Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Growth of Violence and what we can do about it

We have become a violence-prone society. One indication of this is the escalation of what NY Times columnist David Brooks calls “spectacular rampage murders”:

  • According to Brooks, from 1913 to about 1970, there were no more than two of these types of murders per decade worldwide. After that, the number shot up to nine in the 1980s, eleven in the nineties, and 26 in the past decade. Since July 2012, when Brooks wrote this analysis, there have been half a dozen more. (Regis Nicoll, Salvo, Issue 27, 22)

What can account for this epidemic? Psychotropic medications seem to be one culprit (Their growth certainly hasn’t done anything to stem the violence!):

  • Harvard University’s Dr. Joseph Glenmullen warns that antidepressants could explain the rash of school shootings and mass suicides over the last decade. People taking them “feel like jumping out of their skin. The irritability and impulsivity can make people suicidal or homicidal.”

  • A study of 950 acts of violence committed by people taking antidepressants found 362 murders, 13 school shootings, 5 bomb threats or bombings, 24 acts of arson, 21 robberies, 3 pilots who crashed their planes and more than 350 suicides and suicide attempts.

  • Medical studies show that patients with no history of violence, develop “violent urges to assault” while under the effects of psychiatric drugs. 

Perhaps there is even a simpler, more direct explanation. If psychotropics can reduce guilt, anxiety, fear and shame, they also can serve to remove inhibitions necessary to curb anti-social behavior.

Western society is quick to refer disturbed individuals for psychiatric care. However, there is good reason for hesitation. Dr. Michael, a professor of clinical psychiatry, claims that only a small percentage of serial killers are insane:

  • After personally examining over 200 mass murderers, Dr. Stone found that “only 25 were ruled clinically insane.” The rest he found were “social misfits or angry loners” whose rage was triggered by “some event.” (Salvo, 23-24)

If mental illness is not the cause of escalating incidence of violence, what is? There are many indications that what we believe will profoundly affect the way we act, even the way we kill. Oddly,high self-esteem also seems to loosen our natural inhibitions to violently act-out:

  • "Violent people are violent because their self-esteem and self-confidence are unrealistically high. Many violent criminals describe themselves as powerful, special and elite people who deserve special treatment" says Ulla Lovenkrands, Danish psychologist who spent 20 years studying criminal psychology."

  • "Street gang members have high opinions of themselves and demand respect from others. Bullies from school playgrounds consider themselves more special than others. Low self-esteem and self-confidence are found amongst victims of violence, not amongst violent people."

In Western culture, self-esteem has been released from any consideration of moral conduct and truth and has been encouraged to soar.  Along with this, has been the growth of a dangerous belief of self-entitlement – “I am entitled to my pleasures, and you have no right to interfere with my pursuit of them.” Instead of learning to take responsibility for our behavior, we have been taught that there is no objective standard of moral truth to restrain us. Rather, morality depends exclusively on what we deem it to be. Consequently, there remains no adequate reason to not fulfill ourselves, even if it is at the expense of others.

We have decided that objective biblical values are archaic, repressive, and guilt-producing. They have hindered our self-esteem and prevented us from experiencing the freedom to follow our own inclinations. However, once we follow these inclinations, we then require drugs to quiet our conscience.

A recent study had concluded that those cultures that still retained a belief in eternal punishment tended to behave less criminally. Nicoll concludes:

  • Unless the nihilistic [morally relativistic] worldview is abandoned for one that recognizes such a Transcendence [God], we can expect a rise in the number of walking dead and their devastating crimes. We must teach students and young people to reject what some of the supposedly brightest minds today are selling them – that the universe is meaningless and without purpose or supervision. Such nihilism only deadens the soul, which, after all, was created for communion with the living God. (25)

Keep you eyes opened!

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