Violence is infection

I intended to publish a lighter blog this week as a break from my planned four-part series on women against feminism. (Some pedanthood trivia -> I learned this from Shakespeare; break up the serious scenes with a little comedic relief.)

However, in light of current events, I have shelved the lighter piece for future.

A Canadian soldier was murdered as he stood guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier, and his murderer then made his way through the halls of parliament in Ottawa.

I am not going to address how it happened, logistically.

However, as I am a pedant and therefore prone to fixation on details and rules, I am fixated on how this can happen on a human level. I can’t stop thinking about why and what and how.

I can, on some level, understand how a person who lives in a culture of violence can be habituated to acting violently. As humans, we conform to the norms of our society. When violence is the norm, then you conform to it unconsciously.

I also understand mental illness. I understand that some of us do not have the capacity to separate fact from fiction, and right action from wrong action, or to comprehend the full consequences of our behavior.

I find it personally challenging to understand how someone who comes from a place where violence is not the norm is recruited to violence. When you come from a peaceful nation where the norm is tolerance and agreeing to disagree how do you come to the point that you can actually see violence as a path?

Violence is a disease and doesn’t affect a healthy mind in a healthy environment. Violence is antithetical to the optimal conditions for cultural and individual existence. Acting out in violence is contrary to our natural impulses for self-preservation and cultural perpetuation.

One of my favourite Ted Talks is by Dr. Larry Slutkin, in which he talks about how he found success treating violence like a disease. He talks about interrupting transmission and shifting norms. Watch it here.

What are the rules and parameters of transmission of violence? How do we identify, inoculate and immunize against the transmission of violent behavior and indoctrination into violent ideologies? How do we identify those living in a healthy society who are individually less healthy and unable to fight indoctrination? How do we identify unhealthy cultures and build them up so that a healthy norm becomes strong enough to fend off the infection with violence?

Right now Canada is poised to join an armed fight against ISIS. Many people I know are completely opposed. I agree that violence begets violence, but I am also at a loss because I think it is obvious something needs to be done.

There’s this fellow named Marshall Rosenberg, I don’t know much about him or his Centre for Non-Violent Communication, but one thing he says resonates with me. He draws a line for responding to violence. His assertion is that we can respond with force OR with violence. We can use force to end a conflict and restrain the participants without becoming violent ourselves. He talks about it here.

I feel completely capable of this as an individual but I have no idea how we would accomplish this on a large scale. We do need to change the way we act and react to global issues. We need to treat the illness and stop the violence from spreading, and we need to act in a way that doesn’t mean we become violent ourselves in response.

We need to build a better world, not just burn and hope that the fire kills the virus.

Big task. I like to believe we’re up to it.

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