Almost every night on the TV news is a story involving violence somewhere in the world, not just of the warring kind within nations or between nations, but on the streets of suburbia perpetrated by both teenagers and adults, male and female. And that’s only the physical violence that permeates the fabric of societies all too often. There is some media pertinence to another perhaps even more pernicious violence, and that’s the psychological as encapsulated in bullying in schools and in the workplace, or emotional violence that is the focus in our own homes and families. Maybe it was just as prevalent decades, even centuries ago, and we just cloaked it in secrecy out of fear and shame but today, violence spreads its ugly reality across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the Internet, not to mention its popular portrayal in a myriad of computer games. Indeed, violence against the self or others, is a historical albeit traditional feature of all of the arts; opera, theatre, literature (including comic books), movies, cartoons, TV and even in sport, despite all the rules castigating its occurrence.
So is humankind naturally, intrinsically violent? According to our ancestry, violence has always been a part of the human landscape since the cave dwellers hundreds of thousands of years ago. What is there now to discuss? Maybe we should just accept the cruel torture of violence, both the physical and psychological, as a phenomenon of the human condition and look no further than our primate relations to understand it. Certainly, science has revealed we have aggression inducing hormones; alcohol and drugs can fuel this aggression and maybe that’s the be all and end of it all. I don’t for one moment pretend to comprehend why we can be so violent though I do have a theory to posit. Certainly, modern social complexities such as unemployment and poverty can wreak havoc with our calm and cool demeanour; we can feel angry, cheated and deprived as I know only too well when I suffered from these indignities through seemingly no fault of my own. And was I violent? Yes, I banged cupboard doors to vent my frustration, I raised my voice at people who didn’t even try to understand but I never abused them or put them down. Indeed, I have never hit anyone in my whole life. However, I have abused umpires at a football match (though always knowing or at least believing they can’t possibly hear me amidst the crowd) and banged my fists on the seat in front of me, but that’s always been as far as it goes. Yes, I have felt like striking out at some people; but I have always had enough control to walk away from my own anger (none of us are perfect). Once, when my violent partner near killed me (or so I felt at the time), I managed to get away from him and took off into the kitchen where I picked up a knife. Fortunately for me, in his inebriation, he passed out in the bedroom where he had been physically attacking me (I can’t recall what he said even though I hadn’t even had a drink).I put the knife down after a few seconds and walked out into the street, nursing a very bloodied and black eye. But what would I have done if he had come after me? It is now some 40 years since that horrifying night and I still can’t answer that question. Suffice to say I ended our relationship though I often reflected for many years after whether I could have stabbed him in self-defence. I don’t know, but what I did know was that I never wanted to be in that situation again. I never have been.
As I’ve detailed in previous blogs, I grew up in an emotionally violent family where put downs, abuse and disinterest were a common feature of our family life (I was never physically assaulted, however). Since these times, I’ve also read many books about violence and human aggression; I’ve also interviewed many violent men AND women and girls, in some effort to try and grapple with the aberrant behaviour. I have no idea if I’m close to the truth or way off the mark, but according to my theory, hatred is the bottom line of violence of all kinds. And not just hatred of others, but the self, albeit buried in your own unconscious psyche that can then be projected outside onto those others. When you delve into the depths of the unconscious, your own or those of others by analysing behaviour, both verbal and physical, you can start to appreciate what motivates some people and ignites their words and actions. Yes, it can be jealousy, power, disrespect and control that flames the hatred and manifests it as violence. The old Judaic- Christian dictum that you do unto others as you’d have them do unto you means nothing in the scheme of things when people don’t even bother to take a good hard look at themselves, and instead, just denigrate, deride or denounce others around them for their own inadequacies and frailties. It is far easier and far less painful to hurt others and make them suffer than look inside yourself and realise why you behave so cruelly and sadistically to these people. You can offload all your personal and emotional baggage onto them; casting them as the villain instead of realising your own shortcomings and even worse, your own self-hatred. And in its most destructive manifestation, suicide or the murder of others physically, can be the outcome.
Too often in our social milieu, we can be made to feel like failures, stripped of self-belief and confidence to be labelled as social misfits because we don’t adhere to the so-called norms and conventions of our society. Again, this can be the unconscious legacy of our non-conformity where we internalise the superficial layers of so-called success and become increasingly unhappy with ourselves. Maintaining the status quo is what it’s all about. But when you start to question the very basis of that status quo and understand the demeaning and humiliating aspects of its essence then you can start to move away from succumbing to that negative albeit destructive social milieu. And become happier with who you are not what you’re supposed to be. And that means you can stop hating; stop heaping onto others the aggro inside you; the frustrations, the inferiority complex that masquerades as superiority and the dissatisfaction with your life that crashes down onto those often closest to you. You can be at peace with yourself where you live for your own principles and integrity, not what others tell you to believe or believe in. You are your own person; not a carbon copy imprint of others.
Self-hatred underpins all that bottled up hatred of others that explodes when the trigger is pushed, someone does something that displeases you; makes you jealous, causes you unrest, anxiety and frustration so you can’t always have what you want or the way you want it. Hate is the answer for some of the people who push that trigger; but at its centre it’s your own self-hatred that is really exploding. When you’re really happy with yourself deep down, no one can strip that away from you, despite the fact you might fail in some endeavours. You live to fight another day and take another chance at the victory that really counts; and that’s for yourself!