tie people emotionally to events, and also works for raising the stakes, even if the obstacle itself isn't in achieving the violence, but in making hard decisions, eg Romeo and Juliet, which is far from mindless.

    Also, sex and violence are essentially life (procreation) and death, the two most essential things to many human beings.

    If you're saying that many resolutions come down to: who is better at achieving violence, I agree that is rather boring.
     
  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Isn't the Facebook movie about the making of Facebook?
    Thought it was a documentary >.>
     
  9. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope, it was incredibly fictionalized.

    Eduardo Saverin, the best friend who ended up suing Zuckerberg, has made it very clear that The Social Network was more pro-Saverin than it needed to be.
     
  10. Acanthophis
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    @A.M.P. I don't agree. It's just as easy to say x, y, and z, as it x and y. My opinion, of course. On the surface, three perspectives aren't all that different from two perspectives; climate change is false, climate change is real, climate change may have nothing to do with humans. None of those statements requires any bit of information or expertise at all, yet very few people will talk about the "z" when the conversation is brought up. Which is why I think black and white comes natural to us. We've kind of survived as a species with the "us versus them" mentality; there's a greater chance you'll protect someone who shares your genetics (if you're aware) but you hardly know, than you will someone you know well but share no genetic relationship with. That may be an example far from the conversation, but I think that's where our narrow-mindedness originates, so it's something to think about. Throwing in "z" is throwing in an oddball, it makes our decision making much more difficult. It's taking "we die or they die" to an entirely new level, which requires more complex thinking to solve.

    You're totally right about everything else. I also tend to attribute much of our behaviour and motivation to more primal functioning, so there's a possibility I'm just overthinking the it entirely. :p
     
  11. Inks
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    The "no violence" thing is a major part of what I find interesting and compelling - but sometimes fighting is required for survival. Humanity is a warring species. It is our nature, but it is very hard to actually kill someone when you can communicate and have to do it with your own hands. Weapons are a means of putting that distance up and shortening the process. And it is true... video games and such are escapist and do not deal with the realities. Death is something that few people actually have to inflict or even witness. There are a lot of thing few people have to witness, but the development and glory of combat is something which is deeply engrained into all societies. The answer to why is simple - it protects the whole and is necessary to maintain and project the strength to exist.

    Let's put it one way - the Western culture has always used "us vs them" as a framing device which mirrors reality. When nationality and creed of the enemy causes offense - aliens and robots are used to fulfill the role or further distance the reality. Dehumanizing the enemy reduces sympathy and separates higher thought - making it easier to handle and cope with. People who are forced to do something typically rebel - that is also human nature.

    Also - Anime is a visual art form though it sounds like Tengen Toppa was referenced. Though I think there is certainly more of the "3rd option" you seek in the medium then in most Western outlets.
     
  12. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think part of the problem is that many of you seem to think that violence is somehow an aberration and evil.

    Consider the following situation: you are alone and isolated, no phone to call for help. You find a man brutally beating and raping a young woman.

    What would you do?
     
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    Most of my stories so far--with one exception--have had climaxes that are predominantly shouting matches, as only the one has had lives at stake. Violence isn't always necessary in stories. But it is important for the climax, at least, to have the tension break in an explosive way--whether that's with a punch in the face, a shouting match, or an actual explosion. What the climax needs will be determined by how the story has built up to that point.

    It's important, too, to avoid creating a situation where there's an obvious, anti-climactic solution that could be taken. If that's the case, then I'd bet the underlying conflict is too weak. By the time we reach the climax, all the obvious options should have been exhausted.

    It would be nice to see a variety of conflicts and resolutions represented in stories. Violence should not always be necessary. But it might be. Violence, like everything else, is a tool in the writer's toolbox, that should be used when appropriate. Just like everything else.
     
  14. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would use whatever violence was necessary to stop him from hurting someone. Violence is not what most of us here have the problem with.

    What most of us here have the problem with is the popular idea that violence can be justified by what group the target belongs to even if the target isn't doing anything. The fact that violence is justified in your specific scenario doesn't mean that it's justified in every scenario.
     
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  15. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe that idea was proposed by Adolf Hitler, among many others before and since. I don't think I would call it popular.
     
  16. Simpson17866
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  17. peachalulu
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    I think the trouble with the media is - like anything it portrays - it never portrays anything accurately. So to me it's never an issue about bringing violence to the table but how it's portrayed. In a world where airbrushing, CGI, special effects, choreography, and catch phrases are the norm there's a huge deal of distortion which could be trickling down into writers. Twinkling vampires anyone?
    The idea is to buck the trend and get back the to basics of physical conflict.
    In so many threads started on numerous sites nobody really knows what their villains want and why they're fighting. If you can't understand violence why explore it?
     
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  18. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Back in the '80s and early '90s, when a politician started a war, the public railed against such decisions. Don't send our people off to fight your stupid wars. At the time, fiction in it's many forms, was far less 'kill or be killed.'

    Then the politicians came up with a ploy to distract us all from their evil deeds. "Support our troops!" became the watchword and suddenly we weren't berating the politicians for starting wars.

    What's this got to do with the topic at hand?

    We as a society, as a direct result of this smoke-n-mirrors approach to warfare, have come to accept kill or be killed as the best/only way to solve problems. After almost thirty years of this, it's infected fiction in all its forms. Up until the first Gulf War, fictional characters used a far broader spectrum of solutions to problems. Now everybody's out for blood. I even find myself thinking such thoughts and it's disturbing.

    But I believe you're on the right track. Perhaps it's not too late to switch things up and find alternate solutions in both real life and in fiction. Writers have often lead the way to new thought processes, new discoveries and new ways of life. I'm all for it and it's nice to know I'm not alone.
     
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    You're aware that this requires the reader to think of the beating/rape (violence) as something which is bad?
     
  20. Sack-a-Doo!
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    If I had all the answers, I'd be God, instead of being some dipshit writer on an online forum. ;)
     
  21. Cave Troll
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    It is more important to recognize how yourself and others react to said violence, and cope with it. How many saw the footage of the gunship mowing down terrorists a few years back and the pilot laughing with out a care in the world about killing them? Did you see the footage in the aftermath of the shelling of a beach on the West Bank by Israel, killing four children and a reporter playing soccer?

    What I am getting at is violence is every where. Granted we won't ever see an instance like we did back in WWI, when the fighting stopped on Christmas and both sides engaged in a mutual celebration of the holiday. Violence has effects, and impacts many things in our life. How we deal with it teaches us about ourselves and how we perceive the world around us.
     
  22. jannert
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    Violence isn't a simple concept, any more than 'peace' is a simple concept. You will achieve peace if all your enemies are dead. You will achieve peace if you and your enemies agree to stop fighting each other and learn to understand and accept each other's ways.

    I think the more interesting solutions, in fiction, probably come when, instead of violence, people deliberately intermingle with those who don't agree with them, or who are on the opposite side of a conflict.

    Obviously you're not going to intermingle with somebody who has a gun pointed directly at you and is about to pull the trigger. But instead of segregating schools to encourage 'them' and 'us', you can integrate schools. Once people of different races and beliefs end up sitting beside one another in a classroom, or playing together on a sports field, or engaging in some other mutual activity ...the differences that would otherwise lead to violence can vanish in a generation.

    I think I'd explore that theme, if I was writing a book about the kind of violence that comes because differing points of view clash with one another. Political, religious ...that kind of thing.

    Obviously if a crazed individual is raping a woman with the intent to slash her throat afterwards, it's a different story. Or if a corporate executive orders the assassination of a rival so he can take over the rival's company, that's another matter as well. I guess it boils down to this: is the violence personal or ideological?
     
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  23. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    A very good reply. Neither peace nor violence are simple concepts, or we would be continually in one state or the other.

    Part of the problem is that I tend to agree with the Christian/Platonist view that human beings are fundamentally imperfect, as is, in a larger sense, of all of the perceived universe is imperfect. I am an engineer by trade, and I understand that imperfect noise, and its mechanical counterpart friction, are just of the universal imperfection we must deal with, as is violence. I can minimize them but never eliminate them. I think the same is true of violence.

    The point I have been making is that violence is not a simple thing that a character can engage in as a first solution, nor is it always something that must be avoided at all cost. It is part of the way our flawed characters should struggle to deal with a flawed world.
     
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  24. nhope
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    I don't disagree with you at all, but consider this:
    Define violence. Define peace. Define black and white. Every living thing on this planet will struggle to survive, using whatever means they can. That struggle may not sit well with you or me, but it's their struggle. An emotionally abused woman leaves the man who beats her and hooks up with a man who has a gentle touch, but berates her. To her, it's better than what she came from, it's her survival. A tree gets eaten by termites, its branches fall to the ground, and yet what remains, stands proud. We even let it be unless it becomes a safety issue. We let it be.

    We don't live in a kind world because we have continually fought and that has escalated us to where we are now. Any one of us if threatened will attack back, whether to save ourselves, someone we love, or a stranger. It's bred into us. We will not shed violence unless it is bred out of us.

    So let's say we employ the third option. We neither win nor lose. We accept that we do no triumph or fail. We come to an agreement or we simply walk away.

    Then what?

    Do we feel a resolution? Do we feel that something has changed, that we have changed?

    By now a few centuries pass and we have become a world living in peace. A world where they read about bullets in books and can't even imagine why they were needed.

    Then, a tiny woman in South America delivers twins but alas, one is mis-wired. The infant becomes a wild child. Wild to the peace loving community, that is. She is an interrupter. Others want her gone. The woman harbors her child, maybe runs away but word gets out, and she wrestles with her maternal instinct vs her defective child. She can't run forever. Then what?

    In books, in comics, movies, cinema, theater, yes, we can reduce the amount of violence we portray, but it will not reflect the monsters we deal with in every day life.

    Why do you think mythology, folklore and fairy tales came into being? Not because they were cool stories that someone made up to pass the time. They are lessons about survival and triumph and faith and hope and spirit and the belief in something greater than yourself because only then, only when you know that when your bones are broken and your heart is splintered, you will have in your mind thoughts of Apollo or Zeus or Athena or Superman or even God, and that will give you your bravery back, enough to take your last breath and assure yourself your life was not led in vain.

    Peace pays forward. One person at a time. Such a hard thing to do, to be kind every hour of every day. Try it. Try to not let the actions or words of others get to you. See if you can go three days.

    I love your thought process and the ideal you portray and I do so wish that the hell on earth would vanish. That one day there would be rainbow rain that would wash away all the pain and anger of everyone and we could all walk with straightened spines and true smiles. But until then, it's one person at a time.
     
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  25. Lew
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    The best we can do is the best we can.

    There are three kinds of people in the world.

    One kind, probably the majority, are gentle folk who cannot conceive of hurting another person. Under extreme circumstances, they may defend themselves, probably unsuccessfully. Unsuccessfully, because unless one has fought, and trained to fight, one cannot deal with the experience of fighting. And one does not train to fight if one finds hurting another to be repugnant. That person may attempt to defend one's self or another, but will be easily batted away. Even a weapon in hand may not help, because any weapon such a person may use would be an impromptu stick or club or carving knife... they would never consider owning a weapon specifically intended for killing. In my example of someone encountering a rape in progress, such a person may attempt to intervene, but unless the rapist is extremely inept, he will make short work of the would-be savior, and go back to what he was doing.

    The second kind is the predator, probably a significant minority, who seeks to take freely from others, hurting and killing if necessary. Most are not psychopathic, though some are, but they are selfish, and see others either as non-existent threats that must be deterred/eliminated, or as a source for spoil. They typically have fought all their lives and are good at it, and they are the ones who victimize the good people described above. The rapist above, for example, but there are many lesser examples, much more gray. A business who cheats his customers is a predator, a politician who lies to the public another.

    The third are people who recognize the need for violence, train to use it, but are disciplined to use it only under the proper circumstances, basically to defend the people of the first part from the people of the second part. Without these people, the good people are simply victims waiting to be intimidated and shaken down by the bad ones, who will always rule. Can we misuse our power to defend? Of course. Can our definition of "proper circumstances" be flawed? Almost certainly... back to my previous post, we too are imperfect, flawed human beings. But we try. To paraphrase Kipling's 'Hymn of Breaking Strain,'

    "In spite of being broken, because of being broken, rise up to try again."

    And we understand that when the fight begins, it is not over until the enemy admits defeat, or we do. We cannot simply open the bottle of violence, and then walk away if the fight is harder than we expected. We may choose to begin the fight, but only the one defeated (us or them) can choose to end it.
     
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