Re: violence...

Michael S. Lorrey (
Sat, 25 Sep 1999 19:15:17 -0400

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> 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;

Yes, there is far mor graphic violence put out by an industry that is also the largest contributor to political parties and lobbying groups that are anti-gun. This cannot be a coincidence.

> (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;

Considering that most fully automatic weapons were in use prior to the 1950's and could fire at over 1000 rounds per minute, and were in wide ownership, yet there was not one single instance of a machine gun being used in a crime in the US since the Prohibition era ended, and since then there has only been one instance, a case where a cop shot a drug dealer while off duty, and was convicted of murder in 1994.

> 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.

Not just the drug issue, but any situation where a population or person feels disenfranchised from the democratic process, disempowered to effect control over one's economic livlihood or growth, and especially if they are personally wronged (or they perceive themselves to be individually, personally, wronged) by some individual, group, organization, or government agency. In every instance of the recent rash of spree killings, you have a perpetrator who it has been shown to be personally wronged, either physically, emotionally, economically, or politically. However such people have always existed, but I think that your propsition (a) makes the use of violence a more acceptable option when all others are perceived to have been exhausted or blocked off.

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

The violence of the prohibition era found basically two types who resorted to violence:

  1. gangsters fighting with each other over liquor distribution territory (Capone).
  2. farmer types who robbed banks to pay mortgages on the family farms (Dillinger).

> >
> > 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)!

The genocide occured in the serf population. In Japan the only accepted warriors were hereditary members of the Samurai class. Serfs were not allowed to own edged weapons. Posession of swords by non-samurai was a death sentence offense.

> > 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).

Political, economic, or social/cultural repression, or a combination of these, will raise the average emotional stress levels of the individuals in the population. Increased presence of police forces to counteract rebellion against said repression only bottles this pressure, until it builds to the point where a government must either start a war with someone else, blame some hated minority and lead a pogrom against that minority, or suffer rioting, anarchy, and replacement of government (typical of Germany, China, the USSR, Indonesia, etc.). The pressure will release itself one way or another. The only real solution is to not repress your population at all (the classical US solution).

> > 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.

Exactly as I was saying, but do they prefer authoritarianism because they prefer peace over freedom, or is it because they know they have a greater capacity to commit violence?

> >
> > Only paying attention to crime rates and ignoring warfare and genocidal
> > violence is disingenuous.
> Not completely. Crime rates are indicative of interpersonal conflicts.

Wrong. Despite the claims of some, most crime is NOT committed on people by people they are related to or freinds with. This urban myth of the killer acquaintence came out of a misperception of FBI crime data, which according to their criteria seemed to claim that 90% of crime is commited by people the victim was related to or acquainted with, however the FBI considered an acquaintence to be anyone the victim had previously met on more than one occasion or observed frequently in the community. This means that the drug dealer that hangs out on your street corner is your 'acquaintence' just because you happen to see them there on the corner frequently. When they kill you to get money for more drugs, you have been killed by a 'relative or acquaintence' according to the FBI.

> 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.

Wrong again. Warfare and genocide are examples of violence that a government approves of, or makes legal. Those individuals in a police state who were too afraid of the consequences of crime in the police society find warfare or genocide an outlet for their stress, rage, hate, or mental illness, which is why wars are started by police states to begin with (which is why historically the army is a good place for a criminal to hide).

> 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.

A charismatic leader is only required to decieve a majority of the population that it needs to cede power to an autocracy. Once the autocracy is in place, you don't need any charisma.

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

Self defense is rational violence. Taking pre-emptive attacks MIGHT be considered rational violence if the target society shows all of the indicators that it will be committing war or genocide imminently.