What Are You Reading…On Human Nature

At lunch recently I had an interesting discussion with two friends. It started with the issue of taxes, and moved through several other smaller topics before arriving at the question of what role government, corporations, the free market, and communities should play in our lives. While no one gave in and agreed that the other side was correct, we did trace many of our disagreements back to one central subject: human nature. My friends were convinced that the empirical and historical evidence proves humans are naturally lazy and selfish, so we should avoid trusting large groups of people, or in ideas like the human spirit and common will. My position, by contrast, is that human nature is the product of many complex forces, and that without a better understanding of what produces it, we should not make universal statements about what humans are capable of (at least in the long term).

While I do think one can be skeptical based on what history has shown us about human conduct, the issue of human nature seems to me to be largely unanswered. We know some about how humans tend to act, but the underlying causes—and whether those causes are changeable—are still open to debate. Many fascinating areas of exploration have opened, from genetics and epigenetics to the unconscious and social practices, but much work is left to be done. This question is vitally important for almost every aspect of human endeavor, since it gets to the heart not just of politics but to what humans can know and the meaning of their behavior, if any. Here are some philosophical reflections on the topic to get you thinking.

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10 thoughts on “What Are You Reading…On Human Nature

  1. Nathan Eckstrand,

    I hope I am not wearing out my welcome on the apa.blog by commenting here. But I have been thinking about your post for a week or so. And I do not think you can consider the question of human nature without considering the problem of human violence, whether domestic violence, school and workplace violence, warfare, or terrorism. And it appears to me that Western philosophy from Socrates and Plato to Derrida Zizek and Agamben has persistently refused to even look at, much less actually deal with, the often repressed but frequently blatant problem of human violence, which is certainly a major compnent of what’s called ‘human nature.’

    A mere cursory glance at the blood-stained chronicles of ‘Western civilization’ shows that warfare has been epidemic throughout Western world history since the earliest times, and scarcely a year passes by that tens of thousands of casualties from warfare are not counted. I invite you to read, for example, Josephus’ account of the Jewish-Roman War of 66-72 CE, as I have been, in which Josephus estaimates 1.1 million Jews were killed, starved to death, burnt up, or crucified by the Romans. (And I invite you to consider the comparisons between Josephus’ account of the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the Syrian civil war or the US-backed sieges of Mosul and Raqqa.) There were, de minimis, hundreds of Greek and Roman wars of this type (the Persian War, the Peloponnesian War, the Punic Wars, etc.), each with tens of tousands of casualties, which stand at the base of ‘Western civilization.’ But there are very few attempts by Western philosophers to actually cope with the philosophical and moral implications of this undeniable fact.

    More recently, the United States of America has been involved, throughout my lifetime, in many wars, from Korea and Vietnam through the Central American wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, through the Persian Gulf War to the contemporary ‘war on terror,’ which has been going on for fifteen years now, with no end in sight. And I think I can say that nothing has been accomplished by these wars except tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands) of casualties. And yet where are the contemporary philosophers to speak out against the war-crimes and atrocities committed by both sides (all sides) in the contemporary war on terror? And where are there any serious attempts to understand what has made these wars happen, so that future wars may be prevented?

    For my part. I do not think that self-destructive inter-specific violence (i.e., warfare) is necessarily inherent in so-called ‘human nature.’ But I do think that self-destructive violence is an effect of the anthropogenesis or hominization of the human species, which was a deeply traumatic event that took place when the pre-human hominids were forced to leave their fruit-eating, tree-dwelling jungle lifestyle and compete with predators to survive in the African savannah environment. The transition from primate to predator in the distant human past left the human species deeply traumatized and excessively prone to violence, as it also spurred the evolution of the characteristic human features of weapon- and tool-use, domestication of fire, and rituaized sacrificial killing, which, like warfare, are distinctive to the human species. And I think that unless the human species becomes self-conscious of these subconscious evolutionary traits, the self-destructive violence of the human species may well result, not only in the extinction of many species (already in progess), but in the extinction of the human species itself, since the next major war will clearly exceed even World War II (Stalingrad, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc.) in world-shattering violence.

    Just as an example of the extreme propensities toward violence of the contemporary human species, I offer these links to recent video postings from the so-called war on terror. One shows a Kurdish woman fighter’s mutliated body, with Syrian Arab fighters cursing her in the backgound. The other is the Islamic State’s recent propaganda video, showing opposition fighters being beheaded. I warn you that they are extremely dsturbing, and those who might be traumatized by them should not watch them.

    But until we, philosophers and human beings, are able to face up to and deal with the violence exhibited in these videos, which has been a persistent fearure of the human species for thousands of years, I don’t think we will solve the problem of human nature. And we very well may not survive as a species on the planet earth, either.

    http://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=84154

    http://jihadology.net/2018/01/26/new-video-nashid-from-the-islamic-state-answer-the-call/

    I warn you again, these videos are extremely violent, but they are a graphic illustration of the problem of the violence of so-called human nature. If I could include videos of the US bombing of Mosul and Raqqa (or the US bombing of North Vietnam, or the US-sponsored death-squads in El Salvador, etc.), they would be equally (perhaps more) disturbing and violent, but I do not have access to them. And I am afraid that, at the moment, the American population (including American philosophers) does not want to think about our own complicity in promoting violence throughout the world…

    Eric D. Meyer

    • Dear Eric,

      No worries about wearing out your welcome; in my experience, philosophers (myself included) enjoy these types of debates, albeit not all the time. But having them is one of the reasons for the Blog.

      In looking at your comment, I suppose I take issue with the idea that philosophers have avoided looking at violence. If you mean that they haven’t commented on violent events in great detail, then you have a point. But if you mean than they haven’t examined the question of what violence is, why it occurs, and what can be done about it, then I disagree. Many philosophical texts have talked about these questions, from Ancient philosophy to the present. There are projects regarding violence that haven’t been carried out yet, but that’s not the same thing as not looking at the question.

      I’m also not convinced by your explanation of violence as resulting from the trauma of transitioning from primate to predator (it’s obvious that human violence results in some way from our development, but what part of that development seems to me to be an open question). Your claim is certainly worth exploring, and I would be interested in seeing what data there is in support of it, but for the moment it seems to rest on lots of assumptions that lack evidence. To give just one example, why think that the transition from primate to predator was traumatic for the species? It was a big transition, but other species have gone through massive transitions without displaying the violent side-effect you credit to our transition. What unique feature does our species have, or did our transition contain, that produced the trauma you see?

      Thanks again for your comment,
      Nathan

  2. Nathan Ecstrand,

    Thanks for your response. Sorry I don’t have time to respond in detail, but I’ll make a few brief remarks.

    I do believe that the problem of the self-destructive violence of the human species, as evidenced in domestic violence, school and workplace shootings, serial killings, random violence, torture, genocide, and warfare, is the greatest threat to the survival of the human species and other species on the planet earth, and I think the evidence of World Wars I & II, the Gulag and the Nazi camps, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Cold War thermonuclear arms race, combined with the persistence of terrorism (Sept. 11th, the Paris and Brussels attacks, the Islamic State beheadings, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, etc.) and warfare (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Congo, etc.) in the contemporary world and the existence of weapons of mass destruction sufficent to destroy the earth (US & Russian nuclear stockpiles, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, etc.) is enough to substantiate that statement. I do recognize that there are thinkers who have addressed these problems, but I do not see that anybody (except maybe Sigmund Freud) has attempted to explain why the human species displays these propensities to self-destructive violence, or has proposed any solution to the problem. And in response to your doubts about self-destructive human violence itself, I would simply ask: Can you describe any other species on the planet earth that engages in self-destructive violence against its own species, not simply by killing one or two of its own kind in survivalist competition or in breeding displays, but by killing thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of its own species, in warfare genocide or mass murder, and not just once or twice, but repeatedly over the course of several thousand years of recorded world history?

    And I would invite you to simply scan wikipedia or other google-entries for recorded wars in world history, and begin to tally the body-counts, and tell me when there have been, say, ten consecutive years when the human species was not involved in a significant war that has not involved, de minimis, tens of thousands of deaths. And I would ask you if you know how many innocent people have died, not simply in World War II (3-4 million in the Soviet terror famines, 6 million in the Nazi camps, another 10 million in Stalin’s Great Terror and the Gulag, maybe 20 million in the Chinese Revoluion, and so on), or Vietnam (1 million Vietnamese, 60,000 Americans), but in the contemporary war on terror (no reliable statistics available but 2 million is a conservative estimate, 4 mllion probably closer to the truth) and then tell me that evidence is lacking to support my tneory!

    My theory is based upon two other major theories: first, Sigmund Freud’s theory of primal trauma, primary repression, and the death-drive the in Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Civilization and its Discontents (cf. also Norman O. Brown Life Against Death and JF Lyotard Heidegger and the jews); and second, the ‘Man the Hunter’ theories of evolutionary biology, popularized many years ago by Robert Ardrey in African Genesis and since debated many times in anthropological circles. Both of these theories are currently in disfavor, largely, I believe, because nobody wants to look at the problem of self-destructive human violence. But Sigmund Freud (a German Jew) lived through World War I (18 million dead) and saw the rise of Nazism and the build-up to World War II (50-80 million dead), and probably hoped that his theories would help to stop another mass slaughter (he was, unfortunately, wrong).

    After World War II (the exposure of the Nazi death camps and so on) and the Cold War thermonuclear arms race (the Cuban missile crisis etc.), when the possibility of world-wide nuclear holocaust or simply mass extinction by conventional warfare was clear to everybody, there was some attention paid to these questions, by, say, Robert J. Lifton, although without answering the big question why the human species wanted to kill itself, in the first place. But lthough we have now been caught up in the so-called war against terrorism for fifteen years, there is, by comparison, very lttle questioning about why we are in this war or what has been accomplished by it. And I do think that is a problem, not just for us philosophers who are morally responsible for it, for the politicians who make the policies that get people killed, and for the military personell who do the killing (and deal with the aftermath of it), but for the many millions of people whose countries and cities have been destroyed, whose families have been killed wounded or made homeless, who lve in refugee camps or dp camps or simply in tents or holes in the ground, and who now must live with the, yes, deeply traumatic effects of watching your country and family destroyed your wife husband and children massacred before your eyes and your whole existence ruined in a frenzy of destruction that accomplishes nothing.

    And yes, I would insist, that experiencing the suffering and violence of death, whether simply the suffering and death of individuals (human or animals), is deeply traumatic. And if you do not believe so, I would ask whether you have personally had to slaughter or kill the animals who you eat for food (which I have), or whether you have seen another human being or animal killed before your eyes (which I have only a few times) or have killed another human beings (which I thankfully haven’t, although I know what effects it has on those who have: 20 US servicemen a day committed suicide during the past few years)* and if you can then tell me that the experience wasn’t traumatic.

    And finally, I would ask if you watched the videos I put up on my post, and if you can honestly say they weren’t disturbingly violent and traumatic. I would remind you that what those videos depict has happened everyday, and happens everyday, and will continue to happen everyday, while the Syrian civil war, the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the Libyan civil war, and the contemporary war on terror go on. And I’d say that if you and I aren’t disturbed by those facts, god help us all…

    Thanks again for your response. Sorry I can’t offer a more scholarly or polished reply. And I’d be glad to hear about philosophers who are dealing with this problem, especially as it connects with the conteporaruy war on terror.

    *https://www.militarytimes.com/veterans/2016/07/07/new-va-study-finds-20-veterans-commit-suicide-each-day/

    • Dear Eric,

      Like you I lack time, so I’ll be brief also. I never disputed that horrific, repugnant, and gruesome violence exists in large amounts. Nor do I dispute that humans chose to do these things in large numbers, through pernicious structures, and over long periods of time. What I am skeptical of (and I am specifically choosing the word skeptical, as I do not claim that the opposite is true) is that this relates back to human nature, as the term is generally understood. (Perhaps if I knew better what you meant by human nature I wouldn’t disagree, but the absence of a good definition of this term is part of the problem).

      I find the argument that ‘it was this way in the past, so it must be this way by necessity’ unconvincing, as many things were thought of as impossible and unnatural for massive periods of time (e.g. democracy, Christianity, and capitalism, to name just three). The fact that violence exists, and has existed in great amounts, doesn’t to me prove that it is ‘natural,’ as the real question is not ‘what was it like in the past?’ but ‘could it have been different?’ This is a very difficult question to answer, for obvious reasons.

      That said, I get the sense there are some semantic differences between us. It sounds like you’re saying a propensity towards violence is part of our unconscious, and thus natural. I’m defining natural as ‘the unchangeable part of human behavior.’ Some psychoanalysts would say that the unconscious is changeable, in which case it wouldn’t be natural (by my definition). Similarly, in your first post you talked about the trauma our species had gone through in becoming predators (and this is the idea I was using in my reply), yet your example in your response refers to the trauma individuals go through in killing. These are different things, as one refers to an individual experience, the other refers to an transition in the past that affected the human population. Individual processes and population processes are quite different.

      I’ll stop there. While I could list some philosophers who I feel have taken up the question of violence in a substantive way, I feel it is beside the point of what we’re discussing, at least for the moment. Thanks for the response; if you are still interested in pursuing this discussion, you know how to contact me.

      Best,
      Nathan

      • Nathan Eckstrand,

        Briefly, again, for lack of time: I think the term ‘natural’ here is equivocal. I’m arguing that human beings are biological (‘natural’) creatures whose early evolution took an adaptative/maladaptive turn that was ‘unnatural’ in certain senses (different than other creatures upon the earth) because it required drastic changes in human behavior (from primate/fruit-eater to predator/stalker-killer) which have had long term traumatic and post-traumatic effects at a subconscious level in contemporary human behavior. These subconscious changes are evident, I think, in a number of symptomatic effects (schizophrenic dissociation from the biological body, borderline neuroses, self-harm, etc.), the worst of which is the propensity toward self-destructive violence (Freud’s ‘death-drive’: Thanatos), which is directly opposed to what you might call the ‘natural’ propensity of the species for self-preservation and survival (‘Eros’). Hopefully, I say that self-conscious changes in contemporary human culture could result in changing those self-destructive (‘natural/unnatural’) propensities in the human species, although that belief is predicated upon the ability of human beings to become self-conscious of and modify deeply rooted subconscious syndromes: an ability (called ‘Lamarckian evolution,’ maybe) not typically evident in biological life, except over fairly long periods of time. But when I look at the bloody, violent chronicles of world history—and when I look at contemporary human behavior—I am not confident that this will happen. Still, I do hope…

        I add two further points. First, when I talk about the self-destructive or violent propensities of the human species, I am not simply talking about physical human-on-human violence. I am also talking about the violence projected outward from the human species into its various technological prostheses—weapons tools and gadgets, especially weapons of mass destruction—which represent an extra-somatic version of human evolution, in which violence is directed toward the external world (‘nature’) and other human beings (‘culture’) for survivalist purposes that have clearly become maladaptive and counter-survivalist in the contemporary context. Originally, humans developed these violent propensities because they had to compete with predators for survival, and they invented weapons and tools for those survivalist (‘natural’?) purposes, which also accompanied anatomical and physiological changes in the biological human organism (increased brain size, opposable thumbs, erect posture, biochemical and hormonal changes etc.) that are both ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural,’ and that were adaptive and have become maladaptive, and so on. Whether humans are actually in control of their extra-somatic evolution, or are simply being dragged along by the technological inventions, weapons, and tools, they create that have become increasingly self-destructive until contemporary humans are destroyed by their own weapons of mass destruction, is a question I raise without attempting to answer it here…

        Second, I am also talking about what I’d call the sublimated versions of the self-destructive violence of the human species, which manifest themselves in hostility, hatred, and emotional violence toward other human beings (what you might call caste prejudice sexism racism and so on) and the natural world (violence toward ‘nature’) and also toward the self and the body (self-mutilation, self-harm, sexual mutilation, suicide, etc.). Contemporary human beings carry around inside themselves the subconscious violence of the early human species, which is sublimated into modification of the external world (‘nature’) through the production of human artifacts (‘culture’), but which is also repressed or misdirected as violence toward other human beings and the natural world, and which has actual physical effects on the biological organism that are currently not acknowledged by medical science (trauma, post-traumatic effects, etc.).

        Frankly, I know that subconscious violence exists because I feel it in my nerves and guts, and I know it’s a major component of contemporary culture because I experience(d) it constantly in school, at work, and in public exchanges, and I see it in the police reports and war reports, in the newspaper on TV. And I know it has had deeply traumatic effects on me, because I was basically borderline autistic for half my life and still find it difficult to deal with the physical effects of hostility and hatred projected toward myself, which I feel without being able to explain them in accepted scientific terms and without other people acknowledging the physical effects of these subconscious projections of self-destructive violence. But I am sure these subconscious projections of hostility and hatred do have deeply traumatic effects and post-traumatic effects on other human beings, which are responsible for many symptoms of mental disorder, without being acknowledged by contemporary medical science. But that a whole other question!

        So I have to think there’s something profoundly wrong (‘unnatural’) about contemporary human culture, that produces so many self-destructive violent and hateful effects in contemporary human beings. And when I consider how this self-destructive violence threatens the survival of the human species and all other biological species on the planet earth, I have to think something should be done about it. And I wonder why philosophers are not addressing the issue directly, instead of talking about caste prejudice classism racism sexism, which are, by my thinking, really only symptoms of this deeply-rooted self-destructive violence in the contemporary human species, and which won’t be cured by simply addressing the superficial symptoms and not the deeply rooted subconscious disorder.

        Sorry, no more time! Glad to get your response…

        • Eric,

          In our grand tradition of brevity, here’s my reply. Your narrative of how humans developed seems plausible, and is worth investigation. However, I’m not an anthropologist or psychologist, and the evidence for that narrative is, from what I’ve read, not conclusive. This is what I tried to point to in my initial post. (That said, if you have more evidence for that narrative, I’ll definitely take a look).

          I understand that your personal experience indicates a violent subconscious to you, but I see many exceptions to this rule in people who are nonviolent and react to hostility with compassion. I think I tend to be in that category, for better or for worse, as it is not easy to get me angry, let alone violent. I don’t disagree that violence is a major part of society, but I resist calling it human nature, since that would imply it is a universal characteristic when I don’t think the evidence points to that. This is why I lean towards seeing violence as a product of culture and environment, not nature.

          I may need to stop our debate here so I can move on to other projects. I’ve enjoyed our interaction, just as I’ve enjoyed the others we’ve had since we started corresponding. I’ll leave you the last word, if you’re interested, since I began the discussion with my post.

  3. Dear Nathan Eckstrand,

    Thanks for giving me the last word. I will take advantage of this opportunity to note that we are now much closer to a world war than at anytime since WW II. The Syrian regime, using, I guess, Russian anti-aircraft guns, has just shot down an Israeli F-16, provoking, of course, counter-attacks from the Israelis on Syrian targets. Meanwhile, the Kurdish forces have shot down a Turkish attack helicopter in Afrin (Kurdistan), provoking Turkish calls for vengeance from Erdogan. The Turks have launched a major attack against US allies, the SDF, in Afrin (Kurdistan), and US troops supporting the Kurds are based in Manbij, which Turkey also says it will attack. And the US recently killed 100 Syrian regime fighters who were attacking a US/SDF base in Syria, so there is a strong possibility that the US forces will find themselves fighting both the Turks and the Syrians. And the Russians, too?

    The Israelis are worried that the Syrian regime is now backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, the last two of which have vowed to destroy the State of Israel, so they are also prone to making both first-strike and retaliatory attacks against Syria and its allies. The Israelis have launched major attacks in Syria against Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah, provoking Syrian counter-attacks. Meanwhile, Syria is also currently bombing the rebel enclaves in Deir ez-Zor and Idlib, where Syrian refugees from Aleppo were relocated, causing terrible civilian casualties, despite the fact that there is supposed to be a ceasefire in place in these deescalation zones.

    Where exactly the United States and Russia stand in this confusion is extremely unclear, especially with President Trump as a Commander-in-Chief, who is, I’m afraid, clueless how to handle these challenges. (Nothing in his real estate deals prepared him for this.) And President Trump’s ability to deal realistically with Putin and the Russians is extremely questionable. Putin of course thrives on this confusion, and is taking advantage of it to strengthen Russia’s grip on Syria, Iran, and Turkey, placing Russian in strategic control of the Middle East. Turkey is supposed to be a NATO ally, but now behaves more like a Russian ally. And Syria is virtually a Russian puppet-regime, except that Putin would clearly sacrifice Syria for Greater Russian interests. And US diplomatic and military clout counts for almost nothing in the current situation.

    The possibility that the US and Russia could be drawn into a world war, whether we like it or not, is much greater than it was during, say, the Cuban missile crisis, when Khrushchev and Kennedy at least more or less knew where they stood, and there were not six or eight other players involved. And remember that the US and Russia each have at least seven thousand nuclear warheads, each capable of causing millions if deaths, and that just a week or so ago, a Hawaiian employee almost triggered a US response to a false Russian attack that could have resulted in nuclear warfare.

    Maybe nobody wants to think about the propensity of the human species for self-destructive violence, but the threat of a world war is scary and real, and somebody needs to think about it. And if not philosophers, who? Because I can say for a certainty that if another world war happens, it will be horrible beyond our worst dystopian-style, end-of-the-world-movie imaginings…

    Sincerely,

    Eric D. Meyer

  4. I’m going to “out brief” both of you good fellows. 🙂

    There is no human problem with violence.

    There is a MALE human problem with violence. Not human nature. Male nature.

    • Brief response (?): Yes, because the sexual division of labor in early modern human communities put the primary burden of warfare and hunting on males, the predatory, warlike male of the species also experienced the post-traumatic effects of primitive violence more directly than the female, and as a result the anatomy and physiology (biochemistry, hormones, etc.) of the human male still bear the aftereffects of that primitive violence. (Here in Idaho, symptomatized by guys driving enormous trucks with guns wearing camos shooting poor defenseless bears and deer etc.). And because females are anatomically and physiologically adapted to bear children and are therefore less capable of pursuing big game and may be confined to the cave for certain periods (so to speak), the females of the species evolved differently, and (thankfully!) display the traits of compassion, nurturing, and child-rearing absent from the males. (Here in Idaho, symptomatized by pregnant young women toting three or four children around the supermarket and transporting them to school and sports events in huge SUVs.)

      These are of course horrid stereotypes, but they are stereotypes deeply rooted in the subconscious evolutionary psychology of the early modern human species, based upon 100,000s of years of Paleolithic human existence that won’t just go away by arguing about it. I would even suggest that if you observe female and male methods of sublimating (channeling) or repressing biomagnetic or psychosexual energy, you (or anybody, female or male) would observe that contemporary men are still constantly stalking wild game (and other humans, especially females and competing males…) and females are constantly picking up children and holding them to their breasts: the ‘stereotyped’ actions which have defined female and male humans for many, many ages, and which still exist within the collective evolutionary subconscious today, even after militant radical feminism and the primal male empowerment movement and so on….

      And yes, it’s certainly true that the predatory, warlike male of the species presents a far greater survivalist threat to biological life on the planet earth than the female, largely because of those stereotypically male traits. But I don’t think ‘we’ (males?) would want to say that all males are necessarily like that, would ‘we’? And that males cannot display stereotypically female traits without becoming less male or less human? And, contrarily, ‘we’ would also not want to say that all females are stereotypically female, would ‘we’? Or that females cannot display the primitive violence of the human species characteristic of the stereotyped male? especially when competing for mates or defending their children or when pushed into survivalist situations?

      And especially now, when contemporary culture appears obsessed with attempting to persuade female and male humans that ‘biology is not destiny!’ and that ‘sex/gender’ is a completely social construct and that becoming ‘transsexual’ or ‘transgendered’ is somehow desirable, for subconscious (biological?) reasons that are obscure. Whether this hostility to biological sexuality is really a healthy attitude, and whether it is not healthier to simply feel good about your biological sexuality and love your (sexed!) body and enjoy biological life on the planet earth, is a question nobody appears willing to ask…

      Okay, not exactly brief, but that’s the best I can do…

      EDM

  5. PS: Following the recent incident in Florida, in which seventeen students were killed by a depressed GED student with an AR-15, I’d like to add that simply because I argue that there is a deeply subconscious element of primitive violence in so-called human nature does not mean that I don’t acknowledge that there are proximate sociological causes of these tragic incidents, which may include caste/class, race, and sex, etc., but more probably arise from the symptomatic expression of repressed violence evident in bullying, harassment, and depression, which is pervasive throughout the American public school system and American society at large. I have said before that I personally found the pervasive atmosphere of bullying and harassment in American public schools (especially from coaches and teachers) extremely damaging (everyday in school was a day in hell…), and from my experience, it’s only surprising that these things don’t happen more often, because nobody wants to deal with the problem and the school system itself appears to promote it by scapegoating certain students as examples for others and then bullying and harassing them until they break…

    I’d still argue that the deeply buried problem behind these symptomatic effects is subconscious human violence, but I’d add that since subconscious human violence probably won”t go away anytime soon, it’s still worth dealing with the symptomatic expressions of subconscious human violence, like bullying, harassment, hostility, hatred, and depression, before we get on to dealing with the problem itself, since stopping bullying and harassment would at least maybe prevent a few incidents like this one from happening. And since the problem isn’t just students, but also coaches teachers counselors etc., who can be just as cruel and spiteful and abusive as playground bullies (or more so…), I’d say that stopping these tragic incidents needs to start with the coaches and teachers and counselors who encourage them, and not with the students who suffer from them, and are mostly the ones who get hurt…

    And how many times does this have to happen before everybody admits the problem and deals with it?

    EDM

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