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Another essential question

January 8, 2012

The in September published blog post “Essential Questions” covered a wide area of issues related to human existence. It was the beta version of an essay that I’m still working on and I hope to publish an improved, enhanced and updated text soon. This post here is an appendix to it and will be incorporated into the final version.

The theme of this post is violence, its causes, and possibilities to prevent, contain, diminish, eliminate it. The impetus came from another blogger, who asked in a comment: “How can we stop violence?” An essential question indeed and a question which deserves the most thorough research and consideration.

My thorough research yielded a fairy long text and as the words accumulated I wondered: How can anybody in this time of rapidly decreasing attentions spans be bothered to read this? How can a person who is used to the 140 character limit of Twitter cope with a text that has a few thousand words?

To give everybody a chance to get enlightened, here is a short summary of the findings for the hurried reader:

Violence is caused by aggressive humans. Humans are aggressive for two main reasons:

1. Permanent sensory overload and traumas cause psychical defects, resulting in aggressive and psychopathic behavior. Traumatic experiences are childhood abuse, poverty, crime, war. Sensory overload is caused by too much noise, too much unusual colors, shapes, flashing lights, too much TV, computer, advertising, too many people constantly violating each others private space.

2. Many human males are aggressive by nature (too much testosterone).

Possible remedies are:

1. Less noise, less stuff, less of nearly everything. More leisure, more sleep, more nature. No TV, no gaming, less computer. Stopping abuse, cruelty, war, banning weapons (wondering how? Details in the post Essential Questions.)

2. Reeducating aggressive males in the family, in holiday camps, in Buddhist monasteries, by media and educational institutions. Testosterone lowering medication, castration. No weapons for males. Ending the patriarchy.

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Countless studies and books about violence are available and whole research institutes and think tanks are dedicated to this topic. Gene Sharp’s “Albert Einstein Institute,” SIPRI, PRIO, IPI, Life & Peace Institute come to mind, a complete list would fill a few pages. Nearly every nation (even the USA) has its peace institute, most universities have a peace institute, there are also countless non-profit organizations.

It is sobering and unsettling that despite all the academic effort violence is still not abating and this failure proves again that theory only goes so far….

Anyone who tackles the issue by working through the abundance of books, research papers, and websites with often specialized and also conflicting material will find out that this method only leads to confusion and exhaustion. It seems to be an easier and more reasonable strategy to define the issue with commonly used terms and think through all implications just by applying common sense and logic.

Depending on our life’s experience we all have our personal definitions of words that may be congruent with or (more likely) to some extent deviate from the scholarly definitions. To make sure that the here used understanding of the word “violence” was not too far off the mainstream I looked into various dictionaries for officially sanctioned and universally accepted definitions. This is what came out:

1. physical force, used to cause injuries and destruction
2. extreme, intense, swift force
3. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment
4. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power
5. rough or immoderate vehemence
6. an act of aggression
7. a turbulent state resulting in injuries and destruction

Synonyms are: assault, attack, bestiality, bloodshed, blowup, brutality, brute force, cruelty, destructiveness, duress, ferocity, foul play, furiousness, fury, harshness, impetuosity, inclemency, might, murderousness, onslaught, power, raging, rampage, roughness, ruckus, savagery, terrorism, tumult, turbulence uproar, vehemence, wildness.

Antonyms are: gentleness, mildness, nonviolence, pacifism, passivity, peacefulness, quietness, tenderness.

This is a compendium of definitions/synonyms/antonyms from several dictionaries and it is not too different from what I thought to be constituting violence. I nevertheless have to make several clarifications about my personal understanding of the word:

I associate violence most closely with aggression, for me these two words practically mean the same. Being aggressive is the mindset (or mental state) of an individual (or a group) intending to commit violence. Aggression and violence are the resulting behaviors/acts.

Definitions of “aggression”:
1. hostile or violent behavior or attitude
2. readiness to attack or confront
3. attacking without provocation
4. a disposition to behave aggressively
5. deliberately unfriendly behavior
6. to be intense or harsh

Synonyms for aggression are: assault, attack. invasion, offense, onslaught, violation.

The antonyms are nearly the same as for the term “violence”.

Other words beside aggression that I closely associate with violence are weapons, war, neglect, cruelty, brutality, oppression. I will come back to this point later.

Wikipedia describes violence and aggression this way:

Violence is defined by the WHO as the intentional use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces.

Globally, violence takes the lives of more than 1.5 million people annually: 50 percent due to suicide, some 35 percent due to homicide, 12 percent as a direct result of war or some other form of conflict. For each single death due to violence, there are dozens of hospitalizations, hundreds of emergency department visits, and thousands of doctors’ appointments. Furthermore, violence often has life-long consequences for victims’ physical and mental health and social functioning and can slow economic and social development.

Aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause humiliation, pain, or harm. It has also been defined, as acts intended to increase relative social dominance. Predatory behavior between members of different species is not normally considered “aggression.” Aggression can be physical, mental, or verbal.

I can live with the content of the first paragraph, but the numbers in the second paragraph don’t seem to be well founded. Wikipedia states in its own entry about “suicide,” that one million people die by suicide every year. That would be not 50 percent, but 66 percent of 1.5 million (though I don’t believe this number either, it seems too low).

12 percent war casualties of 1.5 million would be 180,000. I couldn’t find documents to substantiate this number, but at least the magnitude could be right, because for instance the NATO assault against Libya alone caused 40,000 death. The Mexican drug war caused 12,000 death in 2011, is that number included? Are the children, who die from starvation in DRC and Somalia and in other conflict regions counted?

No intelligent person will conclude from these numbers, that suicides and crime are a bigger problem than war, but the paragraph nevertheless doesn’t pay due reference to the menace of war. It should have been stated, that many suicides and homicides are a result of war. US veterans kill themselves at a rate of 18 per day, the suicide rate of Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Somalis, who cannot bear the strain anymore is unknown. To which category do suicide bombers belong?

I don’t like Wikipedias definition of “aggression,” it suggests (though this is not explicitly stated), that there is no aggression between different species, because killing other species constitutes “predatory behavior”. From my point of view humans don’t prey on other animals, they murder them, destroy them, cause unimaginable pain to them mostly without need and without justification.

About one trillion animals per year are suffering terribly throughout their short life to be finally slaughtered for our food supply. I have not much confidence in the soundness of this number either, but for a start, it at least highlights the magnitude of our aggression and violence against other species. What we do here is not preying, this is torture, this is inflicting pain just for profit or for fun!

Wikipedia has also a sentence about the root causes of violence:

Evidence shows strong relationships between levels of violence and potentially modifiable factors such as concentrated poverty, income and gender inequality, the harmful use of alcohol, and the absence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and parents.

And a paragraph about violence prevention:

Examples of scientifically credible strategies to prevent violence include nurse home-visiting and parenting education to prevent child maltreatment; life skills training for children ages 6-18 years; school-based programs to address gender norms and attitudes; reducing alcohol availability and misuse through enactment and enforcement of liquor licensing laws, taxation and pricing; reducing access to guns and knives; and promoting gender equality by, for instance, supporting the economic empowerment of women.

I agree with every word but despite that I’m not impressed, because both the causes as well as the remedies are presented as a collection of buzzwords and commonplaces (the garden variety). This is of course what you get with a community effort that has finally to settle on the lowest common denominator.

Transcending the definitions

If violence is the intent to cause injuries and destruction by physical force, what is the intent to cause injuries and destruction by misleading information, by poisoning, by withholding help?

A researcher who tortures to death hundreds of mice, rats, rabbits, cats, dogs in his laboratory is not violent. Why is cruelty against animals not considered as violence?

A drunken driver slams his car into a group of pedestrians, killing half a dozen. This is not violence, only recklessness. The victims are crushed to death, bodies lie on the pavement, puddles of blood everywhere. They didn’t die a violent death?

A baby will die when it is not fed, this is called neglect, not violence. Many babies die in a war zone because the food supply is cut off. Is this still only neglect? The political and military leaders give orders to attack, they don’t use physical force, so they are not violent. The soldiers act in good faith, they follow orders, they defend their country, they are patriots, heroes. They are not violent. Even if they kill hundreds, they are still not considered to be violent.

A nuclear reactor melts down. Thousands will die of radiation caused illnesses. They don’t die violently. The nuclear industry bosses and the politicians have not committed a violent crime. The energy consumers, demanding cheap electricity for their appliances are also not guilty of anything.

Chemical pollution and radioactive contamination, global warming, mass extinction, deforestation, desertification, depleted resources will harm and ultimately kill millions of people. The water wars and the oil wars and all the other looming wars over rapidly dwindling resources will be violent and deadly. The ruling classes and their minions, bootlickers, fawners, and the many idiots and cretins who believed their lies, will not be indicted for violent behavior.

What is evil? Is evil the intent to cause pain and suffering, death and destruction? If so than violence and neglect are evil. But what is greed and hubris, who only to some degree include malicious intent? And what is naivety, ignorance, stupidity, idiocy? These traits and attitudes all can cause suffering, death and destruction.

If the reader wonders, why I wrote the preceding paragraphs and what could be my point, I wondered myself but fortunately in the end I found out what I wanted to make clear: In this world everything is connected and related with everything. Wether we apply a traditional cause and effect model or the more recent scientific perspective of dynamic complexity, violence is not an isolated issue and it can only be understood as a part of the whole situation.

And what is the situation? In a few short word: Humans are wasting their lives with useless and harmful pastimes, they are living beyond their means, they are destroying nature, they are recklessly destroying the basis of their existence. Humans are arrogant, egoistic, presumptuous, irresponsible. They falsely believe that they know everything and can control everything. They are proven wrong day by day as the catastrophe unfolds.

The root causes of violence

Violence is caused by aggressive humans. Humans are aggressive for two main reasons:

1. Permanent sensory overload and traumas cause psychical defects, resulting in aggressive and psychopathic behavior. Traumatic experiences are childhood abuse, poverty, crime, war. Sensory overload is caused by too much noise, too much unusual colors, shapes, flashing lights, too much TV, computer, advertising, too many people constantly violating each ones private space.

When we receive new information through our senses, through sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch balance, thermoception, proprioception, nociception, the information is decoded and interpreted in the specialized areas (visual, auditory, olfactory, somatosensory cortex etc.) and sent via amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex to the singular cortex, the striatum and the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus sends a message to the pituitary gland, located just below it, which in turn sends the message to the adrenal glands, which sit on top of each of the kidneys. The interaction of hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland is called HPA axis and it regulates the flow of epinephrine and cortisol in our body. Epinephrine and cortisol are stress hormones.

The hypothalamus also sends signals to the medulla, where the cells that drive the autonomic nervous system are located. These include the parasympathetic vagal nuclei and a group of cells that descend to the sympathetic system in the spinal cord.

The sympathetic nervous system is activated via the hypothalamus by any stimulus over an individual’s threshold that is perceived to be a threat, requiring instantaneous action (fight and flight reaction). In response to the stimulus an immediate anticipatory state is generated by the release of epinephrine. This causes the heart to beat more quickly and strongly, increases blood supply to the muscles, raises blood pressure, dilates the bronchii and accelerates the breathing rate, raises the blood sugar level for increased energy, speeds up mental activity, increases tensions in the muscles, dilates pupils and increases sweating.

This state of high alert should not be maintained for long and after fending off the threat or realizing that there is no threat the parasympathetic nervous system has to slow down breathing, lower epinephrine and blood sugar levels, relax muscles and restore normal body functions. The parasympathetic phase is vital to the maintenance of long-term health. In optimal psychological and environmental conditions the body always swings into parasympathetic mode to repair and maintain health.

When sensory information is decoded and interpreted in the concerned cortex areas, the brain filters out all data that is similar to familiar patterns and processes only data sequences that are new or uncommon. When we go from one room to the other in our house, we will not take notice of all the details of the furniture, of the windows, the walls and the floor, we will only take notice when something is not in its right place. Our brain doesn’t much visual processing, when we are in a familiar location, it anticipates most of the surrounding, it builds an internal model and only takes random samples of the incoming data stream to check, if the data indeed matches the model.

That means, in our cozy home or in any other place that we know well and where we feel safe our brain can rest and the HPA axis and the sympathetic nervous system will not be bothered.

For our early ancestors who lived in the woods and in the savannas most of the incoming sensory information was familiar, which meant that their brain had only to deal with about 20 percent of the data or even less. In our modern times the percentage of new sensory patterns is much higher, the brain has to work harder to evaluate and classify the information, the hypothalamus will more often send signals to the endocrine system and the sympathetic nervous system.

A constant sympathetic activation caused by a steady influx of unfamiliar sensory patterns without adequate resting periods to let the parasympathetic nervous system cleanup the body will over time undermine health. It also can lead to an internal conflict (autonomic split) where the two parts of the autonomic nervous system get out of sync (the parasympathetic can mask the sympathetic, or vice versa). The two systems can be in active conflict, lacking reciprocal tension and therefore becoming chaotic.

The constant state of high alert will make us edgy, jittery, and stir up feelings of anger, fear, excitement, desire, contempt, hatred. The elevated hormone and blood sugar levels will make us restless and aggressive and will have to be used up by excessive movement.

Both sensory overload and traumas can cause permanent changes in the brain.

The prefrontal lobe (responsible for language) can be adversely affected, the amygdala (responsible for emotional regulation) can become hyperactive (in some PTSD survivors it is actually enlarged). The hippocampus can shrink in volume and the medial prefrontal cortex can lose some of its functions to regulate emotions and fear responses.

Whatever the psychological symptoms may be, they will more often than not result in violence.

Information overload

This is a subcategory of sensory overload and it means the almost infinite abundance of information, delivered automatically to our electronic devices or accessible with a few mouse clicks

Information overload, of course, can be dated back to Gutenberg’s invention of printing from movable type (around 1440), which led to a proliferation of printed matter that quickly exceeded what a single human mind could absorb in a lifetime. Later technologies — from carbon paper to the photocopy machine — made replicating existing information even easier. And when information became digitized, documents could be copied in nearly limitless numbers at virtually no cost.

Current research suggests that the surging volume of available information (and its interruption of people’s work) can adversely affect not only personal well-being but also decision making, innovation, and productivity. One study showed, that people needed an average of 24 minutes to return to a work task after an e-mail interruption.

A recent report, commissioned by Hitachi, found that 40 percent of companies in Australia and New Zealand were suffering from information overload, up from 34 percent two years ago.

Software solutions, that automatically sort and prioritize incoming data, can regulate or divert the deluge. My6Sense and Smart Magazine apps for smartphones for instance track every move and create a personal profile to sort the incoming RSS and social media feeds. But software makes the user dependent on the program algorithm and jeopardizes privacy, people also don’t like to delegate their personal judgement to a program (and to the software company).

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2. Many human males are aggressive by nature (too much testosterone). Science has several evolutionary explanations for gender differences in aggressiveness, one is that males can increase their reproductive success by polygamy, which will naturally lead to competition and conflicts with other males and subsequently to fights over females.

Scientific research has found, that men’s fluctuating short-term testosterone levels respond to competitive situations; the levels rise in preparation for the competition, they go up in winners and down in losers. A study in 1986 confined five men (all physicians) on a sailboat for 14 days with regular blood samples taken. They had similar testosterone levels before and after the trip, but towards the end of the trip the higher-ranking men in the social hierarchy that emerged during the trip had significantly more testosterone than the others.

Since winning social conflicts increases testosterone levels, winners are presumably more sexually motivated than losers. High-status males who win conflicts will do most of the breeding. This may be the evolutionary reason for testosterone to rise in winners — a higher status in the social hierarchy implies more sexual opportunities. Henry Kissinger made it very clear with his often quoted statement: “Power is the great aphrodisiac.”

Genetic studies found, that an estimated 16 million men today, plus an uncounted number of women, are the direct descendants of Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongolian warlord who carved out a vast empire.

Viking genetic signature from the frontiers of their empire, such as the Scottish Western Isles, the Isle of Skye, and Iceland, suggest that the male invaders took local wives.

A study by a Californian team showed that the evolutionary process of natural selection not only applies to individuals but to whole populations. The most aggressive and audacious tribes were more likely of trying to conquer neighboring territory. When they succeeded, the males took additional females to have more children and the enlarged territory and added material resources allowed the females to be more successful in bringing up the next generation of warriors.

Is it all about genes?

It is not all about genes, because the human brain has an astonishing plasticity and genetic prepositions can be overridden by education and experience. A tribal tradition, a culture of warfare will proliferate itself from generation to generation. Success in warfare is also not only depending on aggression, bravery, ruthlessness. Strategic thinking, analyzing, planning, advanced weapons will be crucial for victory.

The tribes who first used spears and could forge swords had an advantage. The Spanish conquistadors massacred the Incas, Aztecs, Mayas with cavalry, weapons made of iron and steel, and (most decisively) firearms. The conquistadors also used intelligent and ruthless tactics and commonly allied with natives to bolster numerically inferior ranks. The army with which Cortes besieged Tenochtitlan had 200,000 soldiers, but only one percent of them were Spaniards.

While the use of horses was a crucial advantage for Genghis Khan’s Mongol fighters and the Spanish conquistadors, in World War 1 the use of trench warfare, barbed wire and machine guns rendered traditional cavalry obsolete. On a side note: The British alone lost 490,000 horses, the overall casualty figures are not known — nobody cared about counting dead horses, when human casualties were between 14 and 16 million.

Speaking of firearms: In 2006 a study at Knox College in Illinois found, that men, who were handling a pistol, had testosterone spikes 100 times higher than a control group of men who were handling a children’s toy. The results suggest that guns may indeed increase aggressiveness partially via changes in the testosterone levels.

Is it all about sex?

Testosterone again — so is it all about sex? One will hardly be able to overestimate the importance of sex as the driving force of human history, of culture, of science, of everything that defines human nature.

From a biological point, sexual reproduction is the most efficient way for species to survive viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic epidemics. Organisms that reproduce sexually yield a smaller number of offspring, but the large amount of variations in their genes makes them less susceptible to diseases. There are organisms who reproduce sexually as well as asexually (Aphids, slime molds, sea anemones, many plants), but humans are not among them. Without sex we would not exist anymore.

Human males, from our earliest ancestors till todays most well educated and cultivated guys (once called “gentlemen” before this word went out of style) have first and foremost one urge: To push their genitalia into the body cavity of a fellow (preferably female) human being. Our social norms only thinly vail this intent which is common to nearly all men.

In a crowded place with many competing males the most cunning, aggressive, and ruthless ones will succeed and proliferate their genes. The offspring will have the genes of the mother too, boys will nevertheless get their trait from the fathers. Yet, as mentioned before, it is not all about genes and the astonishing plasticity of human brains makes it possible to raise a child in the spirit of love, peace, understanding, even if the father was the most heinous and monstrous thug.

Unfortunately, we are not there yet, but the mothers of the world could make a big difference. I addressed this very issue already in an earlier text and one reader criticized, that this notion is placing too much of the burden and responsibility on the mothers. This is a valid objection, education should be a family effort (though many fathers will have enough to do with reeducating themselves).

It takes a village to raise a child. Thats right, education is also a community effort. We are all teachers and every boy and girl in our neighborhood deserves our attention and support.

As said before, we are not there yet, and the realities of war render such recommendations null and void. Despite best intentions, a mother in Gaza, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, will not be able to raise her child in the spirit of love, peace, and understanding.

What is cruelty?

How does cruelty and brutality relate to violence and aggression? Why do people consider it as necessary to inflict indescribable pain on a fellow human being or a fellow animal that is no threat?

Cruelty has two causes, the first is malicious intent, the second is stupidity.

Indented, deliberately inflicted cruelty is clearly the result of a psychopathic mind. Deranged, mentally sic people do all kind of strange things. They harm other people as well as themselves. They mutilate themselves, set themselves on fire, throw themselves in front of a train. Why shouldn’t they do this to other people?

The fighters who have captured their enemies after a long and bloody battle are all traumatized. Even the most robust and insensitive character would not be able to survive a battlefield scene without severe mental scars. The fighters are shell shocked, or to use the most recent euphemism, they suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The fighter only survived because their sympathetic nervous system and endocrine system mobilized everything and flooded the body with blood sugar, epinephrine, cortisol, testosterone. Now the battle is over and there is suddenly silence. Normally the parasympathetic nervous system would start and clean up the hormonal mess. But it doesn’t, because the prefrontal cortex, the hypothalamus, the amygdalas, and various other parts of the brain are severely impaired.

These fighters will be aggressive and they will project their aggression onto their captured enemies. They will humiliate them, beat them, maybe even torture them to death.

There is a special variant of cruelty, the one which is used to frighten the enemy, subdue opponents and suppress dissent. Throughout history it has been proven to be a successful strategy, used by ruling elites, insurgents, criminal organizations. It is a strategy which is still widely used by many players — I nevertheless would include this type of cruelty in the category of psychopathic behavior.

The second cause of cruelty is stupidity. Many acts of cruelly are inflicted by humans who are too stupid to imagine the consequences of their actions, who are too daft to understand the signs of pain and suffering, who cannot put themselves into someone else’s shoes.

All this are definitions based on ethical axioms that for practical reasons cannot be discussed here (I discussed them in preceding posts). All the definitions are debatable.

Is the scientist who tortures and kills mice, rats, rabbits, cats, dogs in his lab experiments malicious or stupid? Are the owners, managers, butchers, workers of meat farms, where thousands of poor animals live and die in terrible and painful conditions, malicious or stupid? Are the consumers who eat the meat and make this cruelty possible with their purchase malicious or stupid?

How to diminish violence

1. We need to avoid any influences that overwhelm our senses and our brain and nervous system.

We need to cherish silence. We have to avoid noisy and crowded environments like: Supermarkets, shopping malls, highly frequented streets, commuter traffic, airports, dance clubs, rock concerts, sport stadiums, mass gatherings of any kind and any size beyond 248 people.

We have to stop looking TV. Most TV productions, may it be news hours, talks shows, music videos on MTV and VIVA, sitcoms, reality TV shows, use any possible trick to catch our attention. Odd camera angles, fast cuts, electronic effects, banners, scrolling text, picture in picture, and various other techniques will raise our hormone levels and make us nervous.

Media productions and advertisements became more and more shrill in the last years to stand out and beat the competition. As the general level of audio-visual pollution rose, Media businesses had to raise the level too. The present level is too high and unsafe for human consumption.

Emergency vehicle sirens also got louder over the years, 120 db seems barely enough nowadays, especially in cities. Avoid cities, move to the country site.

We have to switch off the cell phone and tell callers in an automated message that we never check the inbox and we also never lookup the list of missed calls to see from which number we were called and that we love them but they nevertheless shall leave us alone for the time being and maybe try it again in half a year.

Contacts are important, communication is important, no doubt about it. Yet, the really interesting persons will send us an email (if they know the email address) or write a comment on our blog — they will find a way to contact us. Maybe they even visit us one day to sit down for a cup of tee or to join us on a quiet walk in the forest, enjoying the silence, which will only sporadicly be interrupted by words of wisdom.

We need to reduce our belongings and the paraphernalia of daily life to the bare necessities. We need to drop out of the rat race. Computers are a useful tool but we have to use them in moderation. We will have the best ideas when we are away from the computer, for instance while making a walk in the forest.

We need more leisure, more rest, more sleep.

We need more nature.

We have to diminish or stop the abuse of our fellow animals in industrial meat factories by reducing or ending our meat consumption.

We have to reduce or stop the exploitation of resources and the wars that are fought over resources (oil, minerals, water, land) by reducing or ending the acquisition of new goods. We have to stop participating in consumerism.

We need to become an example for our fellow humans to do the same. We have to become teachers, prophets, saints.

We have to campaign undaunted and undeterred for peace and for a ban of all military weapons.

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2. Children have to be educated following new gender roles that put women in charge and men in a supporting role. Boys should not be educated to become brave and bold fighters, but to be thoughtful and resourceful custodians and stewards of nature and of their communities.

Adult males will have to be reeducated in the family, in support groups, in rehabilitation facilities, in holiday camps, in Buddhist monasteries, by media and educational institutions.

Testosterone lowering medication and castration could be applied in severe cases. Chemical castration for sex offenders is already used in Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Iceland and some states of the USA. Castration for child molesters, rapists, and violent criminals should become obligatory (and replace capital punishment in countries where it is still practiced).

It has been proven a useful practice to castrate tomcats. The fixed felines are less aggressive, less likely to be injured in fights with other tomcats, friendlier, and they don’t contribute to cat overpopulation. This is unfortunately not applicable to humans, human males will resist their castration, and they will eventually resist with weapons.

Though it is utopian at this point in time, the vision of a society that is not patriarchal and where males are not allowed to bear weapons has to be promoted and made part of the public discourse.

Field research

In a longterm behavioral study, biologists Robert Sapolsky and Lisa Share followed a herd of baboons in Kenya for over 20 years, starting in 1978. The baboons got much of their food from a garbage dump at a tourist lodge, but the aggressive, high status males in the herd refused to allow lower status males, or any females, to eat from the garbage. Between 1983 and 1986, infected meat from the dump led to the deaths of 46 percent of adult males, all of the high status males died.

After the top ranking males died, aggression by the new top baboons dropped dramatically, with most aggression occurring between baboons of similar rank, little directed toward lower-status males, and none directed at females. Herd members also spent more time grooming, sat closer together than in the past, and hormone samples indicated that the lowest status males experienced less stress than in other baboon troops. These effects persisted at least through the late 90’s, well after all the original more mellow males had died. Not only that, when adolescent males who grew up in other communities joined the herd, they too engaged in less aggressive behavior than in other baboon herds.

Project MIAM

Two years ago I had one of my weird dreams. Cindy was still alive at this time and I dreamt, that my two young cat girls Cindy and Wendy were two young women sitting in the kitchen and discussing a particular thorny and delicate issue:

Cindy: You know, we have to find a name for our secret society and our main project.

Wendy: You mean SSS, the society of the “Sacred Silence Sisterhood”?

Cindy: No, this society already exists and it is so secretive, that we shouldn’t even mention it.

Wendy: So you mean WWW, the “Wise Women of the World”?

Cindy: No, I also didn’t mean this group, we are not wise enough yet to join them. Maybe they only accept women who have reached menopause?

Wendy: I understand, you mean the sisterhood agains aggressive males!

Cindy: Exactly. This will be our own project and if we want to attract other girls we have to give it a meaningful and exciting title.

Wendy: I see, what about MEOW (Movement to End the Oppression of Women)?

Cindy: that is a good title, but MEOW exists already. Can you remember, when we met our friends in the forest, you heard nothing than MEOW, MEOW all the time.

Wendy: So we join the MEOW movement.

Cindy: No, I want my own movement and my own project! And I want it with a special focus on the fight against aggressive males.

Wendy: You are so difficult, but I understand you, what about MFAM (Measures to Fix Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: MFAM doesn’t sound good, I cant even speak it correctly.

Wendy: Or MCAM (Measures to Castrate Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: The same. M at the beginning and at the net is right but we need two vowels in the middle.

Wendy: What about MIAM (Movement to Investigate Aggressive Males)?

Wendy was quite excited about this title, she would very much have liked to investigate aggressive males and her phantasies were flowering.

Cindy: No. We don’t investigate anymore. Aggressive males were investigated already exhaustively by too many of our fellow females.

Wendy: We could use MAAM (Movement to Alter Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: Do you really think, they can be altered? Until now any attempts in this regard have failed.

Wendy: You really are taunting me, but for heaven sake, what about MIAM (Movement to Influence Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: No!

Wendy: Or MEAM (Movement to Educate Aggressive Males)? Or MAAM (Movement to Assimilate Aggressive Males)? Or MIAM (Movement to Integrate Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: —

Wendy: Do you like MEAM (Measures to Eliminate Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: Wonderful, I love it but for official use we should look for a less offensive title. BTW, how could we eliminate aggressive males?

Wendy: Energy drinks, Red Cattle and similar brands. You know, they have lot of taurine (good for cats too).

Cindy: ?

Wendy: You see, someone has to lace the drinks in the bottling plant with a bacteria or virus, one with a long latency like HIV, with the difference, that it is not transferable and not spreading to other persons.

Cindy: What has that to do with our project?

Wendy: Well, do you know who buys all these energy drinks?

Cindy: Lets go on finding a proper title, we can discuss the details later.

Wendy: Okay, what about MEAM (Measures to Exterminate Aggressive Males)? Or MEAM variant two (Measures to Eradicate Aggressive Males)? Or MOAM (Measures to Obliterate Aggressive Males)? Or MAAM (Measures to Annihilate Aggressive Males)?

Cindy: I like that all, I think we are very near a solution, Wendy, you are a genius!

At this moment Princess Min Ki joined the discussion. She had entered the kitchen quietly some minutes before and had listened attentive to the conversation.

Princess Min Ki: We will call the project MIAM (Movement to Incapacitate Aggressive Males). MIAM doesn’t sound too bellicose and nevertheless leaves all options on the table.

And with that statement the discussion ended. Princess Min Ki was the step mother of Cindy and Wendy and the girls adored her. Min Ki’s word was the law.

2 comments

  1. If only we could all listen to cats! Especially cat girls like Cindy and Wendy….

    Seriously, Mato, very few men on this planet would write what you have written here. You are very courageous to go public with these convictions, which so go against the mainstream tide of public opinion, which admires masculine aggressivity. I totally agree with you that male-perpetrated violence is one of the biggest, most intractable issues on our planet; violence against women, violence against nature….

    I’ve come to the conclusion that this male violence cannot be stopped unless men themselves begin to realize how destructive it is, and voluntarily start changing themselves, their brothers & sons. Women can’t do it for them. And castration….aside from sex offenders, who totally deserve it, you’re not going to find that a popular idea, even with women!

    Thank you so much for writing this, I will reference it and link to it the next time I’m writing about this ubiquitous problem….

    And thanks for including the cat dialogue! A good laugh in the morning starts the day off right!


  2. The remarks about castration were provocative of course and I didn’t mean them too seriously. Yet castration was a popular practice in many cultures (eunuchs, castrati, skoptsy).

    Some legends say that Genghis Khan was castrated by a Tangut princess using a knife, who wanted revenge against his treatment of the Tanguts and to stop him from raping her.

    What about genital mutilation? It is still practiced in 28 African countries and some Arabian countries.



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