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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Playing Tag and Tit for Tat

Yesterday, I started out to clip Bow's nails. but he wanted to play chase, instead. So I decided to film our game of tag, and in the process, I forgot that I was still holding onto the scissors. So it turned out I was running with scissors, something you should never try at home!

I am probably not the best person at interpreting body language, but just as I insisted that Bow learn to spell out what he wants, he has always insisted that I should also try to read his body language. Over the years, even though I may still seem obtuse to Bow, I believe that I have gotten better at reading simple non-verbal cues -- not just Bow's. I have gotten better at paying attention to those things in humans, too.


Bow is a gentle playmate who is perfectly harmless if you respect his personal boundaries -- and if you insist that he respect yours. But most of that is not something we do with language alone. Yes, saying "no" when you don't like something is important, but if you don't back up that "no" with immediate action, then nobody -- least of all Bow --will take it seriously.

This is something that I found really difficult to explain to many interns, and it is one of the reasons I am reluctant to advertise an opening for an intern and caretaker for Bow. People have not been trained in the simple rules of tit-for-tat, and so they expect other countries not to invade them out of the kindness of their hearts, other people not to harass them just because it is not nice, and everybody to act PC -- or else, they will get a lecture ten years later about how they really hurt someone. And if they find that this does not work for them -- which invariably it doesn't -- they hold seminars and workshops on world peace, sexual harassment and anti-bullying.

No bully will ever be stopped unless we stand up to him right then and there, in the moment, and no rape was ever prevented by crying foul long after the statute of limitations has run. I'm sorry, but life does not work that way.

With Bow, as with every other person I know, you have to let him know right away if he's crossed a line. He respects boundaries, but you need to clearly signal where they are. If he does something you don't like, you have to respond strongly, but firmly, neither over-reacting nor just letting it happen. I tried to explain some of this to my interns years ago in this hub:

https://hubpages.com/animals/So-you-want-to-work-with-Bow

Right now, in the current political atmosphere, I do not feel I can impose the rules outlined above on anyone who has been socialized to fit in to today's society. Most people have been trained to submit to a violation of their boundaries, and then to complain about it afterwards. This policy leads to an escalation of the initiation of aggression over time throughout the society. When I try to speak out about this, I am shut down on social media.

I think maybe the problem goes all the way back to kindergarten. Everybody knows the Golden Rule, but it is being taught all wrong to American children right now. They are told to treat others in the way they would like to be treated, but they are not told what to do if others do not treat them that way. The tit-for-tat part has been left out. Here's how it was taught to me. When I was going off to kindergarten in Israel, my mother said to me:  "If anybody hits you, Aya,  you hit them right back -- only harder." I didn't particularly want to. I'm not a violent person. But she explained that it wasn't about what I wanted. She said it was my duty as a good person, because it would help other people, too. If everybody lived by this rule, I think it would save us all a lot of trouble.

If you nip aggression in the bud, it does not have to escalate. You have to react in real time to any small breach of your personal boundaries. At the same time, it is more than okay to engage in appropriate play, where you recognize friendly overtures. Bow loves to play tag, and you can watch the video and see the light way in which he does tag me, and you can see from his body language that he knows it's a game.

  Bow is a chimpanzee. He does have aggressive instincts. He's a natural bully, but he is also really easy to manage, and a joy to interact with, if you understand and properly apply tit-for-tat.

2 comments:

  1. I have a hard time confronting people when they put me down. I wish I was better at it, and most people are, but it is something I detest the most. I know that is not strong and how people want to be, but sometimes I just avoid certain situations, even when I know I could confront people who speak down to me. I just know certain people are not logical at all, and they could miscontrue my words.

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    1. Hi, Julia. I understand what you are saying. Sometimes I avoid confrontation, too, when I feel it is possible. But where it is not possible, I have to stand firm. I am talking about things that involve not being taken advantage of. I know it is hard, but it is easier to make a small correction before someone crosses the line than to let things get totally out of hand.

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