Where does violence come from?

October 7th, 2010 § 0

ahmadiyahbogor

The genius Isaac Asimov noted through his cunning character Salvor Hardin that “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” and maybe this is an accurate explanation for what is happening around the country lately.

Witness the rage of two ethnic communities in Tarakan, East Kalimantan, as they battle each other to seek what they seem to think to be justice. Or look at how some unverified hearsay provoked a community in Bogor, West Java, to attack their own neighbors and turn their houses and place of worship into rubble. Another example is the unfathomable scene of members of two ethnic gangs dueling in the street in front of the building where justice is supposed to be upheld, despite the presence of a significant number of policemen nearby.

Some scientists say that evolution has given us humans with a survival mechanism that tells us how to respond to a threatening situation. They say that our so-called limbic system dictates three modes of response of freeze, flight and fight when we are faced with danger. The first response, to freeze, is easily seen in animals who will suspend their motion, or even play dead when they see a predator. The flight response, on the other hand, comes into play when we sense that the freeze response does not eliminate the danger and tells us to flee for safety. When freezing and fleeing cannot save us from danger, then, the only alternative left is to turn our fear into rage as we switch to attack mode.

The evolutionary perspective seems to indicate that violence is really the product of desperation. We don’t usually resort to violence when less risky options are available, and really shouldn’t in the interest of our own survival.

But of course it would be wrong to say that violence is only a type of reaction to a perceived threat. After all there seems to be people who take pleasure in seeing others (and probably themselves) suffer. However, this is a type of pathology and doesn’t seem to fit the communal type of violence as we see here. The only way that this has anything to do with the recent string of violent clashes is if somehow there’s somebody behind the screen that is orchestrating the whole thing. Which is a really scary thought.

Naturally the question is then if what we’re seeing is a wave of desperation all over the country, or is it the work of some really sick individuals pulling all the strings in the shadows?

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