Eight or ten years ago, if some nut leaped up waving a knife during the commercial flight you were on and allowed as how he was hijacking the plane to Cuba, the conventional wisdom was to sit tight and do nothing. Eventually, the plane would land somewhere, the loon would try to negotiate something with somebody on the ground, and if they couldn't come to terms, The Unit would show up, spike his ass, and most, if not all, of the passengers would walk away unharmed. Most of the time.
9/11 changed that. Those terrorists flatly ruined the business of jet hijacking for fun and profit. Haven't seen one in the U.S. since, have we?
The conventional wisdom was found wanting. Men who would sit quietly and wait for the authorities to deal with the situation to avoid maybe being slashed bloody realized that if the choice might be between facing a man with a boxcutter or slamming into a skyscraper at three hundred miles an hour, that was a no-brainer.
What gives a man or three or five men with short knives control over a couple hundred people not armed that way is fear. The best knife-fighter who ever lived can't beat a group of terrified passengers throwing everything at him that isn't nailed down. Imagine twenty briefcases, ten laptops, fifty iPods, shoes, bookbags, carry-0ns, empty booze bottlets, flying at you from all directions at the same time. That boxcutter going to stop them? Or the stampeding herd behind them?
The passengers will roll over him like the tide does a sand castle. A long slash can be stitched up. And even if you get wounded fatally but manage to take the guy down, at least all those men, women, and children who survive to land will remember you forever. Going gently into that good night is not high on my list, nor, I suspect, is it going to be something a hijacker can depend on ever again.
People are going to go down swinging. I think that hearkens back to a less-civilized age, and maybe it's not such a bad thing. I might go to hell, pal, but you are going to be holding the door open for me when I get there ...
The reason the old western sheriff can hold off the lynch mob with his double-barreled coach gun is not that he can take them all, it's that nobody wants to be first to eat the buckshot and somebody will be. But if he is planning on herding every body into a cell and then setting the place on fire? Different game.
That was a lesson learned. Sometimes, you have to take responsibility for yourself -- the authorities aren't going to get there in time.
If you are at home at night and you hear somebody thumping around in the other room who isn't supposed to be there, conventional wisdom says, shut the door, call the police, and keep an eye and your gun trained on the door until help arrives.
But -- if you have a small child in a bedroom down the hall, you aren't going to do that, are you?
No parent I know would. You will be going to collect your kid, and any advice to the contrary simply isn't going to play. And even people who don't have little ones at home might find themselves toodling down the hall, pump shotgun in hand.
Sometimes, a man -- or a woman -- has gotta do what they gotta do ...