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[P]
Brutality

By psychologist in Op-Ed
Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:55:56 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

For many in the West, Earth is a civilized planet, with old forms of cruelty a thing of the past. The portrayals of human life and conflicts in contemporary literature often do include death, but shy away from exploring degeneration. Let us examine this taboo theme.


The human being is a cruel and sadistic animal. A hundred years ago in America, lynch mobs regularly had barbecues at lynchings of black people, and these blacks were lynched for reasons such as "arguing with a white man". A few hundred years earlier in Europe, accused witches were tortured terribly, and burnt to death. In fact, torture chambers were common in that day. A few thousand years earlier, hacking of enemy combatants apart with large knifes was perfectly normal behaviour. The Bible actually advocates the murder of all civilians in captured towns. Entertainment was to watch a man being torn apart by lions.

Has the human being changed over a single century? No.

Civilization is a veneer on the savage beast called the human. The reason we do not kill and torture is simply because we have all we need. We are like well fed cats who allow birds walk between their paws. But someday, when we don't have everything we need, our innate brutality will come up, and we will regard dismemberment of fellow humans to see them suffer as something normal.

Today

I did not speak of humanity. When I said us, I spoke of those living in the West. The fat and content cats. There is a world you are not seeing; a brutal world.

We all remember when Palestinians tied up teenage Israeli boys, and stoned them to death, don't we? What about South African villages that pay for bail for captured thieves, take them outside and mob-lynch them? Or Pakistani groups that decapitate captured people on video? Or Chinese stadiums that are sold out as 100 prisoners are executed by firing squad? Or Israeli soldiers bulldozing buildings with people inside? Or Nigerian troops that accuse 6 year old children of being spies, and shoot them on the street? Or Rwandans that killed 700 thousand people with machetes? Or Sierra Leonan rebels that burn houses with families inside, after sealing the doors and windows shut? Or Northern Alliance soldiers that lock prisoners into containers, and shoot holes in the containers? Or Camerounian vigilante that nail petty thieves to crosses, pour petrol over them, and set them alight? Or Indian villages that accuse people of witchcraft, tie them to trees and burn them alive?

Brutality isn't a thing of the past. It isn't a thing of the animals either, it is a thing that is in you. Many city kids would find it difficult to shoot an animal for food. When they have to do it, they quickly overcome their initial hesitation, and do it eagerly. They forget about the previous perceptions of the animal as suffering.

The same thing happens when humans are exposed to extreme situations. You believe you will never be as cruel as the people above. But you will. You just have to be in the same situation as those people. When you are desperate, you will enjoy the suffering of your fellow humans.


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Brutality | 172 comments (148 topical, 24 editorial, 1 hidden)
Embrace the Snake Beast (3.66 / 12) (#1)
by bc on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:13:17 PM EST

I agree, civilisation is certainly a veneer, a polite patina, nothing more. Civilisation is only something that we can afford when we have no real wants or needs. As soon as we have basic wants or needs the gloves are off and we revert to our brutal ways.

This is why Europeans pride themselves on their welfare state - only with a proper, expensive welfare state can true civilisation be reached, for only then can we absolutely guarantee that nobody will have any basic wants or needs.

However, I must wonder what is so human about existing with no real wants or needs, never meeting adversity (wanting enough cash for a new DVD player or wanting to ascend to the highest tax bracket doesn't qualify as a basic human need, btw). Can we really exist properly then?

The essence of the human being is that he is a human becoming, after all, and the urge to become is at its strongest when we have unmet, basic desires at the fag end of the Maslow hierarchy.

I put it to you that the most human of our species are those who are the most brutal, the shivering masses in Rwanda and Zimbabwe and Indonesia, in the Bronx, who do not suffer from such crap as "depression" and "ADD" and so on - no, they are alive, baby, they know what they want, and they know how to get it.

Brutality and butchery are the flipside of being truly alive. Your "civilisation" is just death, and I reject it.

♥, bc.

I don't agree. I am a brutality convert. (4.75 / 4) (#24)
by jjayson on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:50:55 PM EST

Civilisation is only something that we can afford when we have no real wants or needs. As soon as we have basic wants or needs the gloves are off and we revert to our brutal ways.
What do you mean by civilization? How far advaced do a society have to become before being cosidered a civilation? Brutal ways are not compatible with cooperation, yet there have been cooperating societies for as long as anybody knows. Yes, there has always been fighting between groups and individuals, but that is hardly unique to any time or any location.

I put it to you that the most human of our species are those who are the most brutal, the shivering masses in Rwanda and Zimbabwe and Indonesia, in the Bronx, who do not suffer from such crap as "depression" and "ADD" and so on - no, they are alive, baby, they know what they want, and they know how to get it.
It is not that people do not suffer from depression or ADHD, it is just that they are not diagnosed. Frequent lashing out physically can be a strong indication of a mood disorder.

I used to be much more violent that I am today. I rarely started fights, but I always wanted to finish them. My machismo let me to defend friends at bars when they were being harassed, to always stand up to anybody would said anything bad about me or people I knew, and to never learn to choose which battles to fight but to fight all of them. I had been in more fights than I can remember, been knocked out a few times, had knives and guns pulled on me, and been arrested for all of this. What did I get? Nothing except a few nights in jail, some broken bones, some bloody noses, and quite a few enemies. How is that living?

This New Year's resolution was to not get in too many fight this year. So far, I am only at 2, and I am enjoying life much more being blessing to people than I ever did when I was too busy fighting with them.


-j
"Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
[ Parent ]

Aye (2.83 / 6) (#28)
by bc on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 08:40:33 PM EST

That's all very well, but you confuse brutality with violence. What you described can be considered a natural matter of honour, entirely unrelated to real brutality.

Brutality is born of hunger and desire, a need to cover the bases.

Defending the body is a definite basic need, but from what you say your body was never in any real threat in the first place. You voluntarily offered it up to threat, perhaps suggesting at some internal desire for brutality, for becoming over merely being.

I think that basic desire for sustenance, for shelter and food, and the struggle for it regardless of consequences, that is brutality when an entire community hungers for it, for self defense and bodily, territorial guarantees.

I understand what you are saying, though. Individual fighting of the sort you describe can be brutal, but it is not really what I was getting at. Myself, I am more of a lover than a fighter, I get into trouble from the jealous and run like the wind. I feel alive at such moments, and I don't doubt my pursuers do too. That is primitive though, defense of a basic resource - cunts.

Anyway, good luck.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

I see what you mean by brutality. (5.00 / 4) (#30)
by jjayson on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 08:58:07 PM EST

But what about the cooperation of early societies? How do they factor into your story?

Also, the homeless that live on the streets that do not have food, shelter, or security are consistently less likely to attack you than anybody else when walking down a dark alley. You don't really hear of those that are starving in third-world countries attacking villages to secure food. It seems more likely that lacking the basic necessities of life will more likely tear down your spirit than make you aggressive.


-j
"Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
[ Parent ]

Three missing pieces (none / 0) (#113)
by labradore on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:22:38 PM EST

First of all, you don't hear about people starving in third-world countries attacking other people because in first-world countries it is not news.

Second, homeless people are not usually homeless because they are losing the game of life. Instead they are homeless because they don't want to or can't play with the rest of us (usually the reason is fear). Homeless people live in a different society (different game) than K5 posters, though they may live in the same locations.

People that lack basic necessities usually do whatever they can to obtain them. Remember that without basic necessities you will die. So there isn't really a choice to forego something basic. There is a simple judgement involved in whether to do something to get your basic needs. You simply ask yourself, "is the cost of getting my need greater than the value of the need?" At the level of basic subsistence and where violence is involved, this means that the questions sound like, "If I steal food and money from this person, will I likely be critically wounded or prevented from meeting my other needs?" Often the difference in power between a person without his needs met and the person cooperating in a sustained society is so great (or perceived to be so great) that the less powerful person will decide that it is too dangerous to attack. People don't give up because they don't have anything. They give up because they don't think they can get anything.

[ Parent ]

wrong animus (none / 0) (#92)
by demi on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:40:38 PM EST

That is primitive though, defense of a basic resource - cunts.

Fucking a farmer's sheep threatens his source of food and winter warmth.

[ Parent ]

Why is cruelty limited to humans? (3.53 / 13) (#3)
by theboz on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:27:32 PM EST

No other animals are just cruel for the sake of being mean. In the animal kingdom, there is a lot of brutality and killing, but it is either done for food or self-preservation. Humans are different. We kill each other because of intangible differences. We are the only animals that torture out of choice. This is the question I would like to see answered, because we're not that far from the monkeys, but they only kill out of fear, not for some sick enjoyment.

Stuff.

Doesn't seem so surprising to me (none / 0) (#5)
by Logan on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:31:06 PM EST

I think we are the only animals that sometimes choose to be brutal because we are the only animals that are really capable of choosing in the first place. So why are people brutal? To answer your question with a question, I ask, why not?

Logan

[ Parent ]

Cruelty is a result of Empathy (4.00 / 4) (#6)
by bc on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:34:20 PM EST

So it is surely restricted to the more intelligent mammals.

I understand chimps in the wild are fond of being very cruel, in that they will torture fellow monkeys when they go hunting for them, and deliberately be malicious to others in their social group.

And killer whales will play with their prey in the most sadistic way, as a cat will with a mouse.

So I don't think cruelty is restricted to humans, but because empathy is most pronounced in we humans we have the capacity to be the cruelest.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Cruelty is the opposite of empathy (4.33 / 3) (#18)
by Skwirl on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:13:36 PM EST

Empathy, when done correctly, is a matter of putting yourself in someone's place and feeling the same emotions as they are. No one wants to feel badly, so no empathetic person would purposely inflict cruelty on another, since that pain would reflect back and hurt themselves.

The word you're searching for is sadism. Sadists feel pleasure when other people feel pain.

Obviously, there's a correlation between capacity for empathy and capacity for sadism within a species. However, correlation does not equal causation. In this case, both empathy and sadism are caused by intelligence.

--
"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]

intentional cruelty requires empathy (5.00 / 3) (#21)
by jjayson on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:29:36 PM EST

bc is spot on with his analysis.

I think that he is trying to say that our cruelty is magnified by our ability to empathize with the our victim. Humans are excellent at being cruel exactly because we can put ourselves in the victim's place and think what would make us feel the worst or hurt the most in their situation. While cats may be cruel to mice by playing with them before they eat them, humans can go far beyond that in our ability to think what would be the most painful and dehumanizing to us, then enact that scenario on out victim. This goes far beyong physical cruelty, too. I don't know if emotional torture is strictly a human phenomenon, but we are the masters of it.

In this light, sadism is simply the enjoyment of being cruel.


-j
"Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
[ Parent ]

Two different definitions (4.33 / 3) (#33)
by Skwirl on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 10:51:01 PM EST

I'm working from the definition of empathy that states "understanding and entering into another's feelings." That is to say, empathy is literally feeling the same feeling as someone else is feeling.

Your definition is less specific, meaning merely to know what someone is feeling. Understanding and feeling are two incredibly different things. Sociopaths feel nothing, they have no empathy and therefore are capable of great cruelty. That doesn't mean they're not capable of the conscious understanding that "if I do this, it will hurt this person."

bc makes it sound like empathy is a bad thing, or that cruel people are naturally empathetic. These implications are patently false. Sadism is a better, more specific, word to describe this type of cruelty.

--
"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]

Killer Whales (none / 0) (#49)
by Lai Lai Boy on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:12:47 AM EST

One could argue (and it's an endless debate, since we can't get inside the head of an orca) that the whale doesn't recognize the seals and sea lion as anything but an inanimate object. From the bits I've seen of that behavior (usually throwing the prey up in the air and swirlling it around) it seems like play behavior to me.

[Posted from Mozilla Firebird]
[ Parent ]

Cruel for the sake of being mean? (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by dipierro on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:48:06 PM EST

No other animals are just cruel for the sake of being mean.

Nor are most humans. Lynching blacks, torturing witches, hacking apart enemy combatants, all of these things serve the purpose of generating fear in your enemies (and enemy can usually be defined as those with dissimilar genes). The difference between humans and animals in this regard is that our brains tend to consider longer-term effects than those of the animals.

Most of the actions of animals and humans alike directly serve the purpose of spreading the genes and memes of that animal or human.



[ Parent ]
Not quite (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by Kasreyn on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 06:49:33 PM EST

Chimpanzees have been found to engage in internecine warfare (not cannibalism - WARFARE), as well as torturing lesser animals (like chickens). This was referred to in the late Carl Sagan's book "The Dragons of Eden", so I'm sorry but I have no link on the topic. I believe Jane Goodall was one of those who first discovered these propensities in chimps.

I think it's a flaw inherent in all sentient life. I highly recommend the Star Trek novel, "The Prometheus Design", which takes a long, hard look at cruelty and what might cause it, and what might be done about it.


-Kasreyn
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
dolphins (4.66 / 3) (#23)
by dalinian on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:49:04 PM EST

Apparently dolphins can be pretty brutal too:
In another hemisphere, Dr. Richard Connor, studying dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia, has documented cases of males kidnapping and holding females captive, sometimes for months at a time. "Dolphins are complex, intelligent, social animals and that carries with it a range of behaviors from the nice to the not-so-nice. Just like in our own species."
It really seems that brutal animals, from chimpanzees to dolphins to human beings, have at least one thing in common: intelligence.

[ Parent ]
Cats? (none / 0) (#39)
by kreyg on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:12:24 AM EST

Ever seen a cat play with a mouse?

There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind. - Douglas Adams
[ Parent ]
Or a dog kill a cat, for that matter (none / 0) (#97)
by FatOldGoth on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:53:43 PM EST

Once I saw a corgi catch a stray cat that should have been paying more attention. It all happened too quickly for me to intervene - the corgi grabbed hold of the cat's neck and gave it a few sharp shakes until the neck was broken. At that point the corgi dropped the cat, which crawled off into a gutter to die, and trotted off happily.

This wasn't the action of an animal hunting for food or fighting for its survival. Any time someone tells me that man is the only animal that kills for pleasure I think about that corgi.


Are you invested with attitude?
[ Parent ]
And that Corgi (none / 0) (#127)
by cr8dle2grave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:46:52 PM EST

Would probably do the exact same thing, and would derive the same sense of "satisfaction," to an old rag doll or random shoe.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
cruelty is not limited to humans (none / 0) (#125)
by caca phony on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:32:17 PM EST

Animals often kill for reasons other than food or protection. Lions that have just eaten have been observed killing and leaving the carcass to rot.
Lions kill one another (most often a male killing cubs). Dolphins both kill and rape one another. Male squirells will chase each other down and bite of the other's testes. That cruelty among animals does not exist is a myth.

[ Parent ]
It has nothing to do with contentment (4.81 / 11) (#4)
by Logan on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:28:40 PM EST

The author appears to be suggesting that brutality exists primarily amongst those that are either poverty- or war-stricken, while civility exists primarily amongst those that are relatively rich and far-removed from war. I, on the other hand, believe a whole host of other factors may be responsible as well.

In many cases, absence of reason is the prime factor in brutality (e.g., witch hunts, brutality related to superstition in general). In other cases, it is pure and simple hatred, as between Palestinians and Israelis. In such cases, each brutal act incurs even more hatred, a vicious cycle that reaches sickening proportions. Still other instances are due to typical mob behavior (such as lynch mobs, of course).

I will agree that each of us is capable of just as much brutality as the next person, given the right conditions. I do not agree that all such conditions are external, though I do believe some are (such as responding to previous brutality, attacking those that violate one's rights, etc.). I strongly disagree that it is a case of the haves enjoying the peace of civilization while the have-nots degenerate into a Golding-esque cycle of violence. How many atrocities are committed in "civilized" places, or at the behest of "civilized" leaders? No, I think it is primarily a personal choice, often spawned from ignorance, and only secondarily a matter of poverty or war.

Logan

Police brutality - dehumanisation enables cruelty. (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by vastor on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:29:06 AM EST

Even in 'haves' nations, there are things such as police brutality and the like.

Dehumanisation tends to be the simple key behind the actions. The 'enemy', whether that be an army, a thief or a different ethnicity is made out to be subhuman and just deserving of contempt and cruelty. Germany was a nation of haves, yet they had no trouble dealing with jews in a cruel way (mass gas chambers were more about the quantity needing to be done rather than a lack of cruelty IMO).

It is the process of deciding another person/group isn't your equal that makes things ripe for cruelty and atrocities. Even amongst children, cruelty could be attributed to a belief that they are the centre of the universe, thinking that girls are inferior, that because Billy did X, he now deserves a beating.

Even the judicial process demonstrates it - punishment is for 'criminals', an inferior subclass of humans. Society would benefit from simply requiring rehabilitation until individuals are unlikely to break the law again, rather than arbitrary prison sentances that are victim-driven exercises in cruelty. Prison is about making peoples life a misery - cruelty - rather than making them better people/citizens (a gross generalisation, there are some aspects that may help, but if kindness rather than cruelty was the main function of prisons, they'd be quite different to how they are today).

Ignorance and war foster environments where dehumanisation are likely to happen. Seems to be a lack of respect for the humanity in others that really allows everything to go ugly.


[ Parent ]

civilisation and brutality (4.37 / 8) (#9)
by dinu on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 05:43:10 PM EST

First of all civilization has nothing to do with brutality. Let's look at the Roman empire where people were nailed to croses and gladiators killed themselves in the arena. Let us look at Greek empire where in theather plays actually murder and torture scenes were not faked. Yet Greek and Roman empires (especialy Greek) were considered as bringers of civilization and they trully were. Let us not look in the distant past but in the present. Don't we remeber Belgian paratroopers torturing children in Somalia? Don't we remeber Vietnam? Bombing civilians with napalm and fragmentari munitions would not be considered an act of barbary? What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What about the violence and brutality the prisoners are subjected to in us prisons? What about the "behavior" of frech troops in the Algerian war? I can go on like this for ages. The point is the so called civilized try to minimize and hide their acts of barbarity while the others do not bother. True emapaty for your human kin comes with a particular kind of civilaztion. It is called kindness and selflesness and civic spirit and the understanding that you are part o a global comunity in which the well been of everyone leads to a grater wellfare for all (even in average). But this is an utopia. So let us not lie to ourselves.

Greco-Roman culture (none / 0) (#42)
by RandomPeon on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:51:37 AM EST

Let us look at Greek empire where in theather plays actually murder and torture scenes were not faked.

This practice was actually exclusive to Rome. Many Greek plays were revived by Romans, with slaves as "stunt doubles" for grisly parts. In Greek performances of Agamemnon the title character walked off stage and declared he was going to gouge his eyes out. In Rome, a feeble slave was brought in for a cameo as Agamemnon. This is not say Greece was some kind of utopia. Arostotle, for example, wrote a lengthy defense of slavery in his Politics.

[ Parent ]
Nitpick (none / 0) (#67)
by cr8dle2grave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:07:05 PM EST

In Greek performances of Agamemnon the title character walked off stage and declared he was going to gouge his eyes out.

You're correct about the Greek tragedies not employing real torture and murder on stage, but I believe you're thinking of Oedipus and not Agamemnon. Oedipus plucked out his eyes after making his infamous discovery and Agamemnon was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, after returning home from the Trojan War. Both incidents occurred off stage as was the custom in the Greek theater.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Correct (none / 0) (#131)
by RandomPeon on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 11:29:08 PM EST

My bookshelf agrees with you, not me. This is my week for factual slips apparently.

[ Parent ]
brutality in ancient grece. (none / 0) (#98)
by dinu on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:57:00 PM EST

The Romans indeed practiced this the most especially with slaves and convicted thiefs. I thought this was practiced with slaves in Greece but I might be wrong. Anyway just to proove my point the Olympic games were anything but peacefull. The boxing matches were of an extreme violence where the adversaries fought completly naked and anything was permited. Broken limbs were a common thing and so was death.

[ Parent ]
Creugas and Damoxenus (none / 0) (#103)
by zerovoid on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:57:52 PM EST

"Fighting techniques not unlike some forms of modern karate existed in Roman times"
-- Draeger & Smith, Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts, p8

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#78)
by ti dave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:06:55 PM EST

Don't we remeber Belgian paratroopers torturing children in Somalia?

If we could remember, we'd remember that they were Canadian paratroopers.

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
hmmm (none / 0) (#95)
by dinu on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:51:53 PM EST

I distinctly remeber that they were Belgian but I might be wrong. Anyway Cannadian still serves my point.

[ Parent ]
As a Canadian... (none / 0) (#159)
by JahToasted on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:02:01 PM EST

I'm sorry to say it was the Canadian Airbourne Regiment. It caused quite a large controversy resulting in the disbandment of the unit.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
the only ones caught (none / 0) (#164)
by dinu on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 05:38:12 PM EST

The cannadians were the only ones caught. There were many reports but not documented enough regarding other forces in Somalia.

[ Parent ]
relevant link (none / 0) (#168)
by bort13 on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:30:31 PM EST

CBC review of the torture and subsequent inquiry.

[ Parent ]
coverup (none / 0) (#169)
by dinu on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 06:17:26 PM EST

Quote from the article. "Of the two most directly involved in the torture, Clayton Matchee tried to hang himself in his cell. He suffered brain damage and was eventually found unfit for trial. Pvt. Kyle Brown was later found guilty and sentenced to five years in military prison." A little light sentence for torture and murder.

[ Parent ]
If you can get away with brutality (4.40 / 10) (#13)
by mami on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 06:31:58 PM EST

people will be brutal.

When you are desperate, you will enjoy the suffering of your fellow humans.

That's an insult. It's not true that your own engagement in brutality is dependent on your degree of desperation. It takes very long for a human to become a cannibal out of being hungry.

Usually people, who are desperate and suffer under the brutality of others, are the first ones to fight against brutatlity and not the first ones to respond with the same brutality they were treated with.

All other forms of desperation used to justify brutal murders are scapegoats, as long as you don't kill in self-defense. If and when you are ethically allowed to kill out of self-defense is course is always the point of discussion over the centuries and the seed for the next outbreak of hate killings.

I don't like your article. What's the intention of it? You won't change anything by accusing the world of being a bunch of beastly brutal killers.

Write another article that shows how the people are full of courage to prevent people from behaving brutally as well.

Why draw un-needed distinctions? (none / 0) (#81)
by Sesquipundalian on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:40:00 PM EST

Why discern a difference between eating someone in a physical sense (using cutlery and such), and sucking up their entire life savings by addicting them with gambling schemes. There are a lot of way to suck the joy and light out of people's lives, building large fascination machines called casinos is one, making a friend and showing him how to shoot up heroin is another. It's all bad and we usually know better.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
addictions (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by mami on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:34:33 PM EST

I am not sure I understand what you mean with why I was drawing un-needed distinctions. I wasn't aware I did.

Offering someone something which will lead to addiction is brutal and the same goes here, if you allow people to mess with other people's lives in purposefully drawing them into an addiction for their own profit, they will do.

There is no distinction, just a matter of how certain and how soon you get killed or destroyed by your addiction.

The only thing you can say is that not all people let themselves draw into addiction, so there is some sort of responsibility for your lack of resistance to get into it.

Usually atrocities that include the murder of people are done in a way that the victim had no choice of avoiding or resisting it.

So where does the word gullible come from, if it's not an English word?

[ Parent ]

This is only half a story (4.28 / 7) (#14)
by Tatarigami on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 06:44:11 PM EST

Okay, we're all capable of brutality. What now? This article feels like you left the conclusion off.

Indeed (none / 0) (#89)
by snappy on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:34:01 PM EST

I was just about to start reading it and then it was suddenly over.

[ Parent ]
I don't think we're that different (4.25 / 4) (#17)
by pyramid termite on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:06:32 PM EST

I did not speak of humanity. When I said us, I spoke of those living in the West. The fat and content cats. There is a world you are not seeing; a brutal world.

We all remember when Palestinians tied up teenage Israeli boys,
(on and on and on)


We have actors, Hollywood, TV sets and loads of media to deliver blood and gore and brutality to us. It's just as my raised in the Depression on a dirt farm mother has said - back in those days, you had to make your own entertainment.

Anyway, with the US having one of the higher murder rates around, I don't think we're that slack, just not as well organized in our violence.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
We are hunters. (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by pedrobeltrao on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:29:14 PM EST

In the environment / genes discussion I favor the environment possibility. Most of our behavior comes from what we learn in society and from the stimuli we are subjected to during our life. That said I think that there are a lot of things that are of course a product of our genetic content. One of the things that may very well be encoded in ourselves is the need for the hunt. It is something that humankind depended on so it seems logical that it would be an evolutionary advantage to make each one of us (especially males) need to "hunt". I remember reading in a Carl Sagan book (sorry, don't remember the title) that this need could be the explanation for our relationship with sports. We have to have an escape route for our hunter tendencies. It is just that some of us can just watch or play a sport/game others do it in a less socially accepted way.

"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet."-William Gibson
With apologies to Rush fans: (none / 0) (#22)
by acceleriter on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:39:22 PM EST

From Lock and Key:

Behind the finer feelings -- This civilized veneer -- The heart of a lonely hunter Guards a dangerous frontier


[ Parent ]
What, all of them? (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by kaemaril on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:58:57 PM EST

The human being is a cruel and sadistic animal.

Really? Every single one of us, without exception? This single, ludicrous, statement was more than enough to get a -1 for this article out of me.


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


Why, did it touch a nerve with you? (2.16 / 6) (#29)
by fluffy grue on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 08:53:01 PM EST

Obviously it made you upset if it caused you to post an editorial comment as topical.
--
"trhurler: he's a bright ray of sunshine shoved right up your ass" -- Misery Loves Chachi

[ Parent ]

Very droll. (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by kaemaril on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:58:56 AM EST

Yes, it did indeed hit a nerve. Obviously I had to stop torturing kittens and pulling the wings off flies long enough to reply.


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


[ Parent ]
And another thing... (1.00 / 1) (#59)
by kaemaril on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:12:54 AM EST

From the FAQ: Topical comments are about contents of the article, while editorial comments are suggestions and remarks about how the article is written (or why it is written poorly).

Seems to me the comment I made was topical, since I was writing about the content (represented by the sentence I quoted). I suppose one could argue that complaining about the sentence was remarking on why it was "written poorly", but it seemed to me the sentence was directly to the point of the article and not simply poor wording. YMMV.


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


[ Parent ]
my comment (4.41 / 12) (#26)
by cthulhain on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 08:22:02 PM EST

The overall impression I get from this article is that you feel civilization ("the West" in particular) is a sham and a lie, and therefore worthy of contempt; the true nature of humans is evil and brutish. The human being is a human beast: feed and treat him well and he will behave himself much like any other animal.

What you don't seem to be taking into account is that civilization is not a prerequisite to base survival. It can certainly be argued that humans have a natural tendency to organize themselves into social hierarchies, but there is no pressing need for them to develop advanced cultures and traditions; and yet they do. Symphonies, folksongs, literature, poetry, art of all forms; the principles of justice, political equality, and freedom; all of these things originated in man, in spite of his brutish nature and apart from the dictates of fundamental necessity.

In the end, humans cannot be abstracted into two simplistic categories. The struggle between good and evil is constant and ongoing within every person, on many different levels. There is no stark black and white, no pure evil or goodness but rather infinite shades of gray. Good ideas can be and are used in bad ways, and positive results can and do grow out of terrible circumstances. The human individual is a complex duality, but he is not doomed or hopeless. By recognizing his opposing nature he can rise above its darker tendencies. Reduce him to an animal and that is all he will ever be.

Pascal said it best:

It is dangerous to make man see too clearly his equality with the brutes without showing him his greatness. It is also dangerous to make his see his greatness too clearly, apart from his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is very advantageous to show him both. Man must not think that he is on a level either with the brutes or with the angels, nor must he be ignorant of both sides of his nature; but he must know both.

--
nothing in his brain except a ruined echo of the sky.

Brutality is a function of the highest and lowest (2.16 / 6) (#27)
by la princesa on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 08:28:44 PM EST

groups in any given society.  The lowest rabble have else in the way of enforcing status except through viciousness and brutality.  The higher ranking groups are so melted from decades of inbreeding or apathy that they adopt brutality as a means to subvert attacks of boredom.  In both instances the callousness of the violence reveals its underlying calculation.  

Brutality with no purpose, a blind lashing out, is more typically limited to the less intelligent humans, regardless of social status.  Though as there are more of those in the higher status groups, it is more common among them, but rarely punished.  

All of which is just to say that what looks overt may in fact be quite subtle in origin.  Brutality is often thought of as a big dumb outpouring of violence for humans, but more often it's quite planned out on multiple levels.  Which offers food for thought, if one choose to consume it.  

___
<qpt> Disprove people? <qpt> What happens when you disprove them? Do they disappear in a flash of logic?

Us vs. Them (4.92 / 13) (#32)
by khym on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 09:21:10 PM EST

I think that most of human brutality and cruelty can be explained by the "Us vs. Them" mentality. If you consider someone to "Them", then harming him/her isn't as bad as harming one of "Us"; thus, simple brutality, since we don't care about what happens to "Them".

As for cruelty, which isn't just indifferent brutality, but enjoying causing suffering, there are two causes related to "Us. vs Them". The first is the human tendency to dislike, or hate, that which is different from us. If you hate someone, you you want them to suffer. If that someone is one of "Us", you'll probably just fantasize about it, but if that someone is one of "Them", there's no reason to hold back.

The second cause of cruelty, which especially applies to things like lynchings, is that often groups of people will be proud to be "Us", will be proud of being better than "Them". Being able to get away with cruelty to "Them" proves "Our" superiority. Plus, if one of "Them" challenges "Our" superiority, that pisses "Us" off, so we retaliate against "Them"; and since they are "Them", there's no reason to treat them humanely, right?

Back thousands of years ago, every little tribe in the world thought themselves to be "Us", and everyone else "Them". As time has gone by, more and more people start seeing larger segments of Homo Sapiens as "Us". Since humans need to learn that other groups of humans aren't "Them", civilization is needed to reduce the levels of brutality and cruelty. However, while civilization is necessary, it is not sufficient, since it is quite possible for a civilization to reinforce the human "Us/Them" mentality, rather than than educate people against it.



--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
Roman (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by dinu on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:13:41 PM EST

Actually the Romans consither themselves civilized and the other barbarians. And it was the civilized ones and the rest. Nazis consider themselves supperior race and there were the inferior ones jews, slavs .... This prooves you right.

[ Parent ]
Very, very true (4.00 / 1) (#151)
by gidds on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:13:55 AM EST

I've long thought exactly that.  I suspect that virtually all violent conflicts in the world boil down to a simple tribal us-vs-them mentality: Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, the Holocaust... my family/church/country/ideology against yours.

This is not to say that structures like families, churches, nations, ideologies, etc. are wrong in themselves.  They can bring huge benefits.  But the moment we start to break the world into `us' and `them', we have an unconscious bias which is almost impossible to avoid.

As human beings, I think the most important thing here is to remember that `they' are human beings too.  `They' deserve to be treated just as well as `we' do, with the same human rights and freedoms, even if we do disagree with their politics/faith/ideology/whatever.

I'm always reluctant to mention my faith in discussions, but I think that the Good Samaritan parable is particularly relevant here: it makes the point that we are all neighbours, whether we are `us' or `them'.  I think we'd all do well to remember that.

Andy/
[ Parent ]

Cats and birds (3.50 / 2) (#34)
by brozier on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 11:09:22 PM EST

Actually most well fed cats, who still have their claws, will kill a bird and bring it back to their own or the person who feeds it. I know, I'm nit-picking.

Yes, I know ... (OT cat story) (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by pyramid termite on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 11:59:36 PM EST

... except they don't always kill the bird when they bring it in - I was washing the dishes one day and my daughter let Cali in, saying, "Cali, bird."

"Yeah," I replied, "Cali."

"Bird."

"Oh, is there a bird outside?"

"Bird."

I turned around and discovered that Cali had come into the house with a live robin to offer me. The robin quickly escaped, and the next couple of minutes consisted of me chasing the cat while the cat chased the bird while Sarah laughed her head off and said, "Bird" and got in our way. Finally, the robin tried to fly out of the window above the kitchen sink, Cali jumped from the floor like a bolt and caught the robin and I grabbed the cat and put her back outside with the robin still struggling in her mouth. Then I made Cali let her go.

At least she stopped offering us birds.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Cruel and Unusual Punishment in US prisons (4.00 / 8) (#36)
by nomoreh1b on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 11:57:19 PM EST

An article on brutality in the west isn't complete without mention of brutality in contemporary US prisons. Once a topic of controversial thinkers, prison rape in the US has recently started being addressed by mainstream human rights organizations. The nature of prison rape exemplifies the failure of multi-culturalism in the United States. As the author Anderson above points out, the most common cause of suicide in prison is rape-and the prisons in that most multi-cultural of US states, California have a rate of suicides in prison more than 10 times the national average. The simple facts are this: victims of prison rape are not representative of the US or prison populations.

More Detail on Prison Rape (4.00 / 1) (#129)
by nomoreh1b on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:17:57 PM EST

The key to understanding rape in US prisons
About 300,000 men in are raped in US prisons each year.
Many more enter into sexual relationships they wouldn't enter into if it weren't for the need to protect themselves from the threat of rape.
Many of the men raped in US prisons are raped repeatedly-dozens or hundreds of times--this goes on until they die, commit suicide, enter into a protective relationship or join a gang/sect/cult.
Rape in US prisons disportionately involves white men (of middle class backgrounds and ancestry "north and west of the alps"-particularly those that are blonde or small of stature) being raped by black or hispanic men.
There exist prison management protocols that can greatly reduce prison rape-few prisons have adopted these protocols.
US prisons have become a breeding ground for diseases that affect the rest of society(i.e. various STD's would be markedly less if practices in US prisons were altered).

Dostoevsky said the level of morality in a society is reflected by conditions in their prisons. What does the state of US prisons say about the US and the west? The brother of a friend of mine committed suicide after a California cop threatened him with suicide during investigation of a minor crime(breaking and entering). What kind of elites use threat of prison rape to maintain order in society?

[ Parent ]

A little bit disingenuous (4.50 / 4) (#40)
by ariux on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:26:59 AM EST

Yes, that is present as a force in human nature - but historically, groups of humans who abandon themselves to it quickly find the results painful to themselves and end up regretting the decision.

Burning all the crops may bring a vicious thrill to the reptilian hindquarters of one's brain, but what is one going to eat afterward?

Some examples include pacifism in the wake of the Great War, the development of feudal land management in Europe to replace post-Roman chaos and famine, many cultures' systems of justice meant to create a context in which disputes can be set to rest, and democratic arrangements intended to satisfy all visible stakeholders. (You think your "fat cat" got fed by accident? Smart and farsighted "cats" find a lot more food.)

Interesting... (3.25 / 4) (#41)
by Matt Oneiros on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:45:50 AM EST

First of all, I find it just a little bit disturbing that about 50% of the k5 users polled so far have fantasized about torturing someone...

on another note entirely... Why are people voting this story down? it's op-ed, it doesn't matter if you agree with it. I'd hate to see this story get dumped.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real

the author (4.75 / 4) (#61)
by Anon 17933 on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:53:26 AM EST

I think a lot of people are voting it down because of the author. He's a known troll with a persecution complex -- if you look at his comments you'll see what I mean. I would normally vote down anything he writes, but this is a fairly interesting topic, even if I don't agree with everything he says.

[ Parent ]
Maybe some people would disagree... (none / 0) (#85)
by Matt Oneiros on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:17:01 PM EST

but I just vote a story based on the story, reading a lot of comments that people post in reguards to why they vote something down, they do a lot of looking into who the author is.

Personally I just read the story, if I think it's worthwhile I vote it up, if I don't I vote it down.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real
[ Parent ]

known troll? (none / 0) (#104)
by dipierro on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:01:53 PM EST

In what way is he a troll? Does he misrepresent his own beliefs? Does he lie? Does he argue points which have already been disproven over and over again? Do you have any examples of these trolls? Or is it maybe that he merely holds positions with which most people disagree?



[ Parent ]
read his comment history (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by Anon 17933 on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:49:36 PM EST

particularly the mossad/zionist/cia thread... it's some pretty good entertainment. I have quite a bit of factual knowledge of the things he talks about in those threads, and his statements make it obvious he's making up stuff to get attention.

[ Parent ]
you know... (none / 0) (#117)
by dipierro on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:52:39 PM EST

I'm starting to suspect you might be right. Still not sure if he's a troll or just suffering from certain delusions, though. Either way, I'll be more careful about his posts in the future, though this one I still has generated enough response to be worth it.

[ Parent ]
Why vote it down? (4.50 / 2) (#75)
by zonker on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:52:22 PM EST

I voted against it because the author clearly doesn't understand the term "desperation," the writing is unfocused and rambling and the author tries to make the argument that a hungry person killing an animal for food is being "brutal" which is not the case. If you are starving and you kill a deer for food, it's unlikely that you're going to go out of your way to make the deer suffer - you just want meat, and the majority of people - given the chance - would at least make it as painless as possible on the deer. Most people certainly wouldn't enjoy the deer's suffering.

The topic may be interesting, but the way it is introduced is so flawed that most of the discussion will tend to flow towards pointing out these obvious and glaring problems with the story instead of actually discussing the given topic.

I also have a habit of voting any of this person's stories down because 99.999% of his stories and comments are very trollish in nature.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

And... (4.00 / 1) (#161)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:05:46 PM EST

Look at some of the references in the story. There are a ton of political references in the article, including a heck of a lot of controversial ones. It seems almost designed to incite flamewars about all of those references.

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#172)
by Ward57 on Wed May 21, 2003 at 10:48:28 AM EST

His argument is that human beings are fundamentally cruel animals - that if you ever need to kill an animal for food, you will most likely cause it unnecessary pain in addition to killing it, on purpose. I think he's been picked on at school/university/work, or quite possibly more than one of those. I don't necessarily feel sorry for him, but it's one of those things I would like to see stopped.

[ Parent ]
education. (3.00 / 3) (#44)
by regeya on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:17:11 AM EST

Give the mind something more intellectual to examine, along with teaching compassion.

I'm not advocating some Star Trek Vulcan pure-logic crap; just teach people to think before acting. So many people walking through their lives, never contemplating the consequences of their actions . . . surprising we've survived this long, as a race, without growing intellectually. Sure, we have a number of people who claim to be intellectuals; but intellectuals, I've found, have the same startling capacity for cruelty and pettish behavior that so-called lowbrows have.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

Bitching and moaning wont change (2.50 / 2) (#80)
by Sesquipundalian on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:15:13 PM EST

the average I.Q., sadly it will always remain, pinned by the unbearable weight of definition, fixed at exactly 100.00.

The self awareness and abillity to maintain focused progressive chains of reasoning and deduction for periods of more that 30 seconds (or however long it takes to successfully conclude that others around you are almost certainly like you at least enough to have souls) or so that you are advocating on a mass scale just cant happen for people who's I.Q.'s are 100.00.

Whatever factor it is in their lives, or brains or whatever that kept them too confused and incoherent to score higher that 100.00 on that day when the test was administered, will also quite reliably ensure that they will never rise very far above the status of well behaved sociopath . The prisoner's dillemma is a bit too much for them , I'm afraid.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
A high I.Q. is no protection (none / 0) (#118)
by marc987 on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:11:33 PM EST

Using reason alone leads to all kinds of pathological behaviour.

[ Parent ]
Okay... (4.20 / 5) (#47)
by xriso on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:36:33 AM EST

You've demonstrated that humans have the capacity to inflict evil, even on other humans. So?
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
a lesson to be learned (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by zephc on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:06:56 AM EST

A lesson to be learned from Guan Gong, a great Chinese warrior.

Milgram Obedience Studies (4.75 / 4) (#64)
by pexatus on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:04:16 PM EST

This is the best experiment I learned about in Social Psychology: the Milgram Obedience Experiments.

The same thing happens when humans are exposed to extreme situations.
The thing about this experiment is that it is not even an extreme situation. The people were volunteers from off the street who had no connection with the experimenters and were getting paid $4.50, so you can't even chock it up to greed. They just see a guy in a uniform and assume he must know so much more than they do that he has a justifiable reason to send 450 Volts through someone.

The second-coolest experiment was the Stanford Prison Experiment. With Milgram, at least there was an outside pressure to be cruel, measly as it may have been. At Stanford, these college kids learned to be cruel all on their own.

Sorry about the first link (none / 0) (#66)
by pexatus on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:32:20 PM EST

Here is the Milgram link.

[ Parent ]
Not so much cruel as unintentionally tragic (2.00 / 7) (#65)
by bobpence on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:23:57 PM EST

All but two of the atrocities you cite are not explicitly state-sanctioned, and so speak of the brutality of individuals. The example of Chinese execution fests, while hosted by the government, shows the brutality of the spectators (albeit based on their education, directed by the government).

However, the example of Israeli troops knocking down Palestinian buildings 'with people inside' is a government operation. Only the one recent report I heard about it involved two sisters who, rather than carrying their lame brother out, begged the Israeli troops to stop. They repeatedly asked them to stop, but they apparently did not have the presence of mind to say that someone was inside. In the heat of the moment, and having no indication that these girls were worried about more than a building, the Israelis knocked the building down. Had Israelis or Americans been told to evacuate a building, they would have probably carried out those who could not walk, even at the risk of not getting out in time themselves, as indeed many did on September 11th.

When Palestinian women can pray that their sons get to be martyrs and kill a lot of "Israelis" (according to one translation I heard yesterday, though I would wager the prayer was to kill "Jews"), but the propaganda machine can only come up with events that are clearly misunderstandings, there is a problem.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

Riddle me this, Batman (none / 0) (#68)
by Space Monkey on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:36:23 PM EST

They repeatedly asked them to stop, but they apparently did not have the presence of mind to say that someone was inside.

Would you smile and nod while someone crushed your house? I'm not even talking about if someone was inside or not.



Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice freedom for safety," as Benjamin Franklin once said.
[ Parent ]
Another hypothetical (none / 0) (#69)
by Space Monkey on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:43:18 PM EST

How about if you didn't know that they were going to destroy your home? Would you smile and nod as your wife died in front of you?

propaganda machine can only come up with events that are clearly misunderstandings

Is that what you call a misunderstanding?



Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice freedom for safety," as Benjamin Franklin once said.
[ Parent ]
-1 why? (1.50 / 4) (#71)
by minus273 on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:58:24 PM EST

because of this:
Or Northern Alliance soldiers that lock prisoners into containers, and shoot holes in the containers?
not that i disagree with it but becasue it is linked to a article that is total BS

"Desperation?" (4.76 / 13) (#72)
by localroger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:10:11 PM EST

Overall a hard sentiment to argue with, but the last line jarred me: When you are desperate, you will enjoy the suffering of your fellow humans.

The problem with this is that desperation is not an emotion normally associated with enjoyment.

Colin Wilson covers this at extremely great length in his mammoth A Criminal History of Mankind. One thing he establishes via copious example is that random cruelty seems more associated with boredom than a state of heightened excitement. In fact, Wilson goes to great lengths showing that murder at all scales is usually a "short cut" which can't accomplish the perpetrator's real goal.

Wilson cites as a counterpoint to Sade this true description of a random act of sadistic brutality: At last Enver tired of this. He signed to two of his bravo aides, and throwing open the furnace door, said 'Push him in.' We turned, feeling sick, to go away; but Enver, his head on one side, listening, halted us. So we listened till there came a crash within the furnace. He smiled and nodded, saying: 'Their heads always pop like that.'"

So the crime is not inspired by desperation, but self-absorption and lack of imagination. There are better ways to ascend Maslow's heirarchy of needs, but the stupid and unimaginative person justifies the "short cut" which leads only to an escalating spiral of violence.

The fact that so many people choose this solution does not mean it is the best, or only, response to the difficulties we face in life.

I can haz blog!

Desperation comes after Craving. (3.00 / 1) (#74)
by Sesquipundalian on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:48:55 PM EST

Whimsy precedes Apreciation.
Want precedes Enjoyment.
Need precedes Satisfaction.
Craving precedes Relief.
Desperation precedes Exaultation.

do you see?

There is a certain linear relationship going on here. The culminating (on the negative side) emotion (desperation) is just too intense to be associated with any positive emotion you would consider pairing with it. The weak examples you try on for size (amusement?) seem creepy and prychopathic to you. This is because you make the mistake of considering the wrong emotions. You should compare desperation with really intense emotions like exaultation and hard won victory over the alpha male of the other tribe.

After you get over whatever it is that you're desperate for, the emotion you feel will be quite pleasurable, of that I can assure you.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
Not really the same (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by localroger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:47:12 PM EST

Desperation precedes Exaultation.

He may choose to correct me, but I don't think this is the kind of "desperation" Psychologist was talking about.

I understand what you're getting at, but the problem is that violence doesn't provide relief for the kind of cravings Psychologist wrote about -- hunger, privation, and insecurity. These are chronic problems which aren't addressed by the immediate issue of whether to do something violent.

As for the kind of desperation you're talking of -- like, for example, the desperation one can have for an orgasm when one is at the peak of sexual excitement -- I really don't see that kind of thing factoring into the matter of brutality. It is really unusual for a situation to arise where a normal person would have that kind of hunger to see another person suffer. It can be taught and learned -- and I think Psychologist might have gotten some of his experience in places where that is common -- but I don't think it's natural.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Violence provides incredible situational (none / 0) (#124)
by Sesquipundalian on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:18:21 PM EST

relief for many of the craven.

Wandering alone and starving in a war torn country might induce a little exaultation, when you come across a gassed out house with canned food in it. Perhaps even a little glee, (after you've stuffed your cake-hole, of course).

As to privation, It's not a myth that there are some areas of Ney York City were you just shouldn't go if you're white.

As for insecurity, been to a clan meeting lately?

These situations are bound to create strong emotions in people. These are not dull boring situations here. As far as natural behavior goes, I think that spitefull glee is about as natural and normal as it gets, as far as responses to whole classes of situations that happen often enough to have shaped our evolution, go.

I mean, would reading be an artificial behavior in your estimation? Because as a species we keep re-inventing language. Everytime we war ourselves back to the stone-age, we always start re-building language first. It's probably been selected for as an instinct by now.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
What about mob action? (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by psychologist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:29:13 PM EST

My fascination with depravity started when I watched mob killings in Western and Central Africa. I was stationed there with Army units for a while.

There is usually some reason for the crowd to gather - a killing, a theft, an enemy, etc. It doesn't really matter what the original reason, the crowd almost always moves towards killing the victim.

And it isn't that the mob loses control of itself - rather, it is about 5 people, usually men who seem to be in control of everything, and call for knives, and petrol or nails to torture the thief/murderer/enemy.

And they actually try to maximise the pain to the person, not as a detterent, but because they honestly seem to enjoy it. The children in particular mill around laughing.

Mob action is an example of cruelty that comes because of excitement, and not boredom. These are real world events that I have witnessed, and I beg to differ in that respect from your quoted book.

Now, what does desperation have to do with this? Look at places where everybody is well fed and content. You don't hear of such mobs in small swiss villages, do you?`But these are common occurences in bone-poor areas, such as india or central Africa. A theft is magnified by poverty, the crime of the to-be-lynched is magnified by the desperation of the villages, and they feel somehow that justice will only be done when that criminal suffers as much as they suffer.

When people suffer, they want others to suffer also. A man who has starved all his life is more likely to want to starve people as punishment.

This is the desperation I talk about.

[ Parent ]

chemicals (none / 0) (#102)
by dipierro on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:52:19 PM EST

And they actually try to maximise the pain to the person, not as a detterent, but because they honestly seem to enjoy it.

I certainly don't deny that. Watching others suffer tends to increase the adrenaline levels in our bodies, and that usually gives us a feeling of elation. Regardless of whether it is particularly adrenaline or not, you do agree that emotions tend to be based chemically, correct?

When people suffer, they want others to suffer also. A man who has starved all his life is more likely to want to starve people as punishment.

And that's where I simply don't agree with you. For one thing, the pleasure derived from watching someone else suffer is not intellectually based, it is chemically based. The intellectual basis is the realization that as a society we are better off refraining from watching others suffer. And eventually I believe this chemical reaction will largely evolve itself away.

But that's because I believe that good is more powerful than evil, in the long run. And I don't say that out of a religious basis, I actually think religious teachings evolved from that basic truth of life.



[ Parent ]
Emotions and chemicals (none / 0) (#123)
by cr8dle2grave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:15:06 PM EST

And that's where I simply don't agree with you. For one thing, the pleasure derived from watching someone else suffer is not intellectually based, it is chemically based. The intellectual basis is the realization that as a society we are better off refraining from watching others suffer. And eventually I believe this chemical reaction will largely evolve itself away.

Please explain the causal chain beginning with an act of brutality and terminating with a certain chemical state in the brain of an observer that does not include any act of intellectual activity on the part of said observer.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Individuals, mobs, and violence (5.00 / 3) (#105)
by localroger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:35:18 PM EST

My fascination with depravity started when I watched mob killings in Western and Central Africa. I was stationed there with Army units for a while.

I thought your account had the "ring of truth" to it. I respect your experience a great deal.

There is usually some reason for the crowd to gather - a killing, a theft, an enemy, etc.

Yes, most people would rather sit on their butts than go to the trouble to do something, whether "something" is building a warp drive or lynching a bothersome nigger.

It doesn't really matter what the original reason, the crowd almost always moves towards killing the victim.

It's the path of least resistance, once movement itself has been initiated.

And it isn't that the mob loses control of itself - rather, it is about 5 people, usually men who seem to be in control of everything, and call for knives, and petrol or nails to torture the thief/murderer/enemy.

Yes, these would figure into Wilson's theories in two ways. First of all, most people are sheep and won't be bothered to lynch the bothersome interloper unless someone spurs them into action. Wilson provides several interesting anecdotes suggesting that about 5% of humans are naturally dominant, and will tend to take control of any unusual situation. Taken in context with our nearest animal relatives, this is perfectly believable.

In another vein, any violent person (and I would think this always applies in the lynch-mob situation) may be acting as a "Right Man." Wilson characterizes this kind of action as "the decision to be out of control." You should really read the book; it's a bit loopy in some ways but Wilson spent a lifetime writing true crime accounts, and ACHOM is his attempt to frame a coherent set of rules by which violence comes to pass from the many accounts in which he's immersed himself.

Contrary to your assertion, the mob is out of control; by the time the noose is hung any individual member of the mob who recants and suggests altering the mob's course runs a real risk of ending up with a noose of his own. This even applies to the "Right Men" who whipped the mob up.

Now, what does desperation have to do with this? Look at places where everybody is well fed and content. You don't hear of such mobs in small swiss villages, do you?`

As a matter of fact, the mobs who lynched bothersome niggers in my neck of the woods not that long ago were made up of people who were well-fed, content, and at the top of their own local social order. It was a perceived threat to that order that instigated those mobs, but the threat was neither immediate nor very real.

The psychology of people en masse is very different from that of individuals. It's certainly true that a lot of individuals will get off on cruelty; where I differ is your implication that this is universal and inevitable. Most of the participants in a mob are in a state Wilson would liken to hypnosis; they are not really thinking about what they are doing. Once the mob is formed there is really nobody in charge, not even the men who rounded up the miscreants and called for the petrol. It's amazing and frightening and awe-inspiring that humans can be fomented into such an uncontrollable force, but their participation doesn't really have much to do with what happens in "Real Life." A lot of those lynching picnickers will go back to their squeamish vegetarian ways when the circus is over. A lot of them won't even remember being there, and most won't remember what happened accurately, because the event is so contrary to their sense of self.

When people suffer, they want others to suffer also. A man who has starved all his life is more likely to want to starve people as punishment.

I don't think there is actually a connection. You happen to have seen cruelty in this context, but the account cited by Wilson was perpetrated by someone at the top of his society's heirarchy. Read the accounts of both the awful slayings and unaccountable last-minute reprieves by Genghis Khan.

Desperation can spur violence, but boredom is much more likely to do so. And some men find the other path even when all forces point toward violence. Humans are capable of great cruelty, but we are also capable of rising above ourselves.

Other highly evolved empathetic creatures are capable of cruelty; if you've had any experience with cats, you cannot fail to agree. But unlike cats we are capable of doing better. Our programming may have a default, but it is not fixed. And in that there is some hope for us.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

must be a book difficult to swallow (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by mami on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:18:21 PM EST

It's amazing and frightening and awe-inspiring that humans can be fomented into such an uncontrollable force, but their participation doesn't really have much to do with what happens in "Real Life." A lot of those lynching picnickers will go back to their squeamish vegetarian ways when the circus is over. A lot of them won't even remember being there, and most won't remember what happened accurately, because the event is so contrary to their sense of self.

Must be a great book and the explanation of being in a state of hypnosis is very convincing. I don't know if systematic murder like the ones happened in Nazi Germany's concentration camps qualify for an "out of control mob" situation, because they were so "bureaucratically planned" that they miss the exitement feature. They might though prove the hypnosis thingy.

How else can you explain SS commanders in the camps literally smashing little children's heads to death and hours later play "tok tok train" with their own children having the same age and being a "cute daddy" at home?

I would say that most *individual* mob killings or the seed that might invoke a situation that could end up in mob killing, isn't for the most part caused by poverty, but through violating one person's dignity in a way the person can't take it. This can be a one-time thing or a life-long perceived violation of a person's "dignity" with the result that hate deteriorates the person so much that the only satisfaction the person can get is in a revenge killing.

Has that person tools and power and an opportunity for revenge, they can kill. One thing I observed is that among very poor people the "proper rituals of showing respect to one another" are of immense importance. Little things a Westerner wouldn't even imagine to have any meaning, can be a matter of life and death.

It's also interesting to see how people ARE able to calm those situations down. Sometimes with almost unbelievable simple methods, and again here I am reminded of what you described above. Though the methods to cool down and settle situations (if no drugs are involved) are simple, almost no one is willing to use them (may be out of fear).

Nevertheless what the examples he originally mentioned in his article were mostly politically motivated and supported mob killings. At least that's how I understood his article.

Now he is talking about mob brutality that is not politically motivated and not supported by some hierarchial power structure of a militia or government's police forces. I don't think both can be explained in the same way, or not?

[ Parent ]

Can you be more precise ? (none / 0) (#116)
by mami on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:48:32 PM EST

when I watched mob killings in Western and Central Africa. I was stationed there with Army units for a while.

With which Army, the US Armed Forces in Central Africa and Western Africa? Could you explain?

[ Parent ]

Explanation (4.00 / 1) (#136)
by psychologist on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 03:51:33 AM EST

I was never a soldier. However, I used to work with soldier training units and solider units. I worked for a few months with UN troops in Sierra Leone, after which I was sent for a few weeks to the Congo with a small number of British special forces for situation analysis pending the security council meeting on the Congo.

I don't fight or do anything dangerous, I just hang around and question people.

But this doesn't have anything to do with the story. Why do you ask?

[ Parent ]

oh, then (none / 0) (#165)
by mami on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 05:57:46 PM EST

you must have seen a lot. :-/(

[ Parent ]
re (none / 0) (#167)
by chia on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 04:43:32 AM EST

you are confusing cause and effect, just because you observe desperation and cruelty together does not mean that desperation causes cruelty

an example:
"It is claimed by some people that severe illness is caused by depression and anger. After all, people who are severely ill are very often depressed and angry. Thus, it follows that the cause of severe illness actually is the depression and anger. So, a good and cheerful attitude is key to staying healthy."


Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. O Wilde
[ Parent ]
Hardly Inevitable (4.87 / 8) (#73)
by outlandish on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:44:12 PM EST

While violence and vengence are surely a big part of human history and will likely continue to be in one form or another, I cannot accept the implicit undercurrent of your piece suggesting the inevitability of degeneration. Sure, we're all animals, but that doesn't mean we necessarily end up killing eachother for sport or even want to.

Many of the examples you cited are the result either of historical conflicts that span many generations (Rwanda, Israel/Palestine, Afganistan, etc). The other examples are either the results of a specific culture (e.g. witch burning) or a government (Chinese mass executions). These are all forms of mass cultural manipulation via propaganda and mythology, in essence the use of storytelling and mob mentality to incite violence.

Sadists and real crazies aside, people on their own, as solitary actors, rarely engage in violence and cruelty unless they learn it somewhere first. Of course, one must always check in with the old Shadow Side (c.f. Carl Jung), but the notion that we're violent and depraved out of the box is just misanthropic cynicism.


-------------
remote-hosted soapboxing, mindless self-promotion, and salacious gossip -- outlandishjosh.com

I do accept it (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by psychologist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:43:20 PM EST

I don#t think that degeneration is inevitable in a way that it is creeping up towards us, and one day we shall all be degenerate and sadistic entities. No, not at all.

Rather, I believe that we are already degenerate and cruel. I believe that all humans, even the most timd are born with this ability, and that is what has made us succesful against all the other animal species. I mean, which other species hunts for fun? Which one has succeeded in wiping out tens of thousands of species?

It is my believe that the human, when satisfied will not be cruel (apart from  a few freaks, but those are always there). But as soon as we are placed in any situation where we are in ANY way threatened, we overreact, and not just destroy our enemy, but make him suffer unneccesarily.

We are living with our degeneration in ourselves. It might never need to show itself, it might do so someday however.

Have you watched the movie "The Fortress"? The one with the kidnapped children? Something like that is what I'm talking about.

[ Parent ]

yes and no (5.00 / 1) (#112)
by marc987 on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:17:41 PM EST

I believe that all humans have the potential to "kill and laugh righteously as the blood flows" or whatever image you wish to impress upon us.

But as soon as we are placed in any situation where we are in ANY way threatened, we overreact, and not just destroy our enemy, but make him suffer unneccesarily.

Am i crazy or is there an infinite amount of situations where this is not the case?

[ Parent ]

Cruelty != Success (none / 0) (#126)
by outlandish on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:42:06 PM EST

Humans aren't the only creatures that kill for sport or enjoy violence. Common housecats will make a mouse suffer for hours. Why? It's just their way.

While I'm relieved to hear you say don't think we're headed toward the appocalypse, I still disagree with the subtext of inevitability you weave into your argument. If we truly revert to our "innate degenerate cruelty" at "the slightest discomfort" then we should already be there, eh?

While I'll grant there is something to your argument vis a vis "the Fortress" (or "Lord of the Flies" if you want it in its original flavor), but I just don't believe in such a pessimistic view. I would say that the inner beast/shadow self is a real thing, but it's not something that will inevitably take over one's life in a stressful situation.


-------------
remote-hosted soapboxing, mindless self-promotion, and salacious gossip -- outlandishjosh.com

[ Parent ]

Actually... (4.50 / 4) (#76)
by mguercio on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:54:30 PM EST

Actually, brutality is a form of vanity. The feeling of having supreme power over another life. Vanity takes many forms and is the utmost perverse of rationality. Humanity has not matured enough to deal with vanity in a wise and logical manner. Therefore, brutality will be with us for quite some time.
The definition of "high achievment" is not the wisdom that you have attained yourself, but the wisdom you can share with others.
Couple of Things (4.80 / 5) (#77)
by Puppetman on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:54:57 PM EST

I was sent a video by a friend of someone being executed - it was in some troubled area (Bosnia, Lebanon, etc). The crime apparently was a car bomb. The guy was not confined, but surrounded by a crowd, jostling him, hanging a sign around his neck. He looked calm, but his eyes showed that his fear was so great that he was nearly paralyzed.

They led him to a field, put a blindfold on, and layed him down on the ground. One guy comes up and shoots him (I believe in the stomach). The guy's body flexed, and then he lay down. There was no sound, but he didn't seem to be making any noise - more in shock.

Another man walks up and fires a burst from an automatic weapon for a few seconds; a few bullets seem to hit, but the most just seem to kick up dust.

Finally, they focus on his face, as someone takes a few shots at his head. His right cheek caves in. His head is making small movements back and forth, showing that he is still alive, and possibly somewhat aware.

I felt physically ill. After years of watching violet movies, playing violent games, and so on, this cold-blooded act still had an incredibly disturbing effect on me. Given the right situation, any one of us might act in a cruel fashon. The point is to avoid the situation.

We've come along way from the days when people poured molten lead or mercury down peoples throat (the weight crushed their insides) but we still have along way to go.

Do you want to be really disturbed? (none / 0) (#90)
by psychologist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:37:09 PM EST

I suggest you watch the full video of "Cry Freetown" by Sankoh. I link to it above. I was actually stationed in Sierra Leone for a while, and I saw a bit of combat, but I still had to switch off that video. I couldn't watch it to the end.

You can order it over an internet link on the homepage. Rather than getting a horror movie, get that film and really scare everyone.

[ Parent ]

Yeah, go buy it (none / 0) (#99)
by sypher on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:08:19 PM EST

Why is this not viewable over the web if its only going to make a difference to their problems with the more people who see it?

Who the fuck is going to order this video aside from the ultra realists and the sicko?

Go sell the Daniel Pearl video somewhere, or tell the people behind this film that in this case the audience might be the reason for reward.

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
[ Parent ]
It's the generalizations... (4.00 / 9) (#79)
by Irobot on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:09:04 PM EST

...that are "killing" me. The rampant over-simplifications ("The human being is a cruel and sadistic animal", "The reason we do not kill and torture is simply because we have all we need", "When you are desperate, you will enjoy the suffering of your fellow humans") smack of trolling. (Not that trolling is necessarily a bad thing; in some perverse way, it's quite instructive.)

Humans are part of the animal kingdom. Some are kind, some are cruel. Most fall between the extremes. Revenge, domination, and self-preservation are powerful forces in human action and show themselves in a variety of ways and situations.

Get over it. Go read "Lord of the Flies" (William Golding). Or "All Men Are Brothers" (Ghandi). Perhaps watch "Quills" (about Marquis de Sade). Just don't insult people's intelligence with lame inductive arguments constructed of lopsided anecdotal evidence.

Irobot
Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn

Creationists kiss my ass (2.00 / 4) (#82)
by ganglian on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:44:44 PM EST

We descended from apes and if you watch apes in their behavior and then watch humans you are gonna tell me you see no similarities?

Babboons grooming each other <> Old bitties gossiping at the hair salon?

Point is, look where we came from, many forms of primate have no problem hunting and killing other types of apes, among other things, did you have some thought provoking point you were stabbing at when you pointed out the obvious?
You heard me.
[ Parent ]

Is this in the right place? (2.00 / 2) (#84)
by Irobot on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:15:00 PM EST

Just wondering - I don't want to attempt to read meaning into what appears to be an unrelated, incoherent babble. Was your response to another comment, perhaps? If so, it may very well make sense and I apologize for calling it such. Or perhaps it was an attempt (however clumsy) to extend my comment? If so, could you try to formulate something meaningful? A modicum of lucidity is all I ask for...

Irobot
Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

You Crack Me Up (none / 0) (#153)
by virg on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:59:15 AM EST

I howled when I read that you sought a modicum of lucidity, but used the phrase "modicum of lucidity" instead of something like "a little clarity".

Thanks for the levity.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
A good point (none / 0) (#157)
by Irobot on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:26:19 AM EST

Glad I brightened your day. You're right - it's just that I was irritated to the point of posting quickly. And that's just the way it came out. If the poster was willing to take the time to comment, I figured maybe they'd take the time to explain their point.

I still don't see the relation of that comment to mine. Do you get it? If so, could you explain it to me?

Irobot
Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Looking for Meaning (none / 0) (#163)
by virg on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 04:45:59 PM EST

I backtracked and reread the whole thread. You didn't miss anything. The message to which you responded was not solidly connected to yours in any meaningful way.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
I'm over simplifying but... (none / 0) (#109)
by marc987 on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:57:40 PM EST

overall humans like apes tend to be nice to each other more than cruel to each other, what would be the point of living in a group if this was not the case.

I know that groups and individuals can slaughter each other but i also know that this is not a more basic trait than cooperation.



[ Parent ]

I don't want to attack you personally (2.50 / 4) (#88)
by psychologist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:33:30 PM EST

Even though I am tempted to. Obviously, the human being is cruel. But I speak of another type of cruel here. I speak of enjoying hurting; and not just of the Rwandans, but of you.

You will enjoy macheting someone apart, if you are placed in the correct situation.

[ Parent ]

Ah... (4.20 / 5) (#101)
by Irobot on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:26:18 PM EST

Thank you for your restraint. Obviously, the human being is kind. But I speak of another type of kindness here. I speak of enjoying giving comfort; and not just of the troll support group members, but of you.

You will enjoy helping someone out, if you are placed in the vast majority of situations.

And even in some extreme situations. It's just not as simple as you make it out to be, nor can you make any universal claim as to what is enjoyable. (BTW - can you supply your definition of "enjoy?" I believe it's either different than mine or misapplied.)

Irobot
Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

yawn (4.50 / 6) (#83)
by dogwalker on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:54:56 PM EST

Why stop there? The human history of what we call brutality extends far further than the meager examples you provided. Civil wars, uncivil wars, world wars, atomic bombs, concentration camps, genocide, the Gulag, the Kmer Rouge, Auchswitz, Nagasaki, Dresden, the Somme, Sherman marching through Georgia, slavery, etc. And that's just off the top of the head of some uneducated computer geek.

So it goes.

Therefore it should come to no surprise to anyone who's even heard of human history that there's brutality in it, even recent human history, even current events. Of course, there are also places and times where humans have managed to live relatively peacefully.

What is the difference between a culture's Golden age and its nightmares? What makes people peaceful and what makes them violent? This article offers no insight, no history lessons, and has the air of bullshit about it. It's either a poorly fleshed-out article, or a mediocre troll.

In short, why is this on the front page?
--
share and enjoy

You don't get it (1.80 / 5) (#87)
by psychologist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:31:16 PM EST

You can either read the surface, or understand the point.

I'm not going to write any "Jack the spanish dog jumped over the stile" childrens books for you. I'm not going to spell out every single concept.

If you don't get it, then you don't, just move along. A number of other people do, however.

[ Parent ]

Re: (5.00 / 2) (#94)
by dogwalker on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:45:17 PM EST

It seems pretty plain what you're saying: Humans in their natural state, outside of a civilization that meets all their needs, commit atrocities. Your meta-point is probably that people in the wealthy, priveleged nations shouldn't feel smug, as it is only their wealth that keeps their innate tendencies to violence from surfacing. Or maybe not. If your writing isn't clear enough to show your meta-point, that's hardly my fault.

If you want to write a better article, back up your claim of an innate leaning towards brutality, and offer some original thought as to what you think it means. Or, if you just want an honest-to-god troll, write about how might makes right, violence is good, and evil is underrated.


--
share and enjoy

[ Parent ]

The thin line between a troll and original thought (3.60 / 5) (#96)
by psychologist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:52:46 PM EST

Yes, there is thin line. Take a look at the article. It is a thought, and it is well formulated. Even if it weren't what the hell relationship does it bear to a troll?

A troll is when something is written just to bait people. However am I baiting people with this? I expressed my thoughts, and I argue them out in the comments. So it obviously isn't a troll.

You are one of the people who thinks that psychologist is some kind of ERICesque troll. I admit it, sometime I bait people, but usually only in good fun. When it is time for thinking or talking, I am with the rabble, and say things that are worth thinking about.

If you cannot distinguish between the things I say that are original and provoking thought, and the things I say to trap the pseudo-intellectuals here, then you really shouldn't be reading my work.

But I respect your opinion. You have got a right to criticize me, and I also have a right to defend myself. I don't hold it against you if you do not like what I say, and I don't expect you to hold against it me when I defend myself. But even if you do, I'll still respect your opinion.

[ Parent ]

I agree (1.00 / 1) (#133)
by mercutio on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:11:19 AM EST

This is utter trash.

[ Parent ]
South African Crime (4.75 / 4) (#91)
by Jagin on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:38:38 PM EST

You talk about the South African incident as though you know clear and cut what it is you're talking about. Villagers paid bail to mob lynch a thief? You read too much CNN. What's happening is that the SA justice system is shot to shit (well since 94 that is). Didn't hear bout thieves that had their bail paid - but murderers and rapists, yes. Why do you think this is? Because those villagers enjoy cruelty? Maybe its because the justice system here is a joke and they know that. Recently someone I know had an attempt on their life. Weeks later, through connections, he found out exactly where this bastard was working. He took the info to the cops - what do you think happened? Too many cases, sorry, your case had to be closed. Of course, you can't do the mob justice thing if you're white - they have time for a case like that.

South African Crime (5.00 / 1) (#140)
by TheSkillPath on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 06:25:22 AM EST

This is true. The community knows exactly what crime has been commited, by whom, how, and when. They also know that the legal system will NOT punish the offender. Ergo, they take justice into their own hands.
Granted, this is brutal, rough, and fraught with the possibility of irrecoverable mistakes. It works damn well in keeping small areas safe though.

I have heard much on some discussion lists i subscribe to regarding the middle eastern issue. Not one of the people writing the bleeding-heart posts actually live in palestine. I feel that none of them realise that brutal times call for brutal responses, and that appeasement and "love" and all these fluffly concepts get one eaten. Demonstrating the *will* and *ability* to be brutal allows one to live in peace, and exercise all these nice higher concepts.

my 2c...
-- Do unto others before they do unto you.
[ Parent ]

yes but.. (1.00 / 1) (#141)
by chia on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 06:26:47 AM EST

everything you say may be true, but that still doesnt excuse the fact that the incident is an example of human brutality. brutality born of frustration but brutality none the less.

---------------


Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. O Wilde
[ Parent ]
Look at the alternative (4.00 / 1) (#147)
by Jagin on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 07:45:50 AM EST

Well killing is brutal, yes, but what are the options? The offender is freed to commit more crimes? Perhaps you wouldn't feel this way if it was happening in your community and your family's lives were at risk.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps I was unclear / Oh, grow up (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by bobpence on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:53:48 PM EST

From SpaceMonkey's two replies I get that he doesn't get that I get that people are not going to 'smile as you destroy their homes.' Far from not getting it, it was my point that the Israeli soldiers got it, too. Get it?

That is, if knocking over buildings after warning people to get out is one way you use to wage a war, then you expect people to object vocally. When boths sides in World War II destroyed buildings from above, there was little opportunity for the victims in London or Berlin to say 'please don't blow up my building,' and virtually no instances where people were told 'we're knocking down this specific building in a few minutes, get out.' When Palestian bombers destroy a building, they use the strategy of the element surprise. No one is warned to get out of the building, and indeed the buildings themselves usually continue standing, since their strategy is to kill people, not destroy buildings.

I have no doubt that what I might call the Western view, that of the Americans and the Israelis, is to value people over buildings. Although at times the Americans destroy buildings because of the people they think are in them, more often it about destroying capacity to wage war, for instance by destroying a building used to make bioweapons, when the building itself has already been abandoned because the American strike, if not warned, is at least expected. With the Israelis in these cases of pushing down buildings from which snipers fire and homes of 'martyrs,' it is about dissuading people from doing these things. People are routinely warned to get out, albeit perhaps at the cost of being arrested if they are a criminal suspect.

Had the Palestinian girls said that someone was still inside who could not get out, I would be upset that the soldiers had not relented, even if they suspected it was a trap, even if this Israeli tactic is more humane than other ways of destroying targeted buildings. If they had not been able to communicate with the soldiers and had died trying to rescue their brother, I would cry for them without a sour note. But because they blame only the soldiers when their own story indicates that all they did is what the Israeli soldiers and SpaceMonkey and I believe anyone would do - object to the building being destroyed - then I grieve for their loss, but have to excuse the soldiers who would have reacted much differently to a plea that someone was still inside, instead of a plea to save a building. your way of waging war - and since I have friends who consider the Palestinian suicide / homocide / genocide bombers to be "soldiers" themselves,
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

Oh crap (none / 0) (#110)
by bobpence on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:01:19 PM EST

This was supposed to be a reply to my comment #65 below, clarifying it for those who replied and those who modded it down. The last (incomplete) sentence of the last paragraph should have been omitted, and as it is could be misunderstood. There was a "whatever" in front of it, as in 'whatever your way of waging war,' and then comparing WWII German, WWII Japanese, WWII U.S., recent U.S., recent Israeli, and recent Palestinian strategies, as was done with other phrasing.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
Hey brainiac (1.00 / 1) (#115)
by Space Monkey on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:37:39 PM EST

the Israelis ... value people over buildings.

Guess you didn't click on the link. Oops, there goes your argument down the toilet!



Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice freedom for safety," as Benjamin Franklin once said.
[ Parent ]
I did. What impressed me... (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by bobpence on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:08:52 PM EST

... is not so much that some of the Israelis aren't sure why they are there, it's that they can express that and yet live, unlike Palestinian dissidents.

I have to admit that I 'rewound' a couple times to try to hear what the Israeli official said about the ambulance delay, and could not hear it. If he was overly glib, then screw him. But since when has it been easy for ambulances to get into a battle zone? Again, it's tragic that she didn't get medical attention in time, but short of putting medical personnel at more risk, how could this have been done better?

Of course I won't mention the Palestinian use of an ambulance to carry bomb materials or the setting off of small explosions only to attract Israeli ambulances and medical personnel to die or be injured in a larger secondary explosion.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]

You missed a few (1.75 / 4) (#111)
by smallstepforman on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:13:34 PM EST

How about pictures of air-to-ground missiles slamming into a train full of civilians, or bombing a refugee column, or hiting a TV station, or hiting a power station, or destroying an embassy, or . . . (you get the general idea). But who cares, those savages probably deserved it. The fact that peoples tax dollars were used for subversive purposes to ignite the conflict in the first place doesn't matter either.

Us vs. them junk (none / 0) (#120)
by Thinkit on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:38:58 PM EST

Oh come on, both Palestinian and Israeli brutality is mentioned--trying to take sides on this is ridiculous. This isn't a pro-US piece at all. Humans are an animal species, and they're doing the same thing--whatever god they choose.

[ Parent ]
It is pro-US, you just can't see it... (none / 0) (#121)
by rtechie on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:53:57 PM EST

Oh come on, both Palestinian and Israeli brutality is mentioned--trying to take sides on this is ridiculous. This isn't a pro-US piece at all. Humans are an animal species, and they're doing the same thing--whatever god they choose.

It is indeed pro-US because the author has bought into the idea that many Westerners have that aircraft bombing, artillery, land mines, etc. somehow isn't brutality even though it kills and maims thousands of people because it targets "buildings" or "the capacity to make war". It's propoganda, pure and simple.

However, "psychologist" is right in saying that Americans BELIEVE they aren't brutal because the violence is carefully sanitized. They see the smart bomb taking out the enemy bunker in an little videogame explosion, not the broken bodies in the aftermath. It's like American football. People have fun watching the games, but they DON'T see the terrible injuries that result or the players injecting steroids and later suffering cancer, etc. because they don't WANT to see it.

Westerners aren't brutal? Don't kid yourself into thinking this just because the brutality is thinly veiled.

[ Parent ]

Read it--it's short. (none / 0) (#122)
by Thinkit on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:14:41 PM EST

Read what I said. Westerners are animals just like everyone else and are just as brutal--or more. It's all the same species.

[ Parent ]
You can't see a difference? (none / 0) (#150)
by Minion on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 09:37:54 AM EST

The implication here is that intentionally slamming two planes into two buildings with the goal of killing as many civillians as possible is the moral equivalent to using smart munitions to target military equipment and personnel, knowing there's a chance you'll miss and kill a handful of civillians.

I don't buy it.



[ Parent ]

The truth hurts... (3.00 / 2) (#170)
by rtechie on Fri Aug 02, 2002 at 03:39:22 AM EST

The implication here is that intentionally slamming two planes into two buildings with the goal of killing as many civillians as possible is the moral equivalent to using smart munitions to target military equipment and personnel, knowing there's a chance you'll miss and kill a handful of civillians.

Assuming the USA actually conducted war this way, you'd be absolutely right that they aren't equivalent. However the USA does not conduct war this way.

For example, most of the (80%?) munitions used in the Gulf War we "dumb" bombs like the ubiquitous 500 lbs. bomb and many of those were dropped on civilian targets (power plants, tv and radio stations, hospitals, etc.). Certainly military targets were perferred (blowing up a peasant's house isn't worth the bomb), but if a marginal military target happened to be surrounded by civilians little thought was given to the civilians.

For example, if a handful of troops were holed up in a residential apartment the USA woulsd destroy the entire building rather than risk US personell by sending in ground forces (men with guns) to kill the soldiers. This is how the USA managed so few casualties.

And this is only dealing with the DIRECT effects of the war, civilians be shot and blown up. It doesn't cound those that will die of starvation due to the US destroying their economy (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), those killed by landmines, killed by bandits because all the police are dead, etc.

If you look at the historical pattern, this should hardly be suprising. Wilson readily killed 200,000 Japanese civilians with atomic bombs to avoid a ground invasion that would have cost many American lives.

In the eyes of the Pentagon, Americans (particularly American soldiers) are simply more valuable than non-Americans. This attitude really shouldn't be surprising, Americans have a reputation for being arrogant.

But pretending the US doesn't operate this way is laughable.

[ Parent ]

You're saying that (none / 0) (#154)
by wiredog on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:04:14 AM EST

psychologist is a pro-US propagandist?

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
One without the other is meaningless (4.00 / 1) (#130)
by mmealman on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:54:30 PM EST

If you couldn't be a devil, then there's nothing special about you being a saint. Brutality is a part of what defines humanity, because without it we could never truly be humane.

Former e-mail .Sig: (none / 0) (#137)
by Alfie on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 04:06:07 AM EST

"Quite frankly, I don't like you humans. After what you all have done, I find being 'inhuman' a compliment." — Spider Robinson, "Callahan's Secret"

Good author, btw.



[ Parent ]
Brutality is still with us, and here to stay (4.50 / 2) (#132)
by bigbug__ on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:57:06 AM EST

Well, I'd have to disagree that brutality only comes into play when one gets pushed to a situation when one has to exercise cruelty to secure his/her own existance.

I'd also have to strongly disagree that "civilization" only exists in societies that are materially provided for by default. If you want an example go visit Russia.

I'll make up a definition for civilization, for the purposes of this discussion. Let's say: "Civilization is a large sustainable social establishment that imposes a high degree of behavioral uniformity across individuals, enforcing it through cultural, religious, political, ideological and other mechanisms".

Brutality and violence present a threat to civilization, in the sense that they produce confrontation, and worst of all, they bring into play primal instincts and behaviour, that are not succeptable to control by the mechanisms of civilization. In order to deal with the problem and ensure its sustainability, civilization invents mechanisms to prevent brutality and violence in the first place. These can be religion, law, morality, whatever and they get tought to young people as the basic truisms of life, and respectively become essential characteristics of social behaviour.

My opinion is that cruelty is one of the very basic characteristics of a human and it cannot be rooted out. It is only fear that prevents people from being brutal to an utmost extent - a fear of acting against the basic social principles, implanted in them, and being cast out of society and, worst of all, losing their all important identity - a term of no importance ouside the social context. Sociopats, discussed in an earlier post, simply lack a social identity, so they are able to exercise their brutaliry as much as they consider useful or pleasant.


Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. -- Alan Watts

I almost agree... (none / 0) (#135)
by annenk38 on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 03:23:57 AM EST

...except, when you say
I'd also have to strongly disagree that "civilization" only exists in societies that are materially provided for by default. If you want an example go visit Russia.

it seems that you either have never been to Russia, or at least, haven't been there recently. If there is a level of civilization there at this time, it is that of the scorpions in a jar.

And if my left hand causes me to stumble as well -- what do I cut it off with? -- Harry, Prince of Wales (The Blackadder)
[ Parent ]
Mmm... slanty (5.00 / 6) (#134)
by mercutio on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:18:53 AM EST

I have to admit, this story kind of pisses me off because the other day I was driving my car down the street and I stopped at a stoplight and watched as pedestrians walked across the street, a mother and her kids playing around, an old person making their way slowly and I thought to myself, look how far we have come.

Look what these "brutal" people can do, if we work together.  We built cities, we create medicines, we discover more about our ourselves both physically and mentally.  We designed a system of roads where we drive our cars, we (mostly) obey these laws because they work.  We developed these ourselves.  At one point in time we were instinctual animals and now we think, we create, we introspect.  We develop bonds with people, we ponder what is right, what is wrong, what is just, what is unjust, what is nothing.

Sure, we have a brutal side, and we're all capable of things we don't even know about.  But it's a two-sided coin.  Just because I'm human doesn't mean I'm going to do something horrible.  It's like putting a man in jail because his father committed a crime.  Each life is capable of so much.

nice look at the bright side (5.00 / 1) (#156)
by ph0rk on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:11:26 AM EST

but you forget all the incidents of road rage, and that bit about the man stabbing another man in the face with his umbrella because their two umbrellas touched a few years ago, people shot over parking spots, 2000 abductions a day, murders, and the like.

the US as a nation is hardly free from violent crime and misdirected rage, the news just don't report it when the victims aren't fine upstanding white people
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

When people like Ghandi have lived (none / 0) (#138)
by salsaman on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 06:19:28 AM EST

Then there is hope. By that I mean, not just the fact that he was who he was and did what he did, but also the fact that human conditions were such that he *could* be who he was and do what he did.

Why only middle-east, asian and african slaughters (none / 0) (#139)
by leyssens on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 06:24:07 AM EST

We're no better. Check out a recent US one: http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=110213 Oh, BTW, I'm Belgian. Though I don't find the link, I know our soldiers barbecued some kids in Rwanda. And plenty of examples are available in the Yugoslav war. And in worldwide treatment of refugees. Peter.

wrong (4.00 / 2) (#142)
by chia on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 07:23:10 AM EST

When you are desperate, you will enjoy the suffering of your fellow humans.
huh? and you come to this conclusion how? surely the people on the receving end of brutality are the ones that are desperate, not the perpetrators.

You are mixing so many different things here.

1. On a pyschological level i dont think you can equate "mob brutality" ( which are pretty much all the examples you give ) with individual brutality, ie torture, which is what i think your are trying to discuss in the article. reasons for the two are very different.

2. in extreme situations why will people suddenly become sadistic and brutal? in extreme situations ppl will fight or flee, but you are implying that fighting to survive is somehow brutal, to be equated with killing innocent children or torture??

3. a lion killing to survive is brutal in the sense of the word, but it is not wanton brutality which is what your article seems to be dealing with

It isn't a thing of the animals either
yes it is, why do you think many people are vegetarians and nobody likes to see the way that cows are slaughtered... because we dont like to see this brtuality.. on the whole we try to avoid brutality to others.


Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. O Wilde
See (none / 0) (#149)
by psychologist on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 09:20:09 AM EST

my reply to localrogers comment. And I don't think killing for food, or on orders from others is brutal. It is just normal.

[ Parent ]
We should learn from the Volcans. (1.00 / 1) (#144)
by sagie on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 07:34:44 AM EST

:)

We should learn from the Volcans. (2.00 / 1) (#145)
by sagie on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 07:35:55 AM EST

:)

OOPS, sorry. (none / 0) (#146)
by sagie on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 07:37:07 AM EST



[ Parent ]
A book I'd suggest. (4.00 / 1) (#148)
by claudius on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 08:35:33 AM EST

I would like to suggest the book We regret to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. Gourevitch explores many interesting, related questions about man's capacity for violence, including how genocides happen.

No, No, No. . ! (4.66 / 6) (#152)
by Fantastic Lad on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:37:22 AM EST

Brutality isn't a thing of the past. It isn't a thing of the animals either, it is a thing that is in you. Many city kids would find it difficult to shoot an animal for food. When they have to do it, they quickly overcome their initial hesitation, and do it eagerly. They forget about the previous perceptions of the animal as suffering.

The same thing happens when humans are exposed to extreme situations. You believe you will never be as cruel as the people above. But you will. You just have to be in the same situation as those people. When you are desperate, you will enjoy the suffering of your fellow humans.

Well, now! This is a half-baked opinion with almost no supporting data. A story which stands in stark contrast to nearly every other article I've seen posted on K5; even the poorer grade stories make an attempt to illustrate some kind of detail or pattern beyond a cursory observation.

Let me try to illustrate something. . .

I was talking to a Yugoslav friend of mine, and she was describing to me instances of brutality which make most of the items described above pale by comparison. I will spare you the pornographic details of what she has witnessed first-hand, and what North American news chooses not to share, but suffice it to say that there have indeed been many instances of brutality in Yugoslavia which are thoroughly sickening; which are entirely about causing psychological agony through the physical.

It should be noted that the Slavic peoples have been at constant war with only maybe 15 years of peace in the last 175 years. As each generation is shell-shocked and emotionally hardened, the level of brutality needed to create the desired level of psychological pain increases. As a result, you get the kind of depravity seen among the Slavic people.

My friend then went on to sigh at the naivete of the Canadian head-space. "You are like children over here. If war were to break out here tomorrow, most of you would perish out of sheer hysteria and stupidity. You wouldn't last five days against the tactics other nations understand." I couldn't disagree at the time, because I could plainly see what she was talking about

Still, I went home bugged by this in some way which I couldn't put my finger on until later that evening. And that point is this:

How is it that the society in which individuals have decided to treat other individuals with respect more childish than a society where adults have been throwing 175 years worth of temper tantrums, and treat each other like savages? I see a reverse in logic here.

In Canada, we have on a couple of occasions gone through the political process of trying to decide whether or not Quebec will break away to become its own country. Tempers and resentments did indeed flare, but unlike so many other nations in the world, we approached the problem without guns and rocks thrown at police, etc. What we did was debate the pros and cons and put the whole question to a vote, wherein we all agreed to either separate or stay together based on the results of consensus.

And THAT is how it's supposed to be done. Who the hell cares about regional divisions anyway? They mean nothing in a civilized society. They are lines on a map. Canada, (and yes, this is a bit of nationalistic pride showing here), doesn't force the melting-pot system, because it doesn't make any sense and it almost never works. The cultural mosaic approach, which we employ in Canada, however, DOES work. I live in a city where it is accepted that certain ethnic groups gravitate into certain familial regions, and in those regions, all the aspects of each culture become the working societal backdrop. There are local newspapers in different languages, cuisine of different preparations and flavors sold in resturaunts, and personalities of different types all easily displayed. I can visit ten different, diverse and rich cultures on ten different days with bus fare. And as we visit back and forth, we warmly greet each other because we all see the value and beauty in our differences. This may sound like a brochure, but that really is how it works.

So, yes, while I agree that there is an animal inside each one of us which can come out when pushed far enough, but I also think that there are societies which have matured to a point where the inhabitants have commonly agreed that kicking over the other kid's sand castle because it is different is immature, borish and pointless.

And on a slightly different tack. . .

I should point out that I don't actually think what the Yugoslavs are doing to one another is necessarily wrong. You come into this life to learn certain pre-determined lessons of existence. Clearly, if you are born into the middle of a horrid conflict zone, then depravity and violence are most likly what you have come to learn. --I think souls, (especially such young ones, with which this world is rife during these heady times), must learn brutality early on before they can properly develop. You must learn what hurts and why it hurts before you can progress. You have to burn yourself a few times before you can handle matches.

That's my view, anyway. And disagree with me if you will; call me childish, but I won't shoot you for it.

-Fantastic Lad

Child-like, not childish (none / 0) (#155)
by zonker on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:08:23 AM EST

What this individual meant was probably not that you were "childish" in failing to kill one another - but that residents of countries like Canada can be child-like in that they've never been confronted with that kind of horror - and the average person who isn't hardened against it from childhood is probably not going to deal well with it if suddenly confronted with that kind of conflict.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]
Historical Determinism (none / 0) (#160)
by jolly st nick on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:09:14 PM EST

I personally reject the kind of historical determinism that says the the Balkans is doomed to brutality and the Canadians protected from it. Certainly, as you pointed out, Canada is a much stronger and more mature society, with more civilized and satisfactory means for working out its differences.

This is a great advantage not to be understated. However, unless you posit a kind of indeliable cultural stain that the Balkans are doomed to bear and that the Canadians are blessed to be impervious to, this doesn't mean it could never happen in Canada. The very laws of Canada recognize the capacity of Canadian people to commit violence by restricting their ability to own firearms.

Properly prepared, people will commit violence, and if necessary on a large scale. What is war but organized, mass scale violence? In a strong and healthy society this is less likely to happen for frivolous reasons.

[ Parent ]

The problem of evil (5.00 / 5) (#158)
by jolly st nick on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:36:43 AM EST

I think you make a strong case for the fact of human brutality. However, as usual, I find the explanation of this phenomenon wanting:

The reason we do not kill and torture is simply because we have all we need.

The problem with this explanation is that it leads to the erroneous conclusion that it cannot happen here. How then do we explain Timothy McVeigh, a person who had all that he needed for physical survival and evidently all stuff needed to lead a happy and productive life? How do we explain the abusers of Abner Louima? Are the people who commit brutality in societies (especially state brutality) uniformly people whose basic needs are ill met?

In a purely selfish way I'm sorry to see your well written article here on the K5 because I've been struggling for some weeks to come up with a somewhat similar article on "The Problem of Evil". One thing I've noted is that I have some times found literary explorations of this topic more satisfying the philosophical or social scientific ones, because they often stem from personal observation and experience. Here let me quote from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, in which Screwtape, a senior demon, advises his nephew Wormwood on the corruption of men:

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct th malice to his immediate neighborswhome he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out the the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.
...
Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy ... you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward til they are are finally located inthe circle of fantasy, and all the desirable [ed: desirable to Screwtape] into the Will.

To Lewis, the great weapon of Evil is misapplied abstraction. The aim of evil in a person is to sunder all connections to the reality of the people around him, indeed from all real pleasures and to turn his mind to vague, sterile abstractions. "An every increasing craving for an ever diminishing plesaure is the formula. It is more certain; and it's better style. To get the man's soul and give him nothing in return -- that is what really gladdens Our Father's [e.g. Satan's] heart." Lewis' colleague, J.R.R. Tolkien, once criticized the science fiction of his day as being concerned with "improved means to diminished ends."

To take, perhaps, a less religious tack on this issue, I believe that brutality is a complex phenomenon. By complex I mean it cannot be attributed to any single cause but arises from the interactions of several human characteristics. The first is the capacity for humans to organize around and conform their behviors to abstractions. This in itself is not bad, but it combines with the human tendency to seek information that confirms their beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them.

Lewis put his finger on a particularly noxious result of this combination, wherein the intellect is ensnared by a kind of narcissitic jargon, no longer able or willing to judge anything on its truth or merits, but soley on how it fits into fixed linguistic schema. Inhumanity on a grand scale thrives in an atmosphere of beureucracy and mindless habit. This is what postwar social scientists came to call "the banality of evil". In That Hideous Strength, the final book of his Space Trilogy, Lewis presents of portrait of demonic possesion that is at once more horrifying and much more psychologically plausible than the kind portrayed in The Exorcist. The director of the research institute's humanity was completely consumed by a kind of nonsensical blather which sounds like it is saying something but can never be exactly pinned down. It merely creeps and flows around every logical barrier like a malevolent, sticky ooze.

The final piece of the puzzle is the human capacity to take part in, and enjoy acts of violence. In itself, this doesn't necessarily imply depravity; it is a merely an atavistic capacity which was necessary to our survival in the past. Once part of human makeup, it may not be unilaterally removed, even if such a thing were possible.

The bottom line is that the humanity of the person in front of you is less real than some empty linguistic abstraction, there is nothing to prevent you from doing anything to them in the name of that abstraction.



McVeigh (none / 0) (#171)
by bartok on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 06:35:27 PM EST

McVeigh didn't commit his act out of necessity but because he saw the U.S. federal government as an enemy of the amerian people. I don't really feel like describing all his reasons but I encourage you to do some research. He DIDN'T do this just for the heck of it.

[ Parent ]
A famous experiment tends to disagree (none / 0) (#162)
by mmealman on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:23:27 PM EST

http://home.swbell.net/revscat/perilsOfObedience.htm

The section entitled The Etiquette of Submission tends to dismiss the idea that humans are brutal animals at their core.

brutality (none / 0) (#166)
by loudici on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 01:16:55 PM EST

in 1999, which is the last year for which data are available, 730 000 individuals attempted suicide and  30 000 succeeded in their attempt in the US.

it might not be as picturesque as soldiers cutting off kids'arms, but i do not think you can claim a society in which every 18 minutes an individual takes his/her own life is devoid of brutality.

L
gnothi seauton

Brutality | 172 comments (148 topical, 24 editorial, 1 hidden)
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