Is There a Way Away from Violence?

To the Thinkers Hoping to Just Get Along:

Two regulars at recent meet ups have said it would be interesting to take a somewhat philosophical look at why we are as perceptibly violent as a people, particularly in America. For our March meeting we will take this on in some hopefully meaningful way.

Of course there are many looks from academia that are everywhere nowadays after this discourse around eliminating guns to take down violence, particularly on the mean streets, has started in popular political culture. One comprehensive, encyclopedic view of Violence in America came in a three volume 1999 collection of papers on the nature of violence in this country compiled by several including Ronald Gottesman. Of course the entire set of books retails for $575. I would like to concentrate on the one section that discusses a view from philosophy that can be read at the link below.

http://www.haverford.edu/library/reference/mschaus/ICPR281/mcgary_philosophy_acs.pdf

Let us call this our first wave for focusing the discussion.

I would like the second wave to be the vibrations from Stephen Pinker’s amazing book The Better Angels of Our Nature that argues quite powerfully that with the exception of one awful period in the middle of the 20th Century the world has become far less violent over the centuries and is heading toward a period a relatively short time off where the our cooperative natures will transcend our savagely competitive intonations. Though Pinker does not dwell on how America’s tends to be a bit behind everyone else, we too will get there. Let us think this through.

Then I would like us to dwell a bit in the arts. Our popular entertainment has dwelled darkly in our violent natures, almost making violence the preferred pornography of our times. In the middle of this, there have been some nuggets that could help us understand more than it titillates. For our third wave I would like us to consider in my opinion the best film that dwells in our violent culture in both a provocatively and potentially a profound way, A History of Violence. This highly awarded film was done by one of the true philosophers of film art, David Cronenberg who has given us many other thoughtful though always edgy films like A Dangerous Method, Videodrome, Naked Lunch, Existenz, Crash (the real Crash), and Spider. A History of Violence gives us a quite savage view of the nature nuture conundrum we face in our violent world and is done in a way most philosophers would enjoy. Let this be our third rail.

So let us get thinking about this violence thing we all might want to discuss a little more meaningfully in March. I look forward to your comments in preparation.

Dale Friedley
Head Dork


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  • bob h.

    For those still pondering, I recommend "The Shield of Achilles" by Phil Bobbitt. Old but good.

    2 · March 19, 2013

  • Katherine S.

    This is the link to "The Wave", the movie that I brought up at the meeting. I strongly recommend you watch it. It definitely helped me comprehend a number of things about historical events and society, over the years.

    http://youtu.be/ICng-KRxXJ8

    1 · March 19, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Does violence begin with eating meat? Is eating meat (with out canine teeth) proof that we are indeed naturally violent? http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/vegi.html

    March 17, 2013

    • Jean M.

      Is violence caused by eating meat?
      no.

      duh.

      Even common sense should indicate that is not the case.
      If every meat eater you know if violent, i feel very sorry about your upbringing and/or current group of pals.


      However, many anthropologists do hypothesize that eating meat did help us have enough protein to develop larger brains, and change our species' destiny forever after. (Evolution ONLY happens in the face of change....like a change in climate/predators/prey/l­ifestyle/etc etc)

      March 19, 2013

    • Brent

      Violence is caused by people trying to control what other people eat. I tend to get violent when people insist I should adopt their diet because it's "morally superior." If they're all that concerned about reducing carbon footprints, I recommend suicide for eliminating theirs!

      March 19, 2013

  • Herbert B.

    Gee whiz, I forgot what day it was yesterday and involuntarily missed the meeting. :-( Since retirement, my nights and days blend together and often leave me out of synch with the world outside my apartment.

    March 19, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Is Jimmy Carter right when he says religion perpetrates oppression and violence against women? http://www.salon.com/2009/07/16/jimmy_carter/

    March 17, 2013

    • Roy V P.

      He is right. Also heaviest leaning toward war is sreligion

      1 · March 17, 2013

    • Jean M.

      Yes, every organized religion has at it's basis, a suppression of women, as second class beings.

      It's very hard to find even one that does not include that idea.

      March 19, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Will ANY of the newly proposed gun laws prevent horrific events like Columbine or Sandy Hook?

    March 17, 2013

    • Jean M.

      The legislation being proposed is reasonable--- the overwhelming majority of americans (yes, even those in the NRA) do support
      _Background checks on ALL gun sales, no more gun-show loopholes for 40% of our gun sales, (sometimes these are straw buyers)
      ~no need for civilians to have 30 round clips. Many a mass killing has been slowed or even interrupted BECAUSE the shooter had to reload.
      ~Ban on Military style assault weapons, which almost all police and military do support this ban.(same as they supported the ban on bazookas and machine guns for civilians)
      There are still over 2,000 types of guns available for legal purchase in USA. I do think the NRA protests too much. (the NRA is just the front man for the gun manufacturers anyway).
      Many many of the protests against the legislation, and similarly reasonable restrictions are 'strawman"---I­E " They are coming for our guns and abolishing the 2nd amendment!!" which absolutely NO ONE has proposed.
      (insert eye-roll face here...)

      March 19, 2013

    • Jean M.

      whoopsie, sorry for 'monograph'...­....i *had* paragraphs, which died somehow while being sent...ha.

      March 19, 2013

  • bob h.

    Gentle

    March 19, 2013

  • Evelyn

    Friendly, good-natured, insightful discussion.

    March 19, 2013

  • Bill K.

    I figured I'd stop by to see how you all are doing. It's been almost 2 years, I think!

    1 · March 18, 2013

    • Trude D.

      Hope you're doing well, too! Your observations added a lot to the conversation, I thought. Hope to see you there again.

      1 · March 19, 2013

  • Bob M.

    I found the conversation good, diverse and friendly.

    March 19, 2013

  • Trude D.

    You might want to peruse selected pages of Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1455883115) for the longer perspective on the decline of violence over the history of civilization. Media's current hyping of bleeds/leads violence stories aside, mankind's moral arc seems to tend toward empathy and peace. Review: "Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence. Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature."

    March 6, 2013

    • A. Colin F.

      3. The emergence of Enlightenment philosophy, and it's respect for the individual through what he calls the Humanitarian Revolution.
      4. Since World War II, violence has been suppressed, first by the overwhelming force of the two parties in the Cold War, and more recently by the American hegemony. Pinker calls this the Long Peace.
      5. The general trend, even apart from the Cold War, of wars to be more infrequent, and less violent, however autocratic and anti-democratic the governments may be. Call this the New Peace.
      6. Lastly, the growth of peace and domestic societies, and with it the diminishing level of violence through small things like schoolyard fights, bullying, and picking on gays and minorities. He titles this the Rights Revolution.

      1 · March 17, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Read this at 4:30 a.m. while on the treadmill - Thank you!

      1 · March 18, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    In the national debate that has followed the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, much of the focus has been on regulating firearms. But many law enforcement and mental health experts believe that developing comprehensive approaches to prevention is equally important. In many cases, they note, the perpetrators of such violence are troubled young people who have signaled their distress to others and who might have been stopped had they received appropriate help.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/15/us/in-los-angeles-focusing-on-violence-before-it-occurs.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=US_FOV_20130315

    March 17, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    fter four decades of making creepy movies like “Scanners,” “The Dead Zone” and “Dead Ringers,” director David Cronenberg hits one out of the park in a movie which captures the swift, unfair, coldly-calculating raw emotions of violence and the sheer impact its micro-second life has on the rest of ours lives forever. This movie shows that for the hero, violence is in his nature. However he denies it, he is far better at than his tormentors. Much to their peril. The film does little to explore the violence which seems inherent in our biology. Instead, it merely shows us how ingrained violence naturally is. See my review here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-tweaking-audiophile/david-cronenbergs-history-of-violence/484120804970490

    March 17, 2013

    • A. Colin F.

      “Balance,” the late Pat Morita extolled in “The Karate Kid.” Life is about balance. What makes this movie so good is the horror film master balances the fast scenes of unbelievable and unremittingly carnage with the ingrained sedateness and yet passion of a successful everyday life. We have within us, each everyday us, the capacity to unleash a road rage of anger at the frustrations of modern life. Cronenberg unleashes the fire here with the deft skill of a pyro who loves the flame.

      March 17, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    If the discussion gets heated, can we bring something to hit?

    March 17, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    How many of us at this meeting own guns? http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

    March 17, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Strange but True: Testosterone Alone Does Not Cause Violence
    Hormones don't necessarily make men violent, but they do cause them to seek social dominance http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-testosterone-alone-doesnt-cause-violence

    March 17, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    Are organized sports a way for civilization to institutionalize and regulate social violence? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sport

    March 17, 2013

  • Roy V P.

    Yes there is a way. I believe it to be the only way. It is slow. It is possible for anyone. Few will do it. Like many other things, it begins at home. Dale got close to it in todays ee with mention of angel nature. Violence is violence, no matter how small the incident. If it isn't inside, it can never come outside. When someone wishes to really work on it, he must look really closely at his feelings and behavior. He must begin to notice as many incidents as possible. Not to beat oneself up over it, just notice. Beating oneself up is itself a form of violence. A dirty look is violence. We are told this small stuff is normal and natural. It is neither normal or natural. When all the small stuff has been removed, there will be no heavy violence Our nature is love. Forgiveness makes it possible. Not the religious type of forgiveness, which is only words. Forgiveness is internal.
    I salute you Dale.
    Roy Poplin.

    March 17, 2013

  • A. Colin F.

    how can civilization advance otherwise?

    March 13, 2013

  • marios

    I will be out of town, in Orlando, but as Steven Pinker suggests the violence in our world has become far less violent over the centuries. In my opinion the extreme fanaticism of religion fundamentalists had to do a lot in violence through the centuries.

    1 · March 12, 2013

  • bozak

    great, great, great, film...

    March 6, 2013

  • John

    Looking for like minded people, time will tell

    1 · February 25, 2013

  • Bob M.

    Film and TV shows, especially crime shows, very often employ and exploit the "myth of redemptive violence": that is, the only way to "combat" violence is with more & better violence. Where are the films, shows & computer graphic games that are stories of peace and reconciliation? We need to recognize and overcome our appetite for the myth of redemptive violence and our vicarious enjoyment of violence.

    1 · February 19, 2013

    • Trude D.

      So true! Time has proven the persistent but non-violent methods of M.L. King & M. Gandhi to be effective in diverse cultures -- especially those where any form of "othering" (by class or race) those different from oneself engenders fear of and violence toward those "others."

      1 · February 19, 2013

  • Trude D.

    Hope everyone reads the chapter! The UUC Humanists mtg on 3/24 at 12:30 is on Free Will vs Determinism - speech by a conflict negotiation mediator and philosophy prof. Have we the will to be non-violent?

    February 19, 2013

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