nbkgreatillus - Essay on the construction of violence

You’ve heard of the film Natural Born Killers. Natural? Are we naturally born to kill? Or are we socially constructed to kill? I think its the latter. And here’s my take on why that is.

Natural Born Killers is about Mickey and Mallory Knox. Mass killers with a lust for life – and a certain means of death for those who dared to cross their path. A fantasy movie played out under the direction of Oliver Stone, and which resulted in many accusing Stone of creating a ultra-violent movie that actually seemed so devoid of any message he had claimed was being made.

But what does violence translate into – in terms of real life? And is violence a necessity even? One would think we had somehow absolved ourselves of the strict ‘dietary’ requirements of society – including war and the rest of it. But it seems not.

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The media made them superstars…..

In fact violence seems to have some superstar status. The more one kills or mains, the more superstar they become. That’s why we have these mass shootings. Even terrorism is the same, its known the more deaths that are occurred the more revered one will be seen in the eyes of their gods.

Is violence something we really want to do without? I have often thought that eventually it would be something we would want to do without – but nowadays I have great doubts. I think its a glorified meme. A hail of bullets means notorious fame. How the human consciousness interprets this is far beyond me. There is a psychology at work that exists far beyond the dreams of the most stoic psychologists and its nothing to do with Milgram or anything of that sort. Of course there is a huge emotional factor at play too but let’s not dwell on that.

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Violence somehow seems very normal in human society…. Source: Twitter

At university I did loads of studies on violence. One of my lecturers was a leading academic on the subject of violence and its causes. One of the courses was entitled Violence and Society. Our lecturers were certain they knew the causes of it and why people just went nuts. One of them wrote many books on the subject – as the picture below shows.

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John Keane – Reflections on Violence. Source: Versio Books

I looked up to these people. But it didn’t endear me when one of the lecturers actually flipped his lid and murdered a student in cold blood. That changed my perception of those suitably qualified to lecture the world on these matters. It made me think – where exactly do these or other people – or in fact everybody – get their bizarre, distorted, sense of reality from?

In my view I think most violence is evidently constructed. And a large part of the construction comes too from the publicity machine, from books, from the media, from films. I mean, it can be good to watch James Bond, to watch violent war films, but also its important to remember that these are fantasies and one simply doesn’t go out and copies the same sort of acts. I mean, one doesn’t see a historical film and then next thing is people are dressed in historic clothes and acting out old fashioned Victorian etiquette.

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The devil in the detail is always the problem. We often find an excuse for violence – in other words an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth – and the never ending cycle very easily continues. Source: Twitter

In my view there’s a publicity machine that seeks to make superstars. Lots of people don’t like the Nazis but there’s enough material about to make a considerable number of people admire, even revere, those nasty violent ideologies and adore that mega star of the pack – the one and only Führer.

Its a bit like Beach Red! Fight an enemy thinking there’s justice to be done, and guess what, one goes around showing the stump of their thumb that has just been blown off by an enemy rifle or standing motionless on some remote beach in the Pacific with their limbs blown off… Beach Red was a powerful film, it was done several years before Straw Dogs, Soldier Blue, that sort of stuff. You know, the nasty stuff where people loose their feet or their heads – or worse…

Sadly its no fantasy of any sort. This sort of thing goes on and on and on and on. Its a never ending cycle.

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One of Beach Red’s taglines: ‘That’s what we’re here for. To kill. The rest is all crap!’

Some of these war movies try to do it the other way round and that is to try and make people understand that war and violence is a futile exercise – which it is.

Philosophers like Yuval Harari have a brilliant analysis on human societies – which is that humans construct these very scenarios. Animals, nature has no need for any of this. Violence is natural and its for the benefit of eating. Its not a lion saying ‘I see a gazelle – I want to ultimately eliminate the bloody lot.’

But a human sees a country, a race, a peoples, a minority and decides the lot should be eliminated, wiped out, removed from the face of the earth. There is no natural realism in terms of desiring that. It is our construct.

I published a post a few days ago which contains the video transcript from one of Yuval Harai’s lectures. You can see it here.

Many have espoused this particular view that human life and human society is entirely a construct. As well as Harari, there’s John Searle, Berger and Luckmann, Immanuel Kant and even Rene Descartes. The famous cogito could be construed instead of ‘I think therefore I am’ – or as I shall put it in my very own words – ‘I construct, therefore I shall become.’

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The French philosopher Rene Descartes. Source: Twitter

One of Descartes’ quotes was ‘Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.’ In other words one has to reconstruct oneself so their reaction does not become a standardised, constructed, response to the initial offense.

In Kant’s philosophy it is said ‘the mind actively shapes and categorizes experience, turns it into a world of objects in space and time, standing in causal relations and obeying other rules.’ (Source: J. Garvey, The Twenty Greatest Philosophy Books.) [Note: The wordpress blog in question has been deleted. However a version of it can be found on Google’s cache. From that I derived a pdf version just in case Google deletes its cache…]

So you see we have rules and those rules include war and death. A murderer dies at the electric chair. A malignant country gets bombed to bits. A loved one kills their partner because they have broken ‘the rules’ and are fraternising with another. These are the rules we have that confirms our fraternising with the death machine.

Its a bit like the chicken and egg conundrum. Who started the idea of violence? War? Then we must ask what’s the point of killing people? Why have armies? Assassination squads? Terrorists? Nukes? What’s the point of bombing other countries? Entering shopping malls enacting a shoot up and taking out as many people as possible?

Well there’s all sorts of reasons – many invariably stupid. The Third Reich thought it was a good idea to remove certain people, and they did that by creating ghettos or institutions and then enabling others to understand that the people within these places were in fact the very cause of all of society’s ills. They also thought it was a good idea to take over other countries. You know, spread the misery about a bit. Some very contrived ideas indeed.

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Triumph of the Will. The overpowering of the human consciousness in order to establish a Thousand Year Reich. Source: Twitter

Ultimately what their actions did was it made everyone defensive and very worried about their own lives and their own countries – clearly the only option left to anyone not imbibed by this contrived ideology was to fight back. Peace was clearly an illusion and total war was the result. If that had not happened there would indeed have been a Thousand Year Reich. Thankfully there wasn’t. This fightback was a natural response to a severely existential threat and that is very understandable.

In spite of this we can see war actually started because of a whim. Not a necessity. But because of someone’s penchant for a certain ‘socialism’ – and espoused by a book they wrote – Mein Kampf – things took a turn for the worse This is the problem with war and violence. Its some parasitic paradigm stuck in the human sphere that rears its ugly head over and over again. One can allude this to Big Brother and Newspeak, as well as the perpetual wars between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia – those very contrivances in George Orwell’s 1984.

What too never goes away is the number of people killed on some pretext of having broken a rule that exists somewhere in depths of the constructed human consciousness and basically what it amounts to is, in the words of Beach Red, that 1960s film – its just one crap job after another. One kills and someone else has to clear up the mess, put things right, repair the damage and restore security and confidence. No-one really ever progresses beyond that severely limited inbuilt loop system. It just goes in circles and the next batch of violence’s always round the corner.

One wonders whether the guys flying Enola Gay actually thought about that as they followed orders in order to drop a mighty bomb on an unfortunate Japanese city. Did they think to themselves, ‘this is mega! We’re gonna be superstars. All over the news, the radio! Yay! Let’s party! Time to pop the champagne!’ In fact the crew of Enola Gay are often portrayed as heroes. That’s just so wrong. The dropping of a bomb on Hiroshima should be seen as a crime not some heroic endeavour.

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The ‘Little Boy‘ atomic bomb waiting to be loaded onto Enola Gay before being flown to Japan. August 1945. Source: Twitter

In fact the idea of war crimes is a rather modern phenomenon. The essence behind this is to judge whether crimes were committed in the name of war. The idea is to ascertain whether procedures and actions conducted in war were legal and in accordance with international protocol. But that’s utterly stupid. Why should anyone legitimate any part of a war? All war should be illegal and all its contrivances should be outlawed.

In fact what we find in terms of war being okayed under international protocol is that its legitimised criminality which means in many ways the international community is saying war is okay so long as certain things are followed.

The very thing that prompted me to write this article was in fact a decree by the UN Secretary General that all war should be stopped while the world sorted out this virus pandemic. Will the world heed this? I think not. It never will – because as we have seen some countries do definitely like their wars and the mad fuckery of weapons that are destined to wipe out humanity at a moment’s notice.

Freud said society has a death wish. He termed it Thantos. Its bad enough that all living things breathe…. but for them to want war and violence is even worse.

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Freud said ‘What we leave with logic, we are not supposed to return to it with passion.’ In other words not read too much into our constructs. Source: Twitter

It seems to me people have a strange interpretation of life. Violence and totally unnecessary deaths must be part of that life. I mean, despite this increased awareness about life, the universe and the rest of it, we’re still going full blast thinking of finding better ways to kill yet more people.

We want the military to be more efficient. Yet not at war itself either but sitting in a special top secret bunker in their own country enacting carpet bombings and targeted kills thousands of miles away. We say it gives people jobs, a meaning, a sustainable life within the safety of their own home ground. Bizarre!

You know, I think anyone with such a state of mind is taking the piss. Its like that crazy sergeant in Apocalypse Now!

We have these military parades and revere the army and the rest of it. But dont forget, anyone, ther army, the police, rebels, terrorists, with their guns, bombs, are part of a dedicated machine whose purpose and design is to perpetuate the ultra violent killing machine.

The simple reason we have this state of affairs is because its an evolved situation. Its constructed. Humans have evolved war, conflict. Why bother reasoning with others? War and destruction shall be the solution because that’s how its always been done!

In terms of constructed violence, the very contrivances for this – guns, bombs, swords, knives, have been around for centuries. In England the first use of the mass use of guns took place during the Wars of the Roses. This is during the 1450s!

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Guns were first used in the time of Edward III, but rarely. These became a greater part of military hardware by the time the Wars of the Roses began. Source: Twitter

When we watch a film, it could be Richard III or a Bond film, or a revenge film such as Kill Bill, we are always being told the protagonist’s ultimate death is the best solution. As we see Richard III (Olivier) writhing in bloodied agony on the battlefield of Bosworth, we know this is ‘the sad solution.’ The inevitability of it. This is how it ends. This is what all humans desire. We cant seem to escape the fact that our lives are all about death. Death as in meat and death as in society. Ironically we stab and cut up dead meat on our dinner plates in a perverse sort of celebration of it all before gorging it down our throats as a means of conquest.

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An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. The Bride (Urma Thurman) in Kill Bill. Source: Twitter (Note: Tweet has been deleted thus an archived image is used here.)

In fact I think this sense of killing (on whatever level it happens to be whether its terrorism, shopping mall shootings, war, and the rest of it) very seriously denotes humans have a lot of questions they have not even yet begun to answer. For me violence demonstrates the sheer backwardness of the the very societies we live in.

Here’s what I would describe as the real lord’s prayer: Glory be to the bomber, the gun, and the holy knife. Hallowed be thine rifle barrel. Give us our daily bullets. Do not deliver us from temptation. For terminating others is our mantra. The killing machine must live. Its the power and the glory. For ever and ever! Amen!

We can design better transport, better lives, better cities can’t we? So why not design all types and forms of killing machines right out of our lives? It would be that huge paradigm shift we have all been waiting for. But it will never happen.

Someone said to me on social media a few weeks ago when I expressed such a hope. ‘That’s impossible you cant account for people who grab a knife from the kitchen drawer and kill someone.’

I would agree there is a problem with that very thinking – but at the same time, we do portray knives as a far too easy solution to many things. Look at the huge increase in knife killings in the UK these last few years. Knives are useful on one level, but also ‘useful’ on another. Remember what I said about stabbing meat on a dinner plate?

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The world of knives – a cause for countless deaths – both humans and animals. Source: Twitter

Its up to us to decide whether one or both of those levels of reasoning should be accepted or not. Its just the same as drinking and driving. One drives sensibly (no drink of course) and in the event doesn’t kill anyone. Same thing here, one uses a knife sensibly and what it means is one does not see a need to employ it as a stabbing weapon against another human.

The huge problem however is knives, guns, bombs, armies, nukes, and the rest of it is such an accepted norm that we dont even think about it but in fact leave it to the nutcase experts and politicians and dictators who constantly push the doomsday clock ever closer to midnight.

That’s why we have war. Mass murders. The red nuclear button. Doomsday. The person who suddenly snaps and reaches for the kitchen drawer. We’re still extremely backwards and that is a logistically enormous problem. The human race is most totally unsuited for the 21st century. It has absolutely no reason or qualification to be there.

What it means is we need to design the gun the bomb, the knife and other implements out of our lives. Some say let’s use plastic knives instead. But what about those who used planes instead of knives, bombs, to achieve a particular objective…..? Its not good enough! We need to think deeper and even more cleverly on this very problem. And that is going to take an enormous amount of cognizance – the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Did you know this is the 25th anniversary of Oliver Stone’s film’s first showing in the UK? Natural Born Killers was first released in the states during the summer of 1994. However concerns regarding the portrayal of the violence depicted in the film and whether it should even be granted a certificate delayed its UK showing by six months. It was shown in the UK for the first time in March 1995.