Status Seeking Show (SSS) – Rory Miller

If a young Threat brutally beats a foreign tourist in a random explosion of violence… it wasn’t random. It was just a surprise for the onlookers and the victim.


In a marginal society, like the criminal subculture, a reputation for violence is a very valuable thing. If people think you are crazy, apt to “go-off” they treat you with more deference, fear to push your buttons. It is the perfect example of Machiavelli’s observations on fear and love—both are nice, but if you have to pick one it is better to be feared than to be loved:


“Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, . . . and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”—Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince *


So how does one safely get this reputation? Beating on your allies, your own group, is rarely conducive to having them watch your back. It is counter-productive and dangerous, except at the very top of the social strata. The Big Dog, however, already has the reputation and actually puts his power in doubt by needing to show it.


Beating on enemies would work, but members of other groups have friends and, sometimes, long memories. That could easily escalate well beyond what you are prepared to deal with or want.

So how about victimizing someone traveling alone or at least with no large male companions? An outsider, but not an enemy. A relatively easy mark…

Understand this—the Status-Seeking Show can violate almost all of the rules of normal social violence and that is the point. The SSSer is trying to show his craziness, his willingness to break social rules. So they won’t necessarily attack someone of their own social level (the norm in the Monkey Dance). Beating a child or woman shows craziness; beating a superior—like shooting a cop or ambushing the boss, is taken as both crazy and brave, no matter how safely the ambush was set up.

They also have no need to follow the steps of the Monkey Dance by issuing a challenge. The SSS is not limited in damage like the normal MD, either. A savage beating, knifing, or killing all satisfy the Threat’s purpose.

Understand this—each type of violence serves a purpose. It might make no sense according to the way that you look at the world, but your worldview is small and limited and, most importantly, does not matter when someone is trying to kill you. The Threat’s worldview is the one that is calling the tune.

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