So, when I was reading through the recent NY Times article about a new study
that showed that those with the highest frequency of violent deaths had
higher levels of testosterone, the more I started thinking about the two
things I’d learned in college about violence and testosterone– that it’s not
the way out of violence that makes it deadly, but the way through it that
makes it deadly, and that it’s never something that happens to someone that
you could have stopped, but it’s always something you could have been.
And because violent media– news, movies, games, etc. — is the only kind
we have, the way that we’re all taught to think about violence is that it’s
this bad thing that happens to someone who has a “bad” mental and/or social
or emotional problem.
But, as the NYTimes article says, violent men are actually more likely than
men who aren’t violent to be violent themselves.
It’s not that violence is “natural.” It’s something we make by virtue of
what society tells us violent behavior is.
The violence of TV and films and video games is based on the violence that
we’re all programmed to think about. It has to be. We’re conditioned to
look at violent things that we watch and imagine violent things that we
It’s the most socially acceptable way to think of violence. In my college
friends’ minds, there’s a good place in between violence and nonviolence–
that place where we’re neither totally violent nor totally non-violent– so the
only way to be a completely non-violent person becomes to be a pacifist.
But the question is, is violence a thing we have to experience to be
“real”? What I’ve noticed is when we don’t think of violence in violent
context, then we’re not thinking of it as part of who we are. I think we
have a better chance of understanding violence when we see it in another
When we think of violence we’re seeing it as this thing, which makes it so
we’re always going to see it in violent context. The more we see it the
less we see it, because violence just seems real.
I read somewhere that when we ask, “What would it be like if there was no
violence?” the answer is always “You can’t imagine something that hasn’t
It’s like there’s this thing you can’t experience that’s out there,
and it’s always going to feel more real to you than your own experience,
because you haven’t had it.
Think on this. What if you didn’t know what it would be like to have someone
kill you and take your life? What if you couldn’t even imagine it?
The same thing with violence. What if you couldn’t imagine not being able
to kill? What if you couldn’t even imagine the pain of not being able to
What if you didn’t have any violent experiences? What if you couldn’t even
imagine a violent life or death scenario?
Why do we have to learn that violence is real through violent media? This
is a real problem. Because if we were to never see violence, we wouldn’t
learn that violence is real, and we would be less likely to learn that it’s
more of a social problem than a psychological problem or a physiological
Flour has not always been flammable. As soon as we learned agriculture,
flour became highly flammable. If you get the flour on the ground you can
start a fire pretty quickly. When we’ve had to make our own flour from
necessities, it’s been slow going. If you’ve ever made bread by hand, you
know how much a loaf of bread can take, how much time it takes, and the
grinding and polishing and all that stuff.
We haven’t been able to make our own flour as often as we’d like to, because
the cost of doing it is prohibitive. We’re also not allowed to take flour
for granted. The whole system is a little strange. The system that used to
allow us to have flour on the ground was designed to be used by farmers in
an agricultural society. It’s a system that was meant to give farmers the
right to have fliers in the field, because they couldn’t afford to buy
Now, they’re not allowed to take flour for granted because they’re not allowed
to grow it in a manner that might be used to produce flour.
There is an irony in this that you really need to think about. If the
society that we live in were to start making flour a little easier to
produce, we might have to stop making fliers. That might be a good thing,
too. We’d have to find another way to use up our flour.
This also illustrates the idea that we have to think of violence as something
that we have to experience to be “real.” In other words, if we were to
start out with no violence, then we would never learn about violence from
media and other places.
But if violence becomes the norm, then violence becomes part of the way we’re
all taught to think.
This is just a short tangent, but I would like to end with this thought.
It’s funny how I’ve never seen a “hero” movie where a “hero” hero is
portrayed as being a violent person who kills a lot and “rules” with a
gun. It’s like the first time you watch “Dumb & Dumber” you are thinking
of Tom Hanks as Bob Morton. In the movie, Bob goes back in time and starts
an independent life. And yet, he’s still thinking to himself, “I’m not
really a hero.”
Bob is an outlier. I don’t know about you, but what I find funny is that we
have to make heroes out of the very people who will beat us up, because that
is the way we’re taught to think about heroes.
When I was in college, I was always more interested in what happened in
history, and the people, than I was in movies and TV and video games. I
remember once, about 30 years ago, my freshman political science class
discussed the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the events that led up to