Guardian Angels Founder Curtis Sliwa Puts Us in Sicilian Handcuffs

Despite what the brainiacs from the Ivy League say, citizen's arrests are not vigilante acts, according to Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.  In fact, he insists that they have been "embedded into the fabric of law since the Magna Carta." In 1979, Sliwa created the Guardian Angels, a volunteer neighborhood patrol, at a time when New York was practically lawless. In the subsequent 31 years, the Guardian Angels haven't been sued once even though they've made thousands of interventions in over 140 cities around the globe.


The ambiguous legality of citizen's arrests notwithstanding, Sliwa spent much of his Big Think interview teaching us how to take the law into our own hands in the name of Good Samaritanism. Like a "Chinese menu," he offered three different scenarios to choose from, depending on the seriousness of the situation.  If you're up against a "real nebbish" who "probably does yoga," the amount of physical force you'll need to exert is minimal, Sliwa told us. But if the perpetrator is looking to put up a fight, things may get more interesting, and Sliwa gave us some martial arts lessons that we won't soon forget. 

Aside from putting us in "Sicilian handcuffs," Sliwa talked about the problems that still plague our society. Though things are much better than they were 30 years ago, crime is still rampant, and the biggest contributor is dysfunction in the family, says Sliwa: "Dysfunction is what paralyses society.  It means people learn less.  They can’t function properly.  They can’t speak.  They can’t communicate.  They have anger management problems.  They develop necessities and desires to have drugs and alcohol to self medicate."

To combat this disfunction, Sliwa suggested some rather "draconian" measures: "You wouldn’t be able to get married in my society until you were 30.  I would put you in a gulag.  If you dare got married before 30 I’d think the furniture was upstairs and rearranged in the wrong rooms and if you decided to have kids I’m going to test you first...I'd want to test your parenting skills." 

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less

Philosopher Alan Watts: 'Why modern education is a hoax'

Explore a legendary philosopher's take on how society fails to prepare us for education and progress.

Alan Watts.
Personal Growth
  • Alan Watts was an instrumental figure in the 1960s counterculture revolution.
  • He believed that we put too much of a focus on intangible goals for our educational and professional careers.
  • Watts believed that the whole educational enterprise is a farce compared to how we should be truly living our lives.
Keep reading Show less

Mining the Moon

How can we use the resources that are already on the Moon to make human exploration of the satellite as economical as possible?

The All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE), a prototype heavy-lift utility vehicle to support future human exploration of extraterrestrial surfaces, at right, is parked beside the Habitat Demonstration Unit - Pressurized Excursion Module (HDU-PEM), at left, a concept off-Earth living and work quarters for astronauts stationed on asteroids, the moon or Mars, 15 September 2010. Photo by: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

If you were transported to the Moon this very instant, you would surely and rapidly die. That's because there's no atmosphere, the surface temperature varies from a roasting 130 degrees Celsius (266 F) to a bone-chilling minus 170 C (minus 274 F). If the lack of air or horrific heat or cold don't kill you then micrometeorite bombardment or solar radiation will. By all accounts, the Moon is not a hospitable place to be.

Keep reading Show less