Saturday, February 10, 2007

What war does to people.

[Disclosure - I found this quite disturbing].

We put people in situations where they end up making inhuman accomodations in order to survive; then we question their character, because they seem so dishonorable compared to what we'd like to believe we'd be, were we in their shoes.

In any case, it's very bad news for everybody involved.

I found it here (credit where it's due, and all that).


bite said...

There are so many thought going through my head after viewing (just a few seconds before I had to turn it off).

1. Damn, I wish I didn't have that image in my head

2. All-volunteer army. There is a certain type of person who chooses to join the armed forces. Not all of them, but many.

3. Something something about men in general. I was thinking it over recently after watching Pan's Labyrinth.

You see, I fear for my children when they are with a pack of young men. Watching (or hiding my yes from, which was the case) the torture scenes in that movie reminded me of so many other stories. I thought about the men who tortured Matthew Shephard not far from our homes. I thought of the men who dragged that black man to his death behind a truck. I thought about the torture and lynchings of Black people under Jim Crow.

Thought about those men who raped and cheered on the rape of that young woman in that bar.

The stories go on and on.

What is it about young men?

Anonymous said...

er...hiding my *eyes*

TenaciousK said...

I'm glad you turned it off - it gets worse, I think.

It's not an all-volunteer army in Iraq. There are a lot of national guard troops over there who never anticipated they'd actually get called up for anything more serious than Grenada.

I think you have a point about men. I think it's partly testosterone (there's just too much evidence), and it's partly socialization. I had a dear (hardcore, traditional feminist) mentor explain to me that, when she finally understood what our sexist culture does to men, she couldn't stop weeping.

I just made a long comment to catnapping over on Wikifray, here, you might be interested in. In a nutshell, I was saying that empathy and compassion, from a survival standpoint, are luxuries we cannot afford when we face chronic threats. People actively turn those feelings off. Sometimes, they go to great lengths to turn them off - attempting to destroy in the external world anything that resonates with that aspect of their internal world.

We see those folks on the news, because they do horrible things sometimes.

I think from an evolutionary standpoint, men just got the short end of that stick because we're relatively disposable, compared to women. Makes sense that psychological regression would also turn out to be a division of labor issue, doesn't it?

bite said...

Quickly, because it is late:

"Society" is run by men, and has been since time began.

It is men who find men disposable.
So basically, I am saying that that is exactly what I am saying

Heliogabalus said...

I'm not arguing the fact that men are bloodthirsty animals, but
the occasional, latent & sometime ever-present extreme violence within women, is an issue which is very often, not debated or even considered. Women violence phenomenon is real & not as sporadic as it seems, but is not the focus of society because it almost never makes the front page of newspapers.

Some experts argue that women are in fact, capable of a level & degree of violence (infanticide etc....) surpassing & sometime unknown to male violence.

Men are primitive beings functioning on a very basic reactional system of emotional instincts & strong natural impulses. The biological drive defines men, not the other way around. My personal biological drive could explain a lot about what i'd be capable to do, to the men torturing that poor dog.(maybe i am no better..).

TenaciousK said...

Bite: I was thinking more venerable influences than that. I mean if we’re talking the relative impact of things like sex hormones, we’re talking about effects that impact more species than just humans. So far as sex-role differentiation goes, in a biological sense, men are relatively expendable (disposable was probably not the best word for me to have chosen). I mean, evolutionary success is based first on procreation, and second, offspring survival to maturity. For the first task, one man can do the job for (well, at least according to Wilt Chamberlain) tens of thousands of women.

I’m also not convinced men have run things since time began. There’s an awful lot of history we don’t know, and though there’ve been some provocative speculations, the issue will remain controversial, I’m sure.

I think I mentioned once, though, that a social psychologist of my acquaintance made a pretty good argument that early polygamous Utah was primarily matriarchal. This implies that a patriarchal power grab was as much a motivation to give up polygamy as any federal pressure – which seems to coincide with the re-tasking of the relief society as relatively powerless, and the prohibition against women receiving even the Aaronic priesthood (there were a number of early exceptions, which never get brought up in church history these days).

I’ll concede, though, that men seem biologically inclined to a greater degree of violence (though a greater degree of specialization is probably more accurate). If you’re a fan of evolution, you’ve got to admit, it’s a strategy that’s paid off in the long-run. [The idea that it will continue to pay off, however, is dubious; weapons of mass destruction change playing field in a fundamental way.]

The traditionalist, probably inadequately supported view is that women are more cooperative, and men are more competitive (aggregate mean differences across diverse, overlapping populations of course). It’s a view that makes sense, given various human and animal observations, especially if you accept the idea that cooperative behavior is a luxury chosen in relatively good times, in an attempt to capitalize on the potentially synergistic nature of joint endeavors. Once a certain level of scarcity is reached, perhaps it makes more evolutionary sense to begin competing with those around you (if you’re in a position to compete). This is where men come off looking antisocial.

If it’s true, this leads to all kinds of speculations about what might be going on, socially, that encourages (some) men to continue in this vein.

TenaciousK said...

Hi Helio - I've gotta run, but I'll respond later.

TenaciousK said...

Helio: Violence is a human behavior that crosses genders (of course). But I think you’re mistaken about women, and violence. The studies that have compared men and women and acts of violence rather uniformly (last I looked, anyway, which has admittedly been awhile) found that women commit many more violent acts. They’re more likely to hit, or throw things, for example. Men are dramatically more likely to cause injury, however, which leaves me wondering if examination of frequency in this case really is apples and oranges. But apparently, the debate about comparative violence in men and women goes on.

And look – though it’s unscientific, I think observing enough mammals leads me to the conclusions that males of most mammalian species are just more inclined to social aggression than female (which is not to say that females do not become aggressive, of course). That anyone would think male Homo sapiens are uniquely excepted from this seem ridiculous to me.

When it comes to organized, sadistic violence, I have to disagree. Though there are certainly female serial killers , for example, though they seem to pale in comparison to the activities of various men. Some interesting references on serial killers are here (women specifically) and here (cross-gender and of questionable writing quality and taste).

Men are primitive beings functioning on a very basic reactional system of emotional instincts & strong natural impulses. The biological drive defines men, not the other way around.

Well, I have to say I strongly disagree with this. We are all capable of being primitive beings, given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances, though one of the ways in which people vary (apparently) is in their ability to resist such influences. In common speech, that quality would probably be termed “character.”

But people tend to over-estimate the strength of their own character, I think, as well as its lack in the people around them. I think what those soldiers were doing to that dog is morally reprehensible – as individual acts. I’m not so willing to be judgmental, however, about the person’s vulnerability to the context in which they’re operating. Did the Stanford Prison Experiment , or Milgram’s study on authority teach us nothing?

We should all be grateful for the circumstances that encourage us to develop a broader ethical sense, and nurture those aspects of our environment we can thank for our more highly developed empathic sensibilities.

TenaciousK said...

[sigh...] Well, I just spent a little bit of time looking at videos from the war at the site where this one originated. I had in mind I might want to post another one, to provide a little combat-related context.

What I saw: videos of firefights, a soldier making fun of Iraqi kids, a hummer being destroyed by an IED [with little circles helpfully drawn around the bodies flying through the air), a helicopter being shot down by rebels.

What I read: a bunch of comments accompanying the videos, most of whom were expressing an equivalent amount of sensitivity as the soldiers in this video are for this dog's plight; people making snide, sarcastic comments about bodies flying through the air, as though the soldiers had it coming.

I decided not to post anything else – the whole situation is fucking depressing, and I’m not particularly inclined to contribute to the growing chasm of alienation and enmity separating the sides of this conflict. What I would really like to see is resolution. How this can be accomplished is for finer minds than mine, I guess. But it certainly goes to support my point – violence begets violence, and brings out the worst in our nature.

I do wonder why our current administration, if it can be demonstrated they were lying, are not being prosecuted. But perhaps there is a parallel problem - the people most inclined to feel a moral responsibility for the consequences of their actions are those least likely to seek public office, in the same way that Bite was implying that those most likely to feel a moral responsibility for their behavior are least likely to enlist.

If so, there is something crucial to the health of our political system that is broken.

bite said...


One of the thoughts that went through my head was, "Would it be tragic if these soldiers got killed?"

Of course I would never act upon that thought in any way.

My point wasn't that young men are agressive (duh), it was that young men seem to be very dangerous in groups. Somehow their average IQ seems to drop and their cruelty level goes up as the number of young men increases.

There would probably not be one soldier by himself torturing that animan, without his buddies to egg him on.

I think that is why men are so great in the military. They are so willing to do *anything* when the group appears to endorse it.

I think women are less likely to become part of the mob. I am speaking in generalities, of course.

TenaciousK said...

Difficult to respond to that, not having been part of a group of women before.

I remember hearing an author interviewed once, who'd written a book about social gameplay of girls in secondary school (I wish I could remember enough to find it now), and it sounded like at that age, the girls were pretty brutal. I think what I've heard people argue is that women are more inclined to social maltreatment, while men are more inclined to abuse.

Not sure that's much consolation to people like that rape victim you referenced; "Yeah, but if they'd have been women, they'd have been really, really mean to you, so it's about as bad..."

That character thing, though - that's for real. Sometimes, you'll hear about individuals defying great social pressure to hold true to a set of values. In the military, they're trained as thoroughly as possible to replace core values with chain-of-command, and group affiliation.

I guess it's useful for soldiers to be brutal. All the more reason to avoid wars, I think.

After watching those videos yesterday, I'm angrier than ever about the our engagement in this war. If they can prove the president knowingly lied in the service of putting on this course, he should be impeached. Cheney too.

Maximo said...

i think i read that clip differently than you all did.

TenaciousK said...

Do share.

maximo said...

i'm not seeing sadism per se--at worst, a bit of indifference.

granted, i only watched the clip once or twice, but it didn't so much look like they maimed the dog as they found it that way?

which is to say, the rock throwing looked to me like a way safely to prompt the animal to move (ok, that itself might be a bit cruel, but if the mentality is "ain't that the darnedest thing you ever saw?" it sorta made some sense).

at the end of the clip, one of them did suggest putting the dog down.

TenaciousK said...

It’s unconscionable to exacerbate suffering in the service of creating spectacle.

maximo said...

exacerbate? i guess...