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Is Violence Necessary?

Updated on October 23, 2011

Is Violence Socially Acceptable?

Is violence really necessary? Do human beings NEED violence? It's been a burning question to me since I was very young. When I was a kid, I'd come home from school, and Mom would let my brother Danny, my sister Carole, and myself watch some afternoon television. As in about every other home in America, television was a great new babysitter. Mom could go about her household tasks relatively undisturbed while the kids were "glued to the tube". Though our household had few amenities due to the strictness and rigidity of our household economy and Dad's religious principles, we always had the latest thing in televisions. Our dad worked at GE Sylvania, and was awarded seven patents in his lifetime, mostly for developing television applications for integrated circuits. So, he'd bring home "test models", for home testing, from the test lab.

I was often stricken by the violence on television. Things that were supposed to be funny looked like people getting hurt, to me. I hated it! I thought it couldn't possibly be necessary to be so violent; it wasn't entertaining to me, at ALL!

My brother and sister always wanted to watch "The Three Stooges". That show made me terribly uncomfortable. I didn't like it. Moe was always hitting people, and jabbing at their eyes , and causing pain and doing violence of some kind. I really didn't like it. Even most Saturday morning cartoons were too violent! All that unnecessary violence in Road Runner, Bugs Bunny, you name it!

If any of you reading this have followed my story, you'll understand why. I would escape to the cold upstairs, and read a book. I didn't even like the sound of people being hurt. I was very sensitive to violence .

I'm proudly American. I do love my country, and think this country, which welcomed immigrants from all nations, is the strongest just because of it's terrific ethnic mix. I'm proud of the many people in this country who have made so much from so little. I'm proud of our native American heritage, which is blended and mixed, but retains a special connection with the earth, the animals, and the environment, especially in the West and Southwest parts of the United States.

I'm proud of our black American heritage, which had to defeat three major prejudices to survive and thrive: the difference in skin color from the majority of European immigrants, the lack of a heritage of literacy, and the fact that these people's ancestors were kidnapped from their home continent and compelled into slavery on American soil--their ancestors were not here voluntarily, for the most part, and were treated abominably.

But I'm not proud of violence in America. I don't think it's necessary, and have done a little research to discover why, what is this penchant for violence that Americans seem to possess? Why do people think violence is necessary, or entertaining, or thrilling? Or funny?

  • America has 150 times the murder rate of Great Brittain
  • In Detroit, in 1973, there were two million people , and two million guns . A gun for every person living in Detroit.

Americans vote with their pocketbooks, and Americans seem to adore violence. How many unarmed action heroes have you seen in the movie theaters lately? The Terminator movies, a great succession of box-office smashes, seemed to embrace extreme violence and carry away an entire generation of movie goers. The Terminator character was so loaded down with weapons it was ludicrous, I could name hundreds of violent box-office hits, and very few non-violent ones. What catches our attention, what rivets us absolutely, is violence. Look at the latest:

  • Video Games
  • Movies
  • News Stories
  • Cartoons

before you disagree with me.

From "Understanding Human Behavior":

Does violence on TV affect the young, as well as adults? Dr. Robert M. Lieberts, a psychologist at the State University of New York who was a principal investigator for the Surgeon General's report, reviewed more than 50 studies covering the behavior of 10,000 children between the ages of three and 19. Dr. Lieberts states, "The more violence and aggression a youngster sees on television, regardless of his age, sex or social background, the more aggressive he is likely to be in his own attitudes and behaviors. The effects are not limited to young people who are in any way abnormal, but rather were found for large numbers of perfectly normal American children."

"It was not a boy's home life, not his school perfromance, not his family background, but the amount of TV violence he viewed at age 9 which was the single most important determinant of how aggressive he was 10 years later, at age 19.

American Civil War Photo

The Biological Determinants of Violence

From "Understanding Human Behavior":

  • Emotional behavior is highly correlated with electrical activity in the limbic system a related set of neural centers that include the amygdala in the temporal lobe. Stimulation of the human or animal amygdala is often followed by aggressive attacks. Removal of the amygdala leads to a marked reduction in aggressive behavior in animals but not necessarily in humans.
  • Violence is also influenced by psychological and environmental factors. For example, some cultural attitudes appear to accept or even encourage violent behavior. Cultures who hold such attitudes engender people who are much more likely to be hostile and aggressive than the people in non-violent cultures.
  • People will become more aggressive if they are rewarded for violent behavior. People will become more peaceful and placid if they are rewarded for peaceful and placid behavior.
  • Psychological frustration or physical pain often, but not always, leads to aggressive behavior
  • People who suffer from damaged amygdalas often fly into violent rages for little or no reason, particularly if they are drugged or drunk.
  • Human behavior is multi-determined, and there is no one unique solution to the problem of violence in today's world.

The word "Amygdala" is Latin for almond.These two little nut-shaped clusters of neurons, in the inner surface of the cerebral hemispheres, in the deepest part of our brains, affect but do not entirely determine how violent we are. This part of the limbic system, (the communication system between the two halves of our brains), is very specially studied by doctors and psychologists who treat the criminally insane. Occasionally surgical removal or neurosurgical techniques involving microtransmitters in this part of the patient's brain can effect an amazing transformation on the part of a violent patient. The patient, who was formerly prone to outbreaks of unreasoning violence and a danger to fellow patients and staff, becomes very placid, very calm. His behavior changes appear to be permanent. Oddly enough, these techniques do not always work, even when the diagnoses are nearly identically. About one patient in three can be effectively treated with these techniques. Other patients retain their violent behaviors, or resume them after a short period--three to four weeks--of calm placidity.

There are some ethical questions which have arisen due to advances in neurochemistry, neurosurgery, and micro-neurosurgical techniques, about how far is it right to go to artificially alter a human being's personality? Where is that ethical line?

When the amygdala were removed from very violent, very aggressive animals, they uniformly became gentle and placid under any and all circumstances--even when attacked. They also became markedly oversexed, attempting to mount inappropriate objects. The connection between sexual drives and aggressive behavior doesn't appear to be biologically pre-determined.

These animals also over-indulged in food, when allowed.

Were they compensating with food and sex for a loss of appetite for violence? Did they miss the stimulation ?

Intra-psychic Determinants of Violence

From "Understanding Human Behavior":

According to many intra-psychic theorists, we are born with an aggressive instinct that we often do not learn how to control.

Konrad Lorenz, a German scientist, has spent a lifetime studying the behavior patterns of wild animals. Lorenz believes that while aggressive instincts first evolved in the lower animals, the tendency toward senseless violence has reached its peak in human beings. In his research, Lorenz noted that animals of one species will often kill members of another species for food--or if threatened--but they seldom kill each other or any other species out of hatred, prejudice, politics, or "just for fun". During mating season, males will occasionally battle other males for possession of females, but the males rarely do each other lasting harm.

Konrad Lorenz is a noted German ethologist who believes that humans have stronger killer instincts than any other animal. He received the Nobel Prize in 1973 for his research.

There are several main causes of violence or aggression in both animals and humans:

  • Self-defense
  • Pain
  • Frustration
  • Competition for resources
  • Competition for social domination
  • Defense of territory

Frustration or pain often leads to violent behavior, in both animals and humans. But if an animal has a chance to escape the pain, or abate the frustration, it will most often chose, (by FAR!) to flee or abate rather than attack. This is not the case with human beings.

Freud believed that there is a childish part of our minds that demands immediate gratification of all its wishes. Whenever this "child" in our minds is frustrated, it causes us to become aggressive in the pursuit of our desires.

Psychologists John Dollard and Neal Miller developed an accepted hypothesis called the frustration-aggression hypothesis.

Frustration occurs whenever a highly-motivated individual encounters a barrier that prevents the person from reaching a much-desired goal. If the person cannot overcome the barrier, the resulting frustration leads the person to become less logical and more strongly emotional, and much more aggressive than would usually be the case. According to this model, aggression in humans is always caused by a frustration of some sort; but a frustrated person has many other choices rather than to exhibit their frustration in the form of violence.

That's the key.

We, as human being, as reasoning, thinking, human beings, always have other choices. Violence of any kind is not necessary for the benefit, furtherance, or preservation of the human race. Violence, of any kind, is not necessary for the benefit, furtherance, or preservation of the human individual.

We have other choices.

We have language. We can communicate. We can defuse a violent situation, or avoid it. We do not have to take out our frustrations, wishes for gratification, resources, food...domination...anything that drives us, in the form of violence.

We have BRAINS! We can figure out another way, a better way, to resolve any dispute, than war. Than violence. Than aggression on such a scale it costs human lives and leaves children orphaned and homeless. Is violence necessary? NO, and again NO!

We don't need to do this at all, and sometimes, looking at this American Civil War photo, then looking at some photos from the war in Afghanistan, I find we have not come very far at all.

We do not need violence. We don't need to hurt and maim and kill each other. We don't need to do this. We don't need to stockpile nuclear weapons. We don't need to gather arms which could devastate and depopulate of any life a whole continent, or the whole world.

We don't need to glorify violence in the video games and the movie theaters and the gansta rap. We don't need to make heroes out of violent people.

We know we don't need it. We know we don't need violence.

Then why, why, why, do we indulge in it?

I'm afraid the answer is, the real answer is, BECAUSE IT'S FUN !


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well look whose taking the moral high ground. I understand that violence is essentially everywhere, but i understand it to be part of human nature to be violent to have this need for destruction and self destruction. Think about it why do people enjoy sadistic humor, shadenfreude and of cause indulge in destroying their own lives in smoking, gabling and self harm. Have you never enjoyed a dead baby joke, for example "how many babies does it take to paint a wall? Depends how hard you throw them. I'm comfortable with the thought that humans are inherently violent, I just don't release this primorial urge onto other people, but channel that into some violent game and be soothed by it. Your no different from me, judging and analysing human behaviour.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good one, Flinch! Thanks for the comment!

    • flinchwymer profile image


      9 years ago from West Yorkshire U.K.

      Very well written hub Paradise. I abhor all violence. I think often it is the inarticulate and unintelligent people who resort to violence. With regards to your line: "We have BRAINS!" The trouble is, I feel, not all brains are equal. For example: how clever is someone who voluntarily joins an army (in any country) and kills many people they've never even met before being killed themselves? What have they achieved apart from misery and a medal for their relatives? Why bother being born in the first place? This cycle will never end and it's laughable.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, Beth. You're so right!

    • Beth100 profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      Fantastic article! I have always believed that violence is not necessary. There are so many ways to resolve conflict, but these choices are ignored. Fun, fear, financial gain, and power are all contributors to the perpetuation of violence. As they say, violence begets violence.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, Matthew 43. It's a subject that's near to my heart. I am so glad for the comments. I feel like there's people in my corner, after all.

    • profile image

      Matthew 43 

      9 years ago

      Good job pointing out the details and you nailed this hub. Great article keep up the nice work.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you for the comment, Money Glitch. I couldn't agree with you more.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Great hub Paradise7, The problem lies with the fact that the world is becoming unconscious and desensitized to violence, hence resulting in our own self destruction. Without violence there would be no wars.

      Violence is becoming another form of drugs, although what we see is horrific, people tend to watch and talk about it anyway which makes us less sensitive and so the cycle continues. Thanks for attempting to make us momentarily consciously aware...

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, creative one. I always appreciate your comments.

      Thank you, prettydarkhorse. Praise from a former teacher! I'm flattered!

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you for a very good hub on is violence necessary. thanks for sharing it with me. creativeone59

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      9 years ago from US

      i like your take on violence...well written, i used to teach sociology so this is close to my heart....but no to violence of course..

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you dohn, for your insightful comment. This problem does indeed go back in time, and violence, like sex, is commercialized, just because people want the thrill. If people didn't want the thrill, it'd be a much more peaceful world.

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      You said it correctly, Paradise. We don't need to do any of these things, but the problem is that we "want to" do these things, despite how you might feel about them. Big money and entrepreneurs at one time figure out that sex AND violence sells (eg. brothels and the Roman Coliseum) and so realized that they could fill up their coffers by filling up coffins. What's the root of all evil again???

      Thnaks you for sharing your views in this fantastic, well researched and well-thought out plan!

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you very much for your comments, Duchess and Veronica. I agree with you so much, Veronica, and that was the main thrust of this writing. We have choices. We can CHOSE not to hurt each other. And then we're all better off. We can CHOSE non-violent themes, for ourselves and our children. I agree with you so much, and you said it so well--we are what we put into our minds.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      I hear you loud and clear Paradise7. It's very refreshing to hear that there are still those who are sensitive to the violence portrayed; not just in the media; but also in everyday life instead of those "desensitized" by it. Whether some may be "hard-wired" to be more violent than others or not, in the end we can choose what course of action we take. And if we tend to have violent tendecies due to how we may have been raised, or something that is inbred in us, we can choose to control it by not feeding it with other forms of violence. Just like "you are what you eat"; you as a person are what you feed your mind on (through visual or sound stimuli i.e. books you read, movies and television programs you watch the video games you play, or music you listen to). I agree with you, in the end people like violence. Sadly, the more - the better.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      9 years ago

      Paradise, I can see how this one was probably a struggle for you. But you treated the subject very well. Powerful work here and lots of information to digest.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Dear Laura, dear Zsuzy Bee, thank you so much for your informed and interesting comments. I'm sorry there was a problem originally in viewing this hub. I encountered a couple of technical glitches while I was composing it, too. Zsuzsy Bee, thank you for your persistence. I wouldn't have missed your comment, or Laura's for anything.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Wow, that is really a powerful hub. Violence is more than just physical pain. The hurt stays under the skin invisible to the eye. Having been through an abusive marriage I can vouch for it to stay in the back of the mind for ever and a day.

      And I agree with Laura that most of this violence seems to stems from a lack of self-discipline. The strong will try to conquer, the bullies will try to suppress etc.

      great hub kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Sorry Paradise obviously the problem of not opening properly has fixed itself. I've tried three more times since my email to you and voila now it works.

      Gotta go and read now.zs

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent hub Paradise.

      I think one of the main contributing factors for the violence in the world is a lack of self-discipline. It seems as if somewhere along the way parents stopped prioritizing self-discipline and now we have people who act out their urges instead of controlling themselves. There have been many a time when I felt like punching someone on the nose - that does not give me the right to do it.

      Good information and a lot of research went into the making of this hub, Thanks for sharing


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