With utter fascination last Wednesday night Nov. 20th, I watched one of my favorite PBS shows, NOVA. The title of the show was The Violence Paradox. The one hour show investigated how over the last 200,000 years Homo sapiens as a whole are living and dying less violently. In other words, comparatively speaking in the 21st century by the compiled numbers most human beings are living and dying more peacefully than in our past.
In his two published books The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011) and its sequel Enlightenment Now:The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018), cognitive psychologist, linguist, and Harvard Professor Steven A. Pinker states on the show:
We’ve done something right. Let’s figure out what it is and keep doing it. The reality is that we may be living in one of the most peaceful eras in human existence. Violence has been in decline, but that just doesn’t count as news. You just never see a journalist saying, “I’m reporting live, from a country that’s at peace,” or “a school that hasn’t been shot up.” Once I stumbled upon this graph, I mentioned it in a blog post, and then I received correspondence from scholars in a variety of fields, telling me that I could’ve made an even stronger case. I saw data-set after data-set, all of which showed declines in violence, in different parts of the world, with different kinds of violence. And I realized there was a story that needed to be told.
However, Pinker wants to be clear about the explicit and implicit meaning of his findings so as not to be painted as a deluded optimist.
To point out that things were worse in the past is not to say we should relax, our problems are all solved, quite the contrary. It’s by understanding how our predecessors were able to drive down rates of violence that we can be emboldened to try to drive them down even further.
And this is where I was personally intrigued! How. How has this downward trend of violence, on the global scale, been achieved? What various factors and events have contributed to humanity’s gradual increase to more peaceful existences with each other?
I found the entire 1-hour 53-minute documentary to be powerful and yes, hopeful with tangible solutions and methods offered and that are in fact tried and tested for success, offering more reasons to keep this peaceful trend rising. What I found especially intriguing from the scientific and statistical findings was of the many factors scientists have connected to violence or peace, seven modern societal conditions and their related sub-conditions which guided humans either toward, hate, prejudice, and violence, or on a path of peace, collaboration, and prosperity. They were:
Government or State — the rule of law kept better peace
The Civilizing Process — economic order went hand in hand with social norms and manners, etiquette, self-control, etc.
Equality — learning about others with the same experiences (with empathy below)
Literacy — not just reading, but how much could be read about from a diverse continent or around our diverse world (e.g. Uncle Tom’s Cabin)
Empathy — feeling deeply about someone else’s plight and/or prosperity (linked with equality)
Biggest World Powers — the top major powers/armies are not fighting, at the moment
Testosterone Levels — today violence is no longer an effective tool to get something done or achieve conquest as it was before. Non-violent movements are 2-3 times as successful as violent movements
However, without these seven conditions above or just two to four of them or one or more in fragile existence, the whole of a civilization could collapse, returning it/us right back to Medieval societal hardships when one ruler or small group of “Lords” could easily become sadistic tyrants willing, forcing their subordinates into heinous acts or genocide. From the show:
NARRATOR: At SWPS University, in Poland, Tomasz Grzyb and Dariusz Doliński are revisiting a famous experiment first conducted in the 1960s by the American psychologist Stanley Milgram. In the aftermath of the holocaust, Milgram wanted to understand how seemingly good people could follow terrible orders.
Just as Milgram did, the experiment starts by setting up a fake study.
TOMASZ GRZYB (SWPS University): There are two participants, and there is a guy who presents himself as a professor of psychology, and he says that, “Well, you are a participant in an experiment which is devoted to find out how memory’s working.”
NARRATOR: Grzyb is masquerading as a participant, the so-called “learner.” The other participant is the “teacher.” Grzyb pretends to memorize sets of letters, but his responses are scripted. The teacher is told that the student is hooked up to the machine, and they must administer a shock, if he answers incorrectly.
Because the experiment is highly stressful for the real subject, the so-called teacher, it’s controversial. So, it will be stopped at 150 volts, the 10th switch on the panel, which, if real, would be an extremely painful shock.
Will anyone go so high?
This experiment showed that with a powerful authority figure or figures ordering the “teacher” to commit this violence—by fear, coercion, or perhaps blackmail—of the 220 participants, about 90% of them obeyed the orders. Many of us think we would never commit such heinous crimes on another, a baby, child, or adult, but this test and others like it suggest otherwise. Similar to the soldiers of Genghis Khan or the Nazi SS of World War II, all of us have the capacity to commit heinous acts given our personal circumstances and surroundings. Peace and non-violence are not a forgone conclusion.
There were two other fascinating facts the show presented: 1) the Availability Heuristic, and 2) strong Gun Regulations, particularly on assault weapons, cut in half or more, crimes of homicide and mass killings.
Availability heuristic says that a diet of news stories will fool us into thinking that violence is much more prevalent than it really is. This is very much the case with social-media bombardments of a specific (viral?) topic. On the contrary, this very narrow propaganda or sensationalism (for revenues) does not factually represent the overall global or continental trends.
Gun regulations that are widespread and strong, e.g. in 1996 Australia, contribute to significant reductions in suicide, homicide, and mass-killing rates according to these studies, click here.
Finally, an international program called Cure Violence, ranked #9 in top 500 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) in the world, stops the spread of violence by using the methods associated with disease control. And cities around the world have turned to Cure Violence to prevent violence—from the United States to Latin America to the Middle East. One method utilized in Iraq (based upon Contact Theory) is through a football/soccer league where teams must have players of various ethnicities, religious beliefs, and/or social classes, even if historically opposed, in order to enroll and play the season. In football/soccer their are no national, ethnic or religious boundaries. Players and their families are also encouraged to socialize off the soccer pitch in restaurants and home-gatherings. The soccer league and additional off-field activities have been a huge success! How about that Ark! 😉
If you ever have the chance to watch this outstanding documentary, The Violence Paradox by PBS NOVA, I highly recommend you do it! It is well worth 2-hours of your time and undivided attention. Most of all, it shows us clearly how to understand our lesser nature for violence, but more importantly it gives us proven solutions and methods of stopping the spread of the violence disease and it becoming a repetitive epidemic.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
This post was inspired by a 3-day trip I recently took to family in a tiny, rural town in central Texas. Over the course of two evenings we had some energized political and social discussions regarding the United States, both past and present, and our nation’s “current health” or standing in the world.
It seemed our energized discussions and some debates were inevitable (at least for us outspoken ones) given that most of the headline news was and has been the ongoing 2020 Democratic debates by TWENTY-SEVEN Presidential candidates. Our heated debates were further fueled by the fact that the current POTUS spends more time on Twitter than he does matters of State or his marriage. Plus, out of six adults, I was the only Independent and anti-Trump voice in the room.
One single subject of many argued, or in the case of the four ultra-Republicans in the room rallied around, was America’s world image of strength, power, and dominance—in the form of Biggest Brother (Bully?) on the block. It was begun by one man’s example of the U.S. buying and building the Panama Canal, ‘a feat of marvel and American power, wealth, and supreme engineering for the benefit of all humanity.’ When they paused to breathe, I asked him and his excited party-proponents “Did that include the Panamanians too and their well-being and future?” There was a long pause of silence and puzzled expressions.
None of them had any significant, factual, historical knowledge of Panama and Central America prior to 1903. And there was as much naivety about post-1914 Panama and the context surrounding the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty up to and including the Torrijos–Carter Treaties of 1977. They only learned and/or read in American school books or American news articles what agreed with them. When I briefly elaborated on the 1977 treaties involving Democrat President Carter, several of the men pounced on his presidency in hateful ways. I could no longer get a word in they became so incensed. It was as if I was watching them spray high-octane propellant onto each other as my Mom had to leave the room. She was the only patient, peaceful, understanding Moderate in the room, though completely drowned out.
I can never seem to be less amazed, shocked, and disturbed about how very, very little historical context our generation of Americans, born from say 1930 to say 1970—that is FULL historical context from all perspectives!—they actually possessed. They have essentially ONE, personally fed to them chosen lens they viewed history and current events (both of which are inseparable!) to formulate their unyielding, uncompromising lifetime posture. The tiny perspectives are colossally astounding!
Since it is impossible to post about all the subjects we argued and discussed, I’m picking this single, multi-faceted subject we argued: Punishments. Over the last many decades and centuries the precedence of punishment for Hate-Crimes, War-Crimes, Heinous Crimes/Massacres, and Genocides have been foolishly and inconsistently set on an ever increasing global jurisdiction of law.
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There’s one way, out of a few, to determine whether or not you are to some large or small degree a racist, or bigot, elitist, xenophobe, partisan, antagonist, hero or villain, segregist, war-criminal or misanthropist. But not now. I will share a reliable litmus test at the end of this post.
Is extreme human rage and hatred genetic, hereditary? Or is misanthropy taught and learned over time? If the latter, then it can be untaught, unlearned… or so the logic goes. For humanity’s last 3-4 millenia, or I should say MAN’S (the male gender’s) last several millenia, what have we learned about hatred that becomes mass genocide, gendercide, infanticide, pedicide or familicide, etc? Why does it continue? As the dominate species on the planet, do we perpetuate heinous acts of slaughter toward strangers and opponents?
Our behavior in the ancient past is a list of human hate-to-carnage on enormous scales and they are far too numerous to recount in this blog-post. But four of them are well-known among historians: the Assyrians in northern Mesopotamia, the Greeks at Melos, the Israelites against the Midianites near Elath, and the Romans at Carthage—about 150,000 people, all considered by many historians as the first full-blown genocides.
As far as body-counts, the human race’s nine largest verified genocides and heinous war crimes have been:
Master Plan for the East — Nazi Third Reich, 1941-1945, around 13-million plus.
The Holodomor — Soviet Union, 1932-1933, 7.5 million Ukrainians.
European Holocaust — Nazi Third Reich, 1941-1945, 6-million Jews.
Polish Exterminations — Nazi Third Reich, 1939-1945, around 3-million Poles.
Cambodian Genocide — Khmer Rouge Regime, 1975-1979, about 3-million.
Indonesian Genocide — Republic of Indonesia, 1965-1966, about 3-million.
Bangladesh Genocide — Pakistan Islamic Military, 1971, some 3-million.
Armenian Genocide — Ottoman Empire, 1915-1922, about 1.8-million Armenians.
Kazakh Genocide — Soviet Socialist Republic, 1931-1933, 1.75 million Kazakhs. —Note: let it be known that the United States is historically part of other atrocities and war-crimes as well. Click here for truncated list.
At least five mass genocides and war-crimes have happened in our current 21st century, three of them are ongoing today in Myanmar, Sudan, and Syria-North Iraq. Clearly, the war to end all wars philosophy has not and is not working. Individuals, regimes, and governments are still using violence and slaughtering on industrial scales to resolve differences or take what they want. Why? There is a discernible pattern of this human psychology and behavior manifested over history. And after some 140,000 years of evolution, we humans are masters of repackaging, disguising, and justifying!
Stage I — Fanning the Flames of Paranoia
In all historical cases of human atrocities and crimes on incomprehensible scales, the individual ego is the categorical starting point. A person’s developed and learned stereotyping pathology: Me against Them is based not only in evolutionary tribalism, no matter if it is right or wrong, accurate or inaccurate, but it also flames fear and/or ignorance. If a person’s fears and ignorance are correctly identified and are similar or identical to that person’s primary home/community/region, then a person of charisma and cunning (Ego) can exploit those individual and group dynamics for personal and tribal gain.
One modern case-in-point of psychological, covert manipulation of populaces was the 2014-2018 scandal, downfall, and expiration of Cambridge Analytica in London. The tactic that clients of Cambridge Analytica (CA) utilized was the identification of an individual’s, then a group’s, followed by a community’s and region’s political hot-points—or fears and ignorance—based upon a comprehensive 70,000 to 100,000 data-points of one person without their consent or full knowledge (stolen). Then those individual’s data-sets were compared-contrasted to other individuals (near and far) in geopolitical data-sets. These colossal data-sets were compiled on millions and billions of electronic-connected people by CA Ltd, sorted, and handed over to CA’s multi-million dollar clients, who then turned around and targeted individuals, groups, and organizations with weaponized propaganda. This fraudulently flamed people’s natural and learned Me versus Them paranoia. It systematically perverted and distorted political facts and blatantly undermined and vandalized once protected mechanisms of democracy. This is why Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were deservedly slapped with an unprecedented $5-billion dollar fine by the Federal Trade Commission. The one word reason? Accessory. Or more precisely, Passive Accessory.
Need a prime example of passive accessory?
Stage II — Feeding Depraved Indifference
Oskar Gröning c. 1941
The 93-year old Prussian-born man Oskar Gröning, willingly joined the Schutzstaffel or SS of Nazi Germany in 1940. He was legally charged in Germany 70-years later as an accessory to murders he allowed and was complicit in the summer of 1944 while stationed at Auschwitz. His 2014 indictment and 2015 sentencing was ground breaking for international as well as German law, to say the least.
Of course, in all cases of lifelong imprisonments, or death sentences, and cases of national and/or global reach, let alone the sensational accounts of Holocaust events, there was very heated debate and controversy to the purpose of imprisoning a 94-year old geriatric person with significant health concerns. But Oskar Gröning was not your typical SS soldier. He was an accountant who also confiscated Jewish materials and wealth for his Nazi regime despite never using his own hands to murder anyone.
Therefore, in a bigger general sense, Oskar Gröning was a victim of mob-fueled volatile influence and taught (forced into?) depraved indifference as a teenager and young adult. But the desensitization grows like aggressive cancer. He willingly and knowingly perpetuated and passed on, or enabled more depraved indifference upon others. Sadly and more horrifying was this passivity, theft, and lethal application was allowed and implemented upon small children, toddlers, and infants. In his case, on at least 300,000 lives while stationed at Auschwitz. That was only within two months time, 16 May 1942 to 11 July 1942!
One particular example Gröning cited himself was watching an SS Guard on the off-load ramp to the line of train-cars snatch by the leg a crying baby from the mother’s arms and like swinging a baseball bat slammed its body and head against a half-ton truck until the infant stopped crying… dead, blood (and matter) splattered everywhere. Gröning’s words, rather calm words actually.
Gröning went on to say matter-of-factly ‘that it would’ve been more humane to shoot both the baby and mother at close-range, quickly killing them with one bullet. That’s how I would’ve done it’ he explained. It was the 20th century.
Why is this window of time and human behavior so critical to learn from? Were not the Nuremberg Trials sufficient, the final verdict to stop forever these types of extreme barbarity? Read on.
Stage III — Establish Fear of Consequences Against Doubters
To keep strict total control of the masses, or a dictator’s followers or minions, or say an individual supreme leader, President, King, Caliph/Grand Mufti, Pope, or cult of personality, establishing an extreme fear of brutal consequences upon followers who doubt or question that supreme individual’s authority is an age old repeated tactic dating back at least 4,000 years, likely much more. The tactic has been repackaged, renamed, and disguised an infinite amount of times and ways throughout humankind’s history.
The degrees of consequences or punishment against dissenters, doubters, skeptics, traitors, etc, have varied as well, but with the same goals achieved upon the masses: assimilation, Monism, and total obedience. Those too have also been repackaged, redefined, and disguised repeatedly throughout humanity’s history. There are three types I personally think are the best examples of total control by extreme fear and consequences. This can also be termed forced assimilation or coerced assimilation and they come in many guises. I will list only three.
Ethnic assimilation — this is often nationalism, or hyper-patriotism on steroids. If a majority of a population seek strictly a homogeneous identity—not pluralism or diversity, i.e. one race, one religion, one language, and one culture/tradition—and are willing and very aggressive to achieve and protect (spread?) this ideology at all costs, that is forced ethnic assimilation. Almost the entire 19th and 20th-centuries are littered with forced ethnic assimilation: Imperial Japan (Ryukyuans), Nazi Germany of course, Soviet Russia (South Ossentia-Georgia), and the United States (Native American Indians) have histories of forced ethnic assimilation.
Political assimilation — this typically happens with refugees or immigrants expelled from their native lands for various political reasons, primarily because they are simply minorities there with little-to-no voice, economic, or political clout. When they arrive in their new country, by their 2nd generation the same conditions and sociopolitical treatment back in their homeland then gains momentum in their new country. Example? Jim Crow laws—today repackaged and covertly disguised in the private and public sectors for many new minorities. One such political assimilation today are our At-Will labor laws. Should a wrongful termination law-suit be filed, guess who has the financial clout/leverage to drag the law-suit out and/or make it financially unfeasible to finish? The single ex-employee or the business/corporation?
Religious assimilation — forced conversion of minorities to a state or majority belief-system, or its opposite secularization, has been part of humanity’s behavior and historical record since well before the 3rd millennium BCE. The forced assimilations of Jews from ancient Syro-Palestine to Europe are very well known. Typically and gradually this is done by restricting the minorities (or perceived threats/enemies) from social, economic, educational, and political access or participation, i.e. more and more isolation. Example? Several years ago I applied for a teaching position at a private, Christian Liberal Arts college, but was denied a final interview and hiring because of my personal Humanist Freethinking beliefs. Although the college could’ve easily fabricated a legit state-federal explanation to any investigating authorities, I was completely qualified for the position… with the exception of my own personal, non-Christian off-campus world-view. It wasn’t forced religious assimilation at that point, but if educator jobs were near impossible to land in a majority (overwhelmingly?) Christian-Fundamental nation, they certainly would’ve progressed toward that end. The same scenarios take place in many radical Islamic regions. There is no difference.
Stage IV — Turning Decent People into Slaughter Machines
Tip: Be careful when you assert that this slaughtering behavior happens only to others, but never to yourself when thrown into mob-herd violence and pandemonium or when there is no escape from the system, the machine. You probably do not know yourself enough when exposed daily to extreme duress and fear for an extended period of time; months, years, most of your life. One doesn’t know with any certainty what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes for 1,000 or 5,000 miles until they actually do it. History has shown time and again humans are quiet capable of the most horrific acts. It happens even to the best of people.
That said, thankfully modern scientists, cognitive neurologists, counselors, embryologists, pathologists, geneticists, psychologists, paleoanthropologists, historians, et al, are discovering every year that we can now recognize the early signs/symptoms of an impending Slaughter Cult and their leaders. Since at least the Nuremberg Trials and the recent formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands, humanity as a general whole is on its way to further establishing accountability for behavior and enforcement against any national leaders and their members/military for crimes against humanity, including massacres and genocides. However, there is still much to be changed, done, and collectively fought for and defended.
Most people today may be unaware that most/many of the judges at the Nuremberg Trials were German-Nazi sympathizers. This was the reason why so many Nazi war criminals received, in world-opinion, light sentences and punishments or were never pursued. Without realizing it the Allies, reformed Germans, and perhaps the rest of the interested world set a precedence for future war-criminals. This precedence of getting away with it and the historical fact that other later tribunals or international courts followed suit, thus creating (though in slightly reduced occurrences) our perpetual genocides and crimes against humanity still happening to this day and since the European Holocaust. Yes, progress has been made in little steps, but they have not eradicated genocides and wide-spread misanthropy.
What is perhaps alarming (disturbing?) to most/some proud, patriotic Americans is the fact that the United States government endorses and helps enforce the ICC trials and decisions on foreign leaders and nations, BUT does not allow the ICC (or any nation) to bring the U.S. or U.S. leaders to trial for any crimes against humanity (100-years ago, 70-years ago, during Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, or last year), let alone be convicted. Here once again, precedence is set for radical exceptions, if it can be called that! Russia has made the same self-proclaimed exemption. Therefore, this implicitly tells the world there ARE INDEED people and nations above laws for humanity. With that precedence set since post-1945, then yes, even decent Americans can be made into slaughter-machines if they follow their Leader(s) wherever and however in all capacities, ala General Jacob H. Smith, Lt. Col. Oliver North, so on and so on. We can be made into obedient robots.
And this following 11-minute video sums up exactly how a once humane, kind, helpful, patient, tolerant, collaborative, tactfully determined and compromising child, adolescent, person or group can be turned into the antithesis of those traits and into an indifferent, hateful, slaughtering machine by the same personality types:
A Precedence of Exoneration
Now we have an idea why the worst forms of hate, slaughter, and genocide of entire groups or populations are still happening in the 21st-century in several parts of the world. These cult of personalities still believe (as our current POTUS does) they are untouchable, above the laws, and even if caught will glide through the sentences given by a weak and disunited, non-unanimous international court. This explains why a man such as Oskar Gröning (above), who indifferently stated, ‘it would have been more decent and quick to just shoot the baby and mother at close-range with one bullet’ escaped any sort of justice for the remainder of his life. Accessory to complicit genocide behavior was exonerated, excused, acceptable in 1945. For the most part misanthropy, hate crimes, genocide on industrial scales are still exonerated in 2019.
So back to my initial question at the start, are you a racist, or bigot, elitist, xenophobe, partisan, antagonist, hero or villain, segregist, war-criminal or misanthropist? Can you become an accessory to any of those behaviors?
Who do you think you are? A hater or a lover? Fighter or Peace-maker? These questions can be answered by your own knowledge-base and breath of your first-hand experience. Just ask yourself, How large, how vast is my world-wide cultural library, past and present?How frequently do I add to it, revise it, and correct it? Is it a 10 x 10 x 8-foot unit/container or is it a multi-story Library of Congress, of Britain, of Canada, or Russia? Be honestly raw with yourself and I think you’ll have a more true answer. 🙂
I normally do not do reblogs, not because the blogger or the content may or may not be poor, inconsequential, or that reblogs are someone else’s ideas and composition. I like all credit, if not most credit, to go to the innovator. Secondly, I seldom reblog because I find refuge here in WordPress. Shallowness, uninspired, and overdone weigh my eyelids, smash my head onto my laptop, to then drool from the mouth as I snore. With the excessive saturated overabundance of “social” derivatives like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, (yawn) Pinterest, Instagram, and a number of others, they obesely inflate the world-wide-web with significantly less value. I don’t want WordPress or my blog to become another diluted derivative so I’ve never reblogged in five years.
This blog-post and adjoined subjects from Allallt deserves republishing:
Allallt was asked and in return he has asked his audience that these adjoined subjects of abortion, genocide, and female rights be broadcast among a wider atheist audience. Since I am not atheist and he has welcomed my visits and comments, I believe anyone can participate who feel these three topics are of great importance. However, a word of caution: Though obviously the three subjects are paramount and controversial, and as would be expected some comments and Commentors get… umm, how can I say(?)… highly energetic with their word and grammar choices, try to see beyond the saber-rattling and contribute meaningful dialogue and discussion. I hope you’ll take the time to at least read Allallt’s post, and if inclined Madblog’s post for some context.
To encourage participation on Allallt’s post, I have disabled comments here.
…on myriad themes, including – but, not limited to – ancient Rome to cats (especially THEO!) to "The Walking Dead" to Amsterdam to atheism to hockey to "Star Trek" to "Les Mis" and almost ALWAYS quotes Emerson!