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A Proportionate Response

Saturday, May 27, 2006
On my mind lately has been the concept of proportional responses and their value. Here's how I view the topic and my take on the idea:

First, let us examine the disproportionately low response (or the "turn-the-other-cheek" response.) Imagine if someone steps on your foot. You, hurt, demand an apology. If they did so accidentally they apologize and life is good. If they did it purposefully and don't apologize, then further action is justified. The act of demanding (and accepting) an apology defuses a situation.

Then, there's the proportionate response (or "eye-for-an-eye" response.) Someone steps on your foot. Accidental or not, you decide to step on their foot in response, since they did it to you first you're more than justified. This action doesn't defuse the situation, but since they did it first you're even.

Finally, we have the disproportionately high response (or the "you-have-insulted-me-now-you-must-die" response.) Imagine someone were to step on your foot. Accidental (or not), you decide to punch them in the nose and insult their mother. They either did it on purpose and any retribution is justified or they were careless and need to be taught a lesson. In either case, this is an escalating response which provokes further action in the other person.

My personal philosophy is, for the most part, to engage is disproportionately low responses. It's just my way, really. I feel (again, for the most part) that if everyone were to engage in "defusing actions" there would be less conflict in the world. But that's just my opinion.


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