photo by Alan English
Violence everywhere we look
I want to talk about violence today. It’s been on my mind quite a bit lately.
From the recent mass shootings, to the police-on-minority shootings and vice versa, to the shooting that happened on live television yesterday, to the systematic violence toward women at the hands of ISIS (and many others) , to the exploitation and abuse of children worldwide (especially in America), to the violence toward the LGBT community in Russia (among other countries), to the massacre of innocents at the hands of militia and soldier gangs in Central Africa – the list goes on and on…and on.
And let’s not forget my own violent impulses about what I’d like to do to many of those offenders.
Violence whether in fantasy or reality is an inevitable part of living on this planet. I do not trust people who tell me they’ve never had a violent impulse. No amount of repression makes that true for anyone. Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have felt it necessary to engage in frequent human-on-human violence.
And 10,000 years later, we are still rationalizing why this or that violence is necessary, why this or that person walked into a mall, a church, an office, a home and brutally murdered innocent (or maybe no-so-innocent) people. Our governments, media, and entertainment industries are entrenched in either real or fictional violence.
It doesn’t need to be physical either. There is a plethora of emotional and mental abuse in the world – often, but not always, leading to physical violence.
We must accept that we humans enjoy hurting each other. For a few, it is an outright, unhinged, insane lust for blood. For some, it is a silent rejoicing in the pain of others. And for most, it is a subconscious desire that pops up every now and again, then quickly gets pushed back down.
Where violence lives
For me, I truly believe that violence begets violence. I have plenty of anger inside of me. Probably more than my fair share. I have sudden violent fantasies here and there – when someone insults or offends me, or if I’m having a bad day, or I get worked up at some outrageous figure in the media. I know I’m not alone in this.
Luckily, I’m well-adjusted enough to be able to step back, ask myself why I’m having such a thought, and attempt to explore it without judgment; if not in that very moment, at least a short while later. Not once in my life, after thinking something through rationally, have I ever come to the conclusion that hurting someone would make things better.
The vast majority do not, thankfully, follow through with their momentary violent impulses. The problem I see very often is that there are far too many people who do not understand how they’re suppose to deal with those urges, which are, I believe, very natural. Repressing them can lead to deep distress, uncontrollable anger, depression, and for the select few – abuse toward others and themselves.
So, how has society learned how to cope with these very natural impulses?
Well, many of us like a good revenge story in film or books. There is nothing wrong with this. Indulging in a fantasy hurts no one as long as we’re honest about what we are doing. In fact, it can be quite healthy. This is where violence belongs. Inside of our heads, in the realm of fantasy.
For some people, this is enough to curb the inherent violent nature present in all humans. But for the many maladjusted people in this world, simply providing a momentary outlet is not enough. Violent impulses need to be talked about in reality. This can be done in a variety of ways – therapy, writing in a journal or writing music, meditation, and much more.
The point is that it’s one thing to indulge in someone else’s violent fantasies in a book or on stage or screen. It’s a very different thing to actively and honestly confront our own “scary” or “dangerous” or “unacceptable” thoughts and feelings.
Coping with violence
So many people live without the ability to cope with these urges. And thus, so many people live believing that they are criminals, killers, rapists etc. before they’ve even committed any misdeeds. Because if we think these things, then that must be who we are, right? No, but often the most deeply held beliefs about ourselves end up informing our actions.
More often than not those “actions” are self-destructive. Most people are smart enough to know they cannot go around hurting other people, so instead they turn all of that aggression and violence inward. Some do not. And in a world with 7.3 billion people, “some” is quite a lot.
Violence, like most epidemic problems, begins on the individual level. It would seem to me that if a person makes their violent fantasies an integral part of who they are without proper guidance, the likelihood of them inflicting violence upon others or themselves, whether passively or directly, skyrockets, and continues to increase with time.
Why am I, on my tiny little blog, one of the only ones talking about this?
It seems our governments and most people in general are only interested in addressing the superficial symptoms of deeply rooted problems. The fact is that no one that really matters is talking about violence in a speculative, intelligent manner – not in schools, not in Washington, and not in the media.
I listen to politicians all the time say, “This violence has got to stop, and I’ll be the one to tackle it head on.” Really? How? By making more generic comments like that? Or by trying to get a really half-assed bill passed through congress that has unacceptable compromises and doesn’t address the real issue?
I believe we need more outright awareness and conversations about violence and its place in human life. I believe there needs to be many more resources available for coping with violence. And I believe therapy with super-qualified practitioners needs to be more widespread, accepted, and available to every person AND should be endorsed and encouraged by our governments.
This doesn’t seem like a whole lot to ask. The problem is that many people in this country and others, including many of our leaders chalk what I’m saying here up to psycho-babble, that it won’t work, can’t work.
But, I ask, what’s the harm in trying?
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.