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The Universal Human Phobia

Perhaps the most amazing concept in Grossman & Christensen's book, On Combat, is what Grossman et al have termed The Universal Human Phobia - interpersonal violence.
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Grossman describes it this way. The most common phobia in the world is snakes. If you were to take a sack of squirming snakes and drop it into a room with 100 random people, as many as 15-20% would have a phobic-level response, meaning they would run screaming blindly. The rest of the people would do something intelligent, like move away or kill the snakes, or something.
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Grossman et al, in their research, have found that around 95% of the population has a phobic-level response to interpersonal violence. So, if you took that same room of 100 people and went in shooting and stabbing, almost all of them would run blindly. There would be virtually no intelligent response.
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This is amazing to me. Amazingly freeing to know that everyone has a phobic or near-phobic aversion to interpersonal violence. Somehow I thought it was just me, and it has made me feel lazy or cowardly for a long time. Somehow, just knowing that I'm not weird (at least not in this instance) is freeing and empowering.
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An example of what I'm talking about is the article I wrote a couple of years ago, titled, "Heroes," in which I talked about Delitha Ward and Kitty Genovese. On Combat sheds new light (for me) on bystander apathy. I'd thought that the bystanders in these cases were just lazy, evil, heartless, cowardly bastards - the scum of the earth. Well, per Grossman's Universal Human Phobia concept, it seems virtually everyone should be expected to act that way. (I understand that Air Florida Flight 90 was not interpersonal violence, but it seems that the same mechanism must be at work.) This really emphasizes to me the extraordinary mettle of people like Lenny Skutnik and Arland Dean Wiliams Junior, for being able to act in the face of such a horrific event.
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I said it then and I still maintain, "I pray that our training will prepare us to do something if we ever are forced to – not because I especially want to be a hero – but because that kind of apathy we don’t need in the world and that kind of hero, we do need."
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Thanks for the great lesson, Grossman & Christensen!




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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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