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November 28, 2012 at 3:22 PMComments: 28 Faves: 0

Violence Inherent in the System

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Spawn Point Blog Series

We are a people of violence. We were born from violence and we shall return to the Earth violently. All the many moments provided during our daily sojourn into reality are permeated with violence and violent tendencies.

Upon the commute to work, a car cuts you off, and for a moment a heat rises in you. Though you may quell this burning desire with a turning of cheeks, you can not, and must not, ignore the fact that it was there.

During the brief, but gloriously silent walk to your place of employment, a person of unparalleled kindness offers you a warm hello and, while you are in the process of reciprocating said kindness, this joy-for-profit tyrant pulls out a brochure for the next great pyramid scheme; you want to release ages of repressed rage upon them, but you only kindly decline and move on.

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be altered through understanding." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once you have reached your place of work, your mask of fulfilled happiness firmly in place, so begins an 8 hour tug-of-war between your desire to scream about the injustice that is the modern workplace and the archaic need to work hard for a paycheck. Violence courses through you during these hours, the structured chaos that is an office playing out a modern day Lord of the Flies as you struggle to identify yourself amongst the teeming masses doing the same.

When the work day is done and you have arrived home, the violence emerges and you handle it in any way you can, be that repression or sweet release. You handle it, but you never truly acknowledge it, never truly choose to engage its critical part in your life.

We are a people of violence, but we fear it so. We fear the power it may hold over us. We fear the mirror it provides, the reflection of our base selves. We are afraid, and in our fearing we point the finger at what is most accessible and faceless...the media and the shadowy government that controls them.

A Professional Opinion

In an article published by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Eugene V. Beresin M.D. points his finger at modern media and calls for clinical intervention as a solution to our violence problem.

"While the causes of youth violence are multifactorial and include such variables as poverty, family psychopathology, child abuse, exposure to domestic and community violence, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders, the research literature is quite compelling that children's exposure to media violence plays an important role in the etiology of violent behavior."

"Physicians should make parents and schools 'media literate,' meaning they should understand the risks of exposure to violence and teach children how to interpret what they see on television and in the movies, including the intent and content of commercials. In doing so, children may be increasingly able to discern which media messages are suitable."

While I'm sure that Dr. Beresin believes this, or was at least paid a handsome fee to do so, he is so far from any concept of realistic truth that I'm fairly positive he has a prescription pad just for himself. It is an unfortunate truth that he comes from a terribly long line of misguided practitioners of mental health and purveyors of prophetic wisdom. Alas, that is the unfortunate truth of unfortunate truths...they are unfortunately true.

Let's say that his proposal is taken up by those like-minded fools who would proclaim themselves protectors of our mental heath, and doctors begin dictating to our education system and parents what is acceptable and what is not. Are we really going to allow these men and women who repress rage daily with fake smiles and practiced bed-side manner to tell us what is violent and what is not? These men and women who so gallantly parade around our heads daily, consciously ignoring that violence is inherent to our very survival? The men and women who prescribe addictive downers to pacify our very nature?

No, that won't work either.

Reflection

We can yell and scream at all the "reasons" we are violent until we are blue in the face, it will change nothing. The media portrays violence in the manner it does because it is a direct reflection of who we are as a people. Developers don't choose to saturate all their stories with violence because that is what they want to do, but because it is what we have shown them we want them to do, because it is in our nature.

"Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built." - Abraham Lincoln

As a matter of fact, we love violence in our media because it is far away from us. We live vicariously through it as our darkest desires play out across the screen, those desires we bury deep within but can never truly be rid of. We pine for more violence, we yearn for it and the media answers in kind, profiting off our gluttonous appetites. The media is a symptom, not the cause.

Dr. Eugene V. Beresin M.D. and his ilk are also just symptoms of a violent people. In fact, they are an even truer gauge of our psychosis because they actually sell repression to us. We repress our very being daily and they sell us the tools we need in order that we may not have to exert as much effort in our longing to be dead inside.

Acceptance and Acknowledgement

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote:

"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence."

"I believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil." - Albert Einstein

In this case, Gandhi was not talking about angry men and little blue pills, but more a lack of self-restraint. Over the years, a picture of Gandhi has been painted that skews slightly to the side what he stood for. He is used as a portrait of non-violence, cheek turning, and christian virtue, and while these may be pieces of the truth, what he really spoke to was acceptance of the ENTIRE self.

We are a people of violence. This does not mean that we run every person who cuts us off into a ditch, but it does mean that we should accept that the urge exists. Know that there is violence inside all of us. Know that violence is what allowed our species to prevail against all odds. Know that violence ensured the ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Know that violence will be needed again. Do not repress it, but come to understand it.

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28 Comments

  • Very well written, blog, E. I enjoyed reading it! However, I would argue against the term "people of violence" which seems too definitive to me.

    While I agree that we all feel anger at times and that it's healthier to acknowledge and express that anger than to bury it ( I wrote about this in a previous blog of mine here: http://www.smartlivingnetwork.com/emotional-health/b/id-and-ego-sad-people-mad-people/), we are no more people of violence (seems more like anger than violence to me in the way you describe it), than we are people of sadness, or people of love, or people of happiness, or people of fear.

    Toddlers hit and kick and bite, because they haven't fully developed the ability to empathize and express themselves verbally. Can you imagine if the whole world acted that way? Acting out violently is very rarely the course in our best interest when dealing with something that makes us angry. Acknowledging the anger in us, analyzing it's roots, managing it, and expressing it is usually a much more beneficial route to take.

    Still, you bring up some very interesting ideas about the appeal of violence in the media, and you may have a point about the repression of anger (as well as many other feelings) in our culture. Like I said, I enjoyed the blog.

  • I guess I wonder how you define "violence."

  • In a very small view, your description of an individual that exists within our society makes sense because social norms dictate that violence is not a "good" thing, nor is it "right."

    But, when viewing humanity from a larger evolutionary scale, violence is a tool used for the survival and propagation of our species. This use has allowed our species to thrive on Earth, and to become the most dominant predator that the planet has ever seen. All this was achieved through violence, among other human traits.

    Now, as we sit atop the food chain, we generate that violence in different ways (the media being one of them) in order to play out our more instinctual behaviors. We have developed different areas of the brain in which to perpetrate this violence, allowing emotional violence to be played out through conversation and written word, as it is so often today. These emotional responses are only a manifestation of our repression of physical violence though, not some higher form of evolution.

    Saying that we are a people of violence wasn't a supposition, it was a truth. We built our civilization upon the bones of those weaker than we were. Human beings are natural selections chosen champions (for now), but we have repressed those very instincts that allowed us to come so far and in doing so have forfeit what it means to be human.

    Violence is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it is a necessity, akin to breathing or eating. Accepting violence does not negate being a good person, being kind, or being generous, it actually enhances all these things by clearing your mind of the conscious walls we put up against our very nature.

    We repress so much of who we are and manufacture these categorizations of what we imagine we should be that we have lost all of who we could be. Until we begin to get back to embracing ALL aspects of our nature, we will continue to slide towards our self-induced extinction.

  • How are you defining violence?

  • I would define violence as an exertion of will over another entity in regards to survival, be that physical or metaphysical.

  • Humans as creatures and humans as a society HAVE evolved though, and as social creatures, we've moved more toward norms that benefit us as a whole. If we continued to live like cavemen did, acting essentially like toddlers, thinking only of ourselves, and acting out of impulse, doing whatever felt good, we would not have been able to make the progress we have made.

    I agree, it is not wrong or bad that we have angry thoughts and feelings, but I do think intention and will and action are important figures in determining what is moral or immoral.

    Let's say some guy cuts me off. Would it be moral for me run my car into his because I feel slighted? Would it be beneficial to me either? It might feel good in an emotional, ego sense, but it would also be immature and unproductive.

    Repression of a feeling is different than processing through it and determining the best way to go is to talk it out or let it go.

  • Can you give some examples as to our evolution into a better form of human? Can you point to current social norms that have actually evolved our species while negating violence in both the physical and metaphysical forms?

  • I'm not sure what metaphysical violence would consist of. Could you give an example of that?

  • Racism is metaphysical violence.

  • So then you're proposing we should embrace and act upon racist thoughts?

  • No, that is not what I am advocating. What I am saying is that we need to stop ignoring that violence exists and that it will always exist. We like to think of ourselves as evolved individuals, but all we have done is find clever ways to hide our violence.

    There is no escaping our violent nature.

  • "What I am saying is that we need to stop ignoring that violence exists and that it will always exist."

    How do you think we are ignoring the existence of violence? In your article you were pointing out how we like to watch it on TV.

    "We like to think of ourselves as evolved individuals, but all we have done is find clever ways to hide our violence. "

    So the point you're trying to make is that we are capable of violence? Granted, and I agree that too often we tend to view things as black and white, them and us, but I would argue that the ability to manage our feelings in a way that benefits us and society as a whole IS a positive movement in human evolution.

    We may all be capable of acting out with physical - or metaphysical - aggression, and that we can't escape, but the in the majority of cases, violence is avoidable/escapable.

  • I would argue that violence is not a feeling, nor is a vast majority of what we think we feel actually represented correctly at all.

    We ignore the fact that violence exists within us by accepting outside sources of violence as an appropriate outlet for them. By saying that violence on TV is enough to pacify our inherent character, we are essentially denying said character in an attempt to be an ideal that can not be sustained. Eventually our humanity will win out, as it does on a daily basis.

    For instance, if you look at countries who don't have the massive amount of interactive outlets that we have, there is a constant state of change perpetrated almost exclusively by violence.

    Again, in no way am I advocating violence as the ultimate road to utopia, but it will undoubtedly be there. We can not obtain peace by repressing our very nature. We can only get there by embracing and fully understanding that we are flawed beings, not the pinnacle of being that we have proclaimed for so long.

  • "I would argue that violence is not a feeling, nor is a vast majority of what we think we feel actually represented correctly at all.We ignore the fact that violence exists within us by accepting outside sources of violence as an appropriate outlet for them."

    If violence is not a feeling, how does it exist within us?

    "For instance, if you look at countries who don't have the massive amount of interactive outlets that we have, there is a constant state of change perpetrated almost exclusively by violence."

    I think you are assigning a cause and effect relationship where one doesn't exist.

  • There are many aspects of human nature that are not feelings, they are engrained through years of evolutionary response. In this instance, violence is an effect of our fight or flight response, a critical characteristic that has allowed our species to thrive for the very small amount of time we have been on this planet.

    While it is certainly very nice to think that everything in our existence is driven by emotion, that is a fairy tale. We don't eat because we really love to, we do it because we must in order to survive. This doesn't discount an enjoyment of food, nor does the enjoyment explain the need for it.

    If you think that I am applying cause and effect where there is none, I wonder then, what would America look like if you removed mass media from the landscape of our daily existence? Or, as an example, instituted the far reaching media into a warring country? Would the countless individuals who take to the streets to fight for survival be as willing to do so if they had all the glorious distractions we are provided?

    I think not...

  • I am certainly under no illusion that everything we a purely emotional creatures, but fight or flight is a fear response which we EITHER fight (resort to violence) or flight (don't). It only comes up in the most extreme circumstances, and it's a leftover from significantly more dangerous times. If we promote violence over peaceful conflict resolution, these times become the more dangerous times we evolved from and devolve backward from the growth we've made.

    I and many other people I know manage to live without TV - and in my experience the people that do are some of the most peaceful people I know. I don't have studies to support me, so I won't pretend this is a fact, but if I were to guess why poor TV-less nations experience more war and crime, it makes more sense that it would be the environment that has lead to the extreme poverty, and the results of that poverty that are contributing to the incidence of violence. Though poverty means no TV, I do not believe it is the lack of TV that is causing people to act out in physical hostility toward each other.

  • Fight or flight is most certainly not an archaic survival technique, we use it on a daily basis. When placed in a position of conflict, no matter how small the conflict, that instinct is what you call upon in order to make your decision. The severity of the conflict is reflected in the response.

    TV is only one of the many ways in which we placate the masses. America is structured around distraction from the truth, which is why tragedies are only really remembered for a few days before the people move on. Our methods of distraction are really methods of misdirection.

    Again, in no way am I advocating violence. What I am advocating is awareness that it exists within every single one of us. No matter how peaceful the person, or group of persons may be, they are violent by nature. If they have achieved true peace by acknowledging this violence and conquering it, then kudos, but I have yet meet a single person who doesn't self-medicate and has accomplished this goal.

  • The hermit is a archetype which removes all distractions to find inner peace and wisdom. You see this theme repeated over and over with some of the most important people throughout history, so I don't think a lack of distraction can be blamed for violent action.

    What is right and what is wrong are not black and white issues. If my life was being threatened, I don't believe violence could be seen as immoral on my part, but even still, it would be regrettable. I do think violence or harm to others should be avoided if possible. We as human being are also more complex than being good or bad. I don't personally believe in evil. If I had to judge an action moral or immoral, I would look at the circumstances - the cognitive and physical abilities of the people involved would play into, and their intentions as well. I wouldn't consider you evil for or bad or immoral for having violent urges, but because you have the ability to choose, I would consider it wrong of you to harm someone when you didn't need to.

    I don't agree in blanket statements like "people are violent in nature" because I think it's misleading and incorrect. People have two basic urges - the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. We do what we can to survive, but I believe most people do not want to resort of violent and (luckily) I would not describe the nature of anyone I know as "violent." Your nature is made up of the traits that are most uniquely you. I'm am not violently natured - though i wouldn't say I've found true peace either. I don't think true peace is something you can accomplish and not worry about anymore. It's a lifelong effort.

    "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and excepting the other person to die." - Buddha

  • Again, this isn't about choice. Of course every person has the choice to pursue violence or fight the urge, but choice does not negate the presence of violence in each and every person. As a matter of fact, having to make the choice only proves that every individual has violence within them.

    Violence is not just physical force, it is an extension of humanities will to power. I don't expect that you will accept this, I don't think it is in you to accept it. That being said, you don't need to. Time and time again humanity has proven that it is violent in nature. Every step in our evolution has been violent, and those who have spoken out against that violence have been destroyed by it. They weren't destroyed because they were bad, they weren't destroyed because evil exists in the world, they weren't destroyed for any other arbitrary term we attempt to put on our very character, they were destroyed because they didn't accept what humanity actually is. We are beasts barely evolved above the rest.

    We are so very young as a species and we have so much potential, but in our current form, violence exists in full and it will be many years before it is tamed. To think that we have arrived at the point in which we can discount violence in each of us is beyond naive.

    ". . . --do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?--This world is the will to power--and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power--and nothing besides!"
    -Friedrich Nietzsche

  • I believe that a more appropriate term would be domination (I have control over you). Violence holds the connotation of acting out so as to harm or kill another individual. Violence may or may not be used with a purpose. Domination, however, may use violence as a means, but does not necessarily require it. As humans, we have certainly proven ourselves to quickly and unnecessarily falling to violence to accomplish domination.

  • While I agree with the sentiment Seth, I care not for connotation. We are speaking of the same things.

  • OK. Not sure it's so much connotation as definition by Webster:

    Violence - exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse; injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation

    Domination - supremacy or preeminence over another; exercise of mastery or ruling power

    One may dominate with or without violence. Historically, violence has been the fastest route to domination, but is not the only choice.

    Yes, if my children were attacked by a bear (or another human), if flight were not an option, I would resort to violence to defend them. However, this would not be violence for the sake of some mental clarity or to establish my dominance as top predator. It would be the truest application of fight or flight response.

    Beating up the neighbor kid to steal his kite is not a throw back to fight or flight. That is violence for the purpose of domination. Killing others over a land dispute is not fight or flight, it is domination.

  • I had a bully that used to beat me up for my big wheel bicycle when I was growing up. I would ride it around a square courtyard in the married housing on CMU's campus while my mom was at school and my dad was doing some work. This kid was a little bit older than I was in years, but much older in his experience of life. He would come up to me, push me off the bike, ride it for a bit, and then return it to me. I never fought back as it would have been a fruitless endeavor and I had an inkling as to why he did it.

    He lived in an apartment directly across from ours and I watched as violence permeated his entire existence. I watched his parents berate him and beat him. I watched as they poured their failure in to him. I watched him be sad at first and then I watched him embrace the violence within to protect himself. Domination had nothing to do with him pushing me off my bike, it had everything to do with him surviving, with him communicating in the only way he knew. He felt no need to dominate, which is why he gave the bike back unharmed every time.

    Pass around labels until you are blue in the face, it won't change years of history, nor will it have any bearing on our future. We are a people of violence.

  • I appreciate your ideas and I think you've brought up some good points, but I still think there is a better word for the what we are people of. And words are important. Why be ugly? We are creatures of survival - as is every other creature on Earth. We all do what we must to survive and thrive. Physical aggression is one means of doing this, yes, and no doubt, there are moral cases of it, but typically there are other and better ways. I feel like there are more important and productive human characteristics we should promote and more descriptive words we could use to identify the difference between us and any other life form.

  • (I had a gerbil named Nietzsche. )

  • Ah! On this we agree. Believe me when I say that the violence is the worst part of our character, but a part of our character none-the-less. We are a people of ingenuity, boundless love, and unbreakable will, but we can not move forward with only these until we accept the violence. Once it is fully accepted, we can apply our other amazing attributes in molding the violence. Molding it into something equally as beautiful as we are.

  • If you ask me "a people of violence" is equal to "the devil is in all of us"

  • I don't think there can be any doubt the descriptions spawn from the same observation of humanity Nancy, regardless of belief.

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