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BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans

Amos 24 Apr 03 - 09:49 PM
Peg 24 Apr 03 - 11:33 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 12:01 AM
Thomas the Rhymer 25 Apr 03 - 12:25 AM
Peg 25 Apr 03 - 01:54 AM
Ebbie 25 Apr 03 - 02:01 AM
Mudlark 25 Apr 03 - 02:33 AM
Peg 25 Apr 03 - 02:36 AM
GUEST,pdc 25 Apr 03 - 03:08 AM
GUEST,Clint Keller 25 Apr 03 - 03:59 AM
catspaw49 25 Apr 03 - 04:19 AM
Grab 25 Apr 03 - 08:14 AM
artbrooks 25 Apr 03 - 08:44 AM
Forum Lurker 25 Apr 03 - 09:00 AM
catspaw49 25 Apr 03 - 09:06 AM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Apr 03 - 09:18 AM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 09:33 AM
Sam L 25 Apr 03 - 09:43 AM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 10:01 AM
mack/misophist 25 Apr 03 - 10:26 AM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 11:00 AM
catspaw49 25 Apr 03 - 11:19 AM
harpgirl 25 Apr 03 - 11:47 AM
Peg 25 Apr 03 - 11:59 AM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 12:09 PM
Peg 25 Apr 03 - 12:12 PM
Little Hawk 25 Apr 03 - 12:21 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 12:26 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Apr 03 - 12:48 PM
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Mark Clark 25 Apr 03 - 01:06 PM
Troll 25 Apr 03 - 01:07 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 01:32 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 01:47 PM
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Ebbie 25 Apr 03 - 02:07 PM
GUEST, heric 25 Apr 03 - 02:12 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 02:12 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 02:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Apr 03 - 03:01 PM
NicoleC 25 Apr 03 - 03:14 PM
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GUEST, heric 25 Apr 03 - 03:37 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 04:38 PM
GUEST, heric 25 Apr 03 - 04:46 PM
Ebbie 25 Apr 03 - 06:48 PM
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Ebbie 25 Apr 03 - 09:39 PM
Amos 25 Apr 03 - 11:26 PM
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greg stephens 26 Apr 03 - 06:09 PM
Grab 26 Apr 03 - 09:01 PM
NicoleC 26 Apr 03 - 09:11 PM
Amos 26 Apr 03 - 09:34 PM
Tweed 26 Apr 03 - 09:51 PM
Amos 26 Apr 03 - 10:57 PM
Tweed 27 Apr 03 - 12:02 AM
Sam L 27 Apr 03 - 12:47 AM
Amos 27 Apr 03 - 01:05 AM
Ebbie 27 Apr 03 - 01:21 AM
Amos 27 Apr 03 - 01:41 AM
Ebbie 27 Apr 03 - 02:13 AM
Metchosin 27 Apr 03 - 02:49 AM
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Amos 28 Apr 03 - 06:48 PM
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Subject: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 24 Apr 03 - 09:49 PM

You may be aware that a lengthy thread has recently run through these parts hissing and spitting, about whether or not American culture builds in an appetite and propensity for violence in real life.

You can find that thread over here if you wish, and it is an interesting study on the relationship between communication, violence, and personal attacks of a verbal sort.

This thread is offered as an open discussion on what the real factors are that lead to the kind of violence that shows up in so many places -- in American schools and Congolese jungles and Ecuadorian mountains and the deserts of Algeria. I doubt their is any other species that is as liberal at wasting its own kind. I know other primates have gang-wars sometimes, and I don't even want to think about the blood that gets spiled between warring ant colonies, but our version certainly is the loudest.

Where does it come from, and what are the alternatives that could actually be considered to them--are there remedies that might really work? Does this much intra-species violence have any value to the species, or the relations among species?

Your opinions are welcome.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Peg
Date: 24 Apr 03 - 11:33 PM

I think there are so many facets to this discussion that it is difficult to know where to begin. I am not prepared at the moment to discuss violence in human history, but I would be willing to get the ball rolling discussig urban violence, or violence against women...

Some observations: that very contemporary phenomenon known as "road rage" fascinates me. The sorts of things that piss people off when they are behind the wheel are really rather hard to quantify or categorize because everyone is different. Some hate waiting for a slpit second after the light turns green; others hate being behind someone who doesn't use signals. What I really love is the suited business man in the huge SUV with kids in the back cussing a blue streak at someone who has just cut him off (or soem other perceived "wrong"). One wonders what sort of drivers his children will grow up to be...

But one interesting permutation of this phenomenon I have noticed in Boston (where pedestrians are not any better at obeying the rules than drivers, yet are much more at risk) is the tendency for drivers of cars to get upset at and violent towards the pedestrian they nearly run over in the street!

As for WHY road rage occurs; I think that our increasingly car-oriented culture is partly to blame, as opposed to the simple explanation that people are just getting more angry, impatient or ornery in general. Cars are now bigger and more state of the art than ever before. Suburban communities are not constructed so that people can easily walk to a corner store for a quart of milk, etc. Kids are no longer expected to walk to scholl if it's more than a couple of blocks (and sometimes not even that). Seems everyne is afraid the kid is gonna get snatched, or else the kid is too damn lazy to walk. I lived across the street from my elementary school walked a mile to my junior high, and 3/4 of a mile to my high school every day. Now, it seems like more kids get rides than take the bus or walk.

When I watch television for more than an hour on any major network, at least HALF the commercials are for cars. Cars are now made that include DVD players! This strikes me as not only nonsensical but dangerous. What's wrong with having the kids look out the window or listen to music or a book on tape in their headphones, if they're bored? Car culture means people think of their cars as fortresses. And I do think driving a lot is not healthy for the psyche. Let's not even mention the idiots who think it's advisable to talk on the phone while driving.

Because the car is seen as another body appendage, one feels empowered to behave as one will, even though these vehicles are subjet to rigorous laws of conduct for the drivers/owners. People also feel invincible or invulnerable in these fortresses, particularly the big bad-ass gaz-guzzling ones...so intimadating other drivers or pedestrians is almost a god-given right granted when one makes the first monthly payment. People scream, swear, gesticulate rudely, sing aloud and ruminate madly in their cars; as has been said, cars give you audio but not video privacy (the opposite is true of a tent while camping). For some individuals, allowing one's thought to wander as they will only succeeds in justifying their anti-social and in many cases quite harnful or dangerous behavior behind the wheel. I consider this an insidious kind of violence which most car-owners would not most likely agree with, because to them the car is simply an extension of their person...

I have not owned a car in years and I sure as hell don't miss it...I am very fortunate to live in a city where owning a car is almost a liability unless you are wealthy enough to have your own parking spot and pay Boston insurance premiums. Half my friends don't have them. We all have great "road rage" stories which, for us, usually means "crosswalk rage" perpetrated by drivers who have almost murdered us blithely while we were crossing the street...and usually in accordance with the nearest traffic light or stop sign.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:01 AM

I can see why trying to use a honking chunk of steel and plastic and explosions as an alter-ego could drive ya kinda mad.

Did people go crazy on the subject of bigger, stronger, faster, roomier horses? Is this an extension of the Arthurian lists? I am mounted, therefore I lance others?

Or is it just a desperate effort to remedy a tiny little self esteem? :>)

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:25 AM

I am mounted, therefore I lance others... Nice one A!

My take on it is... Really cool car, crappy driving conditions. Remember when driving was fun? Now we gotta go faster 'cause we're running late, and gridlock is a twenty-four hour affair. It is frustrating to have a car that will go nicely at 100 MPH, in stop and go... EVERY DARN DAY! Mass transit will be our savior!

Violence. Hmmmmmmm. Just say no. ttr


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Peg
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 01:54 AM

well, since you're talking about self-esteem, that may well be at the root of a LOT of violent behavior. People with low self-esteem probably feel threatened by more situations than people with a healthy level of self-esteem. Feeling threatened makes people lash out or act out in a variety of ways. Some do so in aggressive fashion; some turn on the charm. Some hide their fear well; others have to leave the room or situation immediately, or act rashly to change things.

I once read that anger is the desire to change the situation immediately.

Our culture tends to have an unhealthy relationship with anger. It's either not appropriate to exress it, or people are encouraged to express it in inappopriate ways...should we blame the talk shows? The church (for instilling the concept of unsurmountable sin in ordinary humans)? the schools? or the typical contemporary parent who is too self-involved or busy to properly discipline their kids? I see a lot of bratty out-of-control spoiled kids out there, and it does seem this is way more common than it was even a decade ago. What has happened? if some of these kids do not get a serious smack in the head before they turn 18 they will turn into spoiled, self-centered, whiny-assed adults who can't deal with any disappointment no matter how small...

I am thinking of the soccer games where it's just unbearable if the kid's team loses. Fights break out between parents and referees. One man DIED because a dad from the opposing team (these were parents at a kids' game) beat on him so hard. When did parents start needing so badly for their kids to win, that they feel the urge to fight when things don't go their way? Are they living vicariously through their kids? Are they reliving their own traumas of inadequacy from childhood? are they unable, or unwilling, to tell their kids that life is tough sometimes, and that means you lose the game once in a while (or more often, if your team sucks)...?

Competition at all costs, winning at all costs, is not healthy. Parents have to compete to get their kids into the "right" schools almost since birth...and push and push them to make sure they get there. Seems every kid these days is being forced to be "gifted and taleneted" even when they aren't (I see the results of this every day in my college classes, believe me; kids who think they deserve the world on a plate when they can barely read or write, who consider themselves great artists when their ideas and work are banal and completely unoriginal, mainly because they can't be bothered to even read or watch the great classics of film or literature...I fear even a simple reference to The Great Gatsby or The Wasteland would be lost on them...

is this is the fault of a failed public school system? An overall decline in literacy? A growing lack of interest in culture/books/arts?

I think if more people spent more time reading books we'd be a less violent culture generally...now if only our brainless leaders would also do the same...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:01 AM

"... the tendency for drivers of cars to get upset at and violent towards the pedestrian they nearly run over in the street!" Peg, I'm not sure how this is linked to aggression and violence we're discussing- but your statement reminds me of one certain thing: When a driver gets upset and violent toward the pedestrian they nearly ran over, they're reacting out of fear. The jolt of adrenalin that hits you in a split second when you discover you have almost hit someone can translate into instant rage. Maybe especially so when the pedestrian seems blissfully unaware of his own stupid culpability or blows off the driver's anger.

So, if I take this thought a little farther, it appears to me that fear is in some way involved with the anger and pent up violence we're wondering about.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Mudlark
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:33 AM

Human anger and violence long predates autos and their ills. I think it has something to do with the way our separate brains communicate, the idea that somewhere between lizard brain and the more evolved human brain there are some glitches. The latest brain, the really smart one capable of thinking up all these incredible ways of bashing others of the species, should be smart enough to know there's no end to it, once started...like the centuries old tribal feuds. But that's where the lizard brain takes over...sees things very elementally...kill or be killed, bash or be bashed. And once the evolved brain has thought up a catapault...of course the lizard brain is going to use it. And certainly fear is one of those blind triggers that gets the lizard brain going.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Peg
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:36 AM

sounds about right, Ebbie...by the way, I was also thinking of those instances when the driver gets angry at the pedestrian they almost creamed in situations where the DRIVER is completely at fault...have seen it a hundred times. Pedestrian is in crosswalk; driver ignores stop sign or red light, nearly hits pedestrian; pedestrian complains at nearly being killed; driver goes ballistic on pedestrian. Which is why I related this to the car-culture-breeds-violence thing...that sense of entitlement. But your comment that there is fear and adrenalin involved is also very apt.


mind you, in Boston a lot of pedestrians do dumb things (not waiting for the green light to cross) and I think this is just as bad as drivers not obeying the rules...each behavior exacerbates the other, as far as I can tell...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST,pdc
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 03:08 AM

I think we have what is known as "culture lag." Our population has grown to the point that we are crowded all the time; our cities are bursting at the seams; our schools have overcrowded classrooms, etc., etc., etc.

Culture lag results from the culture not adjusting quickly enough to changed circumstances. So our cities are still primarily the way they used to be when populations were smaller; our transit systems haven't changed enough to accommodate the greatly increased traffic; a lot of our children still go to schools that were built to accommodate much fewer students, etc.

So we are all on top of each other, causing pressure, stress and temper -- we need our space.

Until our cities catch up with the population, in terms of infrastructure primarily, I think violence may continue to be a problem.

Just an opinion. Don't hit me.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST,Clint Keller
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 03:59 AM

Fear & anger are often part of the same thing. If you run away from a threat it's fear; if you run toward it, it's anger, and you decide which it is after you see what you did. Judging by myself.

Don't know how that applies to anger from frustration.

And violence is not always connected to anger, sometimes it's a tactic.

Clint


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: catspaw49
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 04:19 AM

Not a single comment here that isn't relevant! So many things.......

I think we can probably trace the origins of human violence to our earliest carnivorous roots. The hunter/gatherer killed another "something" for food as had other species before him. No matter how you slice it (no pun intended), killing is a violent act. As we continued to evolve and grow, we began to develop the human brain over the previous reptilian and mammalian brain (as mentioned before) which made us more social but also rationalized killing as a necessary part of living. We may well have gone through a period where we rationalized that since killing solved the food problem, it was an acceptable means of solving other problems as well.

One thing for certain, the idea that a violent act could solve a problem popped up somewhere along the line. As our brains grew and cultures rose and fell, we tried to move to a higher level. But once the thought is there, it is always there, just as the reptilian brain is always there as well.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Grab
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 08:14 AM

A ways back, it certainly did have value. Europe lost its roaming gangs of bandits ages back, but America still had them until more recently. Maybe this is why Europeans are less likely to be wedded to the idea of guns for "self-defence" - it's been longer since we needed them, so it's been kind of "bred out" of the society.

Anyway, until recently you needed to defend yourself against violence from outside. Humans have always formed groups, and when your group has resources and another group doesn't, your group must be able to defend those resources. Sharing would be nice, but generally the result of that would be that both groups starve, so selfishness is reinforced. And even within the group, the high-status people get more than the rest, so there's internal competition as well. But there also needs to be co-operation within the group, so a child's upbringing has to balance making them eager to prove themselves whilst not screwing everyone else up. It's difficult to say how much of this is genes (physically inherited) and how much is memes (taught consciously or unconsciously by those around us).

I think this is where the car thing comes in. I think we're starting to regard "those in the car" as "our group", and "those outside the car" as "the opposition". If you feel a connection with other road users then you're less likely to have this concept - truckers rarely cut up other truckers, for instance, because they have the concept of them being "one group" and so will co-operate. Car drivers though have little connection with other road users, and the increased isolation inside larger, more enclosed, more self-sufficient cars will not improve this.

Interestingly, in Mediterranean countries like France and Greece, drivers tend to be more nuts than any Brit/American. However, I believe this is more in the nature of "jockeying for position amongst our group" rather than "fighting an opposing group". So although they'll all try to beat each other to the lights, it's not in the same league as some Americans/Brits, where a bad drive to work spoils their whole day or where they haul off and beat someone over the head. Maybe I'm generalising here - dunno.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: artbrooks
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 08:44 AM

It seems to me that many drivers have a "bubble of unawareness" surrounding them, as they blithly drive along at 10 or 15 miles above the speed limit, changing lanes without signalling and talk on their cell phones or to their driving companions (or both at the same time). For me, driving in the West, where traffic rules are basically unenforced, has required a refresher in defensive driving.

On the other hand, road rage is pretty uncommon since this kind of driving is the norm here in Albuquerque. We did have an odd case about two weeks ago...a pedestrian apparently took issue at the behavior of a driver, followed him into a copy shop near the University, and shot him. No permanent damage done.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Forum Lurker
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 09:00 AM

catspaw49-I hate to bring dissent into this peacable discussion, but I have to disagree with you about meat eating being the source of violence. Omnivores living in large groups, as early humans did have much more violent interactions between each other than prey animals. Most of the skeletal evidence (dental wear especially) indicates that meat was not a significant source of calories for humans until the Mesolithic. Prior to that, our violence was mostly directed towards each other. Look at studies of violence in chimpanzees, our closest genetic and behavioral relatives. They kill members of other troops, and on occasion infants of their own troop, far more frequently than they hunt. I think that violence is a more defensive than aggressive reaction. You are afraid of something, and you kill it. Nowadays, you are afraid of something, but you can't see it to kill (too many intangible worries), and since the need to lash out is still there, you grab a handy target.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: catspaw49
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 09:06 AM

Could be.....Suits me as well. The point had nothing to do with eating meat or whatever, but simply that violent behavior was a norm in many aspects of human life, as well as other life forms before. Not being there at the time, I have no idea as to the exact pinpointing of the where and when. So whatever you or anyone else says is fine by me!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 09:18 AM

I'm inclined to doubt whether it's correct to assume that the kind of things that we are likely to include under "violence" are mainly a hangover from a primitive more violent world.

Generally speaking the evidence seems to indicate that hunter gatherers lead relatively un-violent lives, especially as regards other hunter gatherers, but even when it comes to killing for food, in the sense that this often tends to be associated with rituals of respect and apology towards the creatures killed.

Major violence towards other human beings, and the kind of unfriendliness and nastiness that has been mentioned so far, seem to be associated much more with relatively advanced societies. The Twentieth Century was, I'd, say the most violent century we have had so far, especially when the slaughter on the roads is added in, and the signs seem to be that the 21st century could well turn out even worse.

I'd suggest that the reasons for this are likely to be the ones mentioned - people crowding in on each other, so that as a protective mechanism we draw our boundaries between our in-group ("us") and the rest (them") ever tighter. On top of that there are technological changes that can amplify our anger and make it lethal. (Assault rifles instead of fists or even knives, cars instead of Shanks's pony.)

Though in fact a lot of the violence we see is probably not so much to do with anger, but rather with power. Wars don't normally happen because people get angry. They start for quite other reasons, and then the anger is built up to keep things going.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 09:33 AM

An interesting tangent from the esteemed R.L. Stephenson:

WEAKNESS

"You cannot run away from weakness;
you must some time fight it out or perish;
and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?"

                  Robert Louis Stevenson

It seems clear to me there are two kinds of violence. One is the sort which is appropriate to current facts, such as when breaking down a door in order to save someone in a burning building, or defending a child against a mad dog.

The other, which is the kind we are probably speaking of mostly here, is the sort that brings to bear incomprehensible calculations that have no relevance to the present facts: one's own history of receiving violence in the past, or a personal predilection for being terrified of people with green eyes, or a deep and chronic hatred of some kind. There is no telling what goes on in the mental process of a person swept up in this sort of violence -- he or she is trying to cure some long-lost problem, which he can't even reach to understand!

IF the "reasons" for a violent act are not in the present, they must be coming from the past, and therefore be included erroneously, having little or no rational connection with the matter at hand.

Of course, this doesn't include biochemical factors such as drugs and alcohol, which just complicate the picture enormously.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Sam L
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 09:43 AM

Like everything else in life, I have a theory about road rage, made out of the dust bunnies in my head. It's not really about road rage per se, but about modes and comfort levels. I think that when Superman is at home, and wants to hand a picture on his wall, he has to find his hammer. He's in his Clark Kent mode, and it's more trouble to shift into Superman mode, and push the nail into the wall, than to stay in Clark Kent mode and find the hammer. Some work is very hard, until you get so dirty and sweaty you just don't care--then you shift modes, it's easy and fun.

So, what I think happens is that cars become more and more a personal comfort zone, with cd players, comfy seats, quiet engines, stillness in motion, and it lulls us into our wimpiest, most infantile mode. They're like that quality in depression-era musicals, that fantasy of a frictionless world. Then that mode and that fantasy are cantilevered against reality, and serious responsibility, and having to wait, judge, excercise control and caution. The frustration of the fantasy sparks rage.

   This theory may be partly born out by a study cited in risk homeostasis, of a European country--Switzerland?--that changed driving lanes. Everyone expected accidents to increase, and they decreased. People apparently stayed in a greater state of awareness. So we could switch lanes every four years or so, to prevent accidents. Risk homeostasis is the tendency of things to keep going amiss at the same rate despite saftey measures. Where ever you set the limits, people push them. The measures to prevent an old accident introduce new variables to create new accidents.

To prevent road rage, maybe we could design seats to kick you in the butt at random intervals, douse you with soot, pond water and ice, and stuff like that. And people could use turn-signals, and slow down where kids play. That pisses me off.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 10:01 AM

So -- Fred -- you're saying that violence is a sort of dramatization of infantile frustration? Ya reckon if we put warm boobs in the center of the steering wheels it would help? Address the problem at source?

Sorry for being facetious. Good theory, even including the dust-bunnies!! Where do you get them thangs?


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: mack/misophist
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 10:26 AM

Please bear with me. Prose is not my best skill. If you like to read anthropology, you probably know that there is a cultural level in which people live as isolated individuals or in single family groups. At this level, the commonest cause of death is murder. This is not prejudice; it's well documented. Tribes and villages evolve crisis resolution customs that keep them from destroying themselves. But a man who has only seen 3 or 4 strangers in his life will not look upon them as sources of news and entertainment; he will will see them as dangerous creatures that must be closely watched and killed if they do something unexpected.

Our western world is not like that, quite. However, under the influence of adrenalin, I think that a stranger - looking different, dressed differently, speaking differently, smelling different may often be seen an a threat rather than as another person. This helps explain why the level of violence is so much lower in homogenous cultures; there's less strangeness to adapt to.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 11:00 AM

Xenophobia is the root of violence? But why? I cans ee why your explanation would explain less violence in homogenous cultures -- the expectations are stable, the agreements are predictable. But going among other kinds of people does not uniformly lead to violence -- it varies wildly with the individuals involved.

Ya know, one thing that stands out about violence when it is inappropriate to the circumstances is that it never occurs in the presence of full understanding between participants. It may be that the probability of violence is a perfect inverse of the degree of understanding. If that is so, then the factors which cause violence would be the same factors, generally, as those which prevent or impede understanding.

Some of these which come to mind are lies (false information), enforced information (authoritarian data), the suppression of communication in various ways, the absence of information, alterations of facts concerning "when, how, where and who" in events, and the distortion of importances on arbitrary grounds.

This ties in with the notion of erroneously included past data entering the equation, mentioned above.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: catspaw49
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 11:19 AM

I dunno' Amos.....I can understand Xenaphobia as a source of violence.....The bitch scares me to death!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: harpgirl
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 11:47 AM

...the strength of an individual's self-esteem (which depends on mastery of things) does predict how injured they might be by the everyday slings and arrows of narcissistic injury.

Being ignored in a store might enrage one individual and not another depending on how secure they are in their sense of okayness.

What we value the most about our self-definition is also more vulnerable to slights.

I think road rage is a combination of aggressiveness and narcissistic injury. We want to get the best place on the road and we may perceive another aggressive driver as deliberately trying to injure us in their pursuit of the best place on the road. Violence which may occur as a result of narcissistic injury is an attempt at redress. Revenge is an interesting issue in American life. We give mixed messages about it. In many cultures it is considered appropriate. Here it is discouraged sometimes and lauded at other times. Very confusing for many people.

Getting mad at pedestrians seems to be a function of warding off the terrifying notion that your bad driving or their carelessness will result in a death which would affect most of us in the self esteem area. Thus, it is a potential narcissistic injury and something which might make us temporarily angry.

A powerful antidote to potential injury to our self-esteem is our cognitve powers. The attribution we give to an act which may be potentially injurious to our self esteem can calm us and help us to not get angry and potentially violent.

The rage we see in teens, in which lethal actions occur seems to be a combination of severe narcissistic injury, fluctuating self-esteem, conditioning, and cultural sanctions, in my view. All things we can change!!!


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Peg
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 11:59 AM

very interesting comments, springhopper! In fact many interesting thoughts on the road rage issue from everyone....

this concept of revenge being prevalent in American society is an interesting one...other thoughts? I am thinking of the gleeful energy one sees in the faces of families who find out the (assumed) killer of their loved one is going to suffer the death openalty...no greater satisfactin than state-sanctioned murder in a public forum I guess...

which of course opens up the question of the death penalty's presence in our legal system...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:09 PM

PEg:e

I think the short-sighted love of revenge is a common trait in almost all human cultures, certainly not peculiar to the American one.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Peg
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:12 PM

probably right Amos but I do think that something is different here; maybe because the media loves these sorts of stories too (lots of vulnerable emotions on display and extremely inarticulate people--why do they always wish to quote the stupidest people they can find?) and exploits them for al they're worth...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Little Hawk
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:21 PM

People get violent when they're afraid. They may be afraid of a physical threat, they may be afraid of a threat to their self-image (ego, identity, dignity, etc...). They may be merely startled (as in the case of what triggers a lot of road rage). They may be impatient (fear of not having enough time).

There is a tremendous amount of sublimated fear in modern society, and it surfaces in behaviour like road rage. It also surfaces in all forms of addiction, which are partly a reaction to stress, and an attempt to assauge fear...that feeling of not being able to cope.

I think the best way to combat it is to be self-observant, go within frequently, quiet the mind, and be around other people who do that also.

In other words, "the unexamined life is not worth living", as has been said before.

The majority of lives out there are fairly much unexamined most of the time, so people are tending to be reactive rather than creative, and if you're reactive, then you are at the mercy of outside circumstances. If so, your ability to govern your own life intelligently is severely restricted.

One thing that good spiritual teachers or good psychologists teach a person is to see himself/herself in others and treat them accordingly. Out of that arises compassion, understanding, and an ability to appreciate one's own value and the value of other people too.

If our schools and other power systems taught that...instead of teaching ruthless competition (the one "winner" and many "losers" syndrome), then you would see a considerable improvement in people's attitudes as time went by.

There is far less road rage in both Cuba and Trinidad, I noticed, where road conditions are much more unpredictable and potentially hazardous than they are here. That is because people have a different attitude...they cooperate to a much greater extent with each other...rather than driving around in a distracted bubble of isolated ego, shocked out of its isolation momentarily by any little inconvenience...which is what I see most North American drivers doing.

It's more of a real community in the Caribbean than it is here, and people are not in such a damned hurry all the time. North Americans are way too isolated from each other. This may be the direct result of an affluent lifestyle, and an overly cushioned existence.

- LH


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:26 PM

Peg:

Why the media quotes the stupidest people they can find, and then stands the quote up as thought it was what the world sees and a major situation, is a muystery to me. It is as if their whole mission has changed from digging up facts and reporting them, to digging up fantasies and presenting them.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:48 PM

It is as if their whole mission has changed from digging up facts and reporting them, to digging up fantasies and presenting them.

No "as if" about it for much/most of the media, I'd say. It's the change from a world in which the idea is to make a living by doing something that feels like useful work (and if possible, that you like doing) to one in which the idea is to "make a killing", meaning maximising profits. An interesting idiom that - "make a killing". Idioms like that say a lot about a society.

I think most reporters, like most people, do in fact still instinctively hold to the idea that the right way to be is to make a living rather than making a killing. People still cheer for George Bailey when they watch "It's a Wonderful Life" - but it is "killers" who own the papers and control the broadcasts, and rule and shape the public image of how things should be. Their's id the mentality that is drummed into our heads, as the way people ought to think and behave. "The dynamic of progress".

And, to cast a wary eye back at the precursor thread, insofar as America is in the pole position in this Gadarene race, it gets identified as the source of the infection, when it's perhaps really just a very obvious early victim of a plague that threatens all of us.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST,pdc
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 12:56 PM

From Amos:

Of course, this doesn't include biochemical factors such as drugs and alcohol, which just complicate the picture enormously.


Absolutely!


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Mark Clark
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 01:06 PM

My own take on violence is that it's a natural—not to say beneficial—component of human genetics and its origin is to be found in our DNA. There are certain characteristics necessary for the survival of species and individuals in the absence of society and culture. Two of those genetic imperratives are a propensity for violence and a strong instinctual desire for reproductive behavior. These rank right up there with hunger and thirst as characteristics an animal without sharp teeth or claws or significant size and strength must have to survive.

The odd thing about the human species isn't it's propensity for violence, it's the ability to reason in complex abstractions. This ability to reason has allowed us to create culture, civilization, and societies whose common abstractions work to moderate the instinctive behavior of our prehistoric past. What it hasn't done is bring our genetic code in line with our societal norms.

Civilization is the process of modifying our instinctive behavior based on reason to achieve results that are more satisfying for the group. Part of civilization is the voluntary relenquishment by individuals of some of our instinctive behavior for the greater good. Much of human history and philosophy has been aimed at finding ways to help us let go of that instinctive behavior found to be disruptive in a civilized society. It doesn't mean we've changed our nature, simply that we develop the ability to control our insticts through reason and practice.

I think much of the violence we see today stems from two primary causes. One is that we've largely abandoned the philosophies that tended to value the group over the individual. Today we teach by lesson and by example that the individual is the ultimate abiter of good. Many believe that the interaction of totally self-interested individuals leads to a self regulating society in which each individual retains the maximum potential. In Western societies, this has led to a generation of adults who have largely abandoned ethical limits in favor individual advancement leaving those less able to compete to fall by the wayside.

The other primary cause of personal violence is simply people's willingness to give their genetic instincts free reign over their reason. It feels good to react in a rage to every little annoyance. It helps preserve the fiction that we are in control of something or someone. Children long to be like Superman and right wrongs through sheer unopposable force. Civilized adults have learned that there are ways to right wrongs without resorting to force. But if individuals haven't been properly led into adulthood and if the social mechanisms of control are denied to them, they can easily become violent. Violence is simple and satisfying in the short term. It allows the individual the feeling that action has taken place, that something tangible has been done.

The causes of violence are, I think, fairly easy to understand. What is far more complex is finding a way to stop it. Perhaps there is no way. Perhaps our self-destructive nature is simply a natural part of Lovelock's and Margulis' Gaia Hypothesis and life on Earth is still self-regulating.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Troll
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 01:07 PM

Stupid comments by stupid people make better copy, Amos. There is no real journalism any more. It's all geared toward market share.
If they quote an intelligent person, then they have to work to make it interesting to the audience.
You'll get only a small blurb on why Greenspan thinks the prime should increase, but Madonna gets a banner headline. Yet Greenspans decisions have a very direct impact on our lives while Madonnas life and career do not affect us at all in any meaningful sense.
The media seem hell-bent on giving the public what it (the media) >I>thinks it (the public) wants and that is bread and circuses.
Larger market share, bigger profits, more dumbed-down "news".

troll


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 01:32 PM

Many believe that the interaction of totally self-interested individuals leads to a self regulating society in which each individual retains the maximum potential. In Western societies, this has led to a generation of adults who have largely abandoned ethical limits in favor individual advancement leaving those less able to compete to fall by the wayside.


The shortsightedness of this solution is attributable to its misapplication, Mark. Ethical thought -- the highest use of rationality in addressing the situation -- works best when it is self generated, from a basis of insight and individual vision. And the abandonment of ethical choice is short-sighted because, like it or not, what goes around does indeed come around. The use of external agents, like moral codes from organized churches, is just a manipulative symbolism intended to substitute for individual rationality. It works for herds, and it works on the same principle as herding.

It doesn't work well on independent people.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 01:47 PM

The origin of inappropriate destructive impulses has to be anchored to pain somewhere in the mix. Without it, why would there be fear, and why would rage be so compelling a feeling as to override reason so roundly, as it does? When people slip into violent mindsets they act as though they are in a life-or-death battle, emotionally, when they are not. Maybe the "past trauma" school of aberrant psychology has something going for it.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:03 PM

You test what your conscience tells you against the way other people whom you have reason to trust see it.

In the end, for it to count as ethical, it has to be your conscience which is decisive, but your conscience doesn't operate in isolation during the process, even if you have to go against what everyone else tells you. Thinking it can is just arrogance.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:07 PM

Yesterday I enjoyed watching a group of youngsters at play and came to the conclusion that part of the solution toward avoiding conflict and aggression is simply wanting to.

I had turned my little dog loose on a small slope above a small city park and set myself on a bench in the sun. It was a gorgeous, warm day and we don't get many of those, in this climate. Mothers were chatting on benches in the park far below me. Little kids, ranging in age from about 8 down to perhaps 3 bustled and milled above the mothers but below me on a path alongside a plank that topped a wall of a path below that. The plank was about 10 inches wide and the fall, if one had occurred, would have involved a drop of about 5 feet.

These little kids were actually playing in small subgroups in their own age groups rather than all together. Like birds, they didn't really acknowledge each other's presence but as they traipsed busily back and forth on the plank and the path beside it, from the trees at one end of the slope and the bushes on the other, they moved out of each other's way, smoothly and swiftly. In that hour I didn't see even one incident of 'Watch it!' or 'Get out of my way' or even 'Sorry'. There was no need for it: it was a cooperative effort.

I left bemused.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST, heric
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:12 PM

>>>Maybe the "past trauma" school of aberrant psychology has something going for it. <<<

Yes. But when you balance it against appropriate destructive impulses, it gets very confusing. For example, extending it to tribalism, and group violence, I cannot surmount. It ends up appearing that all group violence is born from rational thought. Mass hysteria? Violence of the mob? What in blazes is that??? An evolutionary remnant?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:12 PM

Yeah -- but try feeding them something slimy and see what happens! :>))


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 02:24 PM

It ends up appearing that all group violence is born from rational thought. Mass hysteria? Violence of the mob? What in blazes is that??? An evolutionary remnant?

Well, if the mechanism is one of past trauma and its emotional freight taking over, the rational process is obviously in abeyance, in the individual. So if you get someone or something stirring up a whole crowd of people, each with their own mechanisms causing the suspension of rationality, then the mutual interactions simply become one of accelerating, self-reinforcing irrationality stirring itself to greater heights momoent by moment. The "natural" thing is to find external solutiojns as to what to think, when your own power to do so is turned off. If the neazrest thing is a crowd going crazy, then, under durress, that's what you'll use.

Yes, I think the mechanism is an evolutionary remnant, useful in times of tooth and claw when the lizard brain and the adrenalin would kick in to fight for survival. Not much use these days, though..


Regards,


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 03:01 PM

The same capacity we have for picking up what other people are feeling, and instinctively cooperating with them which is valuable in many circumstances can turn into mob violence in other circumstances.

And perhaps the same capacity for detaching ourselves from what other people are thinking and feeling and acting independently which can save us from getting sucked into a mob, is not a million miles removed from the ability of an individual psychopath to detach themselves from all human values.

A bit frightening, human beings. Balanced on the brink of wisdom, and only too likely to fall off on one side or the other.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 03:14 PM

Great comments here. I couple of ideas for consideration:

In mice, fice, apes and almost any animal, overcrowding leads to more aggressive and violent behavior, even when resources are not limited. (I.e. enough food and water and sex.) Suicide rates also increase. I think we can certainly apply this to human behavior when we look at urban crime vs. rural crime.

When we look at the fact that modern human is still the same physical animal it was thousands of years ago, I don't think we can make generalizations about being more or less prone to violence based of physiology. I think that a key component might be how our innate violence is directed. Our ancestors hunted, slaughtered animals, fought against the elements and defended themselves in a way that we don't generally need to today in a world with police forces to protect us and slabs of plastic wrapped meat in the supermarket. Their natural aggressiveness/violence was useful and had a satisfying purpose.

Today, we see people trying to direct their violent tendencies without getting the satisfaction. No matter how many aliens you kill in that videogame, it means nothing on an instinctual level. Does it stir up a feedback loop where we actively seek violence (movies, sports, etc.) because we can't direct our violent natures to something beneficial? Yet our natures drive us to compete at it anyway?

I couldn't say for sure -- but people who engage in mock violence almost react like it's an addiction that drives them to more. Think "football fan."

Maybe we're adreniline junkies, and violent criminal behavior is just an aspect of it.

------------------------

On the car thing -- people and their cars always remind me of that Bugs Bunny cartoon where the hats keep landing on their heads and changing their behavior. People DO act and react different based on the kind of car they happen to be in. I don't think it's unusual that the preponderance of larger tank-like vehicles might cause the driver to react as if THEY were bigger and better than the other drivers, nor that it might make the drivers of Geo's and Aspire's react in rage out of some misguided inferiority feelings.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 03:17 PM

"fice"?!

Er, FISH.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST, heric
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 03:37 PM

Thanks. I was picturing a lice orgy.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 04:38 PM

Maybe individual command of space is a basic part of personeal self-determination and self-inage -- such that when too many physical bodies are in too small a space, it stirs up threats of extinction just as violence might do. The "feeling crushed" sensation brings out the lash-back reaction. No-one wants to be boxed in, or tyo be an object in a sardine-can situation -- at least not if he has a spark of self-determination left -- IMHO.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST, heric
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 04:46 PM

I can't reconcile any of these spatial or carrying capacity theories with the widespread popularity of Deliverance.


(just kidding, btw)


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 06:48 PM

shudddddder... Amos, I would not like to be around for that. Children don't seem to have the capacity for rationalization that adults do.

I have a question about oysters- since one doesn't bite down in eating them, why don't people just drink the broth/brine in which they repose?

I rather like the flavor of oyster stew, but I can't eat the gray, drowned mouse at the bottom of the bowl!


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 07:05 PM

This is really brillliant, Ebb -- I think we've found one of the never-before-noticed keys to human abberration !

"Enforced Foodstuff as Root Cause of Human Violence"



I'll never complain about mixing threads again! Send me your CV so I can put you down as primary investigator on the white paper!! Do we have to split credit with Rick? Oh, okay, okay!!


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 09:39 PM

Ah, I'm sorry...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 25 Apr 03 - 11:26 PM

No, no!! I meant it -- I think there's an important link there!!

Besides, I'm the one that threw in the "feed them slimy food" line. Wasn't your fault I threw a curve!! It's a side effect of my lopsided worldview....sorry!



A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 02:14 PM

There will be NO slimey food in the MudCat Cookbook, lest is stir up violent feelings!


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 02:57 PM

LOL!!

The issue of personal space is interesting -- the Chinese and Japanese both built a cultural solution to the crowding problem, which was to lower the individuality displayed in public. It's dramatic, watching the rush-hour crowds in Hong Kong, to see how they watch the ground and sort of pull themselves in tight, to avoid intruding despite physical closeness. I've seen ocean sardines in an aquarium which have a similar crowdedness, and they also subscribe to a code of uniform conduct and show no sign of individual thought. Every no and then one bucks the crowd and swims in the wrong direction, and although he does not get attacked, he is avoided in spite of the fact that doing so reduces the space even further.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 03:40 PM

('sOK, Amos. Thanks.) The description of over-crowded countries' people handling close quarters reminds me very much of the children I was talking about earlier. The narrow paths on which they were traipsing could be seen as over-crowding.

Even in this country we do something similar, I think. In elevators and restrooms and beaches, for instance, we keep our eyes to ourselves.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 04:03 PM

Elevator manners, indeed -- eyes front, no eye contact, breathe quietly, no farting, no loud discussions, pull in thos ehorns ... I can do it in an elevator, of course, although it seems weird to me, but...a whole civilization??

But it is clear that as long as one is complying with these draconian manners, or any other set of manners, he will not engage in violence . Ritual eliminates the highly random actions.

That's why everyone was ss very shocked at the MacDonald's shooting -- the fast-food rituals everyone knew and felt safe with were being treated with sacrilege -- it was similar, in a way, to shooting up a communion session at an altar,except they were eating the flesh of Bossie and drinking the blood of the cola tree. It was a violation of ritual.

Another interesting fact about the roots of violence is the number of publicly violent individuals who were under psychiatric care. I haven't looked at the numbers lately -- the one that really caught my eye was the guy who climbed the clock tower in a Texas university and started sniping the students on the quad many years ago. My theory is that the psychiatric approach just makes them feel worse because it adds no real understanding. And, obviously, doesn't get to the roots of violence!


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Janie
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 04:29 PM

In most species violence is about sex, food or territory, all of which have to do with survival and the passing of genes. I suspect those roots are the same in our species.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 05:57 PM

Thee are four situations in which people act violently. One is when they are trying to impose their will on others. The second is when they are defending themaselves against what they feel as attack. The third is when they are obeying orders. And the fourth is because they enjoy it.

Of course these can get confused. What seems like defensive, to me, might seem very offensive and unprovoked, to the people on the receiving end. And "orders" can be used as camouflage for "fun".


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: greg stephens
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 06:09 PM

The bible, in the story of Cain and Abel, locates the start of violence in the conflict between static agriculture and people who move around for a living. I feel there's more than a germ of truth in that. Once you you settle and start piling up "things"( physical or mental)., you get pretty possessive about defending them. And the people who move around and are used to living off the land and picking up "things" where they find them inevitably cause conflict when they arrive near the settlers. Basically, behaviour evolved for hunter/gathering may not fit in too well with farms and factories.
   Right, that's my theory on the problem. now, the solution: I'll come with that in a bit.....


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Grab
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 09:01 PM

McGrath, you've missed a fifth way: when violence is the only way to get what you need. An addict needing the money for his fix may not enjoy robbing that grannny's handbag, but he'll do it bcos it's the only way he can get that money.

Greg, Cain and Abel is an interesting story bcos there are two levels, the practical and the religious.

At a practical level, let's remove all reference to God. Abel isn't getting a better quality of life bcos God's favouring him, it's bcos farming is a more reliable way of getting food than the hunter-gatherer mode. So Cain's hungry, and as a hunter-gatherer he's going to try and take food by force. This is your conflict between the two behaviour patterns.

There's also another level though. Assume that the Bible is literally correct. In that case, Abel is getting a better quality of life not because of his choice of lifestyle but bcos God is giving him all the favours, and God at the same time is crapping on Cain no matter how hard Cain tries to please him. The reason Cain kills Abel is then the same reason for the Watts riots - years of discrimination building up resentment, which eventually becomes intolerable.

Off-topic, but the story of Cain and Abel and the book of Job are two Bible stories which I find most scary, bcos they're saying explicitly that God is *not* good, is *not* fair and *will* use his powers to crap on you for no reason than he wants to, or perhaps has a little bet going with the Devil on the result. I'm not sure how committed Christians get around that. But that's off-topic, so anyway.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 09:11 PM

"Waht you need" should also include things like food. I think shooting a deer or wringing a chicken's neck is pretty violent. That doesn't mean it's not necessary.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 09:34 PM

I would hazard a guess that how God is now is a lot more important than how he was in the first generation or so of human existence! As for scary -- well, whatever It is, it isn't gonna do much good getting scared about it!

Violence can also occur in any situation where the individual is too confused to differentiate the past from the present, if the right kind of experience is what gets called up. This is entirely subjective, not situational.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Tweed
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 09:51 PM

Hmmmm... I notice that nobody has owned up to what event or chain of events has ever caused themselves to behave violently.

When I was young we defended our "turf" during homegames and fights with visiting students were not uncommon at highschool sporting events throughout the region. (probable cause:Reruns of "Asphalt Jungle" on the television, teenage hormones)

....and I once defended my girlfriend's honor by going through the side window of a Galaxie 500 after a guy who'd made a loud comment at the local rootbeer stand. (probable cause: Hormones run amuck,the Code of Chivalry as interpreted by the teenage mind)

There, I've admitted to a couple of my own acts of stupidity and it looks like both instances are based on pre-emptive defense brought on by media images and youthful vigor. Anybody else got anything to fess up? I know that some of you claim never to have committed a violent act but there must be others who've lost their cool at some point in their lives.

Yerz,
Tweed


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 26 Apr 03 - 10:57 PM

Well I did get in a scrap once with a guy I worked with. We just sorta wrassled around for a few minutes, but I was pretty steamed up at him because he was accusing me of not doing my job, but doing so without grounds, merely to make himself ook good. The absolute wrongness of it just swept me away. That plus a LOT of fatigue and some of that hormone stuff you were drinking at the rootbeer stand. I've gotten pretty riled a few times -- almost uniformly when I felt my viewpoint was being torqued or twisted maliciously.

I don't think flat out violence has ever entered into it, though. Maybe I'm just too accustomed to being Clark Kent...


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Tweed
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 12:02 AM

Amos, my honest brother! If you were pissed enough to wrassle the assh*le in the workplace, then that IS outright violent behavior ain't it? Welcome to the human race;~) I'm guessing that you didn't punch the guy out. What made you stop short of doing that?

Tweed


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Sam L
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 12:47 AM

Good question, and I had that in mind when I thought about this. I'm not immune to violent impulses. There was a gym teacher I had in 7th grade who called a sad little girl in the class by a derisive nickname. I think I might hit him in the face if I ran into him tomorrow. And I think sometimes when something is wrong, and harmful, but you can't think how to explain what's wrong with the spin people put on the wrong thing to do, what the missing sense is, it makes me upset that way. I believe violence is wrong, but at some point you don't care, you don't care if you are wrong.

   I think somewhere above were some comments about the media always quoting the stupidest people. I can safely say I've never been present at an interview that came out remotely accurate in print. My wife was interviewed about directing theatre and came out sounding like an evil genius with hopes for global domination--nothing like what she said. (As it happens, she does have a plan for global domination, but she would never let that slip out, until everything's in place.) When your identity and voice are usurped and carelessly toyed around with it can piss you off deeply, it can sicken you to your soul. The only thing I can imagine soldiering for is to protect voices, and free expression. Ibsen's Doll's House made a mark on me, not so much as a "feminist" thing, but because it's really about the genderless humanity of forming a self, having a story to tell yourself, about yourself, before you die.

And work matters that way too. A part of me feels sympathy for those madmen who are dismissed after decades at a job, and go nuts. It's a part of a person, what they do a long time. People don't really pay serious attention to how anyone else does their job, the observational tools are mostly nonsense, and it goes up and down that way. It's been shown that abusive bosses who improve their behaviors are still perceived the same, regardless. People form an impression, keep it, and don't trouble themselves to let anybody grow, or fix a misunderstanding.

I'd be too ashamed to come to blows over my own interests, but when someone next to you gets rolled over by the machinery of stupidity, carelessness, fake reason and glib mis-representation, you feel an impulse to slap somebody. I suppose I feel that there are forms of covert, soft-handed, non-physical but very real violence, that provoke violent feelings. The roots of not caring are the roots of violence, high-jest havin' fun crime is part of the cause of desperate hard low crime.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 01:05 AM

Fred:

Thanks, man -- for a first class post. Truly.

There's a sort of band of activity where a person is too afraid to be angry, and too angry to flee, where the whole specturm of passive aggression and underhanded attack, backstabbing, the smiling knife-wielding pissant mewling back-channel underminer -- you know the kind -- comes in to play. Sometimes I think this brand of cat is the most dangerous animal in society --they can do all kinds of artsy arrays to appear as high-toned and uptown as sunrise, and their actual actions are just leaving broken lives behind them. These are the whisperers, the gossips with nothing good to say, the bleating fearful souls who must dissemble to survive. These are the ones who lock on to creative action and somehow turn it into dust, or who make the world appear like an uninhabitable and dangerous place by painting huge generalities designed to induce fear.

They cover themselves with pretenses of virtue, or religious trappings, or strange bureaucratic nounless balderdash designed with full intent to prevent understanding, to distract and misdirect attention.   They come in all shapes and forms, and they wear all sorts of cheery disguises. Big companies are often rich with these weevils.

Frankly, they piss me off.

Or maybe I had already made that clear.

And maybe their influence is one of the common widespread and undetected causes of violence -- folks needled to the point of madness by the secret whisperers of the world.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 01:21 AM

OK- here I go again- Thread Creep Alert! I've been puzzling over this...

Way back on 25/4 8:14, Grab said: "Europe lost its roaming gangs of bandits ages back, but America still had them until more recently."

It's probably just slipped my mind, or it's something so familiar that I didn't identify it as such; I'll probably respond Oh! Duh...

When did we in the US have "roaming gangs of bandits"?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 01:41 AM

Hmmmm -- there were a number of infamous gangs at the turn of the previous century -- the James gang probably being the most famous. The Hole-in-the-Wall gang, Bill Bonney's gang, and later there were auto-endowed gangsters of the type made famous by Bonnie and Clyde and Will Sutton (he's the one whose claim to fame is explaining when asked why he robbed banks, "Because that's where the money is".

More recently still we have had roving gangs of Republicans. But that's another story.

New York City has been riddled with gangs for over a century -- Irish gangs, Puerto Rican gangs, and Madison Avenue, to name a few.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Ebbie
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 02:13 AM

Yes, I'll concede that. But the implication I drew from Grab's statement was that the roving gangs of bandits preyed upon the people. Not on banks, and not on each other.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Metchosin
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 02:49 AM

Amos, your post of 1:05 AM is part of what we have coined here as the tyranny of the weak.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 04:28 AM

A fine phrase for it, Met'! Management by lowest common denominator comes to mind as well, when groups get infected.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 08:28 AM

It's said that doves are vicious killers once they get in certain situations, with a confined victim, because they don't have the inhibitions built in that a predator would have, since they aren't equipped with what would normally be dangerous weapons.

I think the same applies with human beings. It's quite hard killing someone with bare hands and teeth (though of course it can be done); but put a gun or a car in our hands, or even a flint knife or a rock, and it's much easier. Too easy.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Jim Tailor
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 08:50 AM

brilliant analyst of human nature that I am, I offer...

It seems that there are two drives that must be satisfactorily....er...satisfied in order for us humans to be relatively content.

Security
Significance

If we feel either is threatened, we are likely to act. If we cannot regain our contentment by culturally acceptable means, we are most likely to try too recapture significance and security by abnormal/insane behavior...

Addictions
Eating disorders
Violence
Suicide

This behavior is only exacerbated by larger numbers of other humans who we (perhaps mistakenly, perhaps truly) see as threats to our significance or security --

take the mudcat for example.....

When it was a smaller, less populace place (as was the whole internet bulletin board atmosphere/community), there was much less incivility. But soon it grew, and those who were once secure in their role here as forum humorist, or folk trivia maven, or obscure lyrics master, or instrumental master, were rapidly becoming much smaller fish in a much larger pond.

Most accepted their roles being supplanted (with the great influx of new "experts") with the realistic view that understood, in perspective, how relatively insignificant participation on an internet forum is. They still chose to participate where they could -- or they left to live their already significance-satisfied lives.

But at the same time, the internet started to become a haven for those who had difficulty with significance/security issues in the real world. Suddenly, it seemed, they had a place to come and meet the minimum daily requirement for human fellowship (perhaps for the first time in their lives). Finally a place to come where you could be judged on the (more egalitarian) basis of what you knew, and how well you could express it -- NOT (finally) on what you looked like. Fat, bald, ugly, flatulent people with hair in all the wrong places had equal access to this world of communication.

But the increased traffic caused these ill-equipped (and even the not so ill-equiped) to have to deal with the significance/security issues in their lives -- and these people had already failed in the 3-D world. Hence, they had just closed another of the increasingly few avenues open to them for contentment.

Thus, the internet equivalent of violence is born -- Trolling and Flaming.

And thus, it is almost impossible to post a topic on this forum and not be showered with negative, contrarian responses. In order to feel more significant, one's posts must stand out from the rest. One can achieve this by:

1. Writing in a style superlative (like PeterT, Amos, JenEllen)
2. Truly being expert (like Frankham, Fielding, Mooh, Deckman,)
3. Having a reputation that exceeds the forum -- but is tied to its reason for existance (like Frankham, kytrad, Art Thieme,)
4. Being truly witty (like Catspaw)
5 Being positive, warm, caring posters (like mudlark, Mary from KY, Mark Clark)

The above are all positive ways to "be noticed" on a crowded forum street -- but they are either much harder, or require talent not achieved by most. So most people here choose to stand out the easy way -- go negative. -- works (almost) every time.

And this, just like violence, has only two solutions relative to the community:

1. ignore it. Jesus' "turn the other cheek", or the Eastern "remove the wall against which your enemy is leaning" (not in that childish "I'm just not gonna answer that!" kinda way that is actually returned violence) are ways that this means is expressed. If one cannot achieve the significance he is after by using violence -- he still gets no response -- he is much more likely to abandon the approach. Of course, with violence, the slap on the turned cheek is often soon escalated to socially unsafe behavior and that leads to the other means of dealing with the problem --

2. removal from society.

And this gets to my final point about the roots of violence -- it almost always excalates where there is a lack of justice. What an individual should not do -- strike back -- is required of the government.

When the individual does it, it is vengence.

When the government does it there is the due process necessary to change the "retaliation" to violence from vengence to justice. If the government acts as the individual (and thus abrogates this social role) the "retaliation" will default back to vengence....

......and more violence.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 09:11 AM

The real question, why is is that most of us don't get violent, or even feel particularly violent, in situations where some seemingly normal people flip, and is there anything in pareticular societies which nudge peopel over the line in one way or another?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Tweed
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 10:14 AM

And maybe their influence is one of the common widespread and undetected causes of violence -- folks needled to the point of madness by the secret whisperers of the world. !!! Amos, if you work for the Post Office I advise you to take all yore firearms and throw them into the bay before another day dawns!! ;~) Just kidding buddy, but I agree with you that they probably are responsible for violence in the workplace and in the schools as well. What do you suppose triggers spontaneous fighting between strangers? I think that we still are able to pick up on all the old posturing and eyeballing that our primate ancestors were privy to. Why one person can think beyond that challenge and another reacts in a violent manner is beyond me.

Looking back 30 years to the few fights I was in, just prior to the "battles", there was an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread, but after the first blow, that same emotion became like a lubricant/drug that shut down inhibitions and allowed the combatants to wade into the fray with no second thoughts about anything. Very intoxicating and powerful stuff and might explain why rival city gangs enjoy a good old rumble now and then. Mebbe there's a subconscious impulse to recapture the rush.

Yerz,
Tweed
P.S. The war planning politicians, who are educated and fairly well off and possibly have little personal experience with hand to hand combat in any form, seem to revel in arranging massive violence between peoples. Which group is less civilized then? The street gangs or the educated puppetmasters? Who would be the best representative of civilized thought processes becoming bent and disturbed?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 11:53 AM

Tweed, that's a point -- there is an addictive combination of adrenalin and testosterone for some folks, and anyone who has survived violence knows the feeling of focus and "now" attention that comes with it.

And I guess the perversion of that -- where the feeling comes not just from survival challenge, but from destruction -- is the watershed of insanity.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 02:20 PM

The only time I can think of that I acted violently (as opposed to reacting in self-defense) was when I was about 10 years old. As the only girl in the neighborhood (it was semi-rural -- neighborhood meant about a 1 mile radious), I was often hard pressed to be included; when I was, it was always as my 'brother's little sister' and I was at the very bottom of the pecking order.

So one day, we were playing baseball. I was, of course, relegated to the outfield, where "playing" meant standing there all day long. Also in the outfield was Clifford, who was the bottom boy in the pecking order. He was 2 or 3 years older and a bit bigger. He was being obnoxous and yelling taunts at they other players, and I told him to shut up.

He said, "Come over here and make me!"

I'm not 100% clear on what happened next, but my brother told me I threw down my glove, calmly walked over and punched him in the mouth and gave him a bloody lip. When I opened my eyes, my brother had the most astounded look on his face, the boys were all trying to see what happened, Clifford was crying and covering his mouth, and then he ran for home. I never saw him again.

There are all sorts of interesting ideas that could have led up to that act of aggression. Was I venting my race on the weakest possible target? Was I trying to establish a better place in the pecking order? Or did I just lose control?

Well, I always played shortstop after that.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 Apr 03 - 02:41 PM

That was the second point in my post above; that giving in to our violent instincts feels good. We may soon regret a violent act but at the moment it happens, it feels great.

My own violent outbursts were, predictably, before I had become properly socialized. Life for a teenager in the mid to late 1950s contained quite a lot of violence. Most young males were on a hair trigger just because it was the accepted norm among our peers. As in Tweed's experience, there were gang fights following sporting events between rival schools. But there could also be gang fights between loosely organized groups of kids based on turf. Violence or the possibility of violence was also needed to seem sexually attractive to the girls. That isn't to say one needed to be a bully, but you definately couldn't be a victim. You needed to seem a little dangerous and you needed dangerous friends.

I remember punching a guy out one time at a hootenanny at the home of some adult friends. I was doing my best to embrace non-violene and pacifism as a philosophy and lifestyle when another guy decided to mock both me and my very hot new girlfriend by grabbing her in an inappropriate way as he passed her chair. Everyone was shocked and we tried just leaving quitely to avoid a scene. But in a bedroom, while packing instruments and donning coats, the guy came in with a big smirk on his face and I just let him have it. It fealt great! Still makes me smile to think about it. We were immediatly ushered outside where he seemed combative so I let him have it again. My girlfriend would have admired the pacifist response but she really admired having her honor defended.

But I think that just reinforces my premise that violent behavior is instinctive and is built into our genetic heritage. By the way, I think women are still attracted by the possibility of violence in a male partner. That may be genetic coding as well.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Little Hawk
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 12:07 AM

Hmmmm...well, most of the violence I've ever personally seen was committed by boys in school against other boys. There was a lot of that in the 50's and 60's.

As for the world in general, by far the greatest amount of violence (and the deadliest) is practiced by governments on the general public...but it is not usually given recognition as such, except by opposing governments...or protestors and nonconformists (who are frequently the targets of it).

- LH


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 02:42 AM

Are we trained into the sense that what Mark describes is the ultimate chivalric response, and the Genuine Cowboy Way? This one puzzles the hell out of me -- there are some cultures where lifting a finger in defense of a woman is considered incomprehensible; in ours, violence in defense of such interesting abstractions as a lady's honor are quite defensible -- and as Mark demonstrates, they are much more "satisfactory" than an eductaed, non-violent answer, but....why?

It is almost as if we are on the look out for key events which "call for" the use of physical force ande can justify it adequately in our minds, and once we find such a corcumstance, we pick up the old bat and look around for a target. But what is ibnteresting is the predisposition to keep a sharp eye out for the right circumstances so we can turn on all the appropriate mechanisms the minute whatever circumstances we need are detected. CUltural radar tuned for the signature of good justifications.

What's that all about?


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 05:46 AM

I don't think there is actually much connection between the kind of individual fights mentioned there and organised high level violence, such as wars.

When people get angry that interferes with efficiency. Cool detachment from what what you are doing is surely necessary for an efficient sniper, someone dropping or planting a bomnb, or for a commanding officer ordering an attack, in which there are going to be heavy losses. I doubt if you get much of the kind of adrenalin rush you get in a fight from that kind of thing.

It's possible to be a fist-fighting pacifist, and what Mark described there is an example. To quote myself from a previous post: "War is about killing people you don't know with whom you have no personal quarrel, on then orders of people whom you may well not respect.

A pacifist is someone who refuses to take part in waging war. You don't actually need to be non-violent in all circumstances to be a pacifist.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Forum Lurker
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 08:38 AM

Amos-You are quite likely right about looking for circumstances where violence is justified. I think part of the reason for considering such violence acceptable is that it appears altruistic; you are risking your health to defend another, presumably one who cannot or should not have to defend themselves.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 06:48 PM

Well, so looking like you're willing to defy harm for the sake of your fellow-man is the secret good impulse behind some acts of violence? Hmmmm -- I once speculated in an essay that at the bottom of every insane act was a sane impulse badly blown out of proportion. Mebbe there's a constructive intention behind destructive violence, just hidden by a lot of confusion and misdirected thinking...


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 07:23 PM

"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge" Count Bakunin, the Russian anarchist wrote.

Which is true enough in certain circumstances, as any builder or worker in wood knows.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Sam L
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 07:25 PM

Sounds like a good essay. The way I read Lear, it's entirely about proportion, and sanity. Starting with the division of the kingdom, the heaps or measured love. If I sound pleased with my insight, it's just because I'm dense, and hope for the occasional schoolboy encouragement.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 07:30 PM

Fred:

OK, can do -- you deserve encouragement!! You have really nice insights. I like your posts a lot!!

(Actually, all very true).


Howzzat?

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Sam L
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 09:48 AM

Pretty good! When's recess?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Wolfgang
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 06:52 PM

Intra-species violence is always at a maximum at mating time. A high level of testosterone is linked to a high level of aggressivity. Young males of the human species are known to be most prone to violence (in comparison to other humans) and to have a high level of testosterone.

It has been claimed here that the level of violence is increasing. This is certainly untrue for interpersonal violence excluding war. This type of violence has been decreasing since centuries. Any look into old chronicles shows that. I guess that even with war the probability of getting killed by another human has decreased for many centuries. What has increased, however, is the greater accessability (TV, internet, newspaper) to stories about violence. Humans tend to make spontaneous guesstimates of frequencies according to the ease with which instances come to the mind. That is not a very reliable guess and is strongly biased.

The increase of road accidents seems impressive only if you forget that at the same time the level of work related fatal accidents has decreased by a far greater number. We earn our bread at a much safer way nowadays.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 07:22 PM

"...excluding war." That is quite an exclusion. Though I'm in agreement that much of the killing in war probably hasn't got that much to do with other types of violence.

Work related accidents - I'm guessing, but my guess is that the number here would have risen dramatically for a few generations following the Industrial Revolution from a relatively low figure.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 07:34 PM

Maslow would probably identify the roots of violence relative to his pyramid of needs -- starving or physically threatened people feel desperate and that desperation leads to extreme acts. But -- interestingly enough -- the same sort of desperation can come from feeling similarly thwarted or threatened on other needs, such as safety of an emotional sort, or perhaps even self-fulfillment. I can't say I know of any acts of physical violence caused by thwarted self-fulfillment, to be honest, but it is an amusing concept. Well, maybe there's a hierarchy of kinds of violence, too -- physical, emotional, and cognitive? 'Cuz I'm sure I have seen extreme cognitive violence being perpetrated by people whose chances for self-fulfillment are slim to none.

Just speculatin', you understand...


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 08:06 PM

acts of physical violence caused by thwarted self-fulfillment

What about events like the Columbine shootings, and other instances where there is a clearly a connection between the perpetrator's mental state and their violent actions? I would think that would be an example of twarted sel-fulfillment, even if the desires involved aren't necessarily rational ones.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 10:27 PM

"thwarted self-fulfillment" is probably a significant factor in a fair number of suicides too.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 11:35 PM

Well, there's emotional layers and then there's self-fulfillment of the higher sort which comes after you clear away a lot of old freight. I think emotional freight is intimately tied in with physical duress and in turn ties itself in intimately with cognitive difficulty. As do cogntiive and spiritual difficulty -- like one of those layered parfait-liqueurs, each of these zones interacts with the one above and the one below in strange and wondrous ways. A lot of emotional turmoil sounds like frustration of self-fulfillment, because it is certainly an impediment and frustrating to the self, but in the Maslowian sense, I think there's a differentiation to be made.

Jus t my two bits worth, FWIW.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Apr 03 - 02:03 AM

Lack of Consequence can be a factor. Bullies in school are not punished severely for their bad behaviour. They thrive in a culture where the consequence of their action is a mild reprimand and detention. Sometimes they are made to write a note of apology to the victim; very often dictated and not sincere. Parents very often do not believe their kid is guilty, so there is rarely a follow up after school, or re-enforce the teachers authority.

Some people have trouble accepting that there are evil people who enhance their reputations in the gang by killing for no apparent reason. In some gang culture you must be blooded (kill) before you are accepted. Not too long ago a gang called Einsatzgruppen became very efficient killers. September 1941 33,000 men, women, and children were shot and buried in a ravine at Babi Yar in just two days.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: NicoleC
Date: 30 Apr 03 - 12:55 PM

enhance their reputations in the gang by killing for no apparent reason

Enhancing one's reputation is a reason within itself. It may not be logical, but it is emotional. Needing acceptance into a larger group is part of human nature.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 30 Apr 03 - 06:03 PM

It is possible that the root of all human violence is a series of misconception about time. For example, in order to dramatize some past trauma you have to fail to differentiate it from the present, so that its "feelings" are being played over you in the present moment even though it occurred some time back. For another example, believing that you can achieve large rewards in status or wealth by actions measured in hours is a sort of collapsed sense of the flow of things through time. Even suicide depends on the notion that one's time and the continuation of personal confusion will end with a single violent act. This is often not the case.

It is clear that time itself is difficult to fully understand. Most of us skip the issue by hanging on to the present as well as we can. But the odd thing is perhaps that a lot mnor eof our creative energies are wrapped up in the past and in the future than in the moment.

By which hangs many a tale, I am sure...


A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Jim Tailor
Date: 30 Apr 03 - 10:28 PM

Hey Amos,

I just read your last post and will have posted a response...

...yesterday. If I had the time.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: toadfrog
Date: 30 Apr 03 - 11:19 PM

Looking for the "roots of violence" in human nature sounds like an excessively speculative project. But for some extremely interesting insights, try Richard Rhodes Why They Kill, on a maverick psychologist who based his work on extensive interviews with violent criminals. Also points out a lot of things that are wrong with contemporary academic psychology. He also thoroughly debunks the idea that violent behaviour is "irrational."

Also, for some interesting thoughts, the first chapter in Keegan's History of Warfare which points out that although violence and some kind of warlike behaviour may be part of essential human nature, the kind of disciplined violence we see in modern warfare is decidedly not.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 01 May 03 - 12:30 AM

TF:

Rhodes sounds like an interesting read,. thanks for the reference.

Violent behavior is netiher irrational nor rational in itself.

But if your man Rhodes tries to make a case that irrationality is an empty concept, or that brutality against the innocent is not irrational, I'm not going there. I believe there is a difference between rationality and irrationality, and that violence in places and against persons where it is not called for is throughly irrational. But I think you could make a case that there is a lot of confusion between rationality and cultural acceptability, and the two are not the same, although they are linked.

As for the topic being speculative -- it's about as concrete and meaningful as trying to define whether violence is 'the American Way'. But perhaps more helpful. Working toward answers that seem "more true" adds incrementally to some sense of understanding at least. Who knows where the benefits of that might appear?

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Mark Clark
Date: 01 May 03 - 12:50 AM

Toadfrog makes an interesting point. I'll have to check out those authors. I've read that, prior to Viet Nam, infantrymen often didn't shoot to kill or perhaps didn't even shoot at all. The DoD spent a lot of time and money studying the problem and had entirely new training methods developed by the time troops were needed for Viet Nam. From that war forward, nearly all infantrymen fire their weapons in a fight and shoot to kill.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 01 May 03 - 08:22 PM

MArk:

I seriously doubt that was the case in WW II.   Or there were an unbelievable number of accidental collisions with lead.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Mark Clark
Date: 01 May 03 - 09:49 PM

Actually that was the case in WW II. I'll try to locate the documentation.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Mark Clark
Date: 01 May 03 - 10:57 PM

I found a first look at the problem with a reference to the book On Killing by David Grossman, a former military officer (Little, Brown, 1995). Grossman turns out to be a recognized expert in this field of study and is especially critical of many video games as sources of violent acts by children. Here is an interesting article by Grossman on the subject of violence.

Grossman's thesis is that humans posess a natural reluctance to kill members of their own species unless they've been psycologically conditioned to kill. If he is correct then my notions of violence as a genetically inherited response are probably out the window.

I'll try to find more on this subject from other sources.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: toadfrog
Date: 01 May 03 - 11:43 PM

I am not sure I understand why violence is "irrational" (as opposed to "unacceptable" or just "bad." As I understand it, rationality has no part in determining the end, just the means by which it is sought. So if the end is to make yourself feared and respected, or to be let alone in rough company, violence may very well be a rational means to that end. Depending on circumstances, like, are you on a tough street or at an academic convention. At the convention, physical violence would be self defeating.

Mark: Rhodes likewise believes soldiers don't normally want to kill or shoot to kill, and he cites a scholar who examined the muskets abandoned on the field in the Civil War, and found that a large number were still loaded, or even loaded many times. He concludes that soldiers loaded their muskets to look diligent, but did not fire them.
I have problems with that.

1. One assumes that soldiers who abandoned muskets were those not keen on shooting them. What about muskets that weren't abandoned?

2. The fact that a musket is loaded does not prove that it wasn't fired. And a person reluctant to kill could as well fire his musket in the air. And yet, it is notoriously true that those muskets were used with murderous accuracy. A whole lot of people were shot in the Civil War.

3. My father remarked that in World War II, a lot of soldiers never fired their rifles. He attributed that to a lack of visible targets. He said he remembered a speech by General Patton, who told the troops to think where they would be if they were Germans, and shoot there. After the speech, Patton asked him what he thought, and he said (very respectfully) he thought it was a fine idea, but doubted the troops would actually do as the General said. But, he said, he was wrong, and Patton was right, because after the speech there was a great deal more shooting, and also more effective shooting.

4. It seems to me Grossman is looking at things through a distorting ideological glass. I don't believe any amount of military training can make a person kill if he really doesn't want to. On the other hand, shooting pop-up targets might just convey the idea of shooting where there is movement, even if no clear view of a person or object. I find it extremely hard to believe that shooting at pop up targets will overcome even the weakest moral reluctance to kill.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 02 May 03 - 12:43 AM

As I understand it, rationality has no part in determining the end, just the means by which it is sought.

The really irrational person has irrational ends, at least n the short term -- the desire to destroy has become generalized. There may be a deeper end which is somehow good, such as the desire to survive a situation which happened long ago. But I wouldn't say that ends cannot be irrational as well as means. People sometimes have low level insistent little drives to dominate others, for example -- and while you cvould argue that they are trying to acheive long term survival (a good end) through the means of dominating others (an irrational solution in many instances) it gets kind of chicken-eggy there -- you could equally well say they choose to dominate others (a bad end) thorugh the various means of overwhelming, undermining, intimidating, etc (bad means). Guess it depends on where you draw the scale. I have a strong sense that there is a lot of rationality and goodness buried in the most anti-social individual, but sometimes it is very hard or impossible to reach. That's just my opinion.

The end of making yourself feared by others is an irrational one because any experience with people will inform you that those who fear you also dislike you and will try to get even with you, sooner or later, for frightening them. It is also irrational because the same purpose-- for example, security among people, or esteem from others -- can better be served by merit, communication, and helping. Those are therefore more rational answers to the same equation because they acheive more good results across a wider spectrum. Diplomacy trumps war for the same reason -- it does less harm, usually.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: toadfrog
Date: 02 May 03 - 11:36 PM

Amos and Mark: Rhodes would respond that people who say violence is "irrational" usually have led sheltered lives. Of course, I don't know either of you, so I won't characterize your backgrounds. For a long time I personally have associated almost entirely with civilized people who do not regard violence as an option. I cound not win their regard by showing I was dangerous. (Even if I were.) I could not obtain any of the things I want by using violence. Also, I have no particular talent or bent for that kind of thing.

But when I was a kid, and when I was in the Army, I was often in close, prolonged and unavoidable contact with rougher types. I heard and saw things that left a lasting impression. And I know that there are worlds out there where things work differently from our own middle-class milieu. There are environments where the assertions in Amos's last paragraph simply don't apply. And in the past, before we had ubiquitous police and law courts, this was true just about everywhere. Absent cops and lawyers, people settled disputes with knives. I don't know anybody today I can even imagine sticking someone with a knife, but they used to do it all the time.

And there are even a couple people who contribute to this Forum who are apparently only impressed by superior force. Not to name any names.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 03 May 03 - 02:57 AM

I do not think violence is irrational as a remedy to certain situations. However, opting to settle issues with violence is less rational than using other means because it does more harm and less good. There are people for whom the only choice is to use force,, even if not violence and there are times when non-violent practices lead to personal annihilation. However you are talking in such instances about situations that are already deeply involved with degrees of insanity.

Violence is almost always less rational than other means of control or persuasion. That doesn't mean it's always avoidable, eh?

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Forum Lurker
Date: 03 May 03 - 01:20 PM

Amos-There are many situations where violence is the best, or even only, answer. These usually result from other's irrational actions. Sometimes fear is a valuable tool. It is better to be loved than feared, but it is safer to be feared than loved.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 May 03 - 03:45 PM

Violence can quite often make sense as a way to achieve something, and it's possible to understand why in certain circumstances a capacity for violence has survival value.

What is harder to understand is where cruelty fits in, especially the kind of cruelty that doesn't seem to obtain any advantage, over and above whatever satisfaction is felt by the person.

For example, I was just reading a really vicious and nasty post on another thread directed at a young person who had done nothing whatsoever to deserve it, other than write an essay that someone else had posted on another website. And that set me thinking about other examples of similar gratuitous nastiness, some types of vandalism, for example.

Where is the survival value that can explain the capacity and appetite for that kind of thing?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 03 May 03 - 08:21 PM

t is better to be loved than feared, but it is safer to be feared than loved.

Terribly sorry, but IMO this is an untenable proposition. People who fear you will destroy you -- if they fear you too much to do so explicitly they will do so covertly.

People who loveyou may cause you great pain from folly or oversight or misinterpretation, but they won't seek to destroy you.

At best the notion that it is safer to be feared than loved, in my opinion, qualifies as an irrational dictum.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Forum Lurker
Date: 03 May 03 - 09:25 PM

It is based on the idea that those who love you now may cease to love you, and you will lose that control over them. One cannot force love, but fear can be enforced.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Doug_Remley
Date: 04 May 03 - 01:11 AM

Mark is absolutely correct in his reference to "On Killing". Throughout history, apparently, it has been difficult to force the common man (usually the larger % of "Armies")to take another man's life in Judeao/Christian cultures. Often NCO's must literally force their men to aim and fire. Often it is embarrassment in face of their brothers-in-arms that prevails, or the outright fear of death in the face of an overwhelming attack that forces response, and then often men dry-fire empty magazines. A Sergeant's job is not to participate singly, but to monitor his men assuring applicable defense or attack. Culture defines levels of acceptable violence. Poor leadership allows excesses.

I have no clue as to why some cultures are devastatingly violent. I think that in evolutionary terms we are but the blink of an eye past hunter-gatherer groups that defended, or attacked, good feeding grounds. I read somehere that man did not really achieve consciesness until about 5,000 years ago, but had become a hive-animal having recently (10,000 years ago)tamed goats and dogs. With that form of living an altruistic response (preservation of species, or group) was paramount.

Nowadays some cultures hold esteem for killing your father's enemy and his children, so they eventually will not become your son's enemy.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 May 03 - 08:46 AM

It's a common experience, when people who ask their fathers if they ever killed anyone when they were in the army, for them to say "I hope not".

And firing squads have always had the practice of not having all the rifles loaded with live ammunition.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Peg
Date: 04 May 03 - 11:10 AM

McGrath, as for why people engage in destructive or cruel behavior designed to hurt others they could not possibly have any beef with (vandalism, cruel put-downs etc.) it strikes me this sort of "bully" behavior (for it is very childish) also stems from fear: the bully strikes out to make a name for himself, to draw attention to himself for being tough enough or bold enough to do the nasty thing. If he vandalizes in secret, well the evidence is still there on the wall or tombstone or church door, for all the world to see. This pumps them up, makes them feel important. Picking on someone who can't defend themselves, while most of us would think this very unsportsmanlike (for lack of a better word) and unfair, the bully probably sees it as his duty to do so, because everyone else is too "afraid" to do it...Bullies of this type don't feel like they measure up, they are usually outcasts of the worst sort, and most likely have some painful past experiences with rejection by loved ones, or betrayal by same. My two cents, anyway, having observed a lot of bullies in my day...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: *daylia*
Date: 04 May 03 - 11:44 AM

Mark, thank you for posting Grossman's interesting article! Along with his thought-provoking analysis of the biological roots of violence in the human mid-brain, and the purpose/methods of military/police training, he offers very valuable insight into the explosion of violent behavior occurring among young people in developed nations over the last several decades.

I found his views on the effect of televised/media violence among very young children most revealing, ie."Our children watch vivid pictures of human suffering and death, and they learn to associate it with their favorite soft drink and candy bar, or their girlfriend's perfume.

After the Jonesboro shootings, one of the high-school teachers told me how her students reacted when she told them about the shootings at the middle school. "They laughed," she told me with dismay. A similar reaction happens all the time in movie theaters when there is bloody violence. The young people laugh and cheer and keep right on eating popcorn and drinking pop. We have raised a generation of barbarians who have learned to associate violence with pleasure, like the Romans cheering and snacking as Christians were slaughtered in the Colosseum."


Chilling stuff! And I've often noticed, with great dismay, the difference in attitudes toward/acceptance of violence between today's teens/young adults and my own cohort of the 'peace-and-love-stricken' 60's and 70's. This is one of the issues I was hoping to address in the precursor thread "Violence is the American Way?", but it got buried in the backlash provoked by my unintentionally confrontational first post/thread title (sorry about that to everyone!) So thanks very much for bringing it up again here!

If televised violence is the primary source of increasing violence in developed nations, it's certainly not difficult to find the remedy - Turn the d*** thing off! Refuse to support the sponsors of violent shows, and let them, the media moguls and your children know exactly why you're doing it! And that's just two easy solutions off the top of my head, which I'm sure a great number of concerned parents have been doing for a long time now. So it certainly can't be the whole solution though...

daylia


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Forum Lurker
Date: 04 May 03 - 12:56 PM

While Grossman presents strong evidence, there are equally strong arguments against the idea that our brutality is a recent phenomenon. In Jared Diamond's book The Third Chimpanzee, he quotes studies showing that in pre-civilized societies, murder is the single greatest cause of death in males. The fact that the first example drawn on to show our modern barbarity is nearly two thousand years old shows that it is hardly a recent change. Humans have reveled in violence against others from time immemorial. Ancient sacrifice rituals, gladiatorial matches, autos-de-fe, contact sports; there is really no end to the number of examples. I think that the only conclusion is that humans are innately violent. Whether it evolved as a self-defense mechanism, a way to ensure the elimination of rivals, or even an accident of neural wiring, we are now by our nature potential killers, with or without cultural encouragement.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Amos
Date: 04 May 03 - 01:02 PM

I would submit that all television and movies do is   re-activate forces already at work in the psyche, stirring them up and reactivating them in ways that cannot be predicted.

The thread title is inaccurate because, as mentioned above, there are occasions when extremes of force are the rational solution. The thread was aimed more at the roots of inappropriate violence.

Turning the television off is like quitting cigarettes for some people -- disconnecting from a source of toxic addiction which is being pushed on you by heavyweight commercial forces. Seems simple enough, eh? But like cigarettes,   those within the addiction have a very different perspective than those without. I watch television once or twice a year, aside from selected rental videos. I just won't get into it --becauseit has harmful effects on my cognitive processes. It is a corrosive influence, in my opinion, not just because it ooften glroifies violence, but because it glorifies other htings I don't want to bringinto my life like intentional stupidity, bizarre dramatization, and robotic reactionary mindlessness being substituted for thought.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 May 03 - 09:29 PM

I'd need to see some pretty strong evidence before believing that murder was main cause of death among males in "pre-civilised societies", and that evidence would be pretty hard to gather. That's quite a sweeping statement, especially given the wide variety of societies that would presumably be included in that category, and the range of ways in which it is possible to die without being murdered.

I haven't read the book in question, but I'd be very surprised if Diamond would claimed to quote "studies showing that in pre-civilized societies, murder is the single greatest cause of death in males". I'd have thought that at most he would have cited studies which suggested that, in some "pre-civilised societies", this may have been the case.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: Forum Lurker
Date: 04 May 03 - 10:00 PM

McGrath-You're right, I over-generalized, but the societies where the study was conducted indicated that murder was the overwhelming cause of death for males, and other anthropological evidence suggests that those were not isolated cases.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Roots of Violence in Humans
From: toadfrog
Date: 04 May 03 - 10:09 PM

A serious problem with Grossman's article is its premise. It appears that recently the violent crime rate has decreased. The FBI says, at THIS LOCATION that it decreased, and the FBI is not known for minimizing the crime rate. The Census Bureau likewise says the homicide rate fell consistently in the 1990's. CLICK HERE In that time, television fare did not improve, and the tone of society did not get better, or so anyone would notice.

In the United States, violent crime is consistently higher in the South than elsewhere. White southerners are more violent than white northeners. Black southerners are more violent than black northeners. Rural and urban are likewise not the key. Suggesting tradition is an important factor. Note also, violent crime goes down when the times are good. The times are likely to get bad in the near future, and I betcha crime will go up again.

But the amount of personal, or criminal, violence in Westen nations is much lower today than it was a hundred years ago, and a mere shadow of what it was 500 years ago. Wars are a little harder to calculate, but I doubt the level of savagery today is higher than in some early better time. Read, sometime, an account of the Wars of Religion.


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