The Echoes of the Mind – Violence in Society

Violence in Society

“Early farmers were at least as violent as their forager ancestors, if not more so. Farmers had more possessions and needed land. In simple agricultural societies with no political frameworks beyond village and tribe, human violence was responsible for about 15% of deaths, including 25% of male deaths.” ~ Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari

Violence is inherent in societies which distribute material well-being unequally on a class basis. Capitalism is an incubator for aggression and intrinsically violent.

“By abolishing private property one takes away the human love of aggression.” ~ Sigmund Freud

Conflict and incessant violence pervade all human societies. They are only modestly tempered by cultural mores, which deem select savageries tolerable. Dominance hierarchies permit favored aggressions with relative impunity. Violence by agents of the state against ordinary citizens, by those with economic means against those less well off, by those of the dominant tribe against individuals belonging to minority groups, and by men against women, are largely tolerated and censured only when egregious.

“Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it as well. The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the finger.” ~ American social psychologist Leonard Berkowitz

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Aggression is engendered in those cultures which celebrate violence as enjoyable sensory stimulation, which is to say: worldwide. Cinematic displays of violence are commonplace and considered acceptable viewing for children.

Sports contests excel at demonstrating aggression as socially acceptable. Most video games are exercises in unleashing aggression.

“Football changed my life and it gave me a platform to get out my aggression and it gave me a sense of value.” ~ American athlete and actor Dwayne Johnson

People are more aggressive when they feel powerful. Winning conflicts increases aggression, not releases it.

It is a myth that venting anger is an effective way to reduce anger and aggression. ~ American psychologists Brad Bushman & Rowell Huesmann

Viewing violence against women with erotic overtones increases male aggression toward females.

“Mass media can contribute to a cultural climate that is more accepting of violence against women.” ~ American psychologist Neil Malamuth

The acceptance of violence in the media or in sports contrasts with the reluctance in many cultures to tolerate public nudity. Whereas bashing bodies is okay, baring boobs is not. This bizarre incongruity owes to religious strictures, notably the physical-modesty mores of Christians and Muslims which developed because the weak-minded men who follow these faiths lack self-control.

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“We all decry prejudice yet are all prejudiced.” ~ Herbert Spencer

Prejudice is a preconceived, negative attitude toward members of a social group. Racial prejudice is a hoary tendentiousness that still runs strong in many societies, most notably the United States, and has been the source of much bloodshed and adverse discrimination in all forms throughout history.

Religious prejudice has been another strong source of social exclusion and aggression, especially by those with a fervent belief in a faith. While Christians have historically been vigorously prejudice, especially against Jews, Islamists now take the cake for violence in the name of Allāh.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Perceived conflict of interest, including holding different values or beliefs, is often a motivation for group prejudicial aggression. Derogatory stereotypes are socially constructed and maintained among in-group members through gossip. The greater the felt motivation to harm the stronger the tendency to dehumanize.

“Opposing partisans to social disputes will exaggerate (a) the magnitude of their conflict, (b) their opposition’s extremism, and (c) their opposition’s ideological biases.” ~ Dacher Keltner & Robert Robinson

Intergroup violence is fostered by fear, often stemming from propaganda aimed at dehumanization: that “they” are predacious. This tried-and-true technique is regularly employed by governments to whip up enthusiasm for war. The human propensity to symbolic objectification, and to think of others as meaningfully less than oneself, facilitates rationalization for aggression.

With rare exceptions, civilizations throughout history were built upon coercion and the bones of the easily expendable. Violence is the bedrock of exploitation, upon which some men prosper at others’ expense.

“Humankind seems to have an enormous capacity for savagery, for brutality, for lack of empathy, for lack of compassion.” ~ Scottish singer-songwriter Annie Lennox


People generally think of violence as directed against other people. The exploitation of other animals, plants, and ecosystems is considered nonviolent: acceptable to such a degree as to be completely unremarkable. But violence is any act which lessens the quality of life for any organism. That animals must necessarily commit interspecific violence to sustain themselves does not excuse the excesses which humans routinely exercise.

Callous neglect of respecting life, fostered by a senseless sense of superiority and abetted by technology, ensured environmental destruction on a planetary scale. This prolonged regime of unrelenting violence has eventuated in a mass extinction event, whereupon humans are also claiming themselves as victims.

“Nothing good ever comes of violence.” ~ Martin Luther