What’s wrong with violence? – Marc MacYoung

A hand writes the word "Violence" on a chalkboard.

What’s wrong with violence?

I just had a troll waltz through by posing first the “What’s wrong with violence” question and then stating that if he was hungry eating a dog is the obvious solution. When someone countered, he replied “I’m still hungry.”

“Eweeeeh! Eweeh! Are we civilized people not shocked and outraged by the idea?”

Underlying his whole premise was an overweening elitism about how HE understands reality better than everyone else. I’m sure he’s used to baiting and shocking liberals and intellectuals by using their strategies against them (e.g., asking extreme hypotheticals to ‘disprove’ current thought and demonstrate why his ‘ideals’ are superior). Further enjoyment comes from the shock value of his words. (Oh mah gawd he’s talking about eating dog!)

~Snort~ Ya came to the wrong town stranger.

However, rather than asking him if he wanted recipes, I decided to pretend that he was asking a legitimate question. Which I answered. An answer I now share with you.

“Wrong” is a moral judgement.
Living beings need to eat is a fact.

Moral judgements comes from a different part of the brain than the one where we assess (and rationally decide how to react to) facts. The first part is also is very adept at helping us function in groups. We need both because — contrary to what you might want to tell yourself — removing emotions from all of life’s problems causes more problems, not less. (But then again so too does an excess of emotion.)

The comment “I still am hungry,” may be factually correct, but it has nothing to do with morals or group survival. It is very much a me based issue as well. One that — if the circumstances have not been managed well prior — can put you in conflict with others of the group. Life is a balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of a group. (That’s a much deeper issue than I can go into now, but we’ve largely lost the understanding on how interdependent those two are. But I will say we take the assumption of both for granted these days and that … causes problems.)

What I will go into is the comment of “if the circumstances have not been managed well prior ” because a deeper understanding is necessary for the subject. You and a dog are the only survivors of an airliner crash in hostile conditions. While waiting for rescue, a moral decision is to eat the dog first instead of resorting to cannibalism. But that is with an eye to the future — involving people. After being rescued, you know you’ll be called upon to answer for your culinary decisions by other people. (That’s the moral part of your brain doing long term planning.) Now change the scenario, you are — you believe the last person on earth. Under these circumstances, eat the bodies first, keep the dog for companionship, safety, hunting and potential food — in the future. That is not a moral decision, it is a rational, planning one.

I use that extreme to show you the importance of circumstances to our decisions. And how the idea of future interactions with humans influence our decisions. Because that has a LOT to do with violence.

Oh as an aside there’s many types of violence. However, they can be broken down into two broad categories for ease of understanding: Social and Asocial. Social violence are all the different types of violence we humans use internal to a group (among members). They are very, very strongly influenced by status, group survival, subconscious rules, division of labor and moral/emotional judgement. USUALLY, social violence is non-lethal.

Asocial violence comes in two primary forms. One is resource. That means it’s either to gain or protect resources. When this is inter-species, it’s killing an animal for food, hunting down a rogue predator, killing bugs, etc. When it is between humans, resource predation comes in the form of robbery. Resource protection comes in the form of self-defense. Process predation is the bogyman everyone fears. It’s the serial killer, abuser and two legged monster everyone fears. (For the record process predators are exceedingly rare.)

Now, where the right/wrong issue comes in is when is violence considered acceptable. This is a much, much bigger question than it first appears to be because the answer is ‘it depends.’ With some people violence is NEVER acceptable and they deem all violence wrong (except their own verbal and emotional violence of course). Other people will use violence at the drop of the hat. Both of these are extremes, remember that. We need to be careful not to let the extremes dictate normal. Should we have high standards for when violence is acceptable? Of course. Because violence often has toxic side effect, but sometimes, like chemotherapy, it’s necessary — and when it is, it’s the best answer.

A big part of the reason people view violence as ‘wrong’ is because how often it is used by people who suck at managing their circumstances and want to use violence as a immediate relief to problems they had a large hand in creating. Which brings us to your “I’m hungry” statement.

If you’re a homeless drug addict in a city and you kill and eat someone else’s dog, then you’ve just crossed all kinds of moral lines. Why’s it wrong? Start with it’s not your dog. Follow up with it was your lifestyle choices that put you into those circumstances, not a plane crash. You’re hungry? Tough shit. When the rest of the world is functional and you’re not, going after other people’s resources isn’t acceptable. You may not think it, but everyone else will think it’s wrong and you will be punished for breaking these rules.

Even if it’s your dog, it will be looked down upon because there are other options out there. You’re inability to function along those lines will not go well for you. (Oddly enough, you’re likely to end up in a place where they will house and feed you — which, in many ways turns punishment into a long term survival strategy.)

Here’s where we run into another hiccup.

The attitude of “I’m hungry and that trumps everything” is — outside plane crash survival circumstances — sociopathic. Now if you wanted to go off and live in a cave by yourself, that’s fine. However, most sociopaths prefer to prey on other humans. Thinking that the rules of society don’t apply to them, they merrily screw people over because “I need, I want.” are their primary motivations. And they get away with it, until they are stopped.

This becomes a matter of strategy and survival. Since sociopaths have stunted emotional development and brain wiring when they ask the questions of “What is wrong with violence to get what I want?” Their moral answer is ‘nothing.’ There is however a practical problem. That is longevity. Non-violent sociopaths can get along for an entire lifetime without getting their dicks nailed to the table. Violent sociopaths however, provoke a more immediate response. Society will tolerate a non-violent sociopath a WHOLE lot better than it will a violent one. As in ‘what’s wrong with violence? Nothing, except they’ll hunt you down and shoot you in the face.” (And they’ll be doing it as both resource protection and punishment for you breaking the rules in a functional system — not out of need, but because you choose to.)

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