Saturday, December 10, 2011

Don't risk eating crow

Sam Harris' post (via RP) detailing practical steps to take and things to think about to minimize one's risk of becoming a victim of physical violence is a worthwhile read. A snippet:
Take this maxim to heart: Self-defense is not about winning fights with aggressive men who probably have less to lose than you do.
At the risk of invoking the naturalistic fallacy, I'll point out that Harris' prudent advice is not just applicable to humans, but exists instinctively in other parts of the animal kingdom. When it's time to stone the crows, take a cue from how raptors deal with them:

A red-tailed hawk, of course, could dispatch a crow in as instantly as it could get a talon on one. But the payoff is nil (for whatever reason, birds of prey don't eat them--vultures won't even take them as carrion), and it risks injury in doing so, especially if it's being pestered by a murder. An injury to the hawk is potentially fatal because of how he feeds (like a prominent lawyer being arrested for escalating beyond the legal notion of self-defense and making some hothead pay for trying to be a tough guy). The crow mostly scavenges so doesn't need to be as careful, even if he's aware of the hurt that the hawk could put on him (and he's probably unaware of it, anyway). The hawk has nothing to prove and nothing to gain from engaging the crows, so he just evacuates.

Parenthetically, the second part of the video is fictional narration by the person who captured it. This isn't the same bird (if it's a hawk at all, it's not a red-tail) and it doesn't give chase to the crow, it's simply leaving its perch as soon as the coast, er, air, is clear.


Olave d'Estienne said...

So what is self-defense about? Living away from black people?

Ed Tom Kowalsky said...

That, and avoiding the bar-and-club scene, are probably the two most effective methods of avoiding physical altercations. If you live in Casper, Wyoming and drink at home, you won't be going to fist city. If you live in deepest, darkest DC and hang out at the corner bucket of blood long enough, you'll wind up in a meat wagon, or put somebody else in one.

Olave d'Estienne said...

Oh, yeah, of course. I recently moved away from a more diverse area to upper New England, but I never was in bars much.

What I want is better self-defense skills, and exactly the right level of confidence, not a sky-high level of confidence. I'd like to keep a little fear around to keep my from turning into Charles Bronson (i.e. to keep my son from turning into an orphan).

I like Audacious' approach here. Animal analogies are memorable and instructive.

Noah172 said...


Are you a fan of Harris? He's a real jerk. I get it that you are not religious, but Harris is an enemy of alt-right types like us.

Ed Tom Kowalsky said...

A bit off topic, but I'd really like to hear definitions of alt-right. I'm not sure if I'm an alt-righty or not.

Audacious Epigone said...


Heh, I don't claim to be an expert on self-defense, but I guess the take-home message from this post is that the adage "the best defense is a good offense" usually doesn't apply to encounters with thugs and hot-heads.


That's a good question. I thought AltRight might offer a concise definition, but it doesn't. The phrase seems to generally be used as a way of contrasting with the propositionalist, egalitarian, globalist neocon right. Are some strains of libertarian thought included? What is the difference between white nationalism and the alternative right? It's something I should probably ponder a bit more, because I'm comfortable with the "alt right" label, yet I don't think of myself as a white nationalist, but instead a race realist.


No, not really. Like Richard Dawkins, I'd have a lot more respect for him if he tackled real taboos, instead of pretending like the so-called 'religious right' is where the real power center is and receiving accolades from sympathetic media outlets for making a boatload of money by stepping on a mouse.

But I have tremendous respect for Randall Parker, and he suggested I read Harris' post, so I did!

Orthogonally, I prevailed on my sister to name her son Noah. It passes the biblical test--that is, it's at zero risk of ever becoming a girl's name--and it's more popular now than it has ever been before (so my nephew won't have an old man's name when he's a kid).

Noah172 said...

"I'd have a lot more respect for [Harris] if he tackled real taboos"

He's a character straight out of The Culture of Critique. He has made a career writing screeds pathologizing: 1) politically right-of-center, traditionalist white Christians; and 2) Muslims at war with Zionism. The SWPL in him (his father was a Quaker goy) drools over "Eastern spirituality." What a joke.

Re: the name Noah

When I was born (1981) it was #200-something in popularity for newborn boys. I never met another Noah until I was in college. The stats I have seen show that it started its ascent up the charts about 1994. I have wondered what set it off (that Noah Wyle guy on ER?). Only in recent years has it rocketed to the top. My wife and mother tell me it has something to do with a chick flick called The Notebook.

Ed Tom Kowalsky said...

Funny you should mention the term "race realist," AE. That is the very term I've coined to describe myself.

Audacious Epigone said...

Great minds, good sir, great minds!

Van said...

"the adage "the best defense is a good offense" usually doesn't apply to encounters with thugs and hot-heads"

Any legit martial arts instructor teaches that the best way to win a fight is to not be in it in the first place. Look at it this way: the thug wants to beat you up. You don't want him to beat you up. Any course of action that prevents him from beating you up means you've won.

bbartlog said...

"he's probably unaware of it, anyway"
Crows are insanely smart, for birds. I'm sure they know. But having seen a few of these aerial confrontations myself, I think the crows have an edge in aerial maneuverability that makes it almost impossible for the hawk to get at them. The hawk is a more efficient glider, and far faster when it stoops, but it can't wheel and flutter and turn nearly fast enough to catch the pesky crows in midair. Of course the crows in turn can't do anything much to the hawk except annoy the hell out of it. So it's not a case of the hawk avoiding the fight so much as it not even really being able to start one.

Audacious Epigone said...


I don't recall seeing falcons (other than kestrels) ever being mobbed, so that makes sense, because peregrines and prairie falcons are definitely capable of blanking crows' maneuvering (as this awesome falconry video shows).

Does the same apply to red-winged blackbirds and other mobbers? They aren't very agile in flight, but then crows and ravens aren't either, but they're capable of changing altitude pretty quickly. I wonder, too, if a hawk turns aggressive (as I'd assume immature ones must do from time to time), do the crows tend to back off, or just confidently avoid it? I'd be surprised if it is the latter.