violence

How Empathy Makes People More Violent (The Atlantic)

Pete Seeger wrote years ago:

Well if you want to have great love, you're gonna have great anger
If you want to have great love, you're gonna have great anger
When I see innocent folks shot down,
Should I just shake my head and frown?
Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Well if you want to hit the target square, you better not have blind anger
If you want to hit the target square, you better not have blind anger
Or else it'll just be one more time
The correction creates another crime.
Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

How Empathy Makes People More Violent (The Atlantic)

We start by giving people a simple test that measures their degree of empathy. Then we tell them some awful stories, about journalists kidnapped in the Middle East, about child abuse in the United States. And then we ask them how best to respond to those responsible for the suffering....Just as with the genetic study, we found that the more empathic people are, the more they want a harsher punishment.

Politicians are comfortable exploiting this dark side of empathy. Donald Trump likes to talk about Kate—he doesn’t use her full name, Kate Steinle, just Kate. She was murdered in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant, and Trump wants to make her real to his audience, to make vivid his talk of Mexican killers.... Trump and Coulter use these stories to stoke our feelings for innocent victims, to motivate support for policies against the immigrants who are said to prey upon these innocents.

There is a history of this sort of thing. Lynchings in the American South were often sparked by stories of white women who were assaulted by blacks, and anti-Semitic attacks prior to the Holocaust were often motivated by tales of Jews preying on innocent German children. Who isn’t enraged by someone who hurts a child?

Similar sentiments are used to start wars.

Mass murder and the original meaning of "running amok"

In the context of the recent uptick in public mass attacks in the U.S., it's interesting to consider the original meaning of "running amok". Violence is a cultural phenomenon with a spiritual dimension (by which I mean matters of transpersonal relationship, not anything supernatural), not a matter of the tools available to people.

Running amok - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (en.wikipedia.org)

Amok originated from the Malay/Indonesian word mengamuk, which when roughly defined means “to make a furious and desperate charge”. According to Malay/Indonesian culture, amok was rooted in a deep spiritual belief. They believed that amok was caused by the hantu belian, which was an evil tiger spirit that entered one’s body and caused the heinous act. As a result of the belief, those in Indonesian culture tolerated amok and dealt with the after-effects with no ill will towards the assailant.

Although commonly used in a colloquial and less-violent sense, the phrase is particularly associated with a specific sociopathic culture-bound syndrome in Malaysian culture. In a typical case of running amok, an individual (often male), having shown no previous sign of anger or any inclination to violence, will acquire a weapon (traditionally a sword or dagger, but presently any of a variety of weapons) and in a sudden frenzy, will attempt to kill or seriously injure anyone he encounters and himself. Amok typically takes place in a well populated or crowded area. Amok episodes of this kind normally end with the attacker being killed by bystanders or committing suicide, eliciting theories that amok may be a form of intentional suicide in cultures where suicide is heavily stigmatized. Those who do not commit suicide and are not killed typically lose consciousness, and upon regaining consciousness, claim amnesia.

An early Western description of the practice appears in the journals of Captain James Cook, a British explorer, who encountered amok firsthand in 1770 during a voyage around the world. Cook writes of individuals behaving in a reckless, violent manner, without cause and "indiscriminately killing and maiming villagers and animals in a frenzied attack."

therapy experiment for troubled teens

"Ludwig says the Warren case matches what Pollack found in his study of other youth homicides in Chicago: "Most serious violent events are almost Seinfeldian in their origin — someone saying something stupid to someone else, and that escalating and basically turning into a tragedy because someone had a handgun in their waistband at the time." When human beings are stressed -- by grinding and hopeless generational poverty, social injustice, racism, and all the other ills that affect the most violent parts of our nation -- any additional stressor can cause a disproportionate reaction. That shooting that seems to have been caused by something "Seinfeldian" is often the end result of years of pressures, and the "straw that broke the camel's back" can seem trivial it itself.

Therapy Helps Troubled Teens Rethink Crime (NPR.org)

The solution to the problem, Ludwig, Pollack and their colleagues surmised, might lie in getting kids to slow down and think about their actions. The researchers conducted a randomized controlled experiment to test their hypothesis. They had about 1,400 school kids in grades seven to 10, drawn from high-crime areas of Chicago, undergo a 30-week training course called . A similar group of students, also chosen at random, was tracked, but did not go through the course. At the end of the year, Ludwig said, researchers found 44 percent fewer arrests among the students who had been through the course.

...

In one exercise, Ludwig says, the students were grouped into pairs, and one member of each pair was given a ball. The other was told to get the ball out of his partner's hand. This invariably led to a fight, Ludwig says, as the kids brawled over the ball. After watching the fight, the program leader would ask the student who was trying to get the ball a question: "Why didn't you ask the other kid to give you the rubber ball?"

None of the adolescents, Ludwig says, ever thought to ask their partners for the ball.

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