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On violence, respect, and owning our dark sides: an interesting movie scene

Albeit the movie is a light comedy, this scene hides a profound reflection on the link between power, violence, respect, and the positive forces of civilization:

The respectful, kind teacher from the north of Italy was struggling to get social status and respect in the rowdier south.
He wasn't getting respect from his class of children, nor from the school principal, who calls him "impotent" (a very telling insult, since in the minds of many "masculinity" is linked to power and violence, and civilization without power is equated to "femininization").

But when in a moment of anger the teacher resorts to violence against a young boy with a mapped out future in criminality, everything changes.

The pupils finally respect him.
But the professor loses his own respect.

His final address to the class is a profound, emotional lesson on the link between violence and civility.

"Il rispetto che si ottiene con la prepotenza non e' rispetto, e' vergogna".

"The respect you gain with bullying is not respect. It's shame"

He makes a great point.
Yet, we also can't deny that, in some circumstances, a big display of power can provide you with almost immediate leverage. And when people thought you were a spineless coward, a big display of power might even be a must.

We go back to one of the main values of thepoewrmoves.com: to be good, sometimes you must know how to bite.

To prop civility and civilization, as well as to support value-adding leadership, one should also know how to be ruthless, how to wield power, and how to enforce boundaries.

That's why in "how to be a leader" I recommend to start off as a leader more on the stricter side, and only later move towards a more democratic leadership.
That way, people will never think you're being kind and democratic because you're a spineless coward. You will never have to resort to bullying to get respect, and you can lead everyone with empathy, without ever fearing of being thought of as a coward.


Learning To Accept Own's Own Dark Side

The teacher did exaggerate, but not by a great deal, considering how aggressive the kid was being.

But since he hadn't learned and accepted his own darker side, he feels shame for himself. He feels he is not "good enough" because he hadn't lived to his own expectations.

But his expectations were not realistic.
Pretending that the very human drives of fighting, dominating, and destroying do not exist does not do any good to people.
It's by accepting and channeling those darker drives that we can become better human beings, not by denying and suppressing them.

 

 

Stef has reacted to this post.
Stef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I love it!

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Lucio Buffalmano

Still working on owning my dark sides.

I was thinking of how the teacher should have acted.
In this case, would gently shoving the kid out of the classroom and closing the door be a good option?

Another option would be to hold the kid's hand and bring him to the principal's office.
However, the principal may not be supportive of the teacher and may not help to discipline the boy.

Owning Your Dark Side

I am not sure if this question is too generic.
On a practical level, if someone behaves rudely and aggressively towards you, how would you own your dark side?
I was thinking that it is important to accept your anger towards them and your feelings of wanting to retaliate.

From what I have learned from the course, it pays at times to cross the line from assertive to aggressive.
Like as a leader, you should show controlled anger in your responses when someone steps out of line.
But it seems tricky to navigate the spectrum from assertiveness to aggressiveness.

I do understand that escalating arguments or conflicts is often not the best option.
But there are cases that you absolutely must escalate in order to enforce your boundaries.

I usually respond in a calm, serious, disapproving manner and point out why I am not okay with their behaviour.

But sometimes I make the mistake of being too submissive or too aggressive.

My Take On Owning Your Dark Side and Biting Back

I believe that having a clear understanding of your objectives in a social situation or social circle will be the first step.

For example, I read your other post on night outs in South Korea with a toxic leader.
If the goal is to enjoy good times with friends within the circle, it is a good idea to give a bit of power to the toxic person during interactions in order to maintain social balance within the circle.

In a workplace context, I watched your video of a POS attempting to pull power moves.
In that example, your social finesse could get you out of that situation.
This comes across as professional and retains your status within the workplace.

Yeah, that was a tough one to handle.

The good news for a teacher in that situation is that he already had low respect from the class, so for him a challenge is an opportunity to regain some points.

Shoving him gently would have been difficult. With that attitude, you could probably infer with a high degree of likelihood that he isn't going to be "shoved" gently without fighting back.
And he's probably not going to keep your hand in your hand if you try to walk him to the principal's office.

It might seem weird and very power-down for an adult to avoid an escalation with a kid, but that might have been the smarter choice in this situation.

A few notes:

  1. He did well in stopping the pupil from leaving when the kid-gangster said so: letting him free to go would have undermined all his authority (plus, it would have been illegal, too). So that was the minimum step he had to take no matter what
  2. He should have remained calmer: by getting too angry, too soon, he is contributing to the tense atmosphere, and accelating towards the escalation
  3. He might have argued with him "like an adult": as he later said, the kid was behaving like an adult gangster, so he might have as well treated him like an adult. For example, instead of starting a tug of war on the whereabouts of the other pupil, he could have said "I don't know you well Raffaele, but (kid name) cannot leave the room. He must attend classes by law, and I am responsible for him until the classes are over"
  4. He could have told him to "speak alone outside of the class": gangsters' culture is all about public image, which means that saving face is huge. A bit weird to treat a kid like an adult, and he would have lost much power if other adults were around. But since there were no other adults around and considering the pupils instead feared the gangster he wouldn't lose too much power with them
  5. Talk to the kid: he could have at least tried the friendly way instead of escalating right away (not friendly-submissive, but friendly-neutral. A "one-across" in frame control parlance). For example "oh, hello Raffaele, are you also attending school here sometimes?". That's a yes or no question, and it's on purpose: it's low effort for him to reply, but it can then start a conversation

Happy to also read other opinions, certainly a tough one to handle.

 

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StefDerrich
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

First of all, this being my first post, I would like to say how much I am enjoying this site! I discovered it just a few days ago and find the information to be absolutely fascinating and top-notch. I look forward to finish what I'm currently reading so that I can devour the whole damn blog (lol).

Some of the things I'm going to say have already been discussed or hinted at, but I hope I can expand on them a little by offering my perspective. This is indeed a tricky situation. As Lucio says, the root of the problem is precisely the teacher's reluctance to accept his dark side (his potential for aggression) and the utility, and even the necessity, of aggression and violence in certain situations. This to me means that he is repressing his capacity to see reality for what it is, and he is therefore unable to cope with it appropriately (Jordan Peterson refers to this as "willful blindness").

That, in my opinion, is not a minor flaw. It is a major character flaw, although one that peaceful societies are particularly comfortable with, because in an environment that is already peaceful it contributes to the avoidance of conflict and the maintenance of the statu quo. The more peaceful the environment is, the truer this would be.ย  I suspect that societies that live under really harsh conditions or are in war are much less forgiving with that kind of mindset.

The town in southern Italy where this teacher is working is probably not the best example of an always peaceful environment. There, force still matters. The school's principal (and probably everybody else in town) knows this only too well, and judges the teacher severely because of that.

I recently read a book by Haruki Murakami called The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. There is a character in this book who tells a really crude and dark story of his days as a soldier during the Japanese campaign in Manchuria in the years of WWII. Even though the events he tells happen during a comparatively short period of his life (after all, he manages to return to Japan and live as a civilian for decades), he feels as if the most real experience he has ever lived is the one he tells in the story. He seems to regard those extremely violent, horrific and traumatizing events as the peak experience of his life, and it appears to him that his posterior life as a school teacher and the years after retirement are some sort of dream, and that life in civilization, with its good manners, its non-threatening routines, its smiling neighbors and its lack of danger and violence have a surreal edge to them, as if it was all a theater play.

There are very specific conditions within which peace and harmony can exist. Outside of that frame there is the abyss, the unlimited potential for chaos and destruction of human nature. The great wars of the last century and the concentration camps are very good examples of this. Those things have really happened, they were as real as the comfort of warm living rooms in the winter and the memories of mums kissing their children goodnight. And even though most of us aren't probably seeing that dark side of reality in such an extreme display, it is very naive to think that there isn't some sort of a continuity between those events and our daily life. It's probably much more likely that we are day after day seeing the same forces that lead to those disasters act in a much more subtle day in our own lives and in our own interactions with the people around us. We might not like that aspect of reality, but we don't get to choose what reality is. The best we can do is to manage reality to the best of our capabilities, or to ignore it and pay the price (and the bill always comes one way or another).

To think that in the context of war you can apply the same rules as in the context of a cheerful Christmas dinner with your family is absurd. To think that in that town in southern Italy you can act the same way as in your town in Switzerland might very well be too (again, just as the principal points out).

It's hard to tell what the proper way of dealing with that kid would have been. I think that in a context were people around you use violence and intimidation on a daily basis, refusing to use it completely is showing yourself as completely helpless and unarmed. You are at the mercy of everyone else who IS armed, as the capacity for effective aggression can be considered a weapon. As Machiavelli says, it's very rare for those who are armed to obey those who are not. So talking to the kid as an adult as might not have been an option for the teacher, at least at that moment and with the image of him the whole town had already created. That kid has probably seen shit and will believe that the teacher is only reasoning to him because he can't do anything else.

It is not until you have shown that you are also dangerous and not to be messed with that you can use softer tactics effectively. People know you are talking and negotiating your way through things because you want to, not because you don't have any other choice. You are being effective, generous, smart, kind, as opposed to just weak. The difference is massive. The next time that aggressive kid shows up, the teacher might not need to handle him in such a rough manner. That is one way in which aggression is not an offensive weapon for oppression and evil, but a defensive one for peace and good.

The irony is that if he wouldn't have been willfully blind to the whole spectrum of the unpleasant, violent side of reality, he MIGHT not have needed to strike the kid in such a violent manner. He would have had more experience using his "dark side" to his benefit. He would have been more aggressive from the moment he opened the door of the classroom the first day, constantly asserting his authority only to the exact degree that would have been necessary. He would have earned the respect of the kids, who would probably know better than to provoke a potentially dangerous adult. He would have an aura of respect around him that the aggressive kid could have perceived when he walked into the room, and perhaps he would have known he was not the kind of adult he could mess with. And if the kid would have insisted on taking the little student with him, he could have just told him very seriously and in a no bullshit tone that he better get out of the classroom if he knew what was good for him. If still necessary, he could have simply dragged him out of the classroom firmly but using the minimal necessary force (because he would be very experienced in the use of his dark side, he would not have overreacted in an emotional manner as he does in the movie).

And most importantly, he would have had the moral authority to teach his students the virtues of proper behavior, respect for each other, civility and all the other values he might consider important, and they would have listened, because they would have respected him.

Nevertheless, I still think he acts pretty well. He is confronted with a situation he isn't prepared for, and one that calls for a solution that conflicts with his moral architecture. His instinct takes over. Although the response is emotional and slightly more violent than necessary, it comes to show that anger, when integrated properly, has the potential for standing up against oppression and defend ourselves. In fact, for people that have been repressing completely their aggressive tendencies for years, or even decades, and have been stepped on because of that, anger might be the only way to build up the courage to stand up for themselves, to remove that lid that limits their capacity to defend themselves.

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Lucio BuffalmanoKellvoStef

love it, great analysis

Way to start with a bang, Willem! ๐Ÿ™‚
Quote from Willem on August 26, 2020, 11:26 pm

There are very specific conditions within which peace and harmony can exist. Outside of that frame there is the abyss, the unlimited potential for chaos and destruction of human nature. The great wars of the last century and the concentration camps are very good examples of this. Those things have really happened, they were as real as the comfort of warm living rooms in the winter and the memories of mums kissing their children goodnight. And even though most of us aren't probably seeing that dark side of reality in such an extreme display, it is very naive to think that there isn't some sort of a continuity between those events and our daily life. It's probably much more likely that we are day after day seeing the same forces that lead to those disasters act in a much more subtle day in our own lives and in our own interactions with the people around us. We might not like that aspect of reality, but we don't get to choose what reality is. The best we can do is to manage reality to the best of our capabilities, or to ignore it and pay the price (and the bill always comes one way or another).

Very true.

Peace -as in the absence of major wars-, democracy, progress, rule of law, generally safe cities -yes, there are plenty of them in the world-, and basic human rights... These are not a given.
They have been very recent conquest, and the risk of slippage is ever-present.
In a way, reaffirming civilization is a balancing act and a responsibility for us all. Channeling the human darker side for value-adding pursuits, but also to have the fortitude to know better than looking at civilization and peace as "weak" -as it happens in some corners of the manosphere-.


Anyway, going back to the specific situation:

Yes, you make some great points.

There are two further risks to consider with the escalation of the professor.
In a way, he is caught between a rock and a hard place:

  1. When you strike a gangster, you become a gangster: you can expect some form of reprisal. That kid has to win back his honor, and you know what they say about cornered rats. The kid obviously had adults friends as well, and the professor is totally isolated. How bad it will be, the professor could not know at that point (in the movie, it was 4 punctured tires, and sugar in the engine -an old dickhead move-)
  2. By striking, you go illegal: when you strike a minor in front of countless eyewitnesses, you put yourself in a position in which you have basically already lost the case -together with the job and, possibly, pension-. That's the advantage of a gangster living within civilization. He lives in illegality and can resort to illegal means, but can also still pursue you legally

That doesn't necessarily mean that any escalation is a no-go, and we can maybe say that your reputation, with yourself as well as your social reputation, is worth the risks.
But still, those two risks should be accounted for.

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Stef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Guys, that girl at the end of the clip, shamelessly rubbing her tits on our good proffesor?

was that a seductive in your face power move or what?

Quote from Stef on August 27, 2020, 3:31 am

Guys, that girl at the end of the clip, shamelessly rubbing her tits on our good proffesor?

was that a seductive in your face power move or what?

Ehehe yeah, total seductive power move.

It's a movie of course, but if it was real life, it was either she was into him as a type of father figure, and/or she saw him and his social status with a "good job" -in certain areas a school teacher is a good job- as attractive from a resource point of view -plus, potentially, as a ticket out of there-.

It's not totally unrealistic, either. When some women feel that a guy needs more prodding and "encouragement", or that the man might be afraid of making a move, then they can ramp up their own seduction.

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Stef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?