Monday, April 05, 2010

The Righteousness about Violence

I thought I would have some conclusions by the time I reached the end of this somewhat rambling stream-of-consciousness, but it seems I haven't so I'll warn you in advance. This remains just food for thought.

I was reading an interview with Cady Noland in the Journal of Contemporary Art the other day, and she said something that coincided with some thoughts I've been thinking about the role of violence in our society, especially in light of all the Animal Planet programming Bambino watches and I tend to get sucked into from time to time. Cady noted:
Violence used to be part of life in America and had a positive reputation. Apparently, at least according to Lewis Coser who was writing about the transition of sociology in relation to violence, at a certain point violence used to describe sociology in a very positive way. There was a kind of righteousness about violence — the break with England, fighting for our rights, the Boston Tea Party. Now, in our culture as it is, there is one official social norm — and acts of violence, expressions of dissatisfaction are framed in an atomized view as being "abnormal."
I'd been thinking about this long before we saw the violent responses to the passing of the Health Insurance Reform law, long before Sarah Palin started firing up the crowds with her Annie Oakley routine, and even long before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to tell the truth. I've been somewhat obsessed with the role of violence in social order since my phase of reading and re-reading (and re-reading) most of Tennessee Williams' plays (I've read "Streetcar" like an insane 19 times). But it didn't begin to gel into a theory (which I'll get to in a moment) until I read, a few years ago, about the so-called "Boys' Crisis" in America. (You didn't hear about this? There were entire international conferences on the "problem.")

The "crisis" was best summarized this way: "Besides lagging behind girls in academic performance, boys struggle more than girls do with a variety of mental-health issues, according to a report [pdf file] in the December issue of the journal Gender Issues." The abstract from that report read:
The existence of a “boy crisis” in the United States is a topic of public policy debate. This study examines the state of American boyhood, using not only the commonly reviewed indicators of school achievement but also mental health, premature death, injury, delinquency, and arrests. Boys are in trouble in many areas: low rates of literacy, low grades and engagement in school, high dropout from school, and dramatically higher rates of placement in special education, suicide, premature death, injuries, and arrests. Girls, however, suffer from other problems, especially depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, and eating disorders, and are less likely to achieve at the very highest levels in mathematics and science. This study argues that both boys and girls suffer from characteristic problems, but the issues affecting boys are serious and neglected.
Others, however, concluded that the "crisis" was a myth, and that the performance disparity between boys and girls was based on socio-economics, not gender:

The boy crisis we're hearing about is largely a manufactured one, the product of both a backlash against the women's movement and the media's penchant for continuously churning out news about the latest dire threat to the nation. The subject got a big boost last year when first lady Laura Bush announced that she was going to turn her attention to the problems of boys.

But those problems are hardly so widespread. The alarming statistics on which the notion of a crisis is based are rarely broken out by race or class. When they are, the whole picture changes. It becomes clear that if there is a crisis, it's among inner-city and rural boys. White suburban boys aren't significantly touched by it. On average, they are not dropping out of school, avoiding college or lacking in verbal skills. Although we have been hearing that boys are virtually disappearing from college classrooms, the truth is that among whites, the gender composition of colleges is pretty balanced: 51 percent female and 49 percent male, according to the National Education Association. In Ivy League colleges, men still outnumber women.

One group of studies found that although poor and working-class boys lag behind girls in reading when they get to middle school, boys in the wealthiest schools do not fall behind, either in middle school or in high school. University of Michigan education professor Valerie Lee reports that gender differences in academic performance are "small to moderate."

Now, in our house, Bambino watches an inordinate amount of Animal Planet (when he's not watching back-to-back episodes of "Lost" on Netflix). I mention this because it's apparent when you watch how animals interact, that the male of any species relies heavily on violence or the threat of violence to get his way. Whether in dealing with a rival seeking to edge in on one's harem or a competitor for the scant food available, the male of most species addresses such transgressions with a clear indication that he will go postal on your *ss if you don't back off. If the threat doesn't send the punk skedaddling, then an actual confrontation (teeth a-gnashing, claws a-slashing, horns a-ramming, etc. etc.) settles the matter.

In my mind, that notion has combined with how the storyline in just about any Tennesse Williams' play suggests that when push comes to shove the male of the human species will also attempt to affect change in his world via violence. When reason or civil negotiations break down, a man can always hurl something across a room to try to regain the upper hand. In William's world, women have more subtle powers, and while men have access to those too, they rely on violence as their ultimate trump card.

As Cady Noland noted, however, we humans (at least in America) have collectively come to view violence as "abnormal."

OK, so I don't really mean that. What I really mean is that mostly women view violence as "abnormal" and mostly men agree with the women or stay silent on the topic in polite company. Very few of my male friends, gay or straight, volunteer that they find boxing or football or rugby or action movies or whatever too "violent." Only my women friends ever say that. My male friends may not seek out violence in their daily lives, but they seem to understand its appeal.

So putting together the findings about the true disparity being related to socio-economic conditions with the belief that violence is nature's way of letting males assert their power when all else fails, this has led me to begin to wonder whether the "crisis" some perceive isn't about personal achievement as much as it about personal power. Boys are frustrated (and that reveals itself in their school work and other social interactions) because they're told to resist their nature. It's like the son in "The Incredibles" who was told not to use his superhuman speed by his parents...he was utterly frustrated, and it led to him acting out.

On the other hand, in a world where violence is frowned upon for males, if you come from a well-to-do family, you'll have personal resources other than violence to help you get ahead in life, so you do. If you're poor or marginalized by society (meaning that connections or money can't buy you better results), your ultimate power as a male is violence, but you're not allowed to access that. The system is rigged. You have this ability, but they say you can't use it.

Of course there are males with no violent urges and females who can hold their own among the most brutish of males...as in all things with humans, there's a sliding scale...but I do wonder how to reconcile the "righteousness about violence" we used to share as Americans and as mammals with the forced anti-violent creatures we seem to be collectively now. And I should be careful to note that I'm not suggesting the Tea Party idiots hurling bricks through windows or Christian militia plotting terrorist actions have any sort of "violence virtue" on their side. I would rather they spend half an hour trying to really understand the Health Insurance Reform legislation with an open mind (and a realistic assessment of their own income and how it will really impact them personally). I suspect most of them would calm down quite a bit as a result.

But I can't help but wonder whether we have gone too far in suppressing our nature. What correcting that might mean isn't clear to me (it's irresponsible to call for more violence, I know). Then again, none of the beasts on Animal Planet seek out violence for its own sake. They simply resort to it when pushed to.

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33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I can't help but wonder whether we have gone too far in suppressing our nature.

I always thought that is what our collective obsession with sports was all about... an outlet for violence.

4/05/2010 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

You are not playing massive online videogames.

Cedric

(and you don't live in a bad urban neighborhood either)

4/05/2010 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

you don't know either of those to be true Cedric...please make your point.

4/05/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

the value of violence is probably within its functionality as decision process mechanism.

Obviously, there are other processes that were valued by society as a means of achieving consensus. When the 13 colonies couldn't reach concordance with the crown, they reached for a structure that could arrive there. Whenever the structure for concordance isn't perceived as functional, we turn to violence... even terrorists seem to do that. So maybe the problem isn't so much the "need" for physical confrontation, but rather the tools of concordance that are available to use are in need of repair. If the republicans or democrats feel that the congress is no longer a feasible means of confluence, they'll reach for something else. Maybe we need to expand (or reinforce) the choices of decision processes available. Maybe it is more then the choice of violence, but rather the range of varied functional choices available that needs nurturing.

Maybe that is the perceived beauty of violence, there is but one outcome, one chance at choice. Decision done. Path chosen. Double or nothing.

4/05/2010 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

"It is forbidden to kill therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." ~ Voltaire

I don't think we're less violent, or suppress it, we're just very careful about how we let it out.

We've been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly a decade. We have obsessions about sports, and play very violent videogames. (RockBand and Guitar Hero being refreshing nonviolent norms, but Rock has always been about getting laid, so you could argue it appeals to a similar thing).

And if you pay attention to the way people speak, you will find violent references, and at the very least military jargon thrown in.

(I don't think we have been suppressing our nature by very much. Collectively, anyway).

4/05/2010 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I'm with Anonymous. That's what sports is all about. (Add steroids to the mix and, boy, what a show, eh? Especially boxing. Eek.)

But unlike other animals, which operate on instinct and Id, we have higher powers of reasoning and control. Violence may be our heritage, but culture and technology, to say nothing of reason, introspection and meditation, allow us to live a life less violent than our four-legged relatives.

Then again, everyone gets kind of gorilla like on the road. OK, maybe that's me.

BTW, you insult Annie Oakley (my childhood hera) by connecting her to that female person with the ever-more-expensive clothing.

4/05/2010 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Sports have become business. I don't think they're the open forum for release they once were.

Further, I don't think it's a matter of unfocused violence for its own sake, but rather violence as a problem-solving technique. Again, it's not like animals seek out violence for its own sake. Sure it's part of their play when young, as practice, but once they're adults they seem perfectly content to never resort to it.

Which is what I suspect Cedric was getting at (that you can live your life as a human and never need to resort to it, should you avoid certain arenas and/or neighborhoods).

4/05/2010 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Well, in many online massive videogame, you'll not be getting a chance to evolve if you don't rapidly make acquaintances. The violence can be so upfront (you have virtual leagues out there to kill anyone they suspect to be gay)
that even when you go along, you are glad (if you have a right mind) that this is all fantasy when you are done. Violence is a dominant element of videogame culture, and the youth of today know much more about videogame than about cinema or visual arts.
I would even argue that videogame is a reason why kids are doing so bad at school, which is not exactly the same as saying they don't have a place to exert their inner violence. Topics of the redundancy of the body apply, but technology itself have made redundant the question of gender in the exertion of physical power. Soon with all our little personal ITouch tazers we will all be made equals. I don't think we "can" go back.



As far as street violence, it's been increasing in quite a number of large cities, each new "Gang" mafia being worst than the last, and if America is going to follow the model of what's happening in poorer neighboring countries, it won't be long before the average cityscape look like a war zone. I mean, who stops at traffic lights in a large brazilian city? My point is I see violence statistics increase, and I experience more violence every day in all sorts of new insiduous forms (the customs at USA entry, how that have shifted in 15 years). Things like curtesy and politeness, have turned to surprise me.


Jorge Borgès was a strong supporter of that idea that man in in his element when at war (you're not a real man until you hurt another, etc..). With the technology we have today, you only need the slightliest of minds verged toward violence to cause about our extinction. So I would say it's a question of being careful what we wish for.


Cedric C

4/05/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note to self, if Winkleman says "You talkin' to me" slowly back out the door.

4/05/2010 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

The goal in a massive videogame is not to be violent for violent's sake, but to win, and this desire is probably not too far from the animal desire to win a sexual conquest. I mean, is it different? Both rely on a satisfaction provided by dominancy. I have a lovebird that constantly attempts to bite me, and it's doing this for 2 reasons: it's it way of playing and to test its dominance over me.

Animals take a natural pleasure
in dominancy, wrether through a survival mode, or through play.
If we don't "win" dominancy, we die, are made slaves, or loose in a videogame. I think we could happily survive in a world without violence as long as we make sure they will always be winners and loosers. I have long fantasized that "winners" wouldn't be neccessary, but that would be our deathbed. We are constantly motivated in life by a desire to win something.


Cedric C

4/05/2010 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that they asked for “Public Defenders”, now they know about the undercover FBI agent. The simpleton Tea baggers keep missing the point. These are the same whiners that were crying when the McCain/Bailin ticket lost. Now they are crying again because their yelling (because they are haters not debaters) did not stop health care from passing. They think they can scare, intimidate and force others to go along with them by comments like “This time we came unarmed”, let me tell you something they are not the only ones that are armed and not all ex-military join the fringe militia crazies who don’t pay taxes and run around with face paint in the parks playing commando, the majority are mature and understand that the world is more complicated and grey then the black and white that these simpleton make it out to be and that my friend is the point. Do not cry when regular people openly laugh at your group when they see on TV that your leaders are Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and that turn coat Glenn Beck from the LDS. They do more to discredit you on TV (powerful) than any of my comments do in the blog sphere.

4/05/2010 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

As only a sporadic viewer of Animal Planet, I remember the episode in which adult male polar bears, who tend to travel alone, fairly often cannibalize weak cubs to the point where less than half the cubs survive to adulthood. Some relate this trend to global warming, but apparently it was always part of polar bear behavior.

It may be a dog-eat-dog world, but not quite as literally as this. Back in the late 70s, there was a now largely forgotten book, "The Cult of the Wild" by NY Times science writer Boyce Rensberger, that argued that statistically speaking, we humans are a far more peaceful and altruistic species than many members of the animal kingdom.

4/05/2010 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Sports have become business. I don't think they're the open forum for release they once were.

Professional National Level sports, perhaps. There are lots of kid and adult amateur league sports around that aren't businesses and very accessible. They are also reasonably popular.

Here Rugby and Soccer are the most popular, and generate enough injuries that probably satisfies as an outlet.

4/05/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true, sports is big time business, but it is also kids playing football or soccer in the neighborhood park and parents getting overly zealous about the competitive factor. Sports works on all levels with all kinds of people.

The argument for violence is very Darwinian. I know, still an extremely dominant view in society, especially on shows like animal planet. But coincidentally, last weekend I read an interesting critique of Darwin in the book "The Science of Passionate Interests: An Introduction to Gabriel Tarde's Economic Anthropology," by Bruno Laotur.
Basically Tarde says that Darwin focuses too much on the struggle for existence an not enough on cross-breeding and hybridization, which are forms of adaptation and harmony vs forms of opposition.

An interesting idea, but also one that begs the question, Why do we keep focusing on forms of opposition instead of forms of harmony? I imagine 'plant planet' would be a very boring cable channel for most, even us passive female types...

-anonymus 9:57 (female)

4/05/2010 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish i could just hump whoever i am attracted to and no one would judge me for it.

4/05/2010 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

If animals could talk, they'd say we are the most violent creature that ever existed, and we are killing way more animals everyday than we would need for mere survival.


The rhizome model has supplanted Darwin's evolution tree. When an animal kill their little, it is often out of, almost an instinctive compassion, when they sense the little is too weak to "make it". I believe in an instinctive morality, a point where you realize that non-violence is more comfy and less troublesome.

But as I said before, our secondary instinct to hunger is the taste for power and domination. We have invented the Economy system for that. Our humans wars have had little to do with survival and much about winning a position in the scheme of Economy. It must be a long long time ago when violence in humans was something really needful. Even the worst gangster wants money more than they want violence.

Cedric C

(PS: there is always SnM sex for the nostalgics)

4/05/2010 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Bambino said...

Like one of our closest friend said last night "If dogs could ever talk, there would be no pets"

4/05/2010 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me school was like prison. It's one reason that I don't think constantly throwing more money education is necessarily a good thing- you end up with fancier prisons and better paid guards but it's still not an environment that is conducive to learning. I regret every year I wasted there- I would have been much better off and happier if I had just been turned loose in a large university library for eight hours a day and allowed to do my thing. I do think it was an environment where the females tended to do better. Why that is I have no idea. If we lived in a healthy society I think something akin to Waldorf Schools would be the norm.

4/05/2010 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Teri Proschuk said...

I’m not condoning violence in anyway, in fact I’ve been a vegetarian since I was eleven because I can’t stand to see( animals or humans) oppressed , however I can kind of see your point. I have noticed some people (mostly women)can’t take any level of violence, even if it’s a movie based on real history such as a movie about the holocaust. My husband is big fan of horror movies and I have grown to enjoy them myself, but I know a lot of people feel it’s sick and disturbing. I don’t think violence is “abnormal” at all, I think most people have violent thoughts, but thankfully are able to control the impulses for the sake of social well being and fear of consequences.
As far as boys lagging behind in school, I feel anyone who doesn’t fit into schools narrow view of education is labeled “abnormal” because they may learn differently than others. No wonder schools are failing, there doesn’t seem to be any real learning going on, just memorizing a bunch of facts without any real critical thinking. It’s a shame because humans are naturally curious and like to learn but schools take all the joy out of it. That being said, I do think girls are more mature than boys and that may have something to do with it. At Easter dinner last night I did witness a mother cutting her 15 yr old son’s meat, so that may have something to do with it. I doubt she would be doing that for a 15 yr old girl, so maybe girls have more expectations to follow the rules and fend for themselves.
I do agree with you in that for people without money, violence may be the only form of power they have, that’s why we need to stop building prisons and put that money into equal education for all. People with money have so much leverage in our society they don’t need to use violence, they just abuse their power in other ways.

4/05/2010 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The violence we see in TV and film, in video games and in certain sports potentially functions as a kind of pornographic release of our own anger and hostility at a world which we have come to realize is out of our control.

RE: Lewis Coser, He obviously missed the civil war and instead focuses upon the sense of moral righteousness which permeated American culture in WWI and WWII. Starting with the Korean Conflict American ideals of "might makes right" which were enforced by the fact we won the previous wars, starts to lose its ideological effectiveness, failing us completely during the Vietnam Conflict. In order to accept violence as a "part of American life" we had to be the victors, proving that our use of force was moral.

What is interesting is that all of the wars since the start of the 20th century exhibit declining death statistics, except Vietnam which I believe had a higher death toll than Korea.

Another set of factors result from the four fold population increase in the 20th century, people are more crowded together and therefor have a greater possibility of pissing someone else off.

Frankly, I think the opposition party has realized it has lost its ability to win by decree and coercion, to be able to at least tacitly make their belief system the iconically accepted view of the nation. We had an election and the opposition party cannot accept a change in the rules. It is this loss of power which is causing the acting out by the more extremist groups.

Note: several expressed ideas about Darwin are incorrect. The simplest way to shorthand Darwin's findings is to use the term adaptive rather than survival. The genome contains many pieces of genetic matter which are "unexpressed," that is, while they are there in the genetic structure, they don't currently do anything which causes them to be dominant. Their expression is latent, available but not necessarily a factor one way or the other.

If something in the environment occurs which makes the expression of this genetic matter useful, then its expression becomes strengthened by natural selection. For example: The beak length of birds may vary slightly but as long as it doesn't matter as far as food gathering is concerned then the genetic choices are expressed randomly through the mating process. If the food supply changes, favoring the longer or shorter beak, natural selection in the mating process will tend to favor the genetic expression with the higher rate of adaptability.

4/05/2010 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ George:
I don't think it is incorrect to say that Darwin emphasized hereditary accumulation of advantages through competition and selection, and especially, it's not incorrect to say that I read a book that quoted Gabriel Tarde criticizing this aspect of Darwin's work... but I guess that's what you get by summing up a book in a sentence or two...

Tarde says:
"His (Darwin's) mistake [...] seems to me to have been in relying far more on the struggle for existence, a biological form of opposition, than on cross-breeding and hybridization, biological forms of adaptation and harmony. A function just as important as the production of a new species would not be able to be a continuous and daily function, while the simple production of a new individual- generation- is an intermittent function. An exceptional phenomenon, and not a daily phenomenon, must be at the base of this specific novelty. And [...] a fertile hybridization, as an exception, is far neater than a hereditary accumulation of small advantageous variations, through competition and selection, to explain the formation of new types of life."

Think what you may of Tarde's idea, but surely the entire lineup of 'survival of the fittest' TV shows on Animal Planet take after what is at least an over-simplification of Darwin's ideas, the same bastardization of which lead to the whole Social Darwinism nightmare for a century or so.

4/05/2010 08:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

Like one of our closest friend said last night "If dogs could ever talk, there would be no pets"

Sorry, Murat, I ain't buying that for an instant. Dog lovers give their pets food, shelter, companionship, cable TV, and a good 401(k). And all dogs have to do in return is to let their ears be scratched a few times a day and to remember not to crap on the carpet. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

4/05/2010 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mead McLean said...

I found the side articles pretty interesting. Education's always going to be a problem. There are so many different types of learners that it's hard to structure a class. I always like that set of statistics: you learn 10% of what you read, 10% of what you hear, 15% of what you write, and 95% of what you teach. Peer-to-peer tutoring seems to be an untapped resource in schools. It would be interesting to assign some low-level kids to learn enough about a subject to teach it to other people. Something like that might change the classroom dynamic.

I find that I learn so much while I prep lessons and even more when I'm in the classroom.

I've had some interesting experiences in the past few days re: boyhood. I was in a bookstore, and this mom was yelling at her boy about being suspended from school (probably middle school), getting in fights, etc. She said, "After all that you think I'm going to buy you a book?!?!" I almost said something to her--the best thing she could have done was buy him a book and make him read it. All that kids learn from interactions such as this is that they should be unreasonably angry when someone does something wrong. Especially in stressful situations, they learn exactly the opposite of what authority figures try to teach--they learn how to act when they are in a position of authority. Chances are the next time that kid is in a position of authority will be in confrontation with another kid or in confrontation with a teacher. He will yell precisely because he was yelled at by his mom. Conversely, the fact that he will be punished won't cross his mind. The medium is the message, after all.

I find this absolutely fascinating. With the previous situation, I'd have bought the kid a book that he would have enjoyed, and I'd have discussed it with him afterward. This is not rewarding negative behavior; it rewards the kid for his desire to read.

On the other hand, some kids are just beyond help in a normal school situation. Some of the stories my parents (who are both life-long teachers) tell are amazing in their extremity. I mean, my dad's had to physically restrain a 10 year old boy who was trying to fight a girl in class. He's had girls throw their violins at each other during class, whack each other with their bows, etc. My mom's taken accidental punches (they weren't trying to hit her, just each other) from kids in middle school who were taller than her (and she's 5'10").

It's kind of ridiculous what happens in schools in these situations. Kids get kicked out temporarily and enjoy their imposed days off, or they get kicked out permanently and have little to no chance at getting a decent education. They might get in-school suspension where they have to sit in a room and do their homework in silence so they can have more free time at home after school.

I guess my point is that punishment rarely produces the desired effects, especially when violence is punished.

4/06/2010 12:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"violence is nature's way of letting males assert their power when all else fails"

Hmmm. The problem with this is that if you assert some kind of essentialist link between being male and being violent, you are in the same boat as if you said, "Females are nurturing".

Then you have the issue of "assert[ing] their power"...over whom? Other males? Women?

4/06/2010 12:49:00 AM  
Anonymous zipthwung said...

this seems as good a plae as any to mention that the t biennial's curators pulled a fast one by turning photojournalism into art - by juxtaposing images of women who committed violene against themselves (self inflicted violence) much like animals who will chew their own legs off to escape a trap - with images of a burned soldier who returne home to marry and subsequently divorce hsi childhood sweetheart.

The subtitle might be "the price we pay" or something.

Well maybe some people internalize their anger instead of repressing it - we call this discipline, and it works well when you are playing pool, if you are in controll. If you lose controll (never let them see you sweat) then the formal rules cease to apply and you revert to the old rules of brute force.

WHat is the point? I guess that in a civilized society, violence becomes covert.

4/06/2010 07:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a problem with people who use there vegetarianism to prove that they are less violent than everyone else. Some of the most underhandedly mean people I know are vegan. And they tend to avoid the wilderness - they might get eaten.

4/06/2010 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Based upon what's been quoted of Tarde here, I still contend that he is wrong. My example of the length of bird beaks and the food supply is from Darwin's research.

The terms "cross-breeding and hybridization" etc, amount to nothing more than human intervention into the natural selection process. In the natural selection process, these events occur normally giving expression to the variation within the species. These variations, like beak length may have no survival advantage in a particular ecosystem and therefore are just random genetic permutations being propagated into the future.

The higher one goes up the scale of complexity, the less likely it will be to find any example of the "sudden" creation of a new species.

Scientists said yesterday that they have determined the precise order of the 3 billion bits of genetic code that carry the instructions for making a chimpanzee, humankind's closest cousin.

The fresh unraveling of chimpanzee DNA allows an unprecedented gene-to-gene comparison with the human genome, mapped in 2001, and makes plain the evolutionary processes through which chimps and humans arose from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago.

By placing the two codes alongside each other, scientists identified all 40 million molecular changes that today separate the two species and pinpointed the mere 250,000 that seem most responsible for the difference between chimpness and humanness.
Washington Post

Getting back to violence. It is a mistake to view human behavior as if it is homogeneous across the species, that the current outbreaks of political violence represent something common in all of us. I disagree with this notion.

One aspect of violence is clearly a survival adaptation, as part of the fight or flight response. At some level violence is linked to fear but in a modern society, violence as a response to fear is dysfunctional if it is materially expressed.

What I think is actually occurring is that society has found a way to allow the psychological experience of the fear-fight response through "entertainment." This allows most individuals to act with restraint which is beneficial to social order yet without losing what obviously is a key survival response.

Within the population there are also personality types which exhibit more overtly aggressive behavior. They represent a small percentage of the population and in the time of war may be heros, in peacetime they may be anarchists.

Of course we must also consider that some of this aggressive behavior is being perpetrated by crazies, delusional individuals.

4/06/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Larry:
Dog lovers give their pets food, shelter, companionship, cable TV, and a good 401(k).

Dogs didn't ask for shoes to go outside, or diamond jewelry, special spas, $100 haircuts. Love dogs, but they are not what they suppose to be anymore. Wish they could speak and say all they want to be dogs, no more shoes, no more expensive haircuts, no more jewelry.


And all dogs have to do in return is to let their ears be scratched a few times a day and to remember not to crap on the carpet.

Totally agree with that, only if people would treat them that way only. Dogs are not as toys.

4/06/2010 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

@Murat: Dogs didn't ask for shoes to go outside, or diamond jewelry, special spas, $100 haircuts. Love dogs, but they are not what they suppose to be anymore. Wish they could speak and say all they want to be dogs, no more shoes, no more expensive haircuts, no more jewelry.

I wonder how much of that is a Manhattan (or other big city) thing. Where I live in the sticks, a dog is still a dog.

4/06/2010 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I think we should use art to perform or represent violence and leave it at that. We should all do Maori dancing, but remain rigid with justice.


I'm not fond of censorship, but I'm very intolerant of any forms of bullying, of which violence is
usually the purpose.


Cedric C

4/06/2010 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Humbler said...

Just making my art blogs rounds tonight and came across this thoughtful rambling from Ed about violence. I enjoyed reading, thank you. However, scanning the comments I'm puzzled to decipher that several folks seem to hold tight this idea that the political system is made up of two parties - the us'es, and the thems - the smarts, and the idiots - the peacefuls, and the warmongers - the righters, and the wrongers. Honestly! For those who take this position please allow me to beg that you step out of your enormous mental-block box and wake the fuck up. Doesn't it seem that no matter what party is in office it really does stay the same? Loose the illusion and understand how things really are.

4/06/2010 09:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Makes me think of the old Monty Python's Holy Grail phrase:
"Come and see the violence inherent in the system!"

The video doesn't quite fit here but it is so fun to watch:
video

There likely is an internal drive toward violence that has existed in men (more noticeably) and women for millennia, but society isn't yet equipped to quell it fully.

4/07/2010 03:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The terms "cross-breeding and hybridization" etc, amount to nothing more than human intervention into the natural selection process

Nope, not true at all. Plants cross-breed all on their own accord. Of course, it is possible for humans to intervene... but that is what is so ridiculous about companies like Monsanto getting patents on seed hybrids and SUING farmers for having round-up ready genes in their crops simply by the fact of the wind carrying the gene to a neighbor's crop.... but that's a totally other story, except for the fact that their tactics are another example of violence in our society.

It is certainly true that violence breeds violence, as anyone that has grown up in a house with an abusive parent can attest to... That is why it is so dangerous. No matter whether you feel it is biological ingrained in us or not, it definitely needs a 'safe' outlet in todays world such as sports, entertainment... art, even. Anything, other than scaring the poor little children who have to deal with it with their not-fully developed emotions or sense of self.

4/07/2010 08:49:00 PM  

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