Giving Up The Caveman

I would never pretend to not enjoy a good, old-fashioned, action flick. I love a well choreographed fight scene. I enjoy rough sports, rough housing and other stuff rough as well. Also, I understand that sometimes real violence is necessary. If physically threatened I would probably defend myself. If one of the children in my life were physically threatened you can be guaranteed I would not be passive in my response.

Why, though, is violence, or the threat of it, so often our first response? Why are we so ready to excuse violence, especially when it is the strong perpetrating it on the weak? Why are there people out there that believe it is OK for Chris Brown to hit Rhianna because she may have been “egging him on?” How can people justify the pepper spraying, beating and humiliation of  peaceful protesters?

It is not just these very public incidents either. How often do you hear someone claim they are going to kick someone’s ass over a slight? Yes it is true, the person rarely follows through, but for a moment it actually occurs to them to use violence over something very little. Once upon a time these outbursts were almost solely the province of men. Now you hear women engaged in this kind of behavior across race and class lines with greater regularity. So I suppose at least we are seeing some equality among the sexes.

Once upon a time we needed to be aggressive. To fall on the oft-overused Hobbes quote “life in the state of nature is nasty, brutish and short.” Our ancient ancestors had to be ready and able to fight. Needs have changed, though, over the millennia. We are creatures of abstract wants and needs now. We can paint Sistine Chapels, compose Swan Lake and paint Starry Nights. Even the poor among us now are capable of creating heartbreaking beauty with an online photo album. Our basic needs are increasingly easy to take care of with greater automation and efficiency. In short, we don’t have to kill to survive, but we have to create to live.

With a little patience, a little love, a little understanding we can become so much more than those early hominids with their simple tools and needs. We don’t have to be so willing to inflict pain and death. I know it is part of our biological software, but we can and should overcome it. We don’t have to be cavemen anymore.


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