When a person comes to attack you physically, the choice is clear and there is no doubt as to whether or not you have the right to defend yourself. What you choose to do from that point on is up to you as an individual. However, a direct threat is a direct threat, and even monks throughout history have trained themselves in the martial arts for many reasons, including to defend themselves against would be aggression from the likes of muggers attacking traveling monks, individual thieves seeking to steal valuable items from monasteries, warlords/government's fearful of their influence, the same sorts of people looking to steal items of worth to enrich themselves or their governments and even to defend the innocent and weak from intrigue or destabilization or torture or terrorism or perhaps even tyranny.
When the attacks are not physical, the line and obviousness of how and where you should attack can be much less easy to agree on. The very idea of whether or not something constitutes an attack can be seen as relative, and different people looking at the same situation may see things from perspectives that uniquely dissimilar.
That can especially count for situations involving harassment. The person experiencing the harassment may be dealing with things that happen mostly when others aren't looking, for example. So the few small things others in the same environment, but that aren't privy to all the harassment, might see, may very well appear innocuous.
It can happen that a person may be of a certain racial, ethnic, religious, lifestyle, sexual orientation or national background that makes them particularly sensitive or aware of certain kinds of treatment and insults that others simply are ignorant of. Hence, when the harassment occurs people in the same environment just don't see the big deal.
For instance, there could be a situation where a person of Serb background would be constantly harassing a person of Bosnian background at a workplace here in the US. The person of Serb background could easily make subtle cultural references to places and events the Bosnian worker would understand, but no one else would. The person of Bosnian descent might understand the harassment aimed at him in the form the constant side comments resulting in defamation via aspersions that a person would need a certain geopolitical and ethnic familiarity in order to understand. Thus, persons not from the region – I this case both people's coworkers – would not get what was being said and thus not be able to link certain actions taken to anything unprofessional or not work related.
If it were a person of African American descent being harassed for their race, it would fairly shortly, if not immediately be apparent to many watching. If it were a person of Jewish or Muslim descent being harassed for their religion, it would become apparent fairly shortly. Were it a gay man or a lesbian being harassed it would also be easy to see fairly quickly. This is because we are familiar with such situations and aware.
But whatever the case, when and if you are being harassed you always have the right to stand up for yourself and your rights. When you are in a situation where you are being harassed you always have the right to stand up for and defend yourself. Choose to or not is up to you, but it is your right and it is always an option.
How you go about doing so depends greatly on the specific situation, the specific group of people and individuals involved, the rules and regulations governing the place, where it is happening and the options you choose to take, based on the type of person you are.
Whatever the case, once you have decided on a course of action, never let anyone convince you that you do not have the right to stand up for yourself. You always do, and there is always a path to doing so – you just need to find it.
You don't want it to turn into a situation of constant payback and cycles of revenge, as we often see between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, various South American drug cartels and Israelis and Palestinians as a few examples. It becomes pointless, senseless, fruitless, needlessly harmful, shamefully violent, unsophisticated and so on and so on. Life would be so much better and more harmonious for the people directly involved, those immediately effected and the rest of us that have to get sucked into so many selfish episodes of bloodbaths and their tortuous consequences for the innocent on every side. Why should the uninvolved have to pay? You don't want to think you're doing something smart, then turn around clasp your hands to the side of your head and say, “what a messler!”
What you want to do, is to make it so you are able to accomplish your goals wherever you are and rebuff, deflect and/or put a stop to any undue harassment you may receive. Harassment is part of life and even a normal part of social interaction depending on your perspective on it or definition of it. But when it's real, step back and assess what's really going on, and then stand up for yourself. You are always worth it and it is always, always worth the effort! And of course, good luck!
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.