Man has used violence as a means to get what he wants since the dawn of humankind. Be it to exact revenge on one individual or to send a message, to reach the end of a dispute with one person or a whole nation in an all-out war, violence has been a part of the culture of mankind since our very earliest beginnings. It seems an inevitable part of our nature. And yet, when things like the London bombings in 2005 or the most recent explosions in Boston happen, nothing about them or their aftermath feels natural.
Undoubtedly there still are random acts of violence. Watch almost any news segment or episode of America’s Most Wanted or The First 48 and you’ll see that very often, some poor soul is the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong deranged person. But more often than not, violence is used either to retaliate for some wrongdoing or to send a specific message. In the case of terrorism, it’s a bit of both. No doubt the members of Al Quaida believe themselves to be oppressed or otherwise harmed by global powers the likes of the United States and the United Kingdom (and others). And, of course, the acts of terrorism they commit are done to tell the world that they will not rest until their voice is heard, until their demands (whatever they are) are met. If these violent acts actually worked, maybe I could understand the rationalizations behind them. As it is – as far as I can tell anyway – no one benefits from these bombings. No one wins. And, at the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, if they don’t work, why keep at it?
I do believe there are some folks in the world who simply want to wreak havoc. And maybe that is the case with the incident at the Boston Marathon yesterday. The investigation is still underway and no motive has yet been identified. But aside from wanting only to create chaos, no other motive for violence justifies the means. The destruction caused by these acts of mass killings and even the consequences of singular violent incidents – investigations and trials and years spent in prison, the emotional pain given to the mourners or even the offenders themselves – all of it seems such a waste of time and resources. Enough to warrant giving up this archaic means of proving a point.
Evolutionarily speaking, a gene or mechanism or behavior will remain in play as long as it is useful. When its benefits no longer outway its negative effects, it will be selected out. It may take a few generations but it will fall away. My question is this: will the day come when humans in every culture think it is not worth the destruction and rebuilding, the misery caused, the millions of dollars spent on investigations and trials and lives spent in prison to use violence as a means of making themselves heard? Or will we forever be caught in this hamster wheel?
Personally, I don’t think violence in humanity will ever cease to exist entirely but my hope is that the day will come when it is such a rarity that every day’s news won’t be filled with tales of murder and rape, of hate crimes or sexual crimes or crimes against children. That these things will be taboo and only a tiny percentage of people will fall victim to them.
Patton Oswalt’s response to yesterday’s events says it all:
“I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I’ve had it with humanity.’ But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet,” he wrote. “You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness. But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
“So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.'”