Thursday, 14 April 2016

Is Humanity Violent?

There is a claim about humanity which bothers me. You can claim that we're herbivorous (we're not), you can claim that we're psychic (we're not) and you can claim that we're descended from Adam and Eve (we're definitely not). But something that always bothers me is when I hear it said that people are 'violent'. Ooh, we're violent, we're such a violent people. Violence is in our nature, it's hard to stop violence because these vile people are violent, we can't help it!
Ugh . . . no. I don't believe that. The Word of the Day is: ‘VIOLENCE’

Violence /'vuyələns/ n. 1. Rough force: The violence of the wind. 2. Rough force that is used to injure or harm: To die by violence. 3. Any wrongful use of force or power, as against rights, laws, etc. 4. Intensity of feeling, language, etc.; fury.

Yes, we can be violent, and we can use violence, but I don't actually believe that we're naturally violent. In fact, unlike most animals, we struggle to be violent even when we have to be.
I know this . . . because of soldiers.

Before a soldier goes to war, he goes through training. Have you seen people being trained to go to war? It's disgusting. People yell, scream, demand, command and insult these people very loudly to get them to do stuff. Have you ever stopped to consider why? Is it just a male power fantasy? Is it bullying? No, it's because they're desensitizing these people to aggression and violence.

Now, I know a little bit about this, because of my grandfather. He was recruited to fight in World War II, he was brought in for some of the training, but he didn't pass. He said that part of it was because, in training, one of the things they had to do was to yell at a (non-human) target, screaming, and attack it. My grandfather was told to do this, and couldn't. Every time he was to do this, in his mind all he saw was a person and it was a person he was being asked to kill.
The purpose of the screaming wasn't to scare the enemy, if you're about to kill someone it's not a good idea to let them know you're coming. Rather, the reason they're told to scream is because it builds up their aggression and adrenaline and they can then ignore the act they're committing. And because a senior officer is yelling at them "Do it! Scream, yell and do it now, soldier!" it become easier to take the blame off their shoulders. They're not killing someone, they're following the orders of a commanding officer, they're driving a knife into someone's flesh for their country, not murdering . . . but when they get back home, the adrenaline wears off.

As far as I'm concerned, PTSD proves that we are not naturally violent people. People coming back from war are broken, because they look at what they did and they are traumatized. Now, admittedly, sometimes this is because they come back and they are disgusted at the way they enjoyed the violence. War can be addictive in that sense, but that doesn't mean that you're not traumatized, and it's not true of everyone. PTSD is a complicated mental illness and it's not just suffered by soldiers . . .

But, I’m not smarter than everyone else - as much as I may occasionally believe that - so, why does everyone believe that we’re so violent? Do I live in a ‘violent’ and ‘abusive’ world? I’ve never had to be traumatized or visualize violence first hand, I mean, I’ve been in three fights in my life, but two of those were just with friends, but I was upset by all three of them. So, for the most part, I - and the majority of people - perceive the extremities of violence from news, national and global. Lurid descriptions of rape, murder and other crimes spread a wave of fear among the population and now and then a story or two makes one aware of the inestimable degrees of violence that can be perpetuated.
This information begets action, and this action begets thought . . . for instance, if a girl live in a city rumored to be unsafe for women, she’d naturally avoid or limit night-life and take extra precautions while travelling etcetera. Such a girl would do so not so much because they’ve had it bad themselves but in the light of a ‘perceived violence’ and in the fear of the ‘inhumane’.
It’s a measure of violence that we don’t have a yardstick for - the fear of crime is so often higher than the threat of crime - so it can escalate the perceived violence.
Personally, i don’t think anything traumatic is truly  ever forgotten. A quantifiable loss of assets, wounds caused, loss of person/s can be estimated , but the sensation of pain and emotional fallout cannot be measured. And the distress thereafter, treatment, recovery,  is a story of its own.
So, I don’t consider it a flaw of humanity, you can’t blame a cockroach for fear of a boot, but it doesn’t change the fact that these violences we see are the exception, not the rule.

Then, what of the violence that does occur? Why does violent crime exist - and why on such a global scale - if we are not violent by nature?
I guess most (regular) criminals may have a history of committing crimes as a juvenile which in turn might indicate to an abusive childhood , personal history.
There are also triggers to violence . . . intolerance, disenfranchisement, loss of control.
But more than anything, the key factor of all violence in humanity is dysfunction.
We have a chemical imbalance, something in our life is going wrong, something we care about is in danger, something we don’t understand is confronting us; all predications of violence come from some fault, fracture or flaw.

The only time violence is used by a perfectly well-functioning human person is when they are defending something they care about; and even then, they are often defending themselves from a violent person, who is perpetrating violence due to some other cause which is unjustified.

Also, people can be embittered by the way that we consume violence.In the form of contact sports, dangerous stunt shows & action movies. They consider this violence within the media as a symptom of a greater violence implicit within human people. But, I would argue that this is untrue; to begin with, there’s no correlation between violent media and a desire for violence; it can never cause people to want to be violent. But I also believe that the reason we seek out violence is because we are unviolent.
I am of the opinion that curiosity is what directs our consumption of media, and with violence we are curious of it and desire to see it, because we lack experience in violence. It is a spectacle, to which we are entirely unprepared, and if we experienced it daily we would not find that enjoyment of it.

I am not saying that humans cannot be violent, we all have the capacity to be violent. Similarly, a car has the capacity to be a battering ram, to smash into something at high speed. However, I argue that this is not an implicit function of humanity. For, just as the car leaves a crash in pieces and needs to be fixed, when a human is violent they too are broken. And I don’t mean physically, I believe that when we are violent, we lose something - perhaps empathy, self-esteem, a sense of security, temperament or perhaps even our humanity - and the more violence we enact, the harder it is for us to be fixed.

Although, I may be wrong. I know that some may see this as some kind of “safe privilege”, since people who use violence are often at risk in their lives, and my claims that it's unnecessary are from my perspective; and I admit, the terms “fixed” and “broken” are defined by function, and I am biased in my presumption that the human function is unviolent. But, isn’t it?
And isn’t that what humanity means? Is it not a metaphor for the most basic kinds of freedom that aren’t meant to be transgressed, or emotions that can be felt by one and all. Otherwise, ‘humanity’ too may differ across countries, continents, the laws and rules that protect man from man. But, I’ll leave that debate for someone who studied Civics . . .
This is the answer I have to the titular question, if you have a different answer, then drop it in the comments below.

I’m the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time thanks goodness that a ‘violent humanity’ is still the stuff of news and movies, for me at least.