The piñata theory of self-defense

published May 05, 2023

More accurately described as the piñata theory of surrender to violent monsters.

The piñata theory of self-defense
It's a piñata! Don't be the piñata!

In most Western countries, an alarming number of people blindly adhere what I'm going to call the piñata theory of self-defense (a term originally coined by Devon Stack).

What is the piñata theory?

The piñata theory is a specific form of pacifism that posits three main points:

  1. if you are about to become a victim of violence, your only job is to be the piñata — you must let your aggressors beat you up savagely until you "cough up the goodies" (your phone, cash, shoes... maybe even your genitals or your life);
  2. you should under no circumstance attempt any resistance to the violent aggressors, much less any kind of effective resistance (e.g. the use of brass knuckles, a knife, a taser or a gun);
  3. anything effective you do which thwarts the violent aggressors and causes them to come out losing in the attack — e.g. you drop one of them with a gunshot — is automatically evil of you, and should be prosecuted much more harshly than the actions of your aggressors would have been.

Piñata theory is a cursed, abominable, malevolent moral belief.

Most decent people who understand violence — in particular those who have been injured, robbed, or mutilated by attackers — fall more on the side of "if you come at me with a toothpick, you just brought a toothpick to a gunfight" ethics.  This understanding is often expressed as the moral conclusion that you and other peaceful people around you always take precedence over violent attackers, and aggressors aren't gonna stop themselves, so to be consistent with non-aggression someone must stop the aggressor.  This is the only internally consistent theory of common-sense ethics regarding personal aggression and defense, and it's so well-understood there's a meme that perfectly summarizes it: "fuck around, find out".

In contrast to that, piñata theory is an article of faith almost exclusively held by people who have never had the everliving daylights beaten out of them.  It is a luxury belief for the privileged who have not and will never need to understand aggression and injury at the hands of another human being.  Anyone who has been beaten up by another person knows adhering to the piñata theory is suicide with extra steps, if you ever run the material risk of being brutalized again.

The infallible test to spot piñata theorists

It's easy to spot how piñata theorists are full of shit. How, you ask?  Piñata theorists nearly always accuse the  defender of evil deeds; however, they almost never apply the same ethical standard of conduct to the violent aggressors.

If you see anyone engage in this selective blame/apologia game, that is an extremely effective tell that someone is a piñata theorist.

Common objections of piñata theorists to self-defense

Piñata theory advocates often bring up the belief that defense is the monopolistic role proper solely of the State, thus by defending yourself you are misappropriating that role of the State for yourself.  You have to wait for a cop to show up, don't you know?  You might have noticed that the motive of objection here is really that your self-defense is simply doing the job that the State is supposedly tasked to do but failed to do.  The piñata theorist — a statist as he almost always is — is angry at you because your actions prove how worthless the State's false promise of security really is.

Another variant of this sophism is the common objection that defending yourself (in this or that manner) is illegal.  This common objection, true or false, only serves to underscore how selectively pro-crime the piñata theory adherent is, as they almost never independently object in this way to your attackers' criminality.  They care very little about illegality when it comes to your aggressor — but they care a whole lot more when you defend yourself in an allegedly illegal manner.  This curious inconsistency holds whether we grant the piñata theorist the benefit of the doubt regarding claims of legality — which is not a distinction he necessarily deserves, as often it's 100% legal to engage in self-defense, yet the piñata theorist still recalcitrantly lies about it being illegal.

Piñata theorists also often bring up this third variant of the same objection: "you should have used proportional force". This is, of course, a thinly-veiled demand for you to let yourself be robbed, maimed or killed — you have a split-second decision to make, and the piñata theorist is asking you to deliberate at length on how much force exactly you should be using to defend yourself.  Ha!  Examples: the piñata theorist posits you should only be allowed the use of a knife to defend against a stabber, or you should never shoot an assailant center-mass — only on the leg or the arm.  Farcical!  In plain English, any force of yours that stops a serious aggression and prevents any potential or further injury is almost by definition the necessary level of force.  If an assailant comes at you with a bat or a knife, you're perfectly justified to blow his chest open with a bullet, legally or not; you don't have to wait until you're dying to shoot him!

You must be smart and outright reject the piñata theorist's excuses as the perverse sophisms they are; even if you refuted his excuses, he will surely come up with any other objection anyway — for at the core of piñata theory lies a simple yet ugly fact: the piñata theorist, consciously or otherwise, simply wants you dead.  Whatever "empathy" and "concern for rights" the piñata theorist claims to have, is not reserved for you: it's exclusively for your street mugger, thief, rapist and executioner.

What's the takeaway regarding piñata theory?

The truth is that most people who call themselves "peaceful" aren't.  What they are, is inoffensive, cowardly, powerless, and unwilling to come to terms with these facts about themselves.  Piñata theory is just another coping mechanism for this kind of people.

Reject piñata theory.  It's dumb, it's wrong, it's evil, and it causes death.  If someone comes at you with violence, don't be the stupid piñata — be the last man standing instead.