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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Violence Is In Our Genes, So Why Does It Make The News?–The Inevitability Of Murder And War

America seems awash in gun-related violence unless one reads through just a few pages of history to find that it always has been alive and well.  Chicago in the days of Al Capone was a bullet-riddled place, disputes in the Old West were resolved by six-gun, and gang- and crime-related violence has been endemic in every major city for the last five decades. Violence is very American and very, very human. 

Gunfight at OK Corral

Honduras, El Salvador, and Brazil have shoot-outs every day.  Police chokeholds in the United States are nothing compared to the paramilitary death squad executions in the favelas of Rio.  The RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) was well-known for its neutralization of drug traffickers who ‘died in crossfire’ after encounters with Bangladesh’s own paramilitary unit.


Violent crime in Kinshasa, Nairobi, Abidjan, is epidemic.  White residents of Johannesburg live in fortified, gated communities and shop in mall fortresses.  Tourists are advised not to walk the streets of the capital, and the savvy traveler will take taxis from the airport to hotels not more than a few hundred yards from the terminal.

Acts of terrorism have occurred in France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Radical Islamists have committed themselves to the destruction of the liberal, non-sectarian West and to the establishment of a religious caliphate by any means necessary. When one includes Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Northern Nigeria, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea – countries in open civil conflict – violence is not only common, it is endemic.

Europe has been beset by wars, civil, and internecine conflict for centuries.  Genghis Khan and his Turkic-Mongol army swept out of the steppes and slaughtered tens of millions from Japan to Europe. The Hundred Year War and the War of the Roses were but two of the more well known; but there were over 100 major world conflicts in the 16th century alone including among others the Portuguese-Mamluk, Friulan Muscovite-Lithuanian, Polish-Teutonic wars.   

There were no fewer in the 18th century, and the Age of Enlightenment did nothing to prevent or deter violence. The 20th century had fewer wars but more devastating and comprehensive ones. 

According to the accounts of early European travelers like Mungo Park and Rene de Chaillu, African tribes were at constant war, took slaves as booty to be used as currency for barter, and were as barbaric to captured prisoners as they were to the enemy on the battlefield. Prehistoric skeletons show that skulls were crushed, bones broken, and body parts dismembered.

Paulo Coelho

Violence is a feature of the human condition; and given this 10,000 year history of murder, slaughter, and mayhem, we are unlikely to change. It is not surprising that violence is featured in the news. If it bleeds, it leads. Despite hopeful  claims to the contrary, not only is violence a permanent, ineluctable, predictable expression of human nature, we love to watch it.

Movies and games have never been more graphically bloody, news reports chronicle every shot, every corpse, every horrified relative.  Televised violence transmuted into virtual entertainment media, fed back into superhero extravaganzas, into playground fantasy, back onto the streets with more gunfire, mayhem, and bling.  Thank God it wasn’t me, so in commiseration and sympathy I can look at the bloody sheets and pools of congealing blood.

If it weren’t for such gawking, prurient interest, violence would not make the news.  News is news because of the unexpected, the unusual, the surprising.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods are infrequent enough happenings for us to tune in; but violence? An everyday affair, if not here, elsewhere.  There are simply not enough reporters to cover every brutality, slaughter, and wanton murder in the world; and home-grown violence is far more interesting than some skirmish in the Chadian desert. 

America's Inner-City Cartels - WSJ

The only way for violence to become a footnote is fatigue.  A television channel devoted only to violence – Mexican cartel bloodletting and inner city drug wars interspersed with archive footage of Nazi, Stalin, and Pol Pot horrors – would soon become a bore, a ratings crusher.  The more attuned historians and political philosophers have long ago stopped paying any attention to violence.  Something that is so endemic, so predictable, so historically common is not interesting.  If violence is a hardwired human trait – and chronicles of human settlements since the Paleolithic let alone the untamed savagery of children testify to the fact – it will be with us for a long, long time.

Serial killings? A modern expression of the same genes that gave the world pogroms, Anschluss, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.  The same genes that gave us Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.  The same savagery that Mungo Park witnessed in tribal forests of Africa, the same headhunters of Melanesia, and the same absolute terror of White Wolf, the Comanche chief who to send a message to Union troops invading sacred Indian ground, raped, mutilated, and defiled white men, women, and children.

In other words violence is not news.  There should be no surprise at beheadings, repeated school shootings, chemical weapons, violent Salvadoran gangs and Mexican drug cartels, and drive-by shootings in Anacostia.

Wm. Tecumseh Sherman understood violence and the threat of it when he deliberately sought not only to defeat the South but to humiliate  it and destroy its will. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are no different.  Retaliate against Palestinian assaults with full, uninhibited force.  Only in the United States, currently governed by a progressive political regime, is compassionate policing the rule.  

Violence is an expression of systemic racism, white oppression, and historical consequence, say progressive mayors. There is a line in the Antoine Fuqua movie Training Day where the main character suggests a laissez-faire attitude towards violence.  Let the criminals kill themselves, he says, and there will be fewer of them.  Violence is endemic, certain, and universal, so why not let it run its course.

Israel bombing Gaza to stop Hamas rockets shows why its U.S. military aid  should end

Progressive municipal governments have de facto endorsed this policy, but since violence has increased under this policy, dysfunctional, antisocial, violent behavior has to be met with force.  Governments have always put down local insurrections, and the United States, trapped in a cocoon of  moral exceptionalism and tangled interpretations of ‘democracy’ and civil rights, is the only country which refuses to do so.

The difference between conservatives and liberals is not simply one of approach.  It is one of political philosophy.  The Left, despite the weight of history, insists that man is perfectible and with enough political commitment, moral fortitude, and unimpeachable belief, the future can be a better place.

The Right, more realistic in its assessment of human nature and behavior, counters that progress is a fiction.  History is circular, predictable, and repetitive.  Human societies have always vied for power, resources, territory and influence, and stability can be achieved only when countervailing forces are relatively equal.   Human nature – ineluctable and as permanent as ever – demands vigorous defense of one’s own interests and the  equally vigorous promotion of them.  Countries which ignore history and human nature will always fail.

America, although militarily strong, is morally weak.  Through the cracked, useless, and discredited lens of multiculturalism, the current Administration refuses to name its enemy; or in the case of Ukraine pretend that Russia is Zelenskyy’s enemy.  

Because of its overweening,  misplaced faith in liberal democracy, it refuses to act decisively.   The means are as important as the ends, the Administration claims, insisting on winning hearts and minds, avoiding civilian casualties and American deaths.  Against an implacable enemy for whom victory is the only goal, these muddled and wooly policies will inevitably lead to defeat.

No political philosopher could have been more wrong than Francis Fukuyama when he wrote The End of History published shortly after the fall of the Soviet UnionN0w that Communism had been defeated, liberal democracy would spread quickly and easily throughout the world.  With the threat of nuclear war removed and the contentious Cold War antagonisms in Asia and Africa removed, the world was ready for peace, conciliation, and progress.

Not only does history have no end; it never will have.  As long as human nature remains intact, wars, violence, and civil conflict will continue to be the rule.

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