February 6, 2012

Extra, Extra - Crimebusting Lizards!

Hatched by Dafydd

Today is my lucky day: I had the opportunity to put up or shut up about the civic responsibilities of a culture of liberty, and I passed the test. In the process, I broke up a domestic assault on the streets, stopping a young man from violently attacking a woman he claimed was his wife.

There's nothing wrong with crowing about doing something undeniably good, especially when there's a certain risk involved; but I'm not just tooting my own kazoo here. There are cosmic points that I'll get to after giving you the bare facts...


I was walking to the gym when I heard an ongoing altercation. Looking ahead, I saw a scrum of older men surrounding a very young man (late teens or very early twenties) who was screaming at a young woman (about the same age), who he later identified as his wife. He had her pressed against an SUV; he was enraged, she was terrified.

The skinny, young man (I'll say "suspect" from now on) got increasingly violent, and the older men, who had been telling him to let her go and don't hit her, backed away, apparently nervous.

The suspect reached around the girl and grabbed her by the back of her neck; he threw her down to the pavement, and she held her arms up to ward off a blow. I did not see him actually strike the woman at any time; the only violent contact I saw him make was throwing her to the sidewalk.

I ran up to them and also told him he should just back off and let her go. The suspect turned on me, screaming obscenities into my face from about two inches away. I stared him down (we were about the same height, but I was sure I had at least 40 pounds on him).

Then he walked away, and after a moment, the woman followed; but she was walking faster. She walked past him and continued walking down the street, putting distance between them; but then the suspect broke into a run after her.

I lost sight of them for a few seconds, then on second thought, I ran after. After turning a corner, I saw he had again cornered her, this time against a huge dumpster. He raised his fist, so I dropped my pack at the corner and ran up to them.

He spun around to face me. This time, he told me that if I didn't get the "F" away from them, he would kill me. But during this distraction, the girl had darted around the dumpster, turned another corner, and run off.

The suspect realized she was gone; he caught sight of the girl some distance away and ran after her.

I walked behind him, then I too saw the girl. The suspect ran up to her and again raised his fist as if to strike her. This time, she dropped to the ground of her own accord and for a third time put her arms across her face, as if to block a punch.

I scurried to the two of them again, and again the suspect confronted me. You get the strategy, right? I was distracting him and distracting him, again and again, so he constantly had to deal with me, not her; whenever he started in on the girl, there I was, getting in his space again. I didn't yell at him, insult him, or punch him out (though I wouldn't have minded, the dirty coward). I just stuck to him like a tar baby.

By that time, a number of other people had come out of their houses; and I knew that one of the original witnesses at the beginning, five or ten minutes earlier, had called the peelers. I could hear a siren, and I hoped it was they.

I remembered I'd dropped my backpack a few streets back, and it had my wallet and keys in it. Since a crowd had gathered, I ran back, got my pack, and returned. By that time, a cop on a motorcycle arrived, and then some others.

They ordered the suspect to the ground, but he refused to comply. Instead, he hurled defiance at them. So they drew their pistols and again ordered him to get on the ground. He looked for a moment like he was going to charge them (suicide by cop?); but in the end, he lay face down on the grass, and the police cuffed him.

I told one of the cops I was an eyewitness and recounted what I had seen and heard. They had me identify him, then interviewed me and took my contact information. My guess is that the suspect will probably plead out; but if there's a trial, I'm looking forward to testifying against him; I don't like men who act like beasts, especially towards women. (Call me old fashioned.)

Finally, the police finished with me; and I headed off... and continued on my way to the gym.

...and civilization

So what's the moral? There are several:

  1. First, in the Western culture, and especially in the United States (the best of the West), we instinctively come to the aid of the underdog against a tyrant.

This is not common in the rest of the world. Believe me. In most ports of call, if a stranger sees a man beating a woman, or a big guy (or multiple guys) assailing a smaller, lone victim, the stranger will fade away as quickly as possible. And in some parts of the world -- e.g. the Moslem ummah -- if Abdul sees a big guy assaulting a little guy or gal, or a mob assaulting a lone victim, Abdul will join the mob; after all, who's the obvious "strong horse?"

I'm neither anthropologist nor geneticist, but I suspect the "stick up for the underdog" impulse comes from a gene that evolved only among those early humans who migrated into what is now called Europe, tens of thousands of years ago. If such a gene evolved after the Europe-bound population split from the Arabia-bound and Asia-bound populations, then it wouldn't be surprising that ours is a culture that helps the little guy against the big guy, but theirs have very different, and probably much older cultural imperatives.

  1. Second, you've all heard the supposed quotation attributed to Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Alas, there is no evidence he ever said those exact words. But the sentiment is clear, as is its applicability to the United States in 2012. And the transitive corollary is likewise clear: All that is necessary for good to triumph is that good people get off their butts and confront evil wherever they run across it.

That too is very, very American. I wouldn't say it's unique to the U.S. or even to Western Civ; but coupled with the first point, intervention by ordinary blokes is the primary deterrent to crime. Yes, social conformity can be a very good thing indeed!

Intervention can take several forms: You can confront the evildoer directly, the direct approach. Or if the odds are too great against you, you can call the coppers -- bearing in mind another, fruitier maxim: "When seconds count, the police are just minutes away!" And if even the police are suspect (or outgunned by the "cowards, traitors, and empty words"), you can serve as a witness at trial -- or in extremis, as a witness to history, as with Émile Zola's J'accuse!, or the Diary of Anne Frank.

  1. Finally, you must be able to distinguish between those evildoers who are truly dangerous and those who are just going to "shout you to death"; and you must respond according to that distinction -- or you might find yourself inconveniently dead.

I could tell that this particular suspect was not going to physically attack me; he's only comfortable attacking people who can't -- or won't -- fight back. But under different circumstances, I would have used a very different strategy to accomplish much the same end. For example, if a woman was being assaulted by multiple men, I wouldn't just wade in like Conan the Contrarian; I would only get beaten to a pulp, and the vicitm would be no better off for my useless heroics and hysterics.

Rather, in that circumstance, I would probably get someone to call the cops -- and then I would tail the perps from a distance as well as I could, trying to glean any information that would lead to an arrest: A license plate, a good description, or a house they fled to.

There is always something you can do, and always something you should do. Even if it's only a little, a whole bunch of "littles" add up to a "big," possibly even to arrest and conviction. And if everyone does his "something," then the current culture of crime and corruption will wither away.

So as I oft like to conclude, it's time for us all to put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. And the next time you see "something big going down," as they used to say on Baretta, don't complain about it... get up on your hind legs and do something to stop it!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 6, 2012, at the time of 9:26 PM


The following hissed in response by: MikeR

Well done.

The above hissed in response by: MikeR [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2012 7:11 AM

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