The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

5 February 2004

Don't blame anybody

Violence, we are told, is caused by many things: venal media, wrenching poverty, societal pressures, and, lest we forget, easy access to guns.

In fact, the connection between any of these and any single violent act is tenuous at best. We make these assumptions because we can't handle the idea that some people, indifferent to the tenets of a civilized society and irrespective of circumstances, are going to do Bad Things; surely there's some way we can reach them, make them see the error of their ways.

Andrea Harris knows better:

[T]here is a point where we say human beings should be considered knowledgeable of right and wrong, and at the very least we could stop pretending that adults who choose criminal violence are doing so due to pressures beyond their control instead of consciously choosing the path of evil.

The thing the appeasers donít want to accept (because it threatens their own sense of power and their view of how the world works) is the fact that violent people are not so because we treat them inhumanly, but because they have already decided that we are not human — at best we are obstacles to their desires. Confronting them and calling them on their behavior — calling it what it is — shocks them into at least realizing that they are dealing with another human being like themselves; and paradoxically gives them the respect they supposedly crave. For example, for decades we in the West — or at least, the intellectual elite — treated Muslim fanatics like little children stamping their feet whenever they spouted threats. Far from allaying the hatred that they felt for us, this attitude merely fed the flames, and the results we saw on September 11th, 2001 (among other dates).

I don't believe anyone is entirely beyond redemption, at least in the Scriptural sense, but until Ludovico arrives with his technique, we're going to have to deal with sociopaths in the time-honored fashion: isolate them, put them where they can't do any further damage. Obviously there are degrees of depravity — the Palestinian suicide bomber is more of a menace to society than the suburban shoplifter — but neither is entitled to a free pass, and I don't much care which theory about extenuating circumstances gets trotted out.

Posted at 8:02 AM to Almost Yogurt


The number of actual psychopathic people is relatively small. Their ability to act on that violent nature is determined in large part on their power within their society. I cannot believe that there are more inherently violent people in any one place (i.e. Palestine) than anywhere else (let's say.. here!). Through various parts of history it seems that "all of a sudden" there are violent people in abundance in one place, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and now the Middle Eastern Fundamentalist. Teh general makeup and proportion of violent people hasn't changed, but the environment that gives then power and control have. Andrea makes a leap of logic in here analysis (imho) by trying to equate individual behavior of violent people to issues like terrorism. That the leaders of the terorist groups are violence loving people is not an issue, I assume they are. That the majority of people that see their violence as "useful" are themselves violent people is debatable. Violent people will always find ways to express their nature, either through terrorism, military service (Timothy McVeigh comes to mind) or a life of murder, rape and abuse. You have to confront those people BUT at the same time you have to sap their support by dealing with a culture that condones that violence for whatever other reason.

Posted by: bruce at 6:28 PM on 5 February 2004

I made no "leap of logic" bruce. The situation I pointed out is clear and obvious to anyone who looks at the history of the past few decades without wearing ideological blinders on. I see you still want to make excuses for some chimerical "victimized follower" who just can't help becoming a terrorist because of his "culture." Please, sell to someone else. You know, you might have read the article I linked to in my post. Dr. Smith is no amateur web-writer, she's actually got the credentials to know whereof she speaks.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 10:39 AM on 7 February 2004