Sunday, August 22, 2010

Under the Nail

Martin Luther King Jr wrote a profound letter from Birmingham jail that could be intrinsically applied to curb violence in our personal lives; because often it is the ultimate act of competition, confusion, and fear, whether it is random or organized. We have to analyze ourselves and our problems to find the conflict’s details along with how to best cope with our situations. I would like to believe in men as he did when he said, “none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analyses that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes”. Violence runs in cycles, or you could say men run in circles of violence. Power is granted, and men continuously grant themselves the power to commit violence, especially for the sake of survival. The problem is that it usually goes far beyond essential survival.
As someone who has experienced domestic violence, I have seen the confusion build and the violence erupt. I have been taught that this stems from our lack of self-worth. What we lack in some areas, we try to make up for in force. So it seems the less worth man has for self, the less he has for others. Reflectively, the low worth we place on others reduces our own, creates confusion, and an inner turmoil of chaos that needs re-organization of perceptions for competent communication and effective collaboration. At this point of descending a downward spiral of fear, we lash out for something that will be effective. We grant ourselves an illusion of superiority with power and force to wield. People can be so driven by the simple need for power and grant themselves permission to have power over others until it is common for violence to be acceptable.
There is now a contradiction of acceptability for violence that rests on circumstances. Society lacks a good example of acceptable and unacceptable violence. The most acceptable violence is that which is essential to survival. If someone is being attacked, then it is generally permissible to forgive the person who defended himself. Yet, our government whether police or military is showing society a bad example. Our military has been used for decades now to go to foreign lands and “protect our interests”. This is allowable forcible competition. People understand this and do not hold fighting men in high regard anymore, and men come back feeling used and misled by perpetuating force and injustice. I have heard them compared to mercenaries. It is interesting to note that gangs who shoot up homes are usually protecting their interests on a smaller scale of allies and business, but they are considered criminals. What is allowable for one group is deemed illegal for another group. What we learn about ourselves in individual circumstances should apply on the larger scale of society as well.
There are conflicts and confusion even in well educated people who try to address issues, especially when we have contradictory ideologies, but saddest of all is purely relentless power-driven dominators who simply act on their own whims simply for their sick pleasure and intoxication of power. It is the existence of people like this that require us to defend ourselves so that we can protect ourselves from the imbalance of tyranny. We should not be allowing our fighting men and women to be used for mere competition, for reasons beyond essential survival. It is mentally damaging and spiritually degrading. As King said we are all, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”. The ill effects of war ripple through this fabric and touch us all, bringing down fathers, families, and lives. It will weaken us until we can no longer react to threats with a superb quality.
The times have changed so much, that our ancient warrior class probably would not even recognize the new one. In ancient days, the men gathered to play games of strength and prove themselves. These would be the same men who were going out to defend the glen from raiders from their neighboring kingdom. Now, the games are hype and entertainment. It may give them a way to express their desire to compete, but it gives an example of power and force for no reason at all except for vanity and pride. It is hollow compared to men who gather to protect their families. Somehow I doubt that those who are fighting for an audience are training for honorable defense. We do not even allow dogs to fight legally for an audience. People get disgusted by that, but dogs were bred for protection against wolves and bears. They say that the dogs have no choice, but deny the dogs their instinctual protective drive to fight. It is a crime to choose to fight outside the ring; yet, it is allowable within the ring. It becomes cold and calculated; an exploitation of men’s inherent protective drive. The same people who call out exploitation of women in a strip joint might be fans of the ring-fighters without seeing the parallel.
I think the worst part of violence is the dishonest game of conflict under a guise of betterment. I did not experience violence as bad as others have. It was the overpowering force and threat that was meant to make me feel inferior that was tyranny. So when I see violence in entertainment, I want to see the tyrant overthrown, the liberation of people, and the strength of protection. I get offended by the illusions and the games. I think our military should be at home training and helping the people here, waiting for that essential-to-survival fight. I cannot help but be sad for the young boys who wish to test themselves by fighting and end up in jail instead, where ironically they end up fighting for their lives. I have met men who joined the military just so they could go kill people. Even in war there is protocol and punishment for breaking the law. Sending them over there, arming them, and expecting minimal eruptions is like a game. It is like a woman who knows her husband will beat her, yet flaunting infidelity in his face. It is a challenge and an act of superiority.
Some people that turn towards violence are following their natural instincts of competition and/or protection. After someone gets into trouble with the law for violence, then they get educated through counseling. I sat in with an anger management group once and discovered that these people are experiencing a continuous invalidation of their approaches and feelings. Some of them do not even admit to anger so they do not get reprimanded. To simply say that anger or violence is never allowable is incomprehensible to many people. It is part of our nature. King also points to history and notes that there is an underlying threat that people will become violent “if his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways”. If people are continuously fed an illusion of inferiority based on their personality and choices then they will strike out.
These offenders may learn better coping skills and channels for competition if they could have a better support system. We need to be prepared for adversity and antagonism from others by practicing a calm mind for reasonable debate. I think the best way to do that is to start practicing debate and competent communication skills with each other as children. It is not enough to tell everyone they are special without discovering their personal qualities. People need to explore their minds and find better ways to collaborate and channel energy. Many people may believe that communication skills are part of our parents’ responsibilities, and they are right; however, this violent society is our heritage. The only way to break the cycle is to take a new approach and allow intellectual studies of interpersonal communication to be cultivated in our youth so they can grow into the lives of everyone. The use of statistics can be a powerful thing, especially to tear down stereotypes and analyze our differences. We have to challenge ourselves to be flexible with our perceptions of each other and our own motivations. We often do not realize the incompetence of being defensive or acting superior. There are many social workers overworked for this very reason.
As I analyze my own personal experiences with violence and power, I am interested in how the guidance for individuals can be applied to groups. I can only hope that an assessment of our beliefs and actions can lead us to solving conflicts without violence and intimidation. While espousing the tenet of equality among all men, it is still an acceptable form of competition to force ideas on people which is hypocritically perpetuating illusions of superiority and inferiority. The cycles of violence will continue with eruptions of those who feel repressed. Conflicts are an inevitable part of human existence that needs energy and attention, but we should have a clear view of who our enemy is. Like Martin Luther King Jr’s struggles against the idea of racism; we should confront the idea of violence by discussing it and challenge the attitudes and beliefs that stubbornly hold onto the privilege of granting power to force the looming illusions of superiority.