Welcome to the Jungle

“Welcome to the jungle it gets worse here every day
Ya learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play
If you hunger for what you see you’ll take it eventually
You can have everything you want but you better not take it from me

Welcome to the Jungle by Guns ‘n’ Roses

In the English language when we wish to convey a situation that is outside the boundaries of what we consider to be civilization we often compare it to “the jungle”. The picture that forms is of a place that is wild and untamed by human hands, where only the strong survive and kill or be eaten is the only rule to the game. Human beings pretty quickly realized that the law of the jungle wasn’t terribly beneficial for the development of our species and developed what we think of as civilization and associated rules of civilized conduct to allow people to live together without smashing each other’s head in on a regular basis.

The trouble is that the conditioned expectations of civilized people don’t work in the jungle…and there are a fair number of our fellow men who reject the expectations of civilization altogether.

Let’s say that you see someone scattering litter in a public space. In a civilized society that is a socially unacceptable behavior that warrants some form of intervention. Civilized people, you see, do not scatter garbage all over the place and so one civilized person may approach another reasonably civilized person and use the tools of shame and social convention to cause the offending litterer to clean up their garbage and not repeat this behavior.

This approach only works, though, with another reasonably civilized person who lives more or less by the expectations of civilization. Someone who outright rejects these social expectations is not likely to interpret a well meaning attempt to prevent litter as someone performing an act of good citizenship. A couple visiting Denver found this out the hard way a couple of days ago.

“Mitch” and his fiance saw some teenagers littering and, according to the reporting, tried to convince the teenagers to “do the right thing.” This used to be a pretty common thing in America’s past. Communities were often small and people knew each other well enough that misbehaving kids/teenagers involved in minor mischief were often called on the carpet by other adults in the community. Note the term, there…used to be.

These days if you are about to interact with a stranger who is behaving in a socially unacceptable manner, even if they are a juvenile (often especially if they are a juvenile) it’s rather dangerous to assume that they accept the same code of civilization you do. While you might never react to someone challenging you about littering by trying to beat them to death, you cannot make the assumption that the other guy has the same reluctance to use violence on you. In fact, it’s a pretty fair bet that if the person performing the socially unacceptable action is in a group of peers participating in the same action or cheering it on, it’s highly likely that good natured attempts to get them to “do the right thing” will be met with…well:

….and then they will try to kick your head in.

We don’t live in the world as it should be. We live in the world as it is. In a perfect world obnoxious punks littering and causing trouble would be educated in the error of their ways, and if they got violent:

That isn’t how the world we live in works.

There is an old Polish proverb that translates roughly to “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” In other words, it’s not my problem. A group of rough looking teenagers littering is not your problem. Making it your problem may well invite far more trouble into your life than you can possibly handle, and for what reward? If things get violent and you lose the fight, you face the possibility of death or grave injury. If things get violent and you win the fight, you get to be the guy who punched/stabbed/shot a teenager over “littering”.

In this case, “Mitch” lost the fight and while he was laying on the ground bleeding he discovered that police response was 15 minutes away…a large chunk of that because dispatchers apparently mishandled the call. He likely thought he was in a popular tourist area in Denver…but when the wrong crowd shows up it’s not a popular tourist area in Denver anymore. It’s the jungle.

Do you know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby!

I would advise against trying to bring civilization to the jungle on your own. Your chances of success are pretty low, but your chances of screwing up your future (assuming you get to have one) are pretty high. It is, quite simply, not worth it.

1 Comment

  1. One of the most important lessons I had the opportunity to learn, fortunately early in the journey to adulthood, was to ask myself who owns this problem?; if it’s not me, what obligation, if any, do I have to correct it?

    I tell my CCW students the reason to carry a gun is that, sometime, all of your best efforts at avoiding trouble may fail. When that happens it’s “game on” with no quarter given but if you avoid playing you won’t lose, for all values of “lose.”

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