Why are humans becoming increasingly violent?

It is incorrect to say that violence violates intrinsic human nature. Rather, it vindicates fundamental human nature. Each one of us is violent

Sumit PaulUpdated: Sunday, November 27, 2022, 11:08 PM IST
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Representative Image | Pixabay

A crime is a fallout of not one, but numerous factors. — Agatha Christie

The gut-wrenching news of a 28-year-old young man killing his live-in partner and chopping her body into 35 pieces is too gory and disgusting to come to terms with. Just a month ago, a couple in Kerala brutally killed, nay, butchered, two women and cut their bodies into multiple parts. This engenders the question: Are humans intrinsically violent? It's more reasonable to perceive that humans are (inherently) capable of horrific cruelty and violence. So, a universal conundrum raises its head: What's humanity's essential nature?

Not resorting to sugar-coated and edifying words, for all his ostensible goody-goody image man is predominantly bloodthirsty and only a shade better than dangerous man-eating animals. Agreed, we have Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu, among others, who epitomised the very best and sublime in humans. But we also saw Hitler, Himmler, Timur, Nadir Shah and a battalion of sanguinary characters who outnumber the compassionate ones.

“The streak of violence runs through humanity,” opined Professor Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He believed that the innate cruelty of Romans, spearheaded by individuals like Caligula and Nero, was instrumental in the downfall of such a great empire. The collective cravings of Romans for all bloody sports and activities expedited their end. Enjoying the gory sight of gladiators and slaves killing each other made Romans orgasmically happy. British historian Sir Arnold Toynbee wrote that the cruelty of the Romans was mankind's metaphor for violence which continues even now in the forms of boxing and bull-fighting.

Pacifists believe that had humans been peace-loving and haters of violence, there would not have been armies anywhere in the world and no country would have wasted large amounts of resources on destructive weapons. That we still need to have deadly weapons is enough proof that violence is not limited to certain or a few individuals, but it's a universal and collective behaviour.

According to the historian Yuval Noah Harari and evolutionary biologist Dr Richard Dawkins, humans are still in the process of evolution and none of us has fully evolved. The complete absence of violence is possible only among fully evolved humans and this is not a pipe dream of an indolent lotus-eater. So long as we live on a lower cerebral plane, it's well-nigh impossible to get rid of elements of violence from our individual as well as collective psyche.

Now the question is, what makes humans so unthinkably violent and why does violence gives so many of us an orgasmic kick?. Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso believed that more than vindictive manifestation of human nature, violence is a vindication of an individual's flawed and misplaced misconception of their “strength”. It also stems from an inferiority complex, when impotent anger bursts into a temporary sense of audacious manliness at killing or brutalising another person or animal. Adolf Hitler was a corporal in the Army and harboured seething anger against his seniors.

That violence is our second nature is evidenced by humans' proclivity to watch war and violent films on the screen. In fact, more than porn, men indulge and while away their time in watching savage films. Why do scores of people search for ISIS guys killing and beheading people? Why do even devout Muslims throng to watch the public decapitations after the evening prayers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the spectacles of public executions are still common? Even women go to watch a man's beheading. How will you explain this violently bizarre behaviour of humans? Why do many of us rubberneck at accident sites, just to see dead or injured people, blood and dismembered human organs?

So, it is incorrect to say that violence violates intrinsic human nature. Rather, it vindicates fundamental human nature. Each one of us is violent, not just this young guy Aaftab who butchered his paramour Shraddha in Delhi. It's time to introspect.

But at the same time, one must realise that the current times (often called “quicksand times”) and changing socio-behavioural patterns also work in a confluence to make the people, especially the younger generation, restless and violent. You may have noticed that people are dwelling upon only the cruel facet of the whole episode and on Aaftab's religion, turning a Nelson's eye to other factors like the widening chasm between parents and offspring and causes of extreme obsession that may degenerate into such ghastly killings. Shraddha walked out on her parents, but wasn't it their moral responsibility to make efforts to bring her back? Had her father intervened, Shraddha's life could have been saved. Mind you, this is not a stray case. This growing gulf between the parents and wards is a negative outcome of urbanisation and the so-called urbane behaviour. It's obvious that our familial bonds are fast waning and emotional ties have become tenuous.

But this issue is hardly addressed, like depression among individuals. Instead, Aaftab's faith is much more important for idle minds. Mind you, crime has nothing to do with religion. A Hindu or Christian can also be unthinkably savage while perpetrating a crime. On December 3, 2013, in a flat in Bhayander, Mumbai, Girish Pote (29) strangled his wife Madhuvanti Pathak (32) and cut her body into several pieces. Was he Muslim? The point is that we are unnecessarily harping on useless issues and losing the plot. It's a classic case of missing the forest for the trees. It's time we all introspect and hold ourselves morally responsible for society collectively going astray. This gory murder is a glaring manifestation of our crumbling societal structure and dwindling human (also humane) values.

The writer is a regular contributor to the world’s premier publications and portals in several languages

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