Monday, August 24, 2020

'Junkie Jihadis'

Long story short, I was discussing the subject matter of my book (Fear and Fight: A New and Better Understanding of Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat) with a friend who served with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in Afghanistan and referred to Colonel John M. House's, 'Soldiers must overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield' (Why War? Why an Army? 2008). I said that this applies to equally to ADF personnel and  the Taliban militants they were fighting in Afghanistan. The ostensible explanation for how ADF personnel overcome their fear of death and injury on the battlefield is though courage, however, how do the Taliban militants do the same? My ADF friend immediately shot back with Taliban militants fight under the influence of drugs. 'What's going on here?'

The term 'junkie jihadis' is taken from an article written by Lukasz Kamienski titled, Junkie jihadis and the narcotic ways of war.’ Kamienski is also author of Shooting Up: A Short History of Drugs and War (2016). Kamienski would appear to support my ADF friend's assertion that Taliban militants/jihadis fight under the influence of drugs, however, the question, among many others, becomes, why?

One of the strategic uses of emotion to counter fear in war that Liaras and Petersen identify is the creation of anger. Sun Tzu also identifies this strategy in his The Art of War written some 2500 years ago when he explains to get soldiers to fight they need to be angered. Anger is the emotion of courage according to Biswas-Diener in Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver. Turning fear into anger in order to fight is also the principal strategy taught in women's self-defence.

Why would the Taliban militants/jihadis need to turn fear into anger in order to fight? Do they, in fact, need to overcome the fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield? After all, do they not have enough reason to be angry, to hate (which is an anger-emotion family member)? America and their allies invaded their country, killing their comrades, friends, family, and fellow countrymen, destroying their homes, and occupying their country for two decades. This in addition to their religious beliefs behind their jihadism.

The question then becomes, if they do not need drugs to overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield because anger and hate has replaced fear, why are they taking those drugs. And when I say drugs, I am referring to stimulants that are used to enhance combat performance (see Kamienski's Shooting Up). Not depressants or hallucinogenics, but stimulants. In their case 'captagon' which is an amphetamine based psychactive substance.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Warfighting - Required Reading for all Self-Defence Activities

Warfighting is the U.S. Marines basic philosophical manual that provides the authoritative basis of how they fight and how they prepare to fight. The first chapter in Warfighting concerns the nature of war and the human dimension. The material in that chapter is applicable to all violent encounters and all who prepare themselves or others to engage in a violent encounter by fighting. It should be mandatory reading for all of those people.
Since war is a violent enterprise, danger is ever present. Since war is a human phenomenon, fear, the human reaction to danger, has a significant impact on the conduct of war.
The same is true of all violent encounters. 'Fight Activities,' such as the military, law enforcement, martial arts, self-defence, and combat sports, teach fight. As I explain in Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat, fear impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. This is why the Warfighting manual instructs, 
Leaders must study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it.
It's not just Marine leaders that must study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it. It is anyone who is involved in preparing themselves or others to engage in a violent encounter. If you do not study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it, you are not teaching effective fight behaviour. You are not teaching effective self-defence.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

How Did George Floyd Die and Who is Directly Responsible?

We are very aware of who George Floyd is and the circumstances surrounding his tragic death given the near non-stop media coverage in since the video emerged of the incident.

It is a terrible look with the officer kneeling on Floyd's neck and his passing after eight minutes and x seconds. I hadn't given much thought to the specifics of the incident until a comment on Facebook yesterday which set my mind in curiosity mode.

How did George Floyd die and who is directly responsible?

You will recall that I have researched and written a book tentatively titled, The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques. A chapter in that book is dedicated to Shime Waza (strangulation techniques). The police call these techniques neck restraints or neck holds for obvious reasons.

There are two types of these techniques that target the neck. The either target the carotid artery(s) or the front of the neck. Applying pressure to the side of the neck occludes the carotid artery(s) reducing blood supply to the brain resulting in loss of consciousness in 10-12 seconds. Applying pressure to the front of the neck forces the tongue backward blocking the windpipe passage and depriving the body of oxygen.

Floyd remained conscious therefore it is unlikely that the knee of the officer on the neck occluded the carotid artery(s). Floyd continued to speak saying that he could not breathe, therefore, I could not see how the knee was producing pressure on the front of the neck forcing his tongue backward to block the windpipe passage and deprive the body of oxygen. In that case he should not have been able to speak. In any event, when I studied the photograph, and I won't reproduce it because there is no need to share this horrible image of his last moments more than it has been, the officer had his knee on the side of the neck and not the back or front.

I hypothesised that the officers sitting on his back prevented his lungs from expanding thereby rending it impossible for Floyd to breath. The knee on the neck was to prevent Floyd from squirming, which it did thus preventing him from relieving the pressure on his back. I hypothesised that it was the officers on Floyd's back that are directly responsible for Floyd's death and not the officer kneeling on his neck.

Turns out that the independent coroner concurs with my hypothesis. There were two autopsies conducted. The following is extracted from a New York Times article about the subject:

The criminal complaint supporting a murder charge for the officer, which referred to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s preliminary findings, said the autopsy had discounted traumatic asphyxia or strangulation as the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death.

The private autopsy by doctors hired by Mr. Floyd’s family determined that he died not just because of the knee on his neck — held there by the officer, Derek Chauvin — but also because of two other officers who helped pin him down by applying pressure on his back. All three officers were fired last week, as was a fourth officer at the scene.

There is more in the article supporting the second narrative.

The inability to breathe was not complete because apparently we have around 6mins worth of oxygen in our bloodstream without it being replaced.

And then there is EDS, 'excited delirium syndrome.' From my as yet unpublished book,
It has been suggested that sudden deaths that have occurred when a neck restraint has been applied by law enforcement officers may be explained through ‘excited delirium syndrome’ (EDS). 

The actual cause of death associated with EDS is not known, however, it is often linked to the level of catecholamines in the body.

DiMaio and DiMaio (2006) suggest that EDS deaths result from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia (irregularity in rhythm) caused by, in addition to the release of catecholamines due to the struggle to restrain the individual experiencing the excited delirium episode, the excited delirium itself triggering a release of catecholamines. DiMaio and DiMaio suggest that the highest levels of catecholamines occur approximately three minutes after cessation of the activity, therefore, EDS fatalities often occur after the struggle has taken place and the subject has been subdued. 

What are the ramifications associated with this narrative. I am no lawyer so this is in no way definitive. The kneeling officer is charged with 2nd degree murder. If he was not directly responsible for the death of Floyd he may be found not guilty. The two officers sitting on his back are charged with being accomplices. If they are directly responsible for Floyd's death they are not accomplices.

The State Attorney laid the charges and he is a politician before being a prosecutor. It would be politically difficult for him to amend the charges particularly that the optics convict the kneeling officer in the public's mind. If these officers are not convicted, riots will most definitely ensue. If they are convicted of these charges, innocent men of THESE charges may be being sent to prison (the emphasis for the benefit of those who will argue send them to prison nonetheless).

One of the outcomes of this situation is relevant for martial arts and combat sports. Police and politicians are responding to calls for change by banning the use of neck holds/restraints by police (even though they were not used in this case). France has come out and banned their use by police after the Black Lives Matter protests. These techniques are described as being dangerous whenever used. In my chapter I refer to a coroner who called for their ban in the 90s and referred to them as a 'lethal weapon' because they are capable of causing death whenever used.

If they are potential lethal weapons and can cause death whenever used, why are they not banned from being taught by martial arts and used in combat sports? In light of this argument/discussion, ANYONE teaching these types of techniques in martial arts or combat sports should morally and ethically, if not legally, consider their continued teaching and use of these techniques. That consideration would include being fully informed about the subject and these techniques. To the best of my knowledge my chapter is the most comprehensive study of the subject.

As luck would have it, as soon as I published this post I read this news article about a subject dying from EDS while being restrained by police officers:

“Mr McGlothen had underlying heart disease and clearly was suffering from excited delirium. The combination of these factors caused his death.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Fear and the COVID-19 War

Mike Anthony: Nurses take fear and dedication to the front line of ... 

War had been declared on COVID-19 and war time restrictions imposed.

What do professional warfighters have to say about fighting a war? The US Marines Warfighting manual has this to say about the human dimension in war:

Since war is a violent enterprise, danger is ever present. Since war is a human phenomenon, fear, the human reaction to danger, has a significant impact on the conduct of war. Everybody feels fear. Fear contributes to the corrosion of will. Leaders must foster the courage to overcome fear, both individually and within the unit. Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is the strength to overcome fear. Leaders must study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it.

The COVID-19 war is not a violent enterprise, however, danger is ever present. Fear, the human reaction to danger, is having a significant impact on the conduct of this war. We are all potential warfighters, however, there are those how are all ready on the front-line. We must all study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. All very 'positive' and motivating, however, it is just as much rubbish now as it was then. Of course there is something to fear - COVID-19 which has killed 75,000 and counting (although the Chinese seem to possess a different counting system).

Colonel John M. House in Why War? Why an Army? explains that fear is a natural response resulting from the instinct for self-preservation. 'Only a fool would face combat unconcerned for his safety.' We are seeing many fools in the COVID-19 war.

Don't fear fear as Roosevelt suggested. Fear is a gift according to Gavin de Becker in The Gift of Fear. Fear is a gift that is not to be feared.
Fear is an emotion that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Without fear we and the human race would probably not exist. When people advise us to trust our instincts, they are in fact advising us to trust fear for instinct is fear whispering in our ear.

Fear does not say lie down and die. Fear says there is danger, let's do something about it. Even if that something is freezing in place. Fear is always trying to protect us. As Fear says in the Oscar award winning movie Inside Out, 'All right! We did not die today, I call that an unqualified success.'

Fear and hope are opposite sides of the same coin. There is no fear without hope and no hope without fear. Fear and hope are are both anticipatory emotions in that they are emotional responses to something that might happen in the future. Uncertainty is a defining part of the emotions. Fear and hope are both attempting to make a bad situation better.

Fear is not our enemy. Fear is our ally. Always has been since the dawn of human existence. Get to know fear and make it your friend.

Where fear can become problematic is, as Arne Ohman puts it, when there is a conflict between evolutionary and cultural agendas. The evolutionary agenda is survival,. The cultural agenda is either something else other than survival or survival in a particular way (by fighting).

The Warfighting manual refers to courage to overcome fear. Courage is that nurse who is risking her life tending that COVID-19 patient and says to Fear, 'Thanks, but I've got this from here.' That nurse is courageous because without fear there is no courage. Fear enabled courage. Fear enabled courage by the decoupling of stimulus and response in emotion. This decoupling provides latency time where alternative actions may be considered in addition to the actions provided by nature.

This is not theory for me. I live with fear's close cousin, anxiety and on occasion I have been visited by fear's big brother, panic. I don't necessarily like this family, however, since I have no choice I've learned to live with them. They are not as scary as they first appear and they do have a bad reputation, however, they mean well.

When you study fear you get to know fear and you get to know how to cope with fear. The Warfighting manual is spot on in that respect and it is sound advice for all of us in this COVID-19 war.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Chemical Soldiers and Mushin no Shin

I was talking to a friend who served in Afghanistan about my work concerning fear, how it impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight, and the military's efforts in overcoming or counter fear in order to fight and fight effectively.

Colonel John M. House wrote in his Why War? Why an Army? that soldiers need to overcome the fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. How do our troops do that in Afghanistan? How do their adversary, the Taliban, do the same?

When I discussed my work and those questions with the abovementioned friend, he said that the Taliban fought under the influence of drugs.

This set of a 'What's going on here?' reaction in me which research psychologist Gary Klein explains in Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights is the curiosity pathway to gaining insight.

There were many questions posed by this reaction, however, at around the same time I was prescribed sertraline for my generalised anxiety disorder. Sertraline is one of the most highly prescribed medications to reduce anxiety, fear, and panic.

Fear (anxiety and panic) impinge upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. Sertraline is reqularly prescribed to reduce anxiety, fear, and panic. Why aren't the Army providing sertraline or similar medication to their troops to enhance their fighting performance? If the Army are not prescribing sertraline for their troops who can live and die based on their level of anxiety, fear, and panic, why are we being prescribed this medication?

Briefly looking at this issue, I came across the work of Dr. Richard Gabriel (Colonel, U.S. Army Ret.):

Gabriel explains that the next frontier in warfare is not technological but biochemical:

But what modern armies have in mind far surpasses anything tried in the past. Biology and chemistry have combined in the modern age to produce the science of biochemistry. Armed with this new knowledge, the military research establishments of the United States, Russia, and Israel have set for themselves the task of abolishing fear in the soldier to make him a more efficient killing machine. The next revolution in military power will occur not in weapons technology, but in biochemistry that will make it possible for soldiers to better endure the conditions of modern war. If the search is successful, and it almost inevitably will be, the fear of killing and death will be banished and with it will go man's humanity and his soul. The chemical soldier will become a terrifying reality.

It's a thought provoking read. The holy grail of military research is biochemicals that eliminate fear, anxiety, and panic, producing 'chemical soldiers' as Gabriel describes them. Without anxiety and fear war will become wars of attrition. We need anxiety and fear to retain our humanity.

What does Gabriel's work then say about the samurai's mushin no shin, mind of no mind, where warriors are trained to fight without fear or anger? The war of attrition based on mushin no shin, no fear, is dramatically portrayed in the final battle scene of The Last Samurai. Are the Japanese atrocities during WWII attributable to the successful training of mushin no shin?

Gabriel makes another interesting point in the context of my book in that the 'brave pill' will render military concepts such as bravery and courage obsolete when bravery and courage are conceived of as acting in spite of fear.

Needless to say, this has added another chapter to my book, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

An easy way to overvome fear in order to fight :)

I am currently working on the conclusion to Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. An interesting question has arisen.

Colonel John M. House explains that soldiers must overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield (Why War? Why an Army?). The way I describe it in my book (this week) is that fear impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. The same is true of all violent encounters.

I explain in the book that ironically, I had my first panic attack and was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder while researching and writing that book on the mechanism responsible for those disorders. While distressing and debilitating, this condition has enabled me to study our inherited survival mechanism from the inside out, which in turn enabled me to study our learned responses to a threat because they are often designed to thwart nature's survival efforts.

I have recently been prescribed sertraline. Sertraline is used to treat depression, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety disorders. It may decrease fear, anxiety, unwanted thoughts, and the number of panic attacks. In 2016, it was the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States with over 37 million prescriptions.

Soldiers must overcome their fear (and anxiety) of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. Fear and anxiety impinges upon a person's readiness and ability to engage in and succeed in a fight. If sertraline reduces or eliminates anxiety, fear, and panic, and is safe, why aren't soldiers and others such as front-line police officers given sertraline in order to counter fear and anxiety? Its legal, it just needs a prescription which I am sure is not an issue for the government. It'd be far easier and a lot cheaper than training such as stress exposure training that is designed to less negative reactions (anxiety and fear) under high stress conditions (combat) that impinge upon performance (fighting).

Women enroll in women's self-defence classes in order to reduce their anxiety and fear of being attacked. A big part of their training is overcoming fear in order to fight. Why not provide sertraline to manage that issue? No need to be threatened in training in order to learn to deal with fear.

Martial arts are supposed to teach ways to overcome or counter fear in order to fight. Sertraline would appear to take care of that problem.

A book on the short history of emotion suggests that these magic pills gets rid of Stoic and Buddhist teachings and discipline in terms of managing emotions, and of course you have to question the usefulness of psychotherapy given this magic pill deals with these issues. :)

It is an intriguing question. :) ... more so for me because if soldiers are not provided with sertraline given their line of work, why am I being prescribed sertraline to deal with my anxiety and panic disorders?