DECEMBER 3, 2020

Skill Set: Politeness

A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.

-- Robert A. Heinlein

It’s getting more difficult, every day, to make it through your day without someone committing a seriously rude offense. People purposely cut you off in traffic; if you don’t slam on the brakes there’s going to be an accident. And, they get upset if you react. People cut in front when you’re walking up to checkout lane at the store. Customers at the burger counter punch out the worker for getting their order wrong. This means, now more than ever, your best tactic is to be polite.

Everyone is upset. The reasons may start with the “China” virus, which takes us to lock-downs, massive unemployment, record rates of depression, drug abuse and crime increases across the board. At the same time police departments are advising their communities on how to be a “good” victim. Then, most recently it’s the elections, or lack of “election.” Lots of people are losing faith in government institutions. Pretty much everyone is upset, frustrated, angry, sad, …. “Fuses” are short.

While this gamut of emotions is understandable under these conditions, it’s certainly far from acceptable. Yes, crime is increasing, especially personal attacks. Yet, there’s very little one can do except be polite – and, as always -- practice avoidance. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be able to accurately gauge the “present,” or the situation you may find yourself evaluating.

While the rest of the world goes into full stupid mode, you and I have to remain free of emotions. Think about it. The worst decisions you’ve ever made were when you were angry. When your passions - especially anger - take control all logical thought stops. We start operating from the primitive part of the mind, which doesn’t make rational decisions. Remember, the only thing you can control in a stressful situation is how you respond.

Your response to any affront must be controlled – regardless of the offense. It’s up to you to be the “bigger” person. This can sometimes be difficult. But when you carry a weapon, it’s critical to keep in mind that - no matter where you are and what’s going on - the only reason to present your weapon is under dire circumstances. As Massad Ayoob puts it, “Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy.” The threat has the ability and opportunity to do you harm, which puts you in jeopardy. Verbal insults, various hand gestures or not yielding to the person having the right of way -- these don’t count. And anything you do get involved in might turn violent.

When people start their day being angry it only takes a second for things to turn ugly. In other words, it ain’t worth it. Put a big smile on your face, be polite and pass on by. Don’t get me wrong, keep practicing your defensive skills. But do everything possible to avoid ever having to use them.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, has a regular column in American Handgunner and makes some cool knives and custom revolvers. Visit Shootrite’s Facebook page for other details.