Keep Calm and Other Bad Advice

“No enemy is worse than bad advice.” ~Sophocles

Today was one of those interesting days when I got to watch several people under the guise of authority give a bunch of other people really bad advice. Bad advice is reaching epidemic proportions in this country. Thanks to the miracle of social media, every nut job with an opinion and a keyboard is out there pounding away with all sorts of recommendations on what to eat, how to sleep, who to sleep with, how to defend yourself and your freedom, how to exercise, and who’s advice you should or shouldn’t take.

For Example:

Bad Advice Example #1: “Stay calm”

We all know that panic is an unhealthy physical state that leads to irrational behavior, high blood pressure, excessive levels of stress hormones like cortisol, etc… One of the most common examples of bad advice is “stay calm.” For most people, “remaining calm” is actually “looking calm” or “acting calm.” This is a misappropriation of mental resources in a bona fide emergency. Instead of wasting effort and brain power trying to “look calm” which is just a form of denial, one should acknowledge their fear and stress and then move on to solving the problem. Avoiding panic is a very different thing altogether than remaining calm. The ability to do this is improved every time we experience a stressful situation. People in high stress careers can learn how to manage and use their stress or temporarily suppress it when expedient, but this takes time and stress inoculation to condition the mind and body to react appropriately in those tense situations they most frequently or are most likely to encounter in their profession, whether that be stock broker, race car driver, or emergency surgeon. In the midst of a crisis, whether that is a jet crashing into your high rise office building or something more mundane like a grease fire in your kitchen, the body’s natural physical reaction to stress will kick in, and that is OK! It’s there for a reason and can actually improve performance according to this January 6, 2014 PsyBlog article by Psychologist Jeremy Dean:

Bad Advice Example #2: “Buy a Shotgun”

Vice President Joe Biden is the source of some truly terrible sound bytes. One of the most infamous is his February 2013 statement in an online town-hall meeting that citizens concerned with self-defense should just “buy a shotgun.” He further recommends that people who suspect a burglar should fire a few blasts to scare them off. Within months, some people found out the hard way that taking the advice of someone in a place of authority may not be the greatest idea. For example the Florida woman sentenced to 20-years for firing a warning shot:

Don’t get me wrong; I like shotguns and will not shrink from using one when applicable. That said, shotguns are somewhat limited in application and there might be a better tool for the job, depending on what that is.

Today, while lurking around in the reloading section of a nearby guns and gear Mecca, (cue NSA monitoring), I heard a uniformed sales associate explaining to a small-framed female, who was looking for a firearm, that she needed a semi-automatic 12 gauge. There is so much wrong with this, but if you don’t know why this is a bad idea, I recommend you watch this excellent informative video, courtesy of ADCO firearms:

Bad Advice Example #3 “Hide under the table and try to negotiate…”

How anyone…ANYONE… in post April 20, 1999 America thinks it’s a good idea to hide under a table is beyond me, but let me give you the whole story. I watched a presentation today from a ”20+ year law enforcement SWAT professional…” who explained what steps someone should take for their own protection during a killing spree at their workplace. Of course the main options people have when faced with any hazardous situation are to escape or run away from it (such as an evacuation during a hazardous chemical spill), hiding from it (such as sheltering in a safe area during severe weather), or fighting the situation (using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire). These options are applicable to threats posed by violent individuals as well, and depending on the “expert” consulted, the order of those actions may vary. So our fine fellow today recommended that people should not flee from the scene, but lock themselves in their offices or classrooms, slide green postcards under the door to let responding law enforcement know that everything was A-OK in that room, shelter under desks or substantial furniture and if confronted by the attacker, try make eye contact, obey their demands and be accommodating so they begin to see you as a human being rather than a target. This is possibly the worst advice I’ve ever heard, and here’s why: Let’s go back to the Columbine library on April 20, 1999, where 52 students, 2 teachers and 2 librarians were “sheltering in place” during the rampage. By some accounts, the shooters shot out the glass windows to open the locked doors and entered the library where several students, who were hiding under desks, were executed at close range. What our “expert” seems to forget is that people who perpetrate these massacres have engaged in a pattern of thoughts and behaviors that have conditioned them not to care. In fact, someone cowering and pleading only bolsters their feeling of being god in that situation and encourages behavior that will accentuate that feeling, such as choosing who will live and who will die, which requires that some must die.

So… everyone has an opinion, but there is a difference between an “opinion” and an “educated opinion.” What do you base your opinions on? Feelings, emotions, assumptions? Or, do you do your homework, look at the statistics, study examples, conduct experiments, then do the mental gymnastics to figure out how all of those things affect your sphere? What you arrive at is then less of an opinion but a “conclusion” – which still may not be 100% accurate, but at least now you have some frame of reference other than “this dude who claimed to know about this sort of thing told me once…”

‎”Because society has trained us to believe that we can't protect ourselves, that we don't know the answers, that officials and professionals know what's best, We have come to believe that we will find certainty outside ourselves. We won't, of course, but we can find the illusion of certainty, particularly if that’s what we are willing to settle for.” - Gavin DeBecker

This last quote nails it on the head. We may have to tolerate the fact that other people are entitled to their opinions, but that doesn’t free us from the responsibility of studying and verifying the facts for ourselves. In the end, most people with an opinion are folks who think they have the answer to life’s great problems. This is denial again, because the so-called “problems” are life and no one gets out alive. You aren’t allowed to figure that out, of course, because then you may stop contributing to a system that farms you as a resource, that is designed to convince you that you can keep living indefinitely with distractions such as “free” health care, retirement accounts, “green” environmental policies … even emergency preparation and self-defense products and training. Don’t take my word for it, ask the “experts.” Am I suggesting these things are without benefit? Not at all! But keep them in perspective folks, they are no substitute for living. But, that’s just my opinion.