Infringing on the rights of another
The idea of trespass—to infringe on the privacy, time, space, or attention of another—lies at the root of several negative emotions, violence, and turmoil. The person trespassed against often considers it as a form of loss. The trespass can take many forms, some much less tangible than others. Trespass recognizes that your freedom ends where mine begins, and symmetrically, my freedom ends where yours begins. We all establish boundaries that we don't expect others to cross.
- Intrusion, invasion
- Overstepping boundaries
Roots: Middle English trespas transgression, offense
Breach, encroach, impinge, infringe, intrude, invade, transgress, and violate are all close synonyms for trespass.
Your own idea of entitlement, related to your self image, will establish the boundaries of trespass. For example, if you feel you are entitled to peace and quiet, then you will evaluate noise as a trespass, and be prone to anger in response to the noise. The resulting anger can then be traced back to identify the trespass and therefore the boundary and entitlement. Dignity—the quality of worth and honor intrinsic to every person—establishes basic entitlements that are the birthright of every human. The boundaries of dignity are never to be breached and trespassed.
Human needs establish another boundary that is essential to uphold. Denying the needs of another is the essence of violence.
Forms of Trespass
An intrusion can take many forms. Here are examples of territory people may consider to be their own, not to be infringed upon:
- Body: Touching, restraining, (unwelcome) sexual advances, assault …
- Peace of Mind: Abuse, anguish, hurt, insult, torment, taunting, nagging, harangues, tirades, doubt, shame, obligation, guilt, fear, anxiety, terrorism, interruption, annoyance, nagging
- Agreement, trust: Broken promises,
- Limbic Traces: destroying fond memories, replacing positive associations with negative ones, food aversions,
- Beliefs: Lies, religious proselytizing, propaganda, fallacious, false, or misleading communications.
- Freedoms: Restricting freedom of movement, speech, beliefs, religion, access to (non private) information, assembly, rights, . . .
- Tranquility: Loud noises, dogs barking, telemarketing calls, email spam, computer viruses
- Status: Insults, diminished competency or diminished autonomy,
- Intrusion, unauthorized disclosure,
- Home: entering my house uninvited, or staying too long, or snooping around
- Land: Entering my land, crossing my land, squatting, usurping my land, destroying our land.
- Possessions: using, taking, borrowing, stealing, and damaging my stuff.
- Intellectual property: patents, copyrights, trademarks, presenting my ideas as your own, plagiarism, brand loyalty (Coke is better than Pepsi)
- Shared Property: Limiting access (e.g. closing, charging, crowding) to the park, waterways, highways . . .
- Shared Resources: Air or water pollution, Toxic waste disposal, natural resources (waste of gasoline, oil, water, clean air, forests, wilderness areas), water rights, aesthetic resources (view of mountains, sunset, landscape, destroying forest . . .) cultural resources (great art, historic buildings, religious icons. . .), Gene pool (genocide), Public Opinion,
- Highways: Road rage (trespassing in my lane, intersection, or right to travel at full speed),
Attention (Limiting Access):
- Attention: (interfering with or reducing time with or attention from) mom, the boss, the romantic prospect, the doctor . . .
- Publicity: Talk time on TV or Radio, editorial space in newspapers or magazines, Google rank,
- Interruption: Disrupting my train of thought, dialogue, air time, or time in a relationship . . .
- Waiting: make me wait for you, missing an appointment, slow response, cut in line, taking up my free time, waste my time, boredom, ask me to work on the weekends.
- No one has a right to “first place” but that is often forgotten in the heat of competition or battle. Dominance contests and various status contests are fought to claim the top position in a variety of dimensions.
Trespass, Anger, Coercion, Revenge, and Violence
One definition of anger is the “response to trespass” A common, but unfortunate, pattern is:
- “A” trespasses on “B” (or “B” perceives a trespass by “A”) this can happen if an egotist has claimed more territory than he is entitled to. E.g. Hitler believed the Jews were trespassing on the Arian race.
- “B” gets angry at “A” and feels compelled, or at least justified, in retaliating. Because the loss or offence “B” perceives is often greater what “A” intended—called the “magnitude gap”—the intensity of the retaliation is usually increased. This is the basis for escalation.
- Resentment breeds retaliation, often called revenge. Retaliation involves trespass. Anger breeds more anger. The magnitude gap causes escalation.
- Anger leads to violence and the escalation is underway.
This cycle has to be broken in the early stages: don’t trespass, or don’t retaliate for trespass. This is easier said than done. Understanding aggression is essential to establishing peace.
Claiming ground, marking ground, and standing ground establish boundaries to identify and protect what we consider to be our own territory. Our approach may be bold, selfish, and aggressive or more timid, tentative, generous, and submissive. It is best to seek a balance somewhere in between.
We have many options for how we establish our boundaries and how we react when others encroach on those boundaries. The territory we claim may be small or large, and may encompass many or only a few of the dimensions listed above. The boundaries may be well marked and unmistakable, or they may remain hidden, perhaps until they are encroached.
We have many different ways to stand our ground. We may react instantly and forcible when any boundary is infringed, or we may be more tolerant, or at least less dramatic, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Encroachment can quickly lead to conflict, and there are many approaches for resolving conflict. A sensible response to intrusion is to respond quickly, predictably, clearly, and proportionally. This escalation may proceed through these stages:
- Claiming the territory we believe is ours.
- Describing, marking, and advertising the boundaries of our territory as we establish them.
- An announcement, clarification, or reassertion providing increased visibility for the boundary when it is first approached or threatened. This reasserts our claim to our territory.
- A clear and friendly warning when a boundary is first crossed.
- A more stern warning if a second breach occurs, and
- Forceful action to defend against further trespass.
Many boundaries established by culture or custom are assumed to be obvious. For example, many adults expect to be address as Mr. or Mrs. to acknowledge respect for their age. People holding advanced educational degrees, professional standing, or other forms of status or stature expect their titles to be known, understood, and always used correctly. However, many people may not know that custom, be unaware of the title, or may not believe it is useful. This can often lead to misunderstandings and unintended insults when such an invisible but assumed-to-be-understood boundary is not respected.
Notice how a person claims territory, marks territory, and stands their ground. Is their approach based on helpful symmetrical principles or on power-based or manipulative asymmetrical principles? Do they ensure there is enough for everyone or do they claim more than their fair share? Do they mark boundaries in a helpful way, or obscure boundaries to set traps? Are they violent and belligerent when they stand their ground, or do they acquiesce, submit, and relinquish legitimate rights at the slightest challenge, or do they escalate gradually and proportionally to protect what is rightfully theirs?
Only a symmetrical approach to claiming and protecting rights can provide fairly and sufficiently for all.
- Your freedom ends where mine begins.
- "Freedom is the recognition of necessity" ~ Friedrich Engels
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