Fight or Flight

By George W. Mantor

I’m a pacifist; up to a point; but, I’m also a pragmatist. And, that is also why I’m a pacifist.

Look around the world at the moment and you cannot help but notice that fighting isn’t working. It is just endless, pointless pain and misery inflicted primarily on civilians for no apparent reason and with no possible end game in sight. Edwin Starr was right, “War, huh…”

But, the pragmatist also knows that men-of-peace are preyed upon and victimized both in real life and fiction. Look what they did to Jesus… or David Carradine who was found hanging in a hotel closet in Thail and by his balls. “Oh, Grasshopper!”

For many men, and an increasing number of women, the choice to fight or run may not be theirs. Sometimes the fight comes to you.

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, sooner or later, there is going to be a fight. Drunks at parties, crimes in the street, and there you are, no way out but run or throw down. I’m all for running; the pivot is my go to move, but sometimes even that isn’t an option.

My first real fight with a stranger taught me an important lesson; the Marquess of Queensberry isn’t in play. A fight isn’t boxing. It isn’t a sport. It’s deadly. I never even threw a punch.

Some party crashers showed up at a friend’s house and started accosting the women as they went into the bathroom. We all went outside and, before I even squared up with anyone, someone hit me from behind and I rolled down a small hill onto the sidewalk where, before I could get my bearings, a boot came down on my face, causing my head to impact heavily with the concrete.

My part of the fight was over, but I wasn’t really enjoying it. Since then, the majority of my altercations with bullies have ended peacefully because now I always warn them that I cheat.

Our bullies today are trying to force us into accepting a lower and lower standard of living and fewer personal freedoms so that more and more of the world’s wealth can be funneled into the hands of fewer and fewer powerful people. Don’t take my word for it.

The following chart appeared in the New York Times on March 26, 2012.

How did this happen? Hard work? Good luck? Or, did they have help?

The truth is that the only thing that has trickled down upon us is poverty. The past few years have been rough for many Americans. We take for granted that they will bounce back, but most don’t. There are no jobs on the horizon, food stamp usage is up, homelessness is increasing, yet little is said about what happens to these people.

People who once had good jobs, owned homes, and paid taxes have been forced to places like Slab City—think Mad Max.

Foreclosed and vacant properties plague almost every community. They sit vacant and decaying and, due to mold, may never be inhabitable again. Meanwhile we wrestle with the long term effects of increasing homelessness.

Isn’t it odd to live in the wealthiest nation in the world and have roughly as many homeless families as we have inhabitable vacant houses that no one seems to know what to do with except bulldoze?

Everything we need to stimulate a recovery is strewn around us like the debris from a massive tornado. Rebuilding from this destruction would create the jobs which would stimulate consumer spending and provide the tax base necessary to fund government spending which would create more jobs, and so on and so on…ya know, the way it used to be before we offshored jobs and brought in millions of poor foreign laborers who will work for less forcing down wages for all except the top 1%.

One in five men between the ages of 25 and 54 are unemployed and, on average, it takes 40 weeks to find a new job. What do they do to get by and take care of their families? They steal. They steal everything, tied down or not.

All over the country thieves are ripping up and making off with train tracks, rail road ties, switching equipment, copper wire out of the street lights and electric utility stations, man-hole covers, public art, hardscape, landscape, Tide (yes, the soap), anything that can be sold or used as currency.

Even the Lorax from the yard of Doctor Seuss. That will teach the Lorax not to speak out against the evils of corporate greed. Oh, where will it end?

Since the Ponzi scheme collapsed, nearly 4 million American homes have been lost to foreclosure, about 85% of which were illegally conducted by organized crime and “foreign investors” who did not loan any money and who never lost a dime on a loan.

The children’s advocacy group, First Focus, finds that as many as 2.3 million children have lost their homes to foreclosure. In addition, the report finds another 3 million are at risk of being displaced from their homes due to foreclosure.

The researchers also say that an additional 3 million kids could be affected by foreclosure because they live in a rental home that is either in foreclosure or at risk of being foreclosed upon. That means more than 8 million children are either affected or at risk.

And, this is just the first quarter of a very long game. According to some experts, there could be as many as 10 to 15 million more foreclosures before this is over.

Half of the 44 million Americans on food stamps are children. Children!

Who do they fight? Where do they run to? Their parents are defeated and crestfallen that they cannot provide for their families.

This level of insecurity produces enormous stress on all family members. Stress produces what Harvard physiologist, Walter Cannon, identified as the “fight or flight” response, a survival mechanism over which we have no control.

It is a physical reaction which we cannot rationalize away. In the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, nerve cells begin to fire and chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol flood the bloodstream.

The body goes through an “incredible hulk” change. Awareness intensifies, pupils dilate, sight improves, respiration increases, perception of pain decreases and blood leaves the digestive tract and engorges the arms and legs; and now, baby, get ready to rumble. Or, preferably, take off at a dead-sprint.

These changes even alter our perception of reality. We become preoccupied with the negative, and we tend to perceive virtually everything as a threat.

In the absence of an enemy to fight and nowhere to run to, stress begins to eat away at our health, both physical and emotional.

Everyone has a breaking point. Over the next few years, many of us are bound to cross that fine line.

Can unrelenting stress really make you crazy? Something is going on.

Doomsday Preppers, are they right or has their thinking lost perspective? Trouble is brewing but will you really need a bunker?

Have you noticed that people are flipping out all over the place? Airline pilots wigging out midair, flight attendants grabbing a beer and launching themselves down emergency exit ramps. Passengers are stripping naked in airports.

Murder/suicides are up. If you are the child of an unemployed father, you might not sleep too well at night.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of massacring 17 Afghanis, had four tours of duty in Iraq and then shipped against his will to Afghanistan. He also faced enormous financial and legal problems stateside.

The producer of KOFI 2012, Jason Russell, was apprehended running naked, in and out of traffic in Pacific Beach. Not all that unusual for our beach cities, but it shows that no one is immune to stress.

It seems that the effects of unrelenting stress tend to accumulate over time until some trigger event causes a melt-down.

Stop me if you have heard the one about the obstetrician who drove his Suzuki into a Nissan dealership.

No, I mean really drove his Suzuki into a Nissan dealership after being asked to wait 20 minutes for his new car. He drove through the front window and around the showroom ramming display cars and knocking down walls doing thousands of dollars in damages. Dude, chill!

Sitting in a jail cell, it probably occurred to our hero that, given the benefit of hindsight, he might have made other choices. Had he traded his Suzuki for a Mercedes or an Infiniti, they would have brought the car to him. Live and learn, eh?

After years of underfunding and more recent draconian budget cuts, we don’t even have the resources to treat the crazies we already know about, let alone all of the seemingly normal people going about their daily business who are but one mere drop of spilled milk away from being up on the roof with a high-powered rifle shooting anything that moves.

This country is facing a mental health crisis of epic proportions. In Greece, just two years of austerity is being cited by desperate people just before they shoot themselves or set themselves ablaze in public places.

You cannot run away from stress so you have to learn to fight it. Get healthy. Set aside time to exercise every day. In addition to combating the unhealthful side-affects, it will elevate your mood.

Take a faith based moment. Like a timeout from negative thinking, it is important to take time to be thankful. Whatever your religious beliefs, whether you are an agnostic or an atheist, you can always fall back on faith. Not faith in a rescue by a higher power, but faith in yourself to rise to the challenges of your life.

Not faith that everything will turn out the way you want, but that you will turn out just fine no matter how things turn out.

Life isn’t supposed to be perfect. Without challenges, there is no growth. Without deprivation it is hard to fully appreciate abundance. Without resistance one can never get stronger.

It isn’t about success or failure; both are imposters and both are temporary. In my view, you can never really call yourself a success unless you have bounced back from a failure or two.

People around us are in pain. We may not see it. Many people have been humiliated by their inability to overcome their set-backs and are embarrassed to discuss their problems

If you have been blessed with stable income throughout the course of the recession you need to step up and be a community builder. We need each other as much now as we did when our country was founded. We can no longer rely on anything associated with government to solve our real and present needs.

We must reweave the fabric of our communities by taking responsibility for our own neighborhoods, reaching out to those who are struggling and offering compassion and opportunity.

Look at the chart again and ask yourself how long you personally can avoid the consequences of what the chart so graphically proves. Unless the momentum of the last thirty years can somehow be reversed, how long will it be before the .01% has it all?