Some thoughts on violence

I’ve received some feedback on Gin’s War (my third NaNoWriMo novel). It was useful feedback and I need to digest it before tackling how to address the issues and concerns it raised. However, one particular comment got me thinking.

A comment about violence. Understand, this was a comment about violence in my written work of fiction but couched with the relationship to the violence in the real world. The disconnect seems to be the (perceived) unrealism of the level of violence in the narrative. For the record, I keep my violence a lot more sanitized than what one experiences by watching the news. 

I’ve written about violence before. If you want better writing than mine about violence, see the articles by Sam Harris (HERE and HERE).

On the one hand, I agree with what the reviewer says. Namely, we live in one of the safest times in human history, at least when it comes to violence. You wouldn’t know it listening to gun control enthusiasts or gun control opponents or politicians leveraging fear as a power play or even the evening news. You especially wouldn’t know it listening to the 24/7 cable news channels.

However, I think people draw the wrong conclusion from this statistic about violence in today’s civilized society. Namely, they conclude we are less violent as a species; less violent as individuals.

As many might guess, I don’t share that view and that reflects in my writing and while it is fiction and made to be more interesting (and fast-paced) than real life, I don’t think it drifts into the incredible. Side note: it’s argued it makes the heroine seem “less heroic” and no better than the bad guys. That touches on what I call the Batman Problem. Batman is forever fighting the same bad guys who keep hurting/killing people because of his unwillingness to kill. The problem at hand is not to appear heroic; it’s to stop bad guys. My solution would be more draconian than Batman’s. 

I do agree that society (or, societies) have become more structured, more controlled. Countries are cooperating more and as such all-out wars are less frequent . . . at least between world powers.

That lends validity to the argument about less violence because the opportunities for wanton violence are fewer, especially when it comes to large groups (very few instances of bands of marauders descending into our manicured neighborhoods to wreak destruction upon us and ours).

So, yes, statistically, collectively, we face fewer opportunities for violence and thus experience less violence.

Unless you are in the unlucky few who live in high-crime areas or who chance upon individuals without the typical behavioral restraints most people exhibit.

The US is often portrayed as a violent country, but even a casual perusal of the data shows violence to the level that is reported (for which we are much maligned) is highly concentrated.

And that, I think, is a problem . . . well, not a problem in the sense that violence should be more widespread. It’s a problem in the sense that the majority of people have zero experience with violence that cannot be reasoned with.

I’m not sure where people get the idea violence can be countered with a reasoned argument and can be defused by discussing things in a civilized manner. It’s more likely you’ll make someone even madder and force the transition from what started as generalized violence into focused and targeted violence; violence not as a means to gain something or out of impulse, but as a mean to punish and make the target suffer.

I hate to generalize, but this idealized and antiseptic view of violence is most prevalent in liberal-minded individuals who, grossly generalizing, tend to have utopian-like views of what societies “ought” to be doing and are isolated from some of life’s harsh realities. And yet, even they — when mildly challenged — are likely to see violence as a viable option.

I don’t want to make this political but it’s somewhat unavoidable. If you read the news, you are more likely (at least these days) to see people resorting to physical violence while espousing high-minded ideals . . . violence in support of those ideals.

Mind you, I have high-minded ideals . . . I just don’t believe that we should resort to violence in the promotion of said ideals.

Now, sure as liquid effluent flows downhill, someone will challenge me by saying that conservative-minded individuals are more violent. They’ll even point at various examples . . . while ignoring what’s happening on campuses and in the same breath justify groups like Antifa as bravely resisting tyrannical forces.

Look, as a rule, my personal belief — born of observation and experience — is that people who don’t get what they want — or feel they’re entitled to — are prone to anger and can easily drift into violence.

While this isn’t normally based on politics, I do see this more on the Left than the Right (at least for now). Obviously, it’s not everyone but, at the same time, I’m surprised when I hear (or read) people who normally decry and profess disdain for our baser instincts profess violence as a viable option to getting their way.

They see it as crucial, justified, and the last resort to keep civilization from sinking into chaos . . . exactly the same arguments that can be heard on the Right when their most radical elements try to justify their violence.

The point I’m trying to make is that violence is not buried so much below the surface that only the “despicable” will resort to it.

No; it’s just under the surface and we’re seeing it bubble up more and more and in unexpected places. And always with “justification”. That’s one thing all humans seem to excel at: justifying the use of force.

After nearly thirty years of declining violence, 2016 and 2017 saw a slight uptick. I hope it’s just a fluke, but I think I have a pretty good handle on human nature and I don’t put it past even the most educated, erudite, and ethical individuals letting loose their own violent tendencies while decrying those of others.

So, when I hear someone ask “how can anyone do that?” — usually speaking about people they don’t identify with and in reference to some act of violence by the “opposition” — my answer is short:

They are humans; it’s what humans do.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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16 Responses to Some thoughts on violence

  1. Eddy Winko says:

    You put forward a strong argument for why people shouldn’t be allowed to have guns! Too late.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I like your strong female characters…they are not perfect, but they are brave and willing to right the wrongs. And that they live in a world of “action and adventure” is a great escape for me as I read.

    I like movies with strong female characters, too.

    As long as there are human-beings there will be violence. Even in a world sans weapons, people figure out how to hurt and kill each other. :-(

    I’ve had some horrific things happen to me AND to family members…crimes of the worst kind inflicted on us. But, if someone put a gun in my hand and said, “Go ahead, you can kill those persons who damaged your heart, hurt you physically, wounded your inner being, hurt/killed your loved one, etc.” I wouldn’t do it. As a peaceful, forgiving, empathetic person, I couldn’t do it. But, weirdly, I do like vigilante, and law enforcement, stories and movies where a flawed, but caring person wants to save and protect the innocent. Go figure.

    Maybe in reading those stories, and watching those movies, I find a bit of healing in myself. ???

    Thank you for sharing this post. It helped me think through some things.


    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      The scenario you describe is after the fact; that would be dealing in punishment. I admit it’s a little more difficult for some.

      The question is prevention and/or stopping an act that’s either in progress or about to happen. That’s a different matter altogether. It’s possible you still might not be able to pull the trigger but part of training (with or without guns) is to “memorize” the motor skills necessary to react in times of stress and when the situation doesn’t allow for reflection.

      As for movies and escape . . . yes; those are the movies I like best of all, especially with extreme prejudice. I’ve always had a problem with superheroes like Batman and Superman and others who refuse to kill because of some moral imperative. Give me someone like the Punisher or Red from Blacklist or Hitman.

      The problem is superheroes keep fighting the same bad guys who keep hurting innocent people. Frankly, I would prefer the bad guys get taken out. Knowing I’ve eliminated the occurrence of future death and suffering (at least from that particular bad guy) would go a long way toward alleviating any angst I might feel about removing human scum from the gene pool and society in general. Now, I get it . . . they are in comics and iconic adversaries are as popular as the heroes themselves. Still, it’s one of the reasons I don’t like those particular comics.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. robert87004 says:

    Batman? The Punisher? Liberals? Conservatives? Violence bubbling just beneath the surface

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Not sure what you mean; none of it is “just beneath the surface”. As far as I can see, violence (at least this past year) has broken out a number of times, some in spectacular ways and always condemned by the opposition and justified by supporters.

      Batman and The Punisher more than most, but they’re fiction.

      Liked by 2 people

      • robert87004 says:

        Oops, I forgot the ‘not’ just beneath the surface, if it ever was. Until and unless most learn to accept personal responsibility for their own misfortunes and continue to blame others there will be violence born of fear, frustration and stress, not even considering the violent criminal element.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is well written and well thought out. Some of the astute insights are: “the majority of people have zero experience with violence that cannot be reasoned with.”, “people who don’t get what they want — or feel they’re entitled to — are prone to anger and can easily drift into violence.” and “They are humans; it’s what humans do.”
    Those who have never faced anyone with explosive violent anger or one honestly, certifiably insane, do not understand.
    During my elementary school years, a man walked onto a nearby school playground and set off a bomb killing people. Just out of college and taking any job to get money to travel, a 9th grader pulled out a gun in there classroom, I stepped between him and the class and said, “Give me the gun.” He hesitated and I took it away from him, stuffed it in a drawer, and kept calmly discussing the novel until administrators answered the note I had sent to the office.Guess I was known a tough, but fair and no nonsense. That was the year a high school boy in Dallas shot his English teacher because he got a B+ instead of an A on a composition – we were all rather nervous about that. There’s always been school violence. My uncles who were big city principals and superintendents always brought a box to the family farm in the spring with all the weapons they have taken from students that year. The guns were dismantled and broken and they were all buried in deep holes somewhere on that property (If the new owners ever find those caches, what will they think HAHA) Media didn’t report much about school violence – much less play it over and over and over – in order to protect the kids and not worry them.
    Raise you hand if you’ve experienced: drive-by shootings in your neighborhood, or simply driving home and having gun shots go through your car windshield, had a car stolen, had someone try to kick your front door in during the middle of the night, had a known mentally unstable stalker break into your house (luckily you were not on schedule, so not there or returning as expected, have the same deranged stalker call continually using spoofed phone numbers threatening to kill – sending pictures of his newest gun despite restraining orders (waving that paper in front of someone like that thinking it will stop him is really madness), having police say “Oh, yes, we are supposed to pick up his gun in this state if there’s restraining orders, but we’re busy”, realized this stalking/ violence is not unique and end up working to help victims of domestic violence and stalking to understand and work the system to get what protection they can. And in addition have a family member in the extended family that is certifiably paranoid schizophrenic and has been through several commitments- and is drugged into submission and the family hopes he doesn’t develop tolerance to the drugs because they keep letting him out saying he’s OK on drugs…which he ends up not wanting to take and can be insanely violent…and there’s not enough mental health beds in hospital/treatment centers for sudden crisis situation – even if danger is imminent.
    Hands anyone? Mine is up – on every one of those. Yours?
    Violence and explosive anger is part of the human condition – thinly controlled at times.
    Many self righteous/naïve/overly protected individuals endlessly criticize gun owners and the way violent people are handled. And there’s a whole lot of “I know better than you how things work.”
    People who haven’t experienced violence do not understand that “being nice” and “talking kindly, being sensitive, explaining, and showing compassion” doesn’t always work.
    There are too many do-overs in the current justice system. Law enforcement is not working. Maybe get back to thinking “that’s an explanation, but not an excuse”.
    Murder and killing is already against the law, but still happens. – more laws are not really going to help.
    Until people all agree it is completely wrong morally/ethically/ against survival of the species (HAHA) to kill or injure or hurt others, well, it’s going to be a rough ride.
    Live and let live. Nothing scares me more than a new gun owner who just got a gun because they are terrified. Having guns, any kind of defensive weapon(high heels can and do kill), or even martial arts knowledge to me is a little like abortions: if you don’t want one, don’t get one. But don’t leave those who have their backs against the wall and at that moment have no other choice – kill or be killed – don’t leave them defenseless and vulnerable.
    Sorry for the length, but you nailed it. (And I’m tired of the smug ones who live in a bubble trying to tell us how life works). And yes, to your evaluation of those Superheroes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Wow . . . I can’t remember a prior instance of not only someone so thoroughly agreeing with something I wrote but adding the weight of experience in support of that agreement.

      . . . I don’t know how to handle it . . . other than saying “thank you.”

      Liked by 2 people

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