We can’t eliminate violence…..

January 30, 2013

but we can direct it..….

I greatly enjoyed reading an article posted to a social media site recently by a lifelong friend of my daughter concerning the current re-ignition of the “gun control” debates. It supposedly originated from an organization of Special Forces professionals that one would presume to have extensive knowledge and understanding of weaponry in general and firearms in detail. I learned from it, and they had some well thought out suggestions about how “we” might better approach the underlying problems contributing to events such as the latest mass slayings. I would like to add a suggestion that I think has been overlooked. Some may disagree, in principle or in detail, but I believe at least placing it on the table for consideration is worthwhile.

We should be encouraging more sports.

I need to point out that this “I coulda had a V-8” pseudo-epiphany is not coming from some testosterone reservoir that would rather watch a good football game than have sex, or, more likely, watch a good football game while having sex. Subsequent to a brief encounter with junior high school wrestling more than fifty years ago, during which I spent the majority of my time with my face unceremoniously mashed into the mat with a liberal assortment of my own body fluids, I opted instead to seek any potential kudos and self actualization by drawing cartoons for the school paper and learning the potential for amusement inherent in our language. I’m no jock.

In other words, my interest in sports is purely academic. My daughter knows more about sports than I do. So why do I think the ills of the country would be improved by sports and what do basketball or hockey, et al, have to with AK47’s, et al, anyway?

The question of what makes people tick has been my field of interest in one way or another since my college days, and one can’t help but wonder along the way what sometimes causes some people to transition from “tick” to “KABOOM”.

Such things as excessive stress and the inability to handle or resolve conflict are among the many factors contributing to such transitions, and each factor tends to be in a continuing state of change or ebb and flow at any given moment. Like a complex combination lock, only when the right things fall into the right position in the right sequence and combination does anything occur. When the innate and learned mechanisms that keep human behavior between the guardrails are affected in the wrong way at the wrong time and in the wrong sequence, bad things can happen.

From what I have gathered about the history of modern human behavior, a relatively new field of study, previous to which virtually everything was either credited to or blamed upon one deity or another, people can be a pretty nasty bunch. Most of us have acquired the skills of playing well with others learned by our predecessors, to some degree, but the range of methodology used in interpersonal communication still varies from “My I please have the salt and pepper?” through “Gimme the fuckin’ salt and pepper” to simply killing the other person and taking whatever is desired.

In spite of our eternal efforts to either become something other that what we are, or to at least present a convincing impression or veneer that we have made progress in that direction, our species can do without food and water longer than we can do without war or some semblance thereof. Most of us aren’t honest enough to admit that we thrive on the adrenalin rush of conflict and competition. We need to work with that characteristic rather than attempt to deny it or cover it up. The counselor in me thinks, “Why stuff it? Let ‘er rip”, I say! But direct it, steer it, control it. The Greeks knew that.

When the necessity, desire, or funding for war and other sorts of interpersonal conflict wanes, some men discovered at least a few thousand years ago that “sports” make a dandy substitute for actual “war”, and the practice continues to enjoy a certain amount of popularity. If one doubts my logic in equating a successful Hail Mary pass with beheading three foes with one powerful swoop of a sharpened metal implement, one simply needs to study the Athletic Lexicon.

While the immediate response might reasonably be to post guards in schools and so forth, one important long term intervention should be an aggressive campaign to involve the culture as a whole in athletics and competitive sports, either as spectators or participants. Sitting on one’s ass in front of an electronic instrument slaying avatars is about as productive as watching naked cartoon characters mate. It doesn’t require any personal activity except Dueling Thumbs and perhaps an occasional involuntary tic of body English. Other than the minor neuro-chemical processes required to perceive the screened image, make decisions, and move whatever digits are necessary to operate the control unit, it really has no particular physical or psychological benefit. In fact, the impact of the solitary and sedentary nature of twenty first century “play” can have negative affects on the physical and psychological aspects of a person’s life, as much by omission as by commission.

Look around your own neighborhood. Where are the kids? Are they running around playing Cowboys and Indians, War, or whatever the modern version of those old standards might be? I look out of my window to the house next door where three “tween” boys reside. They remind me of what it was like when I was their age. They are always in motion, with active bodies and minds. They play “war”, but of course they have the latest power water rifle toys and the like whereas we used sticks and made gunfire noises. They play hockey on inline skates in the driveway when they are not being carted off to the local rink with all of the necessary equipment. There is a basketball net for them. Summer and fall provide a continuum of various balls and other recreational devices bouncing off the side of my house, landing in the bushes, visiting my tomatoes, or some such event. They’re noisy sometimes, but it’s healthy noise. I’m sure the squealing of tires will ensue, but that’s a few years from now. In the meantime, those boys are learning sports, stretching their imaginations, strategizing, occasionally getting genuinely ticked off at one another and briefly duking it out, and finding other acceptable ways to deal with and direct the beast within.

Sports have allowed people to engage in mortal combat without killing anyone, usually, for millennia.

Unfortunately, there have always been those who would fanaticize about a world of peace and tranquility, sans anger and violence. There also have always been those who thought it would be cool to have a cobra, tiger, or some other creature of unpredictable temperament for a house pet. Such delusions enjoy brief lives. The Koombaya revivalists of my generation tried the non-competitive sports and communal living shtick for awhile but it didn’t catch on. Assassinations, Molotov cocktails, and occasional “police actions” around the world maintained their dominant position in the realm of human behavior.

We need more sports.

Teaching our children ways to problem solve and burn off surplus adrenaline with minimal loss of blood is a necessary part of civilized living, but recognizing and finding nonlethal methods for venting the nameless steam of residual genetic memories must not be made an also-ran in the process of preparing our young people for their adult lives.

Sports won’t stop incidents like the several we have experienced in recent years. Neither will banning firearms or playing musical gun cabinets with who can have them and who can not (read the article mentioned earlier), nor will providing a fantasyland of mental health services.

We human beings have an innate capacity for violence. It will occur. The best we can do is exercise the power of choice in how we provide for opportunities to express that characteristic within our society. We can teach people about firearms to demystify them. We can teach people about mental illness to counter the myths and fairy tales that constitute much of the common understanding of it.

Oh, and we should encourage everybody to develop an interest in sports and other competitive activities. This is not new knowledge. It just needs to be bumped up once again.

I’m done.

I think I’ll go draw a cartoon.


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  1. Well said.


    • Thanks, Rich… 😎


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