Most of you already know my opinion on the power of our instinctive behaviour. It is very difficult, even impossible, to expect society to develop in a direction that humans are not predisposed to take. If humans are violent, then violence will happen. If humans are lazy, we have to force them to work.
Recent political experience seems to support this. One of the standard reasons given for the fall of communism was that people are basically lazy. Communism didn’t make them work, so they didn’t. That certainly seems to be what happened. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but the proclivity to rest when given the opportunity is one factor that everyone agrees is present in the nature of humans. Well, except for some people I could mention.
Evolution of Violence?
When we try to keep people from being so violent to each other, we run into the same problem. The argument has been rolling around since Darwin told us we were evolved. Was early man an herbivore or a carnivore? If we come from killer apes, the argument goes, then violence is an integral part of our makeup, and controlling it will be very difficult. This convenient theory was developed by Robert Ardrey in the late 1950s, at a time when the Nazis were an ever-present memory, and we needed to create another set of good little soldiers (i.e. violent people) to defend Freedom and Democracy from the invasion of the Ravening Red Horde.
But, once again, it isn’t as simple as that. Because violence usually arises as a result of something else: people’s desire to control other people. Wars being the biggest example. The main reason people are violent to others is either to control them or to stop from being controlled by them. And it occurs to me that the impulse to control other people is not inbred.
In Charge of Our Own Lives
Control is crucial to the human psyche. A great deal of the maturing process involves the child gradually learning control: first of its own body, then of its environment. Including the social environment. As in, other people. Any delay or foul-up in that process is where trouble arises. If you feel that you don’t have any control over your environment, you become a frightened person. If you go through certain phases of the maturing process without achieving an appropriate level of control, you can be doomed to being a frightened person all your life. Children brought up in an overly controlling environment, whether the control is physical or mental, are handicapped, both by the feeling of no control and by bad modelling of how to solve it.
Most of us grow up in a normal home with a normal family. We are allowed an increasing amount of control over our lives as we grow into the ability to handle the independence, creating a balanced attitude towards controlling other people. If our independence does not feel threatened, then we can make a rational decision when to control others, and when to allow others to control us. People who fear for their independence become angry, irrational, and violent. Check out both sides in American politics right now,
Rational, balanced control is the norm in human nature. We contain no flaming inbred desire to control others, only held in check by the strictures of our society. Quite the opposite. If society tells us that we are violent and need to be held down, you can bet your boots that someone is trying to control us. We then become frightened people and we try to control others in a desperate attempt to get rid of the feeling that we have no control…
…and around it goes, getting worse and worse, until our frustration and fear breaks out in hatred and violence. The United States today. Q.E.D.
So the culprit causing the violence in human society is not an inbred tendency toward violence, no matter what our ancient ancestry is. The true causes are smothering mothers, jealous fathers, manipulative and authoritarian parents, teachers, policemen and other “authority” figures, and any sort of government that makes people feel that someone is controlling them for unpleasant reasons.
Caused in Childhood
And by the time the kid hits about ten years old, the pattern is already set. You’re not going to persuade a scared 40-year-old to put down his weapons because everything is all right. You needed to have dealt with him properly at three years old when he threw a tantrum because he didn’t get his own way and got spanked for it.
So keep this in mind, parents. If your child’s behaviour is so bad that you have to use violence to solve it, you are no longer dealing with the behaviour. You are trying to re-establish control over your child, and are thus creating that feeling of lack of control that will cause that child in the future to be an angry, violent, and controlling person. You have created in your child a feeling of no control. So the child is acting out in an effort to take control of its life. So you respond by trying to take more control. This is a vicious circle that will only become more vicious.
And that’s what makes humans violent.
An interesting postscript; the image above is of a human creation (King Kong). When I went looking on the Internet for a picture of a real live ape in a threatening pose, it was very difficult to find one. It seems modern apes have calm ancestors, at least.