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Is violence in our genes?
( 2003-11-07 08:50) (Shanghai Star)

The latest issue of Southern Weekend (October 30) carried a story about a 70-year-old man who was bashed to death with a brick at noon in a park in Haikou.

The incident was as horrifying as others recently reported in the press: an elderly former football star, surnamed Xu, was beaten to death by a taxi driver in the street after an argument; a secondary school teacher kicked a boy student in the genitals because the boy was not doing well in school and had disobeyed the teacher; a secondary schoolboy in Shanghai who loaned money at high interest to a classmate had thrown his fellow student against a wall when the borrower couldn't repay; three 13-year-old schoolgirls in Shenzhen inflicted sexual abuse lasting for a whole hour on their 12-year-old dormitory mate because she was an "eyesore" to them; and, three high school students had beaten a beggar to death because he also was an "eyesore".

Despite great changes in tastes and hobbies, people's leaning towards violence today, regrettably, does not seem to be much different from previous ages. We no longer eat raw meat but raw violence continues just like it did in primitive times.

The reason for that inertia is simple: we prefer violence because it is the most expeditious, efficient, effective and easiest solution to most problems, if not all. It is the most handy tool for the powerful. It saves the breath of arguing, of negotiating, of bargaining, of reasoning, of persuading and of rationalizing.

It gets rid of the trouble of restraint, of patience, of tolerance and of discipline. It gets rid of the shame of being persuaded. It silences everyone and settles everything. It is the ultimate arbiter. And there is no problem in enforcing the arbiter's decision - it is self-executing. Before violence, law and morality are nothing more than mirage.

No need to talk, just give him a blow. The resort to violence is nothing more than an instinctive response, so instant, so arbitrary, so spontaneous and so natural that any thought, any hesitation, any judgment or justification will prove redundant.

Every day such violence is continually and constantly being staged between students, between strangers and more unfortunately, between states. It is going on with no sign of ending in the streets, at home and continues all the way to jail.

It is said that violence has a lot to do with certain genes in human beings, which determines a person's inclination toward violence. Great discovery! What are other excuses that fare better than that of genetic make-up? If our society had genes, it is not the police, not the law, not morality, not institutions, not values, not education, not social justice, in a word, not we ourselves but certain genes that should be made responsible for the never-ending violence.

When violence is recognized as inevitable by some unconscious social consensus instead of being condemned, when it is pursued by people instead of being despised, when it is frequently resorted to, either with little reason or with sophisticated contemplation, to succumb, to subject and to threaten, first a woman, then a man and then a country, the time has come for society to realize it is experiencing the deepest crisis.

Too much of history is about how violence won and civilization lost. The gun speaks the loudest; civilization never speaks. But we should never be scared off because ultimately there is a truth that has been tested by numerous historical examples. This truth is: people hear the gun but listen to the dictates of civilization, and to it only.

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