Is it just me, or have the shootings and stabbings been escalating?  It seems, now, I read about a new violent incident or attack, more than once a week.

Is that just the news becoming more widespread via internet?  These events were happening but we didn't know about them so much?  I don't know.

There was recent article on CNN about entertainment violence being "The Other Porn".  Some suggest that people become jaded or immune to the horror of violence, by seeing it displayed and glorified, repeatedly. 

It seems we, as Americans,  are addicted to violence as a form of pornography.  Not to judge - many places are violent up close and personal, day in, day out.  Sometimes with government promotion and sanction.  That's much of the Middle East, it seems, South Asia, and Africa.  I speculate some of the violence of Islam - hangings, bombings, be-headings, stonings - is less to do with the intolerance of the religion, and more to do with the gluttony of blood lust. Slavery is also a form of violence, and persists today in numbers most people are not aware of.   In the supposedly advanced cultures, Americans do seem to stand out as addicted to many forms of our own blood lust.  In pop culture, rap imagery, TV crime shows (I watch those), and the stylized, formalized violence in various sports.  I prefer the last as an outlet  for human violent urges, instead of girls stabbing their friend in a park.

I read that the human face evolved partly as a defense mechanism against violent injuries, and there is a thousands-year violent history in central California (referenced in a separate post in the Origins group).  And everywhere else, for that matter.

But this recent trend is getting to me.  I don't think it's because of religion, and is no better for religious tribalism.  Reading about anthropology and evolution, it's apparent violence has been around as long as animal life has been around. 

But what to do?  I don't really know.  Just be nice to the people around me, and hope that a little of that rubs off.  Or at least doesn't exacerbate the situation.


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For a few moments I'm going to be a curmudgeon.

Several years ago I read of an ancient Greek, one of the famous ones, who blamed young folks for what they believed was going wrong in their times.

How many people here qualify as old enough to do that?

Are you forgetting that folks our age raised them or their parents? Or that folks our age made the world they're living in?

I'm through being a curmudgeon.

My dad's parents did a lot of blaming young folks, and when my sibs and I were kids we didn't like them. Then I learned what had gone wrong in their lives. They were not happy people.

Okay, be pissed off at me if you like.

You're right Tom! For me it's easy to point out what went wrong in young families: Ihave no children myself.

I don't think Sentient's blog here is talking about what went wrong in young families, or blaming young folks for anything. I think he is talking about a trend that society seems to be taking, and he is asking the question "why?"

Michael, assuming that Sentient wants answers, what do people here say?

Or do we ignore his query and let it go unanswered?

Did I wrongly assume that he wanted answers?

A still-Catholic man I know teased me one day with "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic."

I told him I had heard nuns say "Once a priest, always a priest" but not what he said.

After watching him at work for a few days, I told him "Once a Catholic, always helpless."

Helplessness is his style.

Michael, you are right.  I am not stating anything about something in particular wrong with young families.   

One thing I wonder about  is, whether violence really is more prevalent now, especially the kind of killing spree violence that seems to be prompted by nothing in particular.  Maybe it is, maybe it is just heightened awareness.

In cultures throughout history I imagine there was never a utopian peace-state.  Except maybe hunter gatherer societies.  In my mother's bucolic, one-store, one-church town of the great depression, husbands beat wives, adults murdered babies, and black people were murdered by white people, for the crime of being black.  That's a time and place that to outsiders looked like "The Waltons".

Then Rome had it's unending wars.  As does the United States.  And many other cultures, times, and empires / countries / communities.  Rome had it's orgiastic festivals of violence in the coliseums, with fites between animals, people and animals, gladiators - slaves, religious minorities and enslaved peoples of conquered countries, and "professional gladiators". 

There ave been various ethnic cleansings, long before the Nazis and long after. 

What I lead to there is, what if instead of being an anomaly, violence is part of the nature of what it means to be human? 

What if we can't cure our species of violence?  Can we identify the factors that make it worse, and find protective mechanisms for the innocent victims of violence?  If violence is a human drive, like hunger and sex, are there ways to focus violence into more useful ends?

I feel like we are more exposed to violence than in memorable past.  That may well be my "silo".  I wonder if it is true, and what is the best way to think about it, and what are the things we can do about it.

Same here, Plinius. I didn't want to do to any more children what my otherwise conscientious dad did to his children. Happily, I married a woman who for similar reasons didn't want any children.

A crime puzzle

"This graph shows the American homicide rate over the last century-plus. (A few notes about construction of the chart are at the end of the post.)"

"The puzzle compounds. We see a roughly cyclical pattern: a high plateau in the 1920s and early 30s; a rapid drop of more than half to a low point in the late 1950s; then, a sharp rise, more than doubling, by 1980 and 1990. That’s followed by what will probably be a drop of about half by 2010. These are huge swings.

"We can put this story into yet greater perspective with the graph below. The line in that graph represents my rough estimate of fluctuations in the U.S. rate of homicide over many more generations, drawing on the historical literature (see some references at the end of this post). While the details are informed guesses, the general trend is well established."

The author gives several possible explanations for the changes over time. He then states: 

"Back to the Present

"How might any of this explain the latest – the post-1990s – downswing in homicide and in criminal violence more generally? The rates are now at roughly the level of the least violent era in American history, the late 1950s."

This data corresponds with Steven Pinker's findings:

The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History...


"One of the most important books I've read - not just this year, but ever ... For me, what's most important about The Better Angels of Our Nature are its insights into how to help achieve positive outcomes. How can we encourage a less violent, more just society, particularly for the poor? Steven Pinker shows us ways we can make those positive trajectories a little more likely. That's a contribution, not just to historical scholarship, but to the world"

~ Bill Gates 

Now, all of this said, what about the stabbings and shootings rate over the past 15 years? 

U.S. murder rate higher than nearly all other developed countries: ...

"Violent crime in the United States remained close to two-decade lows last year but the murder rate was higher than in virtually all other developed countries, official figures showed Monday.

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that violent crime inched up 0.7 percent in 2012 from the previous year, while property crime fell by 0.9 percent.

"The figures were broadly in line with a decline in crime since 1993. While the annual report did not assess reasons for the trend, experts point to the end of the country’s epidemic of crack use in the early 1990s."

Joan that made me feel better.  It looks like it's the perception and not the actuality that violence is on the rise.

Sorry, I think my next post will put you into the depths! Well, it is better to know what is happening than to believe what is not happening.

The matrix: 

I Know & Know that I Know                   I Know & Don't Know that I Know

I Don't Know and Know that I Know      I Don't Know and Don't Know that I Don't Know

So, there is hope after all. The chaos of our present time indicates what Thomas Kuhn called "paradigm shift" when a generally accepted belief falters because of some flaw in its structure. i.e. belief the Earth is flat held true until evidence and exploration proved it is round. The paradigm shift occurs at the change point from flat to round Earth. 

OK, here is my take on the patterns. With the economy going sour, caused by lying, distortion, manipulation, denial, self-delusion, fraud, thefts, and with the gap between rich and poor getting wider, people, rich and poor can see the stuff on the shelves in stores or in adv. on TV. Some have the money to indulge their pleasures, others can only dream. Some get angry, frustrated, afraid they will never be able to have what others have. 

Frustration based on economic corruption quickly turns to rebellion and revolt. Sadly, the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness too often become displaced, not directed at the ones who created the income gap, but too often against people of their own class.

I witnessed it in Washington, DC in 1968 when the blacks burned Anacostia, the black section of DC. No mansions were torched, nor were shops and stores outside their area. Black businesses, homes, establishments were set on fire ... one and one/half mile of the neighborhood was burned to the ground.

Washington DC 1968 riots

I was teaching a class of black girls in a housing project, Valley Green Housing Authority, when the riot started. That is when the black men of the community came into my classroom, picked me up physically and carried me to my car, They escorted me out of Anacosta with cars front, back, and on both sides of my car until I crossed the Anacostia River in DC. I drove through the monuments toward my home in Bethesda, MD and looked over my shoulder at the flames rising behind the monuments. 

LA riots then and now

"The California Economic Development Department had at the time painted a bleak picture of L.A.'s labor market as "experiencing one of the most severe recessions of the postwar era." Between April 1991 and April 1992, 108,000 local jobs vanished. Black and Latino communities were hard hit, with a combined 29.7 percent in poverty and more than 13 percent unemployed.

"Perhaps worse, L.A. was in the throes of a vicious era of street violence, and a years-long bloodbath was unfolding in U.S. cities. Driven by armed gangbangers and violent crack and PCP dealers, the mayhem in L.A. produced 1,025 murders in 1991 and 1,092 in 1992 (there were 612 in 2011). It wasn't safe to walk in South L.A. in the afternoon - that's when armed teenagers got out of school."

Commentary at the time described how the majority of businesses and homes destroyed were of the poor of the city of LA. No the wealthy. 

Hard economic times, high unemployment ... not the official figures but the figures that count those who have stopped looking for work ... seeing prosperity all around with no access to sharing in the stuff of modern commerce, creates frustration and acting out. 

Yes, I think we are seeing the consequences of our time. Helplessness and hopelessness drive some into a frenzy. 

Therefore, it is even more important that clear thinking, careful planning, effective and efficient actions is one's goal. These can sustain the level headed. That is not to say we won't be caught up in the chaos. However, chaos is when badly needed changes occur. Chaos generates heat, heat generates energy, energy can generate critical thinking and effective action. Read James Gleick, a writer of popular science in the tradition of Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Chaos: Making a New Science

"Chaos introduces a whole new readership to chaos theory, one of the most significant waves of scientific knowledge in our time. From Edward Lorenz’s discovery of the Butterfly Effect, to Mitchell Feigenbaum’s calculation of a universal constant, to Benoit Mandelbrot’s concept of fractals, which created a new geometry of nature, Gleick’s engaging narrative focuses on the key figures whose genius converged to chart an innovative direction for science. In Chaos,Gleick makes the story of chaos theory not only fascinating but also accessible to beginners, and opens our eyes to a surprising new view of the universe."

Butterfly effect

"The butterfly effect is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere."

Big Brains. Small Films. Benoît Mandelbrot, The Father of Fractals

"A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc. Abstract fractals – such as the Mandelbrot Set – can be generated by a computer calculating a simple equation over and over."

Patterns are also evident in economics, politics and religion. Patterns repeat over and over and over. They continue until chaos emerges caused by dysfunction that grows and grows and grows. Human culture functions as fractals. Thinking based on beliefs that may or may not be true, continue until their dysfunction becomes intolerable. That is when change occurs. 




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