Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by householder » Sat Oct 01, 2011 6:06 pm

Hi all,

This used to be a non-issue but now it is.

I've been working security at nightclubs/festivals/events etc. for many years as a second job for extra income. I am now querying whether it is Right Livelihood. Perhaps some of you may be surprised that this issue didn't arise earlier. It did, and was justified/rationalised. Now the inquiry has become more searching and infused with more conviction.

The nature of the work involves dealing the effects of (rather than dealing in) intoxicants. The manifestation of the work sometimes necessitates the use of force on people. For the purposes of this post I consider force as ANY touching of someone, rather than any sort of shoving, compliance holds etc.

Before discovering the dhamma, there were occasions when the intention behind the use of force was to assert ego or to alleviate feelings of anger towards someone who had wronged/disrespected me as security. Power-tripping of sorts. There was too much 'me' in the job. Fortunately this force never resulted in serious injury to anyone, and this phase didn't last and was quite a while back.

A combination of having the unacceptability of this approach made clear and realising it for myself led to the intention of using force now being only where necessary to prevent harm to myself, the person on whom the force was being used, others, property or when it was necessary to effect compliance and reasonable verbal efforts had failed. Only then, it's the minimal and appropriate amount necessary to effect something such as a separation of groups, an ejection from the venue or to prevent harmful or obstructive actions from continuing. The nature of the use of force is always specific to the circumstances and to a large extent cannot be prescribed for every possible situation.

I am dealing with actions or speech borne of minds affected by the intoxicants. Those so affected usually have impaired perception, awareness and judgment - from my perspective, of course, which is subjective. So when I'm preventing a guy getting off the floor because he's sustained a head injury, needs to remain in position and medical assistance is on the way, but is high on drugs so doesn't realise it and is trying to get up and insists he's fine, I have no problem with using appropriate force in this situation, for example. Where I have to grab someone who has run past a restricted area and it's really not safe for them to be there, maybe that's a greyer area.

But it's important to ensure that my own perception awareness and judgment are not poisoned by the kilesas - in every aspect of life, but maybe more so when I'm using force or directly intervening in the affairs of others in this context, almost on their behalf, since they'll suffer due to my own kilesas. Here my practice has helped immensely. When an intention arises which is not wholesome and may result in use of force, I can check it and restrain myself. There will always be grey areas, of course, and cultivation of patience and compassion is probably one of the best things someone in this industry can do to do their job well. Unfortunately there are still situations that REALLY do test you.

Now, even if I never laid a hand on someone, would this role be 'Right Livelihood' by virtue of involvement with an industry/scene that involves the sale of alcohol? The drug situation is such that people will procure drugs outside the venue and effect them into their system before arrival (or whilst in the venue - whereupon they are immediately removed and the drugs confiscated and destroyed). I appreciate the paradox between taking a hard line on one intoxicant and not another, but that's the nature of the proscription of some intoxicants and not others, and its resultant effect on licensing conditions, of which I am paid in part to ensure compliance with.

I am not selling alcohol nor condoning consumption of intoxicants. I am, however, monitoring people who are doing so or have done so and intervening where necessary to prevent harm, even if that means using force. Some have medical emergencies as a result which require urgent attention. The industry is such that if they didn't do it here, they'd do it somewhere else, and I'm at least trying to mitigate the harmful effects on those people and others, and protect those who are not adversely affected and wish to enjoy themselves.

So is this a black and white issue, with a yes or no? Should I consider exiting the industry entirely?

Thoughts appreciated!

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:37 am

Hello, householder,
You have obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the issues and analyse them very well.
As you say, working in the industry would nearly always be wrong livelihood. However, your role in it is the most positive (or least negative) one possible: you discourage self-harm, try to prevent harm and try to keep the environment safe for participants. It might be compared to that of a police officer or a paramedic, although it is restricted to the entertainment venue.
Black or white? Very few choices are so simple. I would say your job is not blindingly white but certainly not a very dark grey, especially if you continue to carry it out as mindfully as possible.

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by octathlon » Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:07 am

The only thing you didn't tell is whether you want to keep doing it or are starting to want to leave it. Though you are not participating in the unskillful behaviors, it is still a negative environment to spend time in. Maybe now that you have learned some things about yourself and made some positive changes in your attitude and behavior, you are starting to get tired of being in this kind of environment but the habit of having done it so long makes it difficult to just let go of. On the other hand do you like the work, feel that you are helping, and want to continue? It doesn't seem to violate right livelihood to me, though I defer to those wiser than me to make that judgement.

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by householder » Sun Oct 02, 2011 4:58 am

It is naturally ending this year by virtue of my first job work situation changing and intended travel - and also working towards ordination!

I've concluded tonight, with some applied mindfulness, that it's a VERY good environment to:

a. consider the drawback of sensual pleasures (seeing people looking very physically desirable and configured to look their 'best' at the start of the night and in 'club lighting', then seeing their appearance and condition at the end of the night/when they're carried out following an incident; others drinking too much/on drugs to be 'in the zone' and becoming quite ill as a result);
b. consider the constituent parts of the human body (all that alcohol has to go somewhere, and the environment of a nightclub leads to sweating, as well as potentially blood if there is an incident; and
c. observe how the mind creates the world (I'm there tired, sober, on the clock and can't stand the music/noise. Others are in the same room full of energy, intoxicated, paying to be there and having a wonderful time and don't want it to end. Others still have had a fight or argument with a significant other, or have lost their friends and really having an awful night).

Also very interesting to see desire, aversion arising (or not) based on [EDIT: vedana and] contact. Of particular interest is observing the mind's reaction on the sight of women who wouldn't look out of place in a modelling shoot. In my younger days this would have aroused intense lust based purely on eye contact. But after years of observing such women on a regular basis, seeing them later on that evening when they may not be at their best, and seeing some of them act in a way that kills such lust instantly (smoking, snorting drugs, vomiting etc.), they're now simply noted by the mind as 'crowd' or 'patron' (because I like to scan individuals in a crowd to get an idea of demographics and to see if I recognise any previous troublemakers - kinda like profiling) with neither pleasure nor aversion, and remain anonymous until they give reason to stand out (which is usually because intervention of some sort is required).

I could go on, but you get the idea!

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by Nori » Sun Oct 02, 2011 8:08 am

householder wrote:I've concluded tonight, with some applied mindfulness, that it's...
There is a Sutta (I can't recall which) where the Buddha describes how to determine whether an occupation or activity is good for you.

If it leads to skillful and good (that is, 'wholesome'/beneficial) qualities then it is a good occupation or activity.

And vice-versa, If it leads to unskillful ...

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by Cilla » Sun Oct 02, 2011 4:21 pm

HOuseholder that is a very insightful posting you've given. Thanks for sharing your experience. Its most interesting and it seems to me you've arrived at all the right conclusions.

Whether or not its right livelihood, i can't disagree with anyone above but i also asked myself is it ok to be a policeman. If its ok to be a policeman then its ok to be a bouncer. Personally i think its ok but i am not an expert. And so long as you avoid violence. You should have learnt a lot about how to do that. That would be considered skilful behaviour wouldn't it?

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by householder » Sat Oct 08, 2011 6:39 pm

Thanks for the responses. I think if it was to be ongoing I'd need to reconsider it, but I'll let it run its course.

If you ever want front row views of the kilesas and ignorance in full swing, and a celebration and glorification of sensual indulgence, spend 5 minutes in one of these places.

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Re: Bouncer/security as Right (Second) Livelihood?

Post by Stephan » Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:11 pm

I myself am a Correctional Officer working in a carceral setting. The official mandate of my government, however, is social reinsertion and rehabilitation of people who have serious problems with violence and drug abuse. I have never abused the powers I have been given through my job, have always helped those who society sees as worthless, and have actually saved the lives of those who were being attacked or tried to end their own lives. The way I do my job is Right (samma) and to me, Right Livelihood ends when one works in a trade that leads others into Greed, Hatred and Delusion. Working in a bar that serves alcohol, for my part, would be wrong, since it's a business that profits from the sale of an inebriating substance that causes much harm, and leads people onto terrible paths. Working as a protector, someone who helps and leads people from harm and not to it, is noble.

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