Re: The Violence Problem

David A Musick (
Mon, 22 Dec 1997 13:29:16 -0500

So, what is violence, and how can humans decrease the total amount of it
in the world?

Anders suggests that violence comes from our deeply (biologically)
ingrained aggressive drives. I agree with this. However, most
aggressive acts are not violent acts. Aggression has more to do with
being determined to get one's way in the world than with harming or
destroying other sentient systems. Although, humans who believe that
others must be hurt or killed to get their way will express their
aggression through violence. Other humans aggressively pursue their
studies, their carreers, their breakthrough inventions, their scientific
discoveries, their hobbies, their love lives.

So, as I see it, the problem is not aggression itself, which can be used
for extropic or entropic purposes, depending on the goals and beliefs of
the user of aggression. The problem is when people believe that harming
or destroying others is an appropriate and effective way of accomplishing
what they want in the world.

Most of our behaviors and beliefs are learned after we are born (although
our fundamental drives, like our sex drives and our nourishment drives
were learned through the long process of genetic evolution). We all have
conditions that we want in our lives, such as having sufficient food,
being socially accepted, emotionally bonding with others, etc. These
fundamental desires are part of our evolutionary heritage, selected for
because humans and pre-humans with those fundamental desires tended to
have more success in surviving and reproducing than those who had those
desires to a lesser extent.

We have these fundamental desires and drives from the time we are born,
and as we mature, we experiment with different ways of fulfilling these
desires. We cry, we get fed, or our diaper gets changed. We reach out
our hand and pick up the block we wanted, but then drop it because we
didn't grip it hard enough. We do many things which don't get us what we
want, and some things that do. And over time, our mind fine-tunes itself
to our environments, and we learn many excellent strategies for getting
what we want from the world.

Now, the problem is that many people learn, mostly through observation of
others, that violence and threats of violence are somewhat effective ways
of getting others to do what they want them to. This strategy works, to
some extent, so it is reinforced. It also tends to cause the adrenal
glands to secrete adrenelin, which can be quite pleasant, so the behavior
is reinforced further. However, the violence strategy is flawed in some
major ways. The most obvious flaw is that it places the attacker in
significant danger to their own life and well-being, which conflicts with
their own internal drive for safety. It also tends to encourage others
to avoid them, thus conflicting with their drive for social acceptance.
The violence strategy also makes it difficult for the user to bond
emotionally with others since they tend to use violence most frequently
against those they live with or are around most often.

There's no denying that violence or the threat of violence can be an
effective strategy for getting what one wants sometimes. That's the main
reason people use it. However, in the long-run, whatever benefits were
gained from violence tend to be lost, with quite a bit more lost besides.
Violence gives many short-term benefits, much like crack cocaine, but
its long-term results can be quite devastating to the user, much like
crack cocaine.

I believe violence is a learned behavior and the idea that violence is a
good solution is a common and powerful meme. What we need are some very
good counter-memes. People need to realize that violence is not a good
long-term solution. And they need to teach their children that, and to
teach them much more effective ways of getting what they want, so that
violence will seem like a ridiculous alternative.

Since so many people are violent, how do the rest of us effectively
protect ourselves from them? I think that part of the basic training of
humans, along with communication skills, problem solving skills and other
such basic skills should include highly effective self-defence skills and
strategies. People should be trained to use their bodies effectively in
situations which require close, unarmed combat, and they should be
trained to effectively use weapons of all sorts, especially how to use
ordinary objects as weapons. With everyone well-trained, violence would
no longer be a good solution, even in the short-term, since there would
be few potential victims, and the risk of trying violence would be very
great, especially since any bystanders would be quite capable of
apprehending you.

A highly trained populace is probably the most effective way of stopping

So, how do we achieve that?

David Musick (

- Continual improvement is the highest good.