walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

blocking, fighting words and violence

In a friends-only post, I have related a story from Christmas. The details are not important for this discussion.

The short form was: four-year-old blocked me repeatedly. I said this is really bad, and he has to be convinced not to do this, or he's going to be beaten up and no one will go after the people who beat him up because he provoked it.

Interestingly enough, I've gotten two major responses to this. First, well, he'll get beaten up and then he'll learn not to do it. I don't like this solution, personally. The other response was, how is blocking someone from going where they want to do considered provocative/aggressive/justification for violence?

There are several ways to think about blocking. First, if you are in the way of the exit, and someone wants out, you are trapping them. That's pretty clearly aggressive. Second, if you are between a mama bear and a baby bear (which was the case in this story), you're supposed to expect to be mauled. In the course of trying to explain that violence is often considered provoked BEFORE a blow is struck, I drew analogy to "fighting words" which is one of the limitations on freedom of speech. Nursery rhymes about sticks-and-stones to the contrary, the law does recognize that some speech is so offensive that violence is expectable.

Further interestingly, the women who didn't really get the blocking-is-aggressive ALSO did not get the fighting words thing.

What's up? It's possible the women in question are so beaten down that none of this would provoke them. It's possible they've never been in this situation and lack empathy and so while they might react with violence, they would not correctly anticipate that they would react with violence. I recall that R. said the exercises that Home Safe (Alive? I forget the name of the class) had her do surprised her with her reactions. Any ideas?

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