Reactive.

Back to the original train of thoughts.

So, as a society, we’ve decided that violence is Bad (and yes, this is a societal decision, not a universal standard: the Vikings/Spartans/Mongols and countless other societies have different standards). In order to try to eradicate violence, we are doing several things:

  1. We’ve made the use of physical force to resolve disagreements illegal; for instance, we no longer consider “fighting words” to be a valid excuse for physical retaliation, or approve of dueling or trial by combat.
  2. We’ve making the use of violence for self-defence increasingly fraught with legal perils.
  3. Some Western countries are progressively outlawing all “weapons” – and the concept of what makes something a weapon is getting progressively broader.
  4. We’re discouraging people from engaging in their own conflict resolution, and encouraging or forcing them to delegate such matters to “experts”.

Now, if I squint hard enough I can see how item 1-3 would result in a less violent society (with the proviso that we don’t object to becoming increasingly uncivil and verbally violent, which is the almost inevitable offshoot of no. 1*). Number 4, however, is based on such faulty understanding of the relationship between conflict and violence that I can’t understand how it ever came about.

The underlying assumption is that people comfortable with conflict and/or violence are more likely to engage in it. If violence and conflict are normalised, people will choose them as strategies more often. By de-normalising them we reduce the risk of their occurrence.

Hmkay. That might work if people were machines, deprived of ego. It may also work in some sort of utopia/dystopia where we’re under constant supervision by our appointed Experts, only capable of having Good Feelings, or bad people get culled after psychometric testing. In the real world as it stands, a world we share not only with monsters who look like us, but with other imperfect human beings; a world where things happen that make us feel bad or mad, things that make us act out… I don’t see it working.

Personally I believe that conflict is the fairly inevitable result of human interaction – nothing more than the result of natural friction. We may want different things; we may want the same things and there’s not enough to go around; we may just be in a crappy mood acting out – and conflict happens. This doesn’t mean that conflict will escalate into violence.

Stressed, scared, or frustrated people may freeze into inaction or limit themselves to calling mommy, but they may also lash out like cornered rats. People competent in and comfortable with conflict resolution skills, people happy about themselves and their place in society, are better able to control their reactions. They are less likely to over-react and more likely to truly see a peaceful solution as a success.

*No, I’m not in favour of being able to thump people if they shoot off at the mouth. I’d have no front teeth. However, if people can get away with it cost-free, they’ll engage in that behaviour more and more.

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