Friday, May 9, 2008

Does Violence Beget Violence?

A lot of my posts are spurred by conversations. This one began with the discussions revolving around Grand Theft Auto 4 and the continuing debate about whether violent video games make violent people. Some research suggests maybe there's a link. Other research concludes there's not, or at least nothing very strong.

Ending violence involves finding the correct method. The inherent fallacy about gun banning is that somehow you can prevent people from harming one another by removing one of the tools they sometimes use for that purpose. It's no surprise that approach doesn't achieve the desired result. You must instead work to change the violent nature of humanity. Then it won't matter what tools are available. So long as we are violent by nature, taking away any particular implement or class of implements won't help. There are plenty of rocks and sticks in the world.

Based on that idea, we should probably ban all violent movies and video games. There's a problem with that, however. There are people in the world who train for violence besides the U.S. How did peaceful peoples do against the Spartans? Not so well. Does that mean peace shouldn't be a goal? Of course not. It just means we're not there as a species yet. Everybody has to agree this is a good idea and work toward it or else peaceful peoples, happy or even smug in their superior position, will always be slaughtered or subjugated by those who train for violence. Long term, that's not a successful strategy.

There's a middle ground. We still play cowboys and Indians. We still play cops and robbers. We even have violent movies and video games, but we also work hard to establish a strong sense of reality vs. fantasy and to instill the idea that violence is only an option in self defense when others initiate it. Training for war and never having to go to war is much better than failing to train and being overrun and enslaved. If everyone did that, there would come a time when even the training would no longer be necessary, because harming another person would become unthinkable.

I hope we get there.


Nicholas said...

I agree.
I wish the USA would implement at least a minimal mandatory military service of all males (females too perhaps), just like Israel and other countries. If all the men in the country were at least trained in basic combat, and the proper handling of firearms, they would be at the ready to help in many situations--not just serving in war, but disasters, national guard sort of tasks, etc.
Furthermore, where crime was concerned, if every citizen was trained in combat, no criminal would have an "upper hand"--ordinary citizens would be confident and know how to respond appropriately to deter threats. I don't see any disadvantages to training/educating the population.
Maybe just incorporate it into basic education at the highschool level.

If mandatory service seems too harsh, or infringing on basic freedoms, there ought to be available at least a no-service-commitment bootcamp, where any citizen who wants to be trained can go and get basic training, without any service requirement. I would sign up were it available--I'd like to know what a basic soldier knows, and have basic weapons and combat training. Not that I ever plan on using it, but I would feel better about myself knowing that if a civil war ever erupted, I wouldn't be clueless.

AndrewP said...

That actually doesn't seem harsh at all. Most countries do have mandatory service.

I'd see no problem with everyone at least doing boot camp. Even those who won't fight in a war can be trained so they understand the work soldiers do, which might help stamp out some of the contempt it seems some of our population unfortunately feels for our soldiers.

In addition, familiarity with firearms might help to quell some of the fear felt by many people about them. They are only tools, albeit lethal ones, and should not be imbued with anthropomorphic attributes.

I actually target shoot as a hobby and find it very enjoyable on its own. The skill is much like swimming: it's fun to do recreationally, and though you hope never to have to use it in an emergency, if you ever have to, you'll be very glad it's something you've practiced.