And because it works it is repeated and practiced since the beginning of time, amongst all creatures, although humans have developed the most sophisticated and the most meaningless forms of it, since no other creatures inflict violence for no other reason but so called ‘fun’.
Even when some animal spices play-fight or bully each other’s for, what humans would perceive as no other reason but to have ‘fun’, there is always some reason for it; such as learning how to survive, hunt, obtain and keep better resources, mate or similar. Only humans torment each other’s for no other reason but to have so called ‘fun’. If unable or unwilling to inflict violence against the fellow humans in real life, endless games and movies have been invented, with life-like images, to satisfy the craving for violence and cruelty.
Why am I telling you all this on only the third day of a brand New Year?
- all forms of violence are escalating around the world,
- we are getting more and more desensitised to it, and as a result
- are less and less likely to not only stop, but even more importantly
- prevent violence.
The outcome – violence works and what works is repeated.
There are endless examples of all forms of violence being inflicted every hour of every day in all corners of our world. Outlining even the most recent ones would far exceed the capacity of a humble blog post.
However, I was recently reminded of Phoebe Prince, beautiful, intelligent, and eloquent young girl whose tragic dead occurred as a direct result of school bullying. She was born in 1994, the same year as my own daughter, and was found dead in 2010. The bullying inflicted on Phoebe was not only well planned, but it was carried out in systematically cruel and humiliating fashion from which she saw no other escape but dead. It was all done by her peers, kids of her own age.
Phoebe’s story was later described as one of the worst cases of school bullying ever. But they are millions of Phoebe’s in schools around the world every day. And if you are thinking that kids have always been cruel to each other’s in schools, you are probably right. School yards have been character building grounds since their invention, and some other grounds served the same purpose before that. However, there is clear evidence showing frightening increase in both; level of violence and frequency of bullying today’s kids’ encounter. And that despite various anti-bullying campaigns and small army of youth workers, psychologists, social-workers, and similarly trained specialist engaged in those campaigns.
Of course school bullying is only one, and some would argue minor, form of violence today’s humans are exposed to. It certainly pales in comparison to war-time violence, domestic-violence, crime-violence, work-place violence, and endless other forms of violence. Nevertheless school bullying is where, for most kids, it all starts. It is also the place where parents still have, or ought to have, an upper hand. The hand they ought to rise to stop and to prevent bullying. Starting with their own kids in their own homes. Because after all shiny gadgets are taken and all ‘cool’ staff stripped off, before them is still a young boy or girl. One they brought to this world and they are responsible for. That really is the bottom line. And goes for both sides; those being bullied, as well as those, doing bullying. Because both; the bully, and the bullied, are victims; only standing at the different ends of the same tragedy.
If not stopped or even better prevented at school level, or even earlier if required, violence gets its way. It shows that it works. Because no matter what form it takes; physical, psychological, institutional; it gets its way.
That is because violence inflicts the pain that takes its victims by surprise and completely overwhelms their capacity to process and make sense of what is happening to them. From that moment on, the victim has only one wish and one priority – to make it stop. In whichever way possible; flee from it; cower before it, trying to appease the bully or bullies in any way. Numerous examples show that when witnessing violence, our first reaction is to freeze, to back away; to make ourselves invisible to the perpetrator.
And if you are now thinking of so called fight instinct, whereby instead of fleeing we fight and respond to violence with violence, think again. Only in those situations where aggression is either clearly signalled in advance, or we expected it to occur, we are able to assess the level of threat and thus prepare both mentally and physically to meet it. But violence is almost never unleashed in this way. Experienced fighters know that it takes great skill and experience to recover from and respond to an unannounced and unprovoked attack. This is because the ability to meet violence with violence is not instinctive – it is learned.
The perpetrators of violence know this well. They know that almost always, the physical or mental trauma they inflict throws their victims into shock and transforms them into docile, obedient automations – exactly as they intended. Research shows that the long-term effects of violence are even more useful to those who use it to exert power over others. People become extremely fearful not only of the person or institution responsible, but of the whole world. Their trust in the basic rationally of human interactions, sanity and order of the world is shattered. Victims of violence often withdraw from society altogether. Not only their ability, but even their desire to act independently becomes eroded and is eventually lost.
While I am writing these lines, many people around the world suffer as victims of violence. World Health Organization tells us that each year more than 1.6 million people worldwide lose their lives to violence. For every person who dies as a result of violence, many more are injured and suffer from a range of physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems.
Their tormentors made violence work. It worked for them. If the rest of us remain frozen, it works for us too. Because all it takes for the evil to flourish is for the rest of us to do nothing.
And we all live in some form of community, are members of society, send our kids to schools, go to workplaces … this is where we raise our hand to prevent, to stop and to eliminate violence. For ever.