A Culture of Violence

by Will on October 26, 2010

Last night my girlfriend and I were watching The Seven Samurai. It portrays 17th-century Japan, where scarcity creates a high incentive for banditry, which in turn creates a high demand for the service of trained warriors (samurai). Consequently, samurais are high status, demand much respect, and are good with girls. And also, there is frequent fighting.

My girlfriend said, sarcastically, “Babe, don’t you wish we could live in a society that valued violence so much?”

I said, “We do live in a society that values violence.” She was confused. I explained, “We are endlessly at war abroad, and think we must threaten to go to war with still other nations. It is held to be a saintly and noble thing to fly a plane that drops bombs on people you’ve never met, most of whom have done nothing to any American. We celebrate those who go abroad to wage war. When the violence doesn’t produce the outcome we want, but instead makes people really angry at us, we double down and send even more troops and bombs.”

I then went on, “And beyond that, among our poorer classes in some parts of our country, there is an ethos of violence very similar to the one in the movie.”

My girlfriend said, “All right, all right. You already had me depressed.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

WordWrestler October 26, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Let’s not forget the “good clean fun” violence of professional sports like football and boxing, where skill on the field translates to a near automatic pass for violent behavior in other areas of life.

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Will October 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Boxing is indeed rather troubling… But sports like football, I think, serve as an outlet for unspent aggression. They also teach the value of teamwork and self-sacrifice, which are good lessons. And they teach you to overcome the Prisoner’s Dilemma a little bit; to think about the interests of the group, rather than your own selfish lot.

I’m much more troubled by the connection between military service and civilian violence. This suggests that our veterans need a much higher level of counseling and medical help when they come home.

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