How do we become a less violent society?
How do we become a less violent society?
What have we been accepting?
There is something about asking a question like this that reveals a deeper level of awareness than we have hitherto been accepting. We ask ourselves the question, because we know that violence goes against something innate within us.
We have awareness that to abuse another human being, either physically or psychologically, is somehow a ‘violation’ of the way we naturally are. If it were not so, would we even ask the question in the first place? Surely, if we did not have this ‘internal barometer’, we would simply accept violence as ‘part of life’ and ‘the way we are’. But we don’t, because we know in our hearts that it is not acceptable and is an assault on a precious fellow human being.
If we listen to this ‘inner knowing’, we might actually pose the question in this way:
How do we become a non-violent society?’
or, maybe we could ask ourselves as a society:
‘How do we become a loving society or race?’
The fact is that we are limiting ourselves by asking how we become ‘less violent’. To even consider such a question is a concern for it suggests that we believe that some level of violence is acceptable. If we believe it is desirable to reduce our level of violence, then why not be absolute about it and say no to violence completely?
Statistics confirm the fact that we are a violent society. A media website reported the following in January 2018 for the UK alone:
‘The latest police figures for the 12 months to September from 44 forces show:
- 68,968 robbery offences, up 29%
- 138,045 sex offences, up 23%
- 37,443 knife crime offences, up 21%
- 1,291,405 violent crime offences, up 20%’
With such evidence it is clear that violence has been prevalent in our society for a very long time and has apparently become acceptable. As the levels of violence increase, efforts are made to offset and reduce the harm done. It is a great thing if crime is reduced, but can we truly celebrate whilst for example, sex offences are still tolerated as part of our society at any level and to any degree? People are still suffering and whilst this is going on we surely cannot rest. This is the case for every type of crime.
Are the vast majority of people innocently standing on the side lines as we are accepting less of ‘something’, rather than standing up firmly for violence to be eradicated?
Can we all consider ourselves to be integral architects of the development of violence that we see in these statistics?
We could interpret the information in a way that suggests most people are not violent and this would be true with our current understanding of the word ‘violence’, but perhaps we are content to be part of a group where we can say that ‘most of us are ok’, so rationalising that as long as we are ‘ok’, the world can’t be that bad.
But are we ok?
What is our role here?
Taking the view that we are not inherently violent beings, we must then consider the possibility that we all, as a society, have played a role in the creation of violence. An exploration of this role might help us to understand what we can do differently in order to reduce, or even eliminate violence completely. For example, a baby is not born violent, but is in fact innately sensitive, delicate and tender. Something happens to ‘make babies into’ abusive, violent or even murderous human beings. Can we reflect on what that is?
A boy when a young child is naturally sensitive. He cries readily at any harshness around him because he feels it so very intensely. As he grows he is commonly encouraged to ‘toughen up’ or become ‘hard’ because the world is ‘not a nice place to live in’ and if he remains sensitive he runs the risk of being mocked, bullied, hurt and repeatedly so by his parents, carers, siblings, peers and even teachers. So the boys play the tough games and learn to hide and even deny how they are feeling. And if they do show it, they suffer the abuse of those who label them a ‘wuss’, a ‘fairy’ or other such demeaning and crushing terms.
So invariably they duly desensitise, burying their feelings deep inside. Ironically, at some point they may well meet a girl and ‘fall in love’ and then there is a sting in the tail, as often during some moment of tension between them she may say to him; “oh, you’re so insensitive!”
A young girl is equally sensitive and just as distressed by any lack of tenderness. Any sensitivity girls had as babies is all too often crushed or abandoned as female children develop with the role models around them showing ‘how life should be’ and the games women play as they make their way through a life that is in direct opposition to who they naturally are and born to be. For example, we live in a world where sexting is as common today as walking down the street; where cutting, bulimia, overeating and self-harm is ‘common’, if not ‘normal’.
Is this not abuse? What hope do girls and young women have of retaining their natural sensitivity in the face of accepted processes of hardening to life?
What is involved in this ‘hardening’ and ‘toughening’ process? What about the notion that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ and certainly not express themselves, but ‘shut up’ and shut themselves down? Or the well-meaning father who withholds his own tenderness from his son in order to present the ‘armour-plated’ role model of the ‘strong and silent type’. And for girls, what is the reflection of mothers who give their all to their family whilst neglecting their own needs?
On a more subtle level, abuse is normalised by simply ignoring the feelings of the young person, or belittling a child’s sensitivity and tenderness by putting them down.
What is the impact when we act this way?
Newborn babies feel everything around them. They are acutely sensitive and highly delicate, open and full of vulnerability. We treat them with reverence, holding them tenderly and embracing them gently. But why do we stop?
At what point is it ok to start treating babies less lovingly, to wipe their faces or bodies harshly, to have thoughts and words that express that we ‘wish they had never been born’, to smack them, or to shout at them because we are tired or angry? What do they learn from such things? Is it – ‘don’t expect love, brace when someone talks to you, picks you up or changes you, or even, expect a degree of assault whenever there is an interaction with another, and above all, do not feel the truth of your essence’?
This is violence to the tender and sensitive child and if the child is reared by society to accept this behaviour, it is a given that this will be considered normal to behave in such a manner as an adult.
What is the impact on the development of this once delicate, precious and tender child? Is it any wonder they turn to a means of ‘protection and defence’ to make their way through life, disconnecting from who they naturally are in the process?
In relation to the delicate nature of young people, it is a propagation of normalised abuse. Can we consider it possible that we introduce levels of accepted violence and abuse to our children in the ‘preparation’ for life?
Why then are we surprised by the violence statistics?
We progress to live a life where we accept this violence as normal. For example, in how many supermarkets and shops have we seen the familiar sight of a parent shouting at a child for his or her behaviour? It’s a common enough sight, and we walk on by saying to ourselves “parents yell at their children, it’s normal.” It’s not normal. We have however, made verbal violence normal, like we have with other forms of violence: verbal denigration in arguments, physical abuse with a push, slap, thump or a shove, and online abuse that is rampant. What does this reflect to us about how we are living? That we normalise violence and abuse every day?
What if we were to celebrate and appreciate the child for the beautiful being they are regardless of our expectations for them? How would it be if we tell our children, “the sun shines for me the moment you walk into the room”? Or “I love that you are in my life, you are such a joy.” Don’t we all need to hear things like this? Yes we need discipline, but there is discipline in love. Isn’t it likely that love and appreciation will raise loving human beings?
Can we then consider that maybe we are not such ‘innocent bystanders’. The concerns mentioned here are not uncommon and many would relate to them. We may not like to admit it, but perhaps we are simply another human being contributing to the ocean of harshness that manipulates a sensitive child into a violent and abusive adult in our global society.
The desensitisation of our species
Are we willing to consider that how we live impacts on others? Not just in the obvious examples of violence but also in more subtle ways where we are controlling, manipulative and abusive in our behaviour towards each other, and all the while this comes under the acceptable heading of ‘family life’ and ‘good’ standards. Is this too uncomfortable for us to consider? Or would we rather remain unaware of the impact we certainly have?
Do we think that our lives are ok because they are not so obviously violent by our own ‘normalised’ personal standards and definition, which makes it appear that ‘all is well’ and ‘good’?
If we had been nurtured in our own sensitivity through life rather than becoming hardened and defensive, how different might our lives be today? How different would our world be? And what would our tolerance to violence be? To become aware of the accepted and normal ‘hardness’ and ‘toughness’ can be challenging for anyone, as these behaviour patterns are so familiar that we don’t question them; we don’t see what the impact is because we choose to ‘turn a blind eye’ to it.
If we honour, nurture and appreciate the qualities of tenderness, delicateness and self-appreciation and see them as strengths within ourselves and others, we would see a very different impact on children of both genders as they grow and develop. In doing so we nurture a natural capacity for love, self-care and self-value, in us and in our children. Then, harshness would no longer hold sway. It would fall away unwanted. Instead we can have a high value for sensitivity that is not buried, ridiculed or denied, but celebrated. How then would men and women grow into violent adults if their standards and values are based on such qualities?
When one human being hurts another, something deep inside us all is violated. It must do, or we would simply ignore it and we would not be asking ourselves questions such as these.
When we witness violence, there is a call from within that asks us to deeply consider what has happened that we can behave in such a way towards another. It asks us to consider that in truth we are all the sensitive, precious and delicate beings we were born as. With this awareness, violence makes no sense in the world. Perhaps it is time to listen to that ‘call’ rather than be another member of humanity who plays along with the desensitisation of our species. One brutal person and one brutalised person is one too many in any society.
Instead we could accept that it is our responsibility to nurture sensitivity, delicateness and tenderness in our young and support the world these precious beings make. We would then be taking responsibility for the future, and thereby seeking to treat the problem at its roots, rather than inadvertently contributing to the violent society we currently accept as normal.