Trail Safe Encounters on the Trail
Notice that I include escalation of force right up there with panic and fear. Panic often creates an escalation of force, causing us to become our own worst enemies. Because we don't understand the concepts of escalation of force, we often act as the force escalators at the very time we should be de-escalating.
The first riot I was ever involved in, the middle of which was chaos, pure and simple, provides an example of the patterns created by force escalation. It was the last aboveground action of the Weathermen, an assault on the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington D.C. at the height of the Vietnam War. Cars burned as people pounded mounted police officers with chains; it was an incredible melee. However, the more I watched from my vantage point behind a barricade of garbage cans, the more I noticed that little patterns swirled around in the chaos.
I believe that all violent encounters, although rooted in chaos, have very specific patterns. The most important pattern for us is the escalation of force. Not in every case, but in most of the situations we'll encounter, force will ride an escalator up and up, driven by small actions or thoughtless words on the part of all participants. So what are our options when faced with such an escalating situation?
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication