The Modern Survival Guide #66

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  • Making someone stop doing something
  • Making someone do something
  • Making a point
  • Killing someone

The Five Uses of Violence

#1: Competition

We engage in violence to pit our skills against another person, for prestige and entertainment. In the old days this would have taken the form of ritual combat to determine who got to be chief, or the tribe’s lead hunter. These days, this is probably the most common use of violence we see in the modern world, and for the most part it can be summed up in one word: sports.

#2: Making Someone Stop Doing Something

A lot of violence is perpetrated because one person simply wants another to STOP IT. Insert for “it.” Maybe “it” is chewing with their mouth open. Maybe “it” is making bawdy comments about someone’s mother. Maybe “it” is stealing, or raping, or murdering. There are a lot of potential causes for “it,” and they have varying degrees of justification and validity.

#3: Making Someone Do Something

A huge amount of violence is perpetrated because one person wants another person to do something that they don’t want to do — usually some form of work or resource transfer. Enslaved people around the world live under the constant threat of this kind of violence, as do people who live in dictatorships or other governmental situations where absolute power is the rule. This is also an extremely common form of interpersonal violence, particularly in the areas of sexual assault, spousal abuse, and child abuse.

#4: Making a Point

Violence can be an extremely effective tool for making a point; indeed, this is the story behind an awful lot of government-sponsored violence, particularly against other countries. A large proportion of international “signaling” is all about saying, “I’m big and I’m bad and if I want I can pound you to scrap,” or, “This is my territory,” or, “These are my resources.” Violence is often a key tool in that signaling process.⁵

#5: Killing Someone

Finally, we come to the last and most significant use of violence — killing someone. When this type of violence is used, the motivation is simply that one person decides that another person ought not to exist, and takes steps to rectify that situation.

The “Why” of Violence

Ok, that was a quick primer on how people use violence to accomplish goals. Now let’s talk about the other side of the coin: why people use violence to do those things. This is a discussion of justifications, not specific goals. Most justifications of violence come down to three rationales:

Summing Up

Violence exists in the world, and there’s no getting away from that ugly fact. The best you can do is survive it, and to survive it you have to understand it. This was a bare-bones summary article, but hopefully it’s enough to give you a little bit of insight into basic scenarios that can become violent.

Searching for truth in a world focused on belief.

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