CAUSES OF VIOLENCE

I think it’s something we already know; but we’re too diverted and divided to look closely at the problem and take it on.

Aside from a limited number of cases where brain damage, drugs (Phencyclidine or PCP, et al.), or psychosis (schizophrenia, paranoia, et al.) contribute to violent behavior, most people, including researchers, believe that violent behavior arises from conditions that might be labeled as environmental. While the scientific community seems unwilling to say that they know the exact causes of violence in society, or in the case of any individual violent person, they do acknowledge a number of conditions or factors that appear to make individual violence more likely. They also point out that sometimes these factors show a “which came first” complexity.

It’s a nature versus nurture question. We are all born with the potential for violence. However, civilizing factors make most of us much less violent than that potential. I believe that most of us can be brought to violence by certain situations or conditions that threaten the life and safety of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

The factors cited that contribute to, if not cause, violent behavior are numerous and often interrelated. It is clear that some people survive the adverse influence of these same factors and never act out violently. The following is only illustrative and is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Causes within the family

Being born into a dysfunctional family, including some combination of

  • poor or nonexistent parenting
  • intra-family violence
  • drug abuse
  • unemployment and poverty

Causes within the larger society

Being raised in a society

  • that glorifies violence and distorts its true nature and consequences
  • that feeds us violence as entertainment
  • that engages in a violent domestic war, labeled The Drug War, which enables violent gang culture and police corruption
  • that engages in perpetual war against domestic and foreign terrorists as a substitute for The Cold War, in order to feed the Military Industrial Complex at the expense of our warriors, our domestic needs, and our economy
  • that has turned our prisons into advanced training bases that fail to rehabilitate while enabling the incarcerated to learn more criminal skills.

The next post will suggest possible, partial solutions to the root causes of violence. The final post in the series will address the highly volatile “gun” issue.

A HISTORY AND CULTURE OF VIOLENCE

We are a product of violence…and we love it.

In spite of the best efforts of my history and civics instructors, I eventually found out that they lied and distorted many things about the history and government of my country of birth. They didn’t do this out of malice. They were doing no more than unconsciously engaging in the propaganda and indoctrination that they were subjected to in their own educations. It’s what the political classes do in every country. The victors not only get the spoils; they get to write or rewrite history, the revisionist history that glorifies the winners and ignores or justifies all the less than glorious truths behind their “victories”.

I’ve been around for more than 66 years and I’ve been paying attention for most of that time. I credit my political awakening to the Jesuits who ran my high school and the first university I attended. Though I am no longer a Catholic or a Christian, I greatly appreciate Jesuit involvement in my intellectual development, such as it is. They taught me two things that inform my way of thinking to this day. They taught me how to think, as opposed to what to think; and they taught me to question authority. These are dangerous traits, but are, in fact, essential to citizenship in a democracy. How can we learn and advance as a nation if we don’t know the truth about our past and the current machinations of those in power? How can we aspire to match the potential espoused in our high and mighty principles if we aren’t willing to look at our failures at living by those principles?

Our history starts with an invasion and the forceful taking of land belonging to indigenous peoples. By violent revolution, we broke away from an onerous overseas government. We continued our violent subjugation of the indigenous people, an effort that continues, in a somewhat less overt way, to this day. We fought wars to establish our northern and southern borders. We fought an internal war over the economic and human rights issue of slavery. We’ve had labor wars. We’ve had outbreaks of violence directed against voluntary and involuntary immigrants (Africans, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanics, Irish etc). We’ve experienced political assassinations and attempts at assassination. We’ve fought numerous foreign wars, some seemingly justified, some not. Violent crime, domestic violence, sexual violence, gang violence, road rage, highway carnage fueled by alcohol and drugs, the Drug War, the list goes on.

Modern culture is rife with violence and we wallow in it willingly. Movies, TV, music, games, sports, all glory in violence. Billions are spent producing and consuming violence. We honor and pay handsomely the actors, singers and athletes who feed our blood lust.

The debate continues over the effect of media depictions of violence on human behavior, especially that of our children. Now we are debating whether violent and hateful political speech can influence or cause violent behavior. We love to debate. We hate to actually engage collectively in defining problems that can be solved, finding real solutions and doing the hard work to attain them.

We are like alcoholics; and like alcoholics, we must admit to our addiction to violence before we can begin the journey to a cure. As a citizen, I have a stake in this situation. As a Seattle private investigator, working mostly in criminal defense, the stake I have has become more clear and tangible.