Re: violence...

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 24 Sep 1999 00:07:32 -0700 (PDT)

On Fri, 24 Sep 1999, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:

> As was the US in the 1950's. Crime was amazingly low then. Isn't it
> wonderful when the media is dedicated to keeping the populatin
> programmed with the governments line?

This raises an interesting point. Certainly there was relatively little gun control at that time and people were not (to my knowledge) shooting up high schools or streets. So, we have several possibilities (a) media, esp. movies or books that "glorify" violence in some way as a solution to problems; (b) changes in technology that make the use of guns "sexier", there is much more appeal to shooting up a cafeteria or a house if you can do it at 10 rounds a second; or (c) changes in culture (drugs as an escape for people who view themselves as trapped in a "have-not" situation) leading to the perception of risks (to our children) resulting in an escalating war mentality between the people who want to supply the drugs vs. the people who want to suppress that supply.

It would be interesting to compare violence today with the 1950's with the era of prohibition.

> Many asian cultures are counterpoints only because I beleive we are
> viewing these societies AFTER they have had a chance to utilize a slow
> rate of genocide over hundreds or thousands of years to weed out the
> non-conformists, the non-sheep.

I'm not sure we can make this point. If you look at Japanese culture there is a history of violence between the Shoguns. They ruled Japan from 1192 to 1867, a *very* long period. If during this period, warriors were valued, then there would be little "weeding-out". Of course, one might propose that you get a natural selection effect that the excessively violent have a high hazard function and therefore if allowed to run its course, then select themselves out of the population (but this isn't genocide)!

> But then again, look at the violence perpetrated by the
> governments of Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia against
> their own people and against their neighbors.

I believe that anthropologists have shown that in tribal societies the only causes of human-human violence are resource shortages (particularly food) or mate shortages. You could argue, at least in China and Japan that population pressures are the drivers behind violence.

> Societies that are highly structured might be seemingly peaceful and
> well run for a while, but at some point the collective stress reaches
> such a level that they drift into national madness, warfare, and genocide.

"Hand waving". What is this "collective stress"? I would argue that humans as "economic" creatures, will make a calculation that if they can "take" something of value at a relatively low cost, they will do so. If you (as a political leader) can create the perception that another tribe is the "enemy", you can overcome the resistance to violence (due to the inherent risks involved in engaging in it).

> asian societies that socialists have always pointed to as wonderfully
> organised, socialised, and 'peaceful'.

As others have pointed out, asian societies may not be as peaceful as I (we in the west?) perceive them to be. However, the long history of violence and inter-regional strife in those societies may have weeded out many of the violence genes and provide huge sociocultural barriers against violence or a perspective that quasi-police states are preferable to violence and mayhem.

> Only paying attention to crime rates and ignoring warfare and genocidal
> violence is disingenuous.

Not completely. Crime rates are indicative of interpersonal conflicts. You have to remove however the crimes due to legal environments that promote the criminalization of economic activities. So for example one might focus on domestic abuse or rape rather than murder or theft. Warfare and genocide are *intersocietal* conflicts and should in theory have a much different dynamic or motivation to them. A charismatic leader, can for example induce otherwise sensible people to engage in violence that they would normally find repulsive. I think we can cite cases from Hitler to the Pol Pot(?) in Cambodia as examples for this.

This of course raises the interesting question (from an extropian viewpoint) of whether there is such a thing as "rational violence"?