I think this goes a long way toward explaining why I am the way I am, and the thoughts I sometimes think that other people (who live in Condition White) do not think.
In the January 2005 Cooper’s Commentaries, to clarify (again) what he means by the Color Code, he wrote:
The Color Code refers not to a condition of peril, but rather to a condition of readiness to take life. Fortunately most people are very reluctant to take lethal action against another human being. Most people are reluctant to shoot for blood on a harmless game animal, until they become used to it. To press the trigger on a human adversary calls for a wrenching effort of will which is always difficult to achieve and sometimes apparently impossible. Thus we live our days in Condition White, which may or may not have anything to do with our danger, since quite frequently we are in deadly danger and do not realize it. Any time you cross directions out on a two-lane highway you are at the mercy of that character coming towards you in the opposite direction. Usually he is okay, but when he is under some sort of chemical influence, or is psychologically upset, he may only twitch his wheel to produce a multiple fatal accident. Most of us would prefer to live in Condition White permanently, and many do, but those who are more aware of the nature of things are often in Yellow, which is a condition in which we are aware that the world is full of hazards which are human, and some of which may be obviated by our own defensive action. When one is in Condition Yellow he is aware that today may be the day. He is not in a combat mood, nor is he aware of any specific situation which may call for action on his part. There is a vital difference between White and Yellow, and it has to do not with any specific enemy or a set of circumstances, but rather with your awareness that you individually may have to take decisive action on this very day. If you are attacked in Condition White, you will probably die, or at least need a stretcher. If you are attacked in Condition Yellow, you will probably win, assuming that you are armed, awake and aware. The difference does not lie in the deadliness of the hazard facing you, but rather in your willingness to take a very unusual action.
If in the course of events you become aware of the possible existence in your presence of a lethal adversary, you switch from Yellow to Orange. The difference lies in the specific nature of your presumed antagonist, not in his evident competence or attitude. In Yellow you say to yourself, “I may have to shoot today.” I may actually have to press my trigger on a human adversary, but I don’t know who or where.
When you detect the presence of a target who may be the one you will have to engage, you shift from Yellow to Orange. In Yellow your mind-set is “I may have to shoot today.” In Orange it is “I may have to shoot him today.” At this point your normal reluctance becomes easier to overcome. Legal and moral aspects of the conflict are lowered and have been dismissed from your mind. Your attitude is dictated by the presence of that enemy standing there. You may have to shoot him, now, today. What is needed is a trigger. The trigger is the act establishing that the situation is indeed a matter of lethal conflict. This is Condition Red, and in Red you have solved the psychological problem and have no further concerns beyond the technical. In Red you are go, and your mind is concerned only with front-sight and surprise.
Moving from the various Conditions into each other is easy to accomplish once it is understood. If you are attacked in White you will lose the fight. In Yellow you will have the advantage of initiative response over your antagonist. In Orange you are pretty safe, provided you are armed, alert and aware. In Red you win. Simple, isn’t it? Clearly you cannot go any further than Red because in Red you have already made the lethal decision. Complications are unproductive.
That last bit about complications is in part a reference to the USMC adding “Condition Black” which they describe as being in active contact with the enemy. The Color Code invented and preached by Col. Cooper for 30 years has no higher condition of readiness to kill a man than Red (I will kill him, NOW). It is a means to help a peaceable person to cross the psychological barrier, and the colors do not describe action but rather willingness. Therefore, Black is a silly and useless addition.
I further note for those unfamiliar with the Color Code that people in Condition White are the ones who say “he just came out of nowhere” when they are mugged. They are the ones surprised when the danger that floats around all of us lands on them. Those who live in Condition Yellow are merely not-oblivious, and paying attention.
Changing between Conditions is not difficult and, once you are used to it, it happens automatically. This color code is about a mindset that prepares you to act in an unusual fashion. Even on the highway, you can use it. Yellow is the baseline, and when you see a car weaving in its lane, go to Orange. Red is slamming the brakes as the other driver swerves toward you. A book could be written about examples, but that would be beside the point. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.