Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Man and Violence

The 16 Days campaign carried out by the Women and Media Collective against gender based violence is a great initiative. Violence against women and children are a problem in Sri Lanka, but not one that is talked about much. Kudos to all the people who are working hard to provide solutions to this problem and help those who are victimized.

To me, violence of any kind is hard to understand. Why do we humans have a need for violence and aggression?  The violent acts of some are causing great pain and suffering for rest of the world. I came across this interesting essay called Violence and Aggression, while Googling. Its a simple and easy to understand article for the layman, which explains a lot about violence and anger.

As this article explains it, aggression is intentional, as is done to cause harm and pain to another person. This is not just physical harm, but it includes verbal and mental violence. Aggression stems form anger and the motives for it comes from what a person is feeling. According to a theory by psychologists Roy and Judy Eidelson, these feelings can be categorized into five groups.

  1. Superiority - The belief that one is superior to another.
  2. Injustice - The belief that one has a legitimate reason to be aggressive against another.
  3. Vulnerability - The belief that one is one could be aggressively annihilated at the hands of another.
  4. Distrust - The belief that another will not honor their promises or commitments.
  5. Hopelessness - The belief that one cannot improve their condition.

There are two main ideas about where aggression comes from. One is that we humans are born with it, that it is hard coded into our gene, and that we learn how to control it fro social norms. The other believes that we are born as compassionate and  society makes us violent. However, according to Sigmund Freud, we are born with two instincts. 

  The instinct toward life is called Eros while the instinct toward death is called Thanatos. Freud believed that humans work by way of a 'hydraulic theory', where pressure builds up inside and must be released as aggression. To Freud, aggressive energy could be seen in everything from art to architecture. He theorized that society helps people to sublimate the instinct to be violent by giving them the desire to be creative and work hard. He called this theory sublimation.

My personal theory is that we are born with both violence and compassion, but our violent side is much more stronger than the compassionate side. The compassionate side is mostly suppressed, and we have to be taught to let go of that suppression and to let our compassionate side to come on top. It is part of our animal instinct for survival. The more aggressive you are, more chance of survival you have. I mean, nobody is going to mess with the angry dude now are they?

However, the social environment one is brought up does have a big impact on what kind of a person one turns out to be. If a child grows up in violence then that becomes the norm for that child. When the child grows up, he/she will act according to what they think is the norm. Similarly, if a child is brought up in a kind and compassionate environment where violence is frowned upon, then it can be expected that the when the child becomes and adult, he/she will act the same. It goes on like a cycle. Of course there can be exception to the norm. In a situation with violence, if the cycle can be broken, then the violence can be stopped. Social cultural norms and religion are not enough. Laws and  and a strong justice system are an important part of changing these behaviors. 

Unfortunately, males are more aggressive and violent. It's statistically proven. My guess it's a hangover from our cave man days. Me brave hunter, me kill animal kinda mentality. In today's "civilized" age, the question we have to ask is, whether it is really necessary? My answer is no, definitely not, but I guess it's very difficult to shake our roots. 

The normal perception is that men are stronger and women weaker. But should this be the case? Shouldn't it be that both sexes are equally stronger. With this perception, men tend to be violent towards women and children because there is a less chance of them fighting back. It's better than fighting with another man who will fight back, where chances are that you will not escape unscathed. Nobody wants to get hurt themselves, so naturally people will take their aggression out on someone weaker than them who will take it lying down. For men, women, children, animals, and even men who are less stronger than themselves are the most likely targets. They would never a pick a fight with someone stronger than they are, unless they have weapons and the other person is unarmed. They will go for it if they are certain the outcome is favorable to them.

I feel that in our culture and in Asian culture in general, children are taught to be seen and not heard. I'm not saying that children have to go head to head with adults, but if a child knows that an adult is doing something wrong, then they should be taught to speak up. Children should be encouraged to develop strong personalities who put value in truth and justice. In addition, the laws and the justice system should be upgraded to take swift action and to protect the victims and punish the wrongdoers. But more often than not, we see it working the other way around, where the criminals go unpunished and the victims are further victimized. 

Another thing that baffles me is that we tend to put a lot of stock in respecting our elders, our parent and especially our mothers, but then we turn around and harass women in society. How easily we forget that we are born of women, and we will not be alive if not for our mothers. The respect you show to your mother should and must be extended to all women. Why is it such a difficult thing to do. Where does the difference lie? I still haven't figured it out.

This world has turned me into a pessimist, and I believe that the evil in the world outweighs the good. Can you blame me when you take a look around the world we are living in?

Our generation and generations before us are totally fucked, for no better word. There is no hope for us. But there is hope for the younger generation, and generations yet to come. Hopefully we can teach them not to make the same mistakes as we did. To put kindness and compassion before violence. To put selflessness and sharing before greed and selfishness. Do I think that this Utopian society ever be a reality? No of course not. Don't be silly. We are who we are. We will never change. 

So, does this mean that I don't have any violent thoughts? Of course I do. It is part of who we are. But I make a conscious effort not to act out according to these. Do I succeed all the time. No, but I try not to fail. If everybody can do that, then we could be in a much better place.

I'm not a student of psychology, so I don't know anything about the subject matter. I might be completely wrong in what I have said, but these are just my own thoughts and ramblings. 


No comments: