- An act of aggression (as one against a person who resists)
We all read reports in the newspaper of violence. We see it on television, we see it in films, in computer games. We see it at football matches, in the pub, on the street, and we may even have experienced it in our own homes. Violence is pervasive. It transcends religion, ethnicity, language and culture. It finds it’s way into all of society. It does not care if you have little education or have a PhD in astrophysics. The intelligentsia may try to suppress it, but given the right stimulus, it is there, ready to rear its ugly head against any who dare to challenge it.
As we begin our discussion today, I would like you to just observe yourself quietly, as you ask the question: “Am I violent?” and “What, if anything would make me violent?”
The answer, will, of course, be different if you are a man or a woman, won’t it? After all, how many women do you see fighting on the streets, or attacking people because they support a rival football team? In fact, how many women end up in court or prison for violence related offences? Of course, given the right stimulus, state of mind, and social environment, women are just as capable as men at being violent, but it does not seem to be nearly as widespread.
Think about it for a moment. Violence generally resides in the domain of the male, but what we are here to find out together is why.
“Oi! What you looking at?”
“Yeah come on then!”
“I’ll knock your fuckin’ head off!”
“You fucking black bastard come here…”
“Who you calling a…?”
I am not a social scientist nor a psychologist, but it does seem to me that there are different types of violence in our societies. For example, the ill-educated man may have learned on the streets that anyone looking at him the “wrong” way is an insult, and must be dealt with violently to reassert your superior social “position;” whereas a slightly more educated man wouldn’t even notice that someone “looked at him the wrong way,” but may get violent if his girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend.
A highly educated man may not care if a man looked at him the wrong way or get violent if his wife cheated on him, but he may resort to calculated violence if his position was under threat by a rival, and may arrange to have him “dealt with” thereby becoming violent by proxy (a person authorized to act for another).
Governments are a great example of this. You could not imagine your university educated prime minister involved in a bloody fist fight could you? They stand there in their sharp suits, speaking eloquently, and getting someone else to do their dirty work. They want to fight with another country, but because they are educated (and probably never had a fight in their lives), could not possibly do it themselves, so they employ less educated men to do the real fighting. Perhaps if the leaders just got in the ring to sort out their differences it would save millions of lives! But they wouldn’t do that, they are non-violent men, and they would tell you that themselves.
So maybe the ill-educated man on the street is more authentic, at least he shows his true colours to all – the intelligentsia just get someone else to do it.
Whilst it does seem that people who develop their minds do not become as involved in the sad street violence we see in poor deprived areas, it doesn’t remove the ability to use violence if an individual deems it necessary, it just means the violence becomes less reactive and more calculated. It does not mean it has been removed.
Are we naturally peaceful or aggressive?
How many scientists have tried to study this? How many philosophers have asked the question? Still we cannot find an answer. Every day someone somewhere is a victim of (usually male originated ) violence.
As a species, we are remarkably adaptive, and we can change our personalities and behaviour instantaneously to suit most situations. If a man is brought up in a violent district in the city, he will quickly learn that to be able to survive, he needs to be as violent as the next man. That is not to say that through education, the development of self-awareness and compassion, he cannot transcend it, no matter what background he comes from.
Remember, some people such as monks live in absolute “poverty,” albeit through choice, and it is rare these days for violence to stem from a lack of food, it is more likely to stem from greed and power – both learned, not inherent.
So, is a baby born with a violent streak passed on to him by his violent father, or is it something that is learned through copying? If a child sees that you get what you want by being aggressive, is he or she not likely to make the connection that that is the right way to behave, in the same way that others learn that being polite is the right way to get what you want? Whatever the case, it appears that the males in the family do have a tendency to be more aggressive than females.
When I asked myself the question earlier: “Am I naturally peaceful?” I thought that no, I wasn’t. But I am not naturally aggressive either. So where does that leave me? I believe I personally have the potential to be violent, but situations never arise where I ever have the cause to be, and I have never had a fight in my life! I have got through 38 years of never hitting someone with my fists, and although I may have been hit once in my teenage years, it wasn’t a fight. I did something someone didn’t like, so they hit me, and that was that.
I have always been quite fit, but never very strong, and I have always had a slight fear that someday
someone would attack me, and I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. It has never happened, but as I often travel to countries that are unknown to me, I decided to take a course.
I am currently being trained in a technique called the “keysi fighting method” which was developed over thirty years by a spanish man who had spent his youth fighting on the streets. It is extremely brutal, and is designed as a skill to help you survive in a life or death situation. We are taught things like tearing off the cheek or blinding them in the eye with any weapon you have available. It is a technique that could kill if used correctly.
Since starting it, I have felt slightly unsettled in that as a peaceful person, I am actually learning to be aggressive. I am learning to hurt others, and going against my vow to never harm another human being. I am learning to potentially kill if the need arises.
So why learn it?
On the one hand there is fear, the fear of being attacked, but on the other is self-confidence, knowing I can comfortably walk down a street at night alone. Unfortunately with all self-defence techniques, there is the tendency to fantasize about what it would be like to actually be in a fight and use your skills, and that is where trying to overcome fear with violence unsettles me.
The one thing that makes me carry on, is that I understand there are people in the world who are violent, people who need to develop love and compassion, and there is no point in me giving up my life at their hands, just because they do not know their own minds. I have a responsibility to stay alive and contribute to this world.
We cannot let the violent overcome us and destroy us.
Unfortunately, I am all too aware that this is precisely the sort of thinking that starts violence and ends up with powerful people saying that the ends justify the means. Gone is the idea of self-defence and in comes pre-emptive attacks to stop violence from (potentially) happening.
“We cannot let the terrorists win, we will hunt them down and destroy them. We will not give in to cowardly attacks.”
So, as we are seeing in different parts of the world at the moment, government leaders are employing violent thinking to get rid of violent people, although, as you will also notice, they never actively take part. Violence by proxy.
- A potent androgenic hormone produced chiefly by the testes; responsible for the development of male secondary sex characteristics
We have all heard about young men walking around causing trouble fuelled by testosterone, but if one hormone was solely the explanation to violence it would be easy to fix.
We could just give every man with too much testosterone a quick injection of female oestrogen to balance them up!
Certainly, as men get older, and testosterone decreases, there is a marked decrease in violent behaviour. We don’t see groups of 75 year old men going around beating people up, even if these were the same violent men, who 50 years earlier, were responsible for brutal behaviour. Maybe it’s their hormones, maybe their bodies and minds are tired, and maybe they have learned that violence is not the way, or maybe it’s a combination of all three.
So what does it feel like to be violent?
I’m sure most people don’t feel bad when they physically attack someone. If anything, I imagine they get a high from it. From the few training sessions I have had in keysi, I know that when you start hitting and kicking, you start to feel the adrenaline flowing. First it’s the fear of being hit by your opponent, then quickly you realise that in order to “survive,” you have to take them out. Your breathing changes, you start to feel charged up, and even afterwards it takes a while to “come down.” The feeling is almost like a drug.
It feels good every time you hit one of the pads. So you hit it a bit harder “Come on… Hit it… Harder… Harder…” shouts the instructor.
You are moving fast, like a wild animal catching your prey. Adrenaline surging through your veins. For a moment you feel alive. You start to recognise what your ancestors must have been feeling when they encountered other tribes or wild animals. The thrill of the chase. The excitement of the kill. The reward at the end. All in a days work for them, but something which should have been long forgotten with the development of our large brains.
Unfortunately, we have the ancient aggressive instincts still in our bodies. We have not grown out of them, merely covered them with education and developed acceptable social behaviour, which if you don’t adhere to, you go to prison.
We all know we are still at heart a violent species, but in our desperation to leave the natural world behind, we have created a legal system to deal with “violent people.” We have tried to say that it is not the norm, that people are inherently peaceful, and it is with that thinking that people are “made examples of,” and sent to prison. But I noticed within myself when “fighting” for the first time in the gym, that it felt good to punch things. I felt as though a new wave of energy was surging through my bones (even some therapists encourage people to punch a pillow when they are feeling aggressive), but as I reflected, I felt, not guilt, but unease, that maybe underneath an outwardly peaceful man, was a violent creature waiting to get out just given the chance.
Most animals fight amongst themselves at some point but generally not to the death (humans are one of the few species who kill their own). They bare teeth, they display, trying to intimidate their opponents, they bite and they scratch and they lock horns, just as humans do, except for some reason we are shocked by it when it is human against human – perhaps because we have been told by our parents, teachers, and government that it is not normal to fight, but it is.
We should have left the old fight or flight mechanism behind thousands of years ago as we developed language and reasoning skills. We learned to cooperate, and started to build social networks. We developed diplomacy skills, and developed ways to live in harmony, but we didn’t realise we were going to be held back by our brain. Whilst compassion and love for all humanity are skills that have been developed in the conscious brain, violence remains an unconscious program that sits there until called upon.
Without warning the program can start all by itself.
For those who can’t recognise it, violence is just another outdated piece of software in the brain, version 1.0, already obsolete, another useless bolt-on. The only problem is, it hasn’t been deleted yet. Maybe it’s just going to take a long time for violence to evolve out of us, maybe it never will, and if so, we must learn how to delete it.
Please do me one favour though, and stop blaming it on your lack of money, your social situation, or that you come from a violent family. I appreciate that these things can have an effect on you, but as a fully fledged member of the human race, the most intelligent species on the planet, the only species with a brain complex enough to make decisions like this, you have a choice. A lion has no choice.
Today, you have a choice, to remain violent and listen to your old brain, or go on a journey of peace with your new brain. You can choose. You have free will. You may be conditioned to be violent, but you can choose to be a man of peace today. You can vow with me now never to use violence unless it is in self-defence of you your family, or your fellow Man, and only if they are in immediate danger. I vow the same to you.
We must leave our old animalistic selves behind, and forge new connections in the brain. We must expand our minds, not imprison them in history. We may have developed many technical skills, but whilst we rely on ancient programming, we can never truly progress as a species. The day we leave violence behind will be the greatest leap forward for the human mind, human race, and the planet as whole we have seen. It may not happen in my lifetime, but if just one of you makes a shift, you will be affecting the world more than you can possibly imagine.
I accept that I am violent
and through that acceptance
I can transcend it
I can develop compassion and unconditional love
I can let the past die
and live today in peace
So the final question is: Should I keep developing self defence skills? Should I learn to protect myself from violent individuals, or should I walk through life preaching peace as some people who have practised non-violence have and be murdered?
I like life. A lot. So I think I’ll take my chances with self-defence. As far I’m concerned, I have one life as alan orr, and I’m going to live it to the full. If only everyone knew how to protect themselves, it may just reduce the fear in the world by a couple of degrees. Women would no longer have to worry so much about being attacked by men in the street, as from what I see, some of the self-defence moves are lethal on male “areas” if you know what I mean!
Learn self-defence, develop your instincts and your skill level, and then let it go. Forget you ever learned it. You’ll know when it’s time to use it. Until then, enjoy your life.
by alan macmillan orr
“The natural mind – waking up “