Cooper codes for the rest of us

By » Wed, November 9 2011
4007174312 fa71823436 450x299 Cooper codes for the rest of us

Condition Whuh?

Hang around gun people long enough or read around survival blogs for about 5 minutes and and you’ll hear the phrase “condition white”, usually said with scorn. Since these people are often ranting, it’s a bad idea to ask them what they’re talking about and prove them right. Luckily, we have the internet.

Well, sort of. Because quick googling around returns, for me, stuff that seems a little extreme, seems founded on fear, or comes from a weird mindset.

Part of the reason for this is cultural. People who think “tactically” know that their ideas are often scoffed at by people who think we live in civil times and that a “tactical self defense mindset” is paranoid, grandiose, or otherwise nutty. So the tactical people react by establishing a niche culture and writing stuff about sheep in wolves’ clothing wearing robin’s eggs inside a Batman omelet.

Jeff Cooper wrote lots of stuff on self defense. One of the bits I’ve found really helpful in my day to day (not necessarily in a defense context) life is his color codes for states of mind. It’s just good to have a name for some of this stuff… it helps you get a hold of it for thinking and/or talking about. Here are Cooper’s codes, as I would describe them.

Condition White (Oblivious) – You’re texting, reading, preoccupied, daydreaming, whatever. You are mostly unaware of what’s going on around you. This can apply when you’re walking, driving, doing an incredibly boring job, etc. Usually you’re not in condition white if you’re doing something new or in a new environment. Think of it as your “home state”, where you’re reasonably safe from harm and can let your brain check out.

Condition Yellow (Mindful) – You’re paying attention to your surroundings. If you’re walking, you’re looking all ways when crossing streets, you’re not stepping in dog shit, you’re noticing the people around you (“What is that lady doing in the alley?” “Looks like that ginger dude is panhandling in front of the grocery store again.” “Hey, s/he has great legs.”). You tend to naturally fall into this state when you’re in a new place or situation, like going to a job interview or following street directions to a house you’ve never been to before, or when you’re meeting a friend in public and therefore keep checking all the doors.

Condition Orange (Alert) – You’re zeroed in on something that requires your attention. You see that someone parked on a hill and their car is beginning to roll. Or there’s a dude acting hinky. A mangy stray is coming toward you, teeth bared, or that hot barista you’ve had your eye on for months makes eye contact and approaches you on the street, teeth bared. This is where you’re thinking specifically about what’s going on and how you may have to take action. You start thinking things like “if that car rolls another inch, I’m going to run over there and try to get it stopped while yelling for the owner to come back” or “I wonder if I should call the cops about that hinky guy lurking in the alley… he looks like he may be a meth head” or “I think the barista is baring her teeth in a sexy/playful way… I’m going to try to get her number.”

Condition Red (Action) – The hypothetical scenarios and decisions you’ve been running while in condition orange must be acted on. You’re running to stop the rolling car or crossing the street to get away from the mangy stray. Or the hinky guy runs at you screaming about how you’re controlling his brain via your goddamn iPhone and you sprint down the block toward the grocery store.

Personally, I try to spend as much time in condition yellow as I can, mostly because I think the world is fascinating and interesting to watch. Today, I was balancing on a railing near my neighborhood. As I came down off the rail and looked up at the buildings around me, I noticed some guys watching. They waved and made little triumphant gestures at me, so I decided to go talk to them. We had a cool chat and I’m welcome to drop by any time. And all I had to do was look up a little.

In the future, I’ll post up some ideas and games to help you develop a mindful baseline. Right now, or tomorrow morning, you can try one idea: manipulating traffic during your commute.

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