How to Prevent Charleston, South Carolina From Happening Again

My perspective in this article is limited by my position as a white male.

I was born into privilege. Growing up in predominantly white Oregon, I was met by validation from every side that I was the “right” color.

So my experience with racism and racially motivated violence is limited, and everything I write is hampered by that.

But I was brought up to know right from wrong. I was taught to not lift a hand against my brother or sister, and I was taught to help others. That is what I wish to do now, to the extent I can.

This article addresses the twinned problems of racism and violence and their intersection. I don’t know the solutions and I don’t know exactly how to help. But I will do all I can.

SINS OF THE FATHERS

As someone accustomed to using words to express himself, it is amazing how hard it is to put words around the latest tragedy in a long line of American tragedies, the slaying in South Carolina.

I feel obligated to put down the cliches that have become all too well-worn: “hopes and prayers with families” and “deplore this senseless violence” and all the rest. But thus ends my compliance with the grisly etiquette of mass violence in America.

What I really want to say is, what’s wrong with us? Why does this happen here, and so few other places?

I believe in cause and effect. So I have to start from that question: what would be the cause of this?

And that leads me to the fact that America is a nation founded on the backs of black African slaves who were brought here in chains and died in chains.

And the fact that even before that, America was a nation founded on naked ambition and unpremeditated biological warfare.

The Europeans who came here found that their plans for the continent were incompatible with the lifestyles of the indigenous people. Rather than compromising or co-creating, the Europeans exerted their will through various levels and types of force, and created a genocide.

The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.Numbers 14:18

So how do contemporary Americans deal with this history of violence?

A good start would be for every American man, woman and child of European descent to spend one day per month in mourning for the crimes of their forebears.

Actions have consequences. The seeds of violence blossom into gardens of killing.

So now we live in the deadly gardens. Presumably we want to return to the peaceful garden. What seeds must we plant?

These would be the seeds of compassion, of forgiveness, of understanding, and of non-violence. It’s time to go to work to turn towards our brothers, to reach out and help them in their suffering. It’s time to gain competence in non-violent speech, non-violent thinking, and non-violent actions.

American society today is racist and violent. Racism comes from fear, and violence comes from hatred and ignorance.

If we want to live in a world where we are free from the constant threat of being gunned down, we need to release our brothers and sisters from the prisons of fear and ignorance.

And we need to end our poisonous culture of permissive violence and extra-legal, retributional killing.

HOW OUR YOUNG MEN ARE TRAINED TO KILL EACH OTHER

It is a little-known fact that in the World Wars, very few men deliberately fired their rifles at the enemy in an attempt to kill him.

Studies of firing rates show that only about 20% of soldiers actively tried to kill the enemy — as recounted in the book On Killing by Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman. The vast majority fired over the heads of the enemy, or did not fire at all.

It turns out that man has a natural aversion to killing his fellow man. This natural moral compass can be overturned, however, with training.

The training I speak of was introduced in time for the Vietnam war and drew from the psychology of Pavlov and Skinner: operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and social conditioning.

When the Sergeant says “Fire”, you fire. When the target pops up, you fire at it. If you hit it, it goes down, and you get rewarded. Simple.

This stimulus-response conditioning is now the basic game mechanic in every First Person Shooter video game on the market.

Then you have the constant stream of murders and violent killings in the media and in movies, which we simply call “action movies.”

Our movie heroes are vigilante anti-heroes: James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, Judge Dredd, Batman, and Riddick. We applaud these men precisely because of their competence in violence. They are merciless and efficient at killing. Those who do show moral restraint — notably Batman — still take the law into their own hands. They are extra-legal, extra-judicial, and retributional.

When these are the only male role models left, and their choice is either fast money in the streets or training to knock people down with guns via violent video games, what do you expect to happen?

Now you’re thinking “My son plays video games and idolizes James Bond but he’s not a killer.” And you’re right. But that’s because your son has you, and at some point, I bet you taught him that you don’t point guns at people.

Now imagine your son didn’t have you, but instead his closest male relative was on the block saying, “Someone steps to you, you back them down, by any means necessary.” Now what is your son going to do?

When was the last male in the media you saw choose a non-violent response to a crises? President Obama himself wages a not-so-secret drone war that is extra-judicial, extra-legal, and essentially state vigilantism. If this is the norm for our government, why not for its people?

The message is simple: men are weapons. They gain status by showing competence in violence.

Modern society has taken away [boys’] fathers and replaced them with new role models whose successful response to every situation is violence. And then we wonder why our children become ever more violent.Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, On Killing

The American Psychological Assocation’s commission on violence and youth concluded in 1993 that “there is absolutely no doubt that higher levels of viewing violence on television are correlated with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behavior.”

By 1994, there were more than 200 studies demonstrating the correlation between television and violence.

Twenty years later, the killings continue.

Could it be that it is time for the “entertainment industry” to reign itself in?

“Oh, we don’t decide what to make,” Hollywood may say. “We just produce what people want.”

So convince me that people want a Gone With The Wind less than a Die Hard. Show me the data that correlates increased social cohesion and reduced rates of violence with the showing of The Dark Knight Returns.

You can’t do it. Partly because The Dark Knight Returns opened to an armed gunman killing people in Aurora, Colorado.

Are we really so surprised that this happened at the screening of a movie that asks the audience to essentially play the role of the cheering section for a vigilante-vs-vigilante deathmatch?

We accept the correlation between smoking and cancer. So why won’t we accept the correlation between violent media and violent citizens?

Why would we regulate cigarettes, and not regulate violent media?

Censorship is external regulation and therefore professional anathema. Yet such sanctions is the community’s natural response to what it feels might threaten its stability, be it adulterated food, dangerous drugs, guns or films that incite social evils. Film-makers, like all artists, claim a license from such sanction. They are observers outside of society looking in. But the license is held on lease. It is not free-hold. It can be withdrawn.Simon Jenkins, London Times editorial

It’s fairly easy to restrict a minor’s access to a two-ton vehicle.

It’s harder to restrict their access to information, images, videos, and virtual experiences that will accustom him to violent gun battles.

And that is why any regulation of access is going to have to start at the top — with the content creators themselves.

The television, movie and video game industries and their handful of (nonmedical) defenders can say anything they want..ultimately what they are doing is for their own personal gain and the result — intentional or not — is killing innocent men, women, and children. They are ultimately making individual moral decisions to participate in the destruction of their fellow citizens.Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, On Killing

When Robert Oppenheimer, father of the Atomic Bomb, saw the first bomb explode he wept and said, “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” He realized what he had done as a maker.

He didn’t turn away and say, “Well, what you choose to do with it has nothing to do with me. Your parents should have raised you better.” He wept because he realized that he held responsibility, as a maker, to make things that would improve the world for humanity.

And he had failed.

You may say, “Well, it was us or the Nazis, so it had to be us.” Fine, I agree with you. But don’t get caught up in historical hindsight.  The principal is what is important.

And the principal is this: if you’re a maker, you can make a better gun or a better house. You choose.

And it can’t be an economic decision or just up to your personal preference. Your decision has moral weight and to ignore that, or to acknowledge it and still choose based on economics, or expediency, or social pressure, is to abdicate your role as a moral animal in the betterment of your fellow humans.

We had the courage to ban atmospheric nuclear tests. We have the courage to break down our nuclear stockpiles and begin recycling towards zero. So too we must develop the courage to recognize the power of mass distraction that media gives us. Content creators must behave morally if we are to turn the fountain of violence and bloodshed into the calm spring from which flows the peace, the strength, and the equanimity, and the compassion of a mature civilization.

I understand that this requires great courage. May we all have the courage to make a better choice.

ARE YOU RACIST?

The racist in a culture with racism is therefore normal. He has achieved a perfect harmony of economic relations and ideology.Frantz Fanon

If you were brought up in America, you are probably racist.

I’m not saying this to be unkind. Racism is the water we swim in. It’s normal.

If you’re white, you might not consider yourself racist because you don’t actively and passionately feel hatred towards anyone of another skin color, and you’d never say the N-word.

Okay.  That’s a good place to start.

But it’s not enough to be “not racist” by that definition. That is the price of admission to polite society, but it doesn’t move us farther down the path of healing.

At the heart of America is a gaping wound that weeps the blood of millions of people who were exterminated for being the wrong color. That wound is still crying to be seen and to be healed by acknowledgment, listening, compassion, humility and heart.

For every one of us who says “I’m not racist” it falls to you to make a friend who is racist and influence him or her in a more compassionate direction.

That’s your work. You were gifted with influences that helped you to be non-racist and your mission is therefore to reach out to someone who is and help influence them as you were influenced.

If you’re part of the white community you probably need to seek out a way to connect with the black community. Seek where you can sit down and listen and hear what life is like for them. Seek and ask what you can do to help draw off some of their pain.

There’s a lot of pain in the past. Genocide. Slavery. Discrimination. Terrorism. It will take a long time to heal. But we need to heal it. So we can grow up.

The future of America has to be everyone together, accepting one another, or nothing. That’s what we’re here for.

ARE WE FREE?

This article is being published on July 3rd, as good a time as any to decide what kind of freedoms we value as a country.

Do we value the freedom of the individual to violently massacre his brothers, at will?

Or do we value freedom from worrying that our children will be shot dead in school today?

Do we value our freedom to sit in church, or in a coffee shop, relatively free from threat of being shot by someone we don’t even know?

Or is it more important to us that we don’t have to do hard things?

Or is it more important to use that we can own fully-automatic assault rifles?

To all of you who say that your owning a fully-automatic assault rifle keeps me safe from being shot at, I don’t believe you, primarily because I cannot count on you to be in that same coffee shop that I am sitting in when the gunman opens fire. Nor do I want to live in a world where Starbucks has to hire armed guards.

Moreover, even if you are there with your concealed carry, and even if you do happen to be the prize-winning pistol-shooting champion of the entire Western United States, you will still be in a tactically reactive position, from which you cannot possibly recover in time to save us all from having our day fully ruined.

I support my fellow citizens’ right to bear arms but I do not see any use for them being able to buy guns without a full background check, mental health check, and mandatory waiting period before they can buy matching ammo.

Every destructive act gnaws away at the restraint of other men. Each act of violence eats away at the fabric of our society like a cancer, spreading and reproducing itself in ever-expanding cycles of horror and destruction. The genie of violence cannot really ever be stuffed back into the bottle. It can only be cut off here and now, and then the slow process of healing and resensitization can begin.Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, On Killing

Right now, on this 4th of July 2015, the freedom we Americans enjoy is the freedom for ourselves and our children to get shot up randomly in our own homes, schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, workplaces, parks, coffee shops, cars, and streets.

I would exchange this freedom for a new and better freedom: the freedom from the threat of racial violence, and the freedom from the threat of the “random mass killing.”

We built this world. It’s time to choose again. It’s time to choose to build a better world — a safer world.

Sound impossible? We’ve done it before, many times:

  • The classical Greeks refused to implement the bow and arrow for four centuries citing it as an “unmanly” weapon.
  • The Japanese banned firearms in the 1500s and sustained this ban for three centuries.
  • The Chinese invented gunpowder but elected not to use it in warfare.
  • The world has rejected the use of poison gas since WWI.
  • We’ve banned the deployment of antisatellite weapons.
  • We’ve banned atmospheric nuclear tests.
  • The U.S. and Russia have been reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons for decades.

If we can turn away from the terrible technologies of mass destruction, then we can also turn away from the weapons of mass distraction and mass desensitization: the violent television show, the violent movie, the violent video game.

We can turn away from the violence done by lack of male role models.

We can turn away from the violence done by systemic economic disenfranchisement.

To fail to do this leaves us with only two possible results: to go the route of the Mongols and the Third Reich, or the route of Lebanon and Yugoslavia. No other result is possible if successive generations continue to grow up with the greater and greater desensitization to the suffering of their fellow human beings. We must put the safety catch back on our society.Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing

I am not calling for a government solution or government censorship. Politicians are fundamentally obsolete as problem-solvers.

I am calling for individual responsibility and self-censorship.

  • If you make media of any type or work in media, it falls on you to ask yourself: “Am I creating a climate of violence or non-violence with this media? Am I creating a climate of hatred or love? Tolerance or bigotry? Acceptance or judgment?”
  • If you are a single man, it falls on you to graduate to brotherhood or fatherhood. If not biological fatherhood then Big Brother-style fatherhood where you mentor a younger man and do what you can to raise him up in the way he should go. You are never too young to start this work. If you are 16 you can mentor a young man who is 12. Help him to steer away from violence and towards compassion. Your job is to teach them that might does not make right. Your job is to teach him the curriculum of peace. It is the responsibility of all adult men to show the young men of tomorrow a better way they can live, today. (My proposed curriculum is listed below).
  • If you are a biological father your responsibility could not be more clear. It is to raise your kids in the spirit of the Fierce Gentleman or the Fierce Lady, guided by the precepts of morality, service, compassion for others, and competence in non-violence.

Here is the basic curriculum for young men & women:

  • It’s not okay to hit others.
  • Solve problems with words, not violence.
  • Retaliation is never justified. Breaking the cycle of violence is your responsibility.
  • It’s not acceptable to use violence to protect, defend or establish a reputation.
  • It’s not okay to abuse or objectify or subjugate anyone.
  • It’s not okay to practice shooting people in the head, over and over, a thousand times a week, or to take in the same as passive “entertainment.”
  • It’s the responsibility of every young man & women to be competent in the use of their bodies (athletics).
  • It’s the responsibility of every young man & woman to be acquainted with the use of force and to understand it, but this is to be done within the structure of a system of martial arts, with real (not digital) people so the consequences of pain and mistakes can be learned, and the proper place of anger, self-discipline, and self-control can also be learned.
  • We must teach every youngster competence in non-violence, starting with non-violent speech, non-violent action and moving to peaceful nonviolent resistance to any entity (corporate or government) that would take away his or her humans rights.

‘WE WILL BREAK THE SWORD’

In the 20th century, we almost ended ourselves with atomic bombs.

Now we stand on the brink again, but this time our existential threat is from within: it is the cancer of hatred, ignorance and violence.

If we’re not careful, we’ll unravel ourselves entirely. Not because of enemies at our gates, but because of the mass murder in our city squares, repeated over and over again until the society jails itself behind bars of fear and government “protection.”

Do we have the courage to do what is necessary to cure the cancer?

Our leaders in the 20th century did. They found their way through that most unlikely path to peace.

Do we have the moral courage, and the self-control, to do the same?

And perhaps the great day will come when a people, distinguished by wars and victories of the highest development of a military order and intelligence, and accustomed to make the heaviest sacrifice for these things, will explain of its own free will, ‘We will break the sword,’ and will smash its military establishment down to its lowest foundations. Rendering oneself unarmed when one has been best armed, out of a height of feeling–that is the means to real peace, which must always rest upon a peace of mind; whereas the so-called ‘armed peace’ as it now exists upon all countries, is the absence of peace of mind. . . Rather perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared — this must someday become the highest maxim for every single commonwealth too.Nietzsche

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.Isaiah 2:4

 

THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO THE VICTIMS AND THEIR COMMUNITIES

  • Trayvon
  • Michael
  • Eric
  • Medgar
  • Jordan
  • Tarika
  • Martin
  • Emmett
  • Eleanor
  • Flint
  • Jonesboro
  • Littleton
  • Columbine
  • Aurora
  • Virginia Tech
  • Sandy Hook
  • Fort Hood
  • Santa Barbara
  • And too many more

We’ll send you the latest every Sunday. Click here to get Fierce Gentleman in your inbox.


Also published on Medium.

20 Comments How to Prevent Charleston, South Carolina From Happening Again

  1. Ryan

    Drew,

    Another great article. My wife made the comment after the 4th of July parade about how it was all about the military. She had never realized that our patriotism is mostly grounded in celebrating our military. Our national anthem is a war anthem, and we blow stuff up and shoot rockets to celebrate our independence. We are still deeply rooted in a violent history.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      That’s a great point Ryan – props to your wife.

      It’s also worthwhile to keep in mind that the U.S. spends more on military (“defense”) than the next 7 countries combined….we outspend Russia, China, India, Germany, the UK, France, AND Saudi Arabia (COMBINED). Plus our nation still has 300 military bases OUTSIDE our borders. It’s the biggest machine and the biggest employer the human race has ever collectively created. Now you can see how I get excited at the prospect of turning it to peaceful, non-violent ends :)

      Reply
  2. Dela

    Hey Drew,

    I love what you do man and I love your writings. Admittedly I was already in a bad mood when I read this… but damn. I had a brief moment where I considered removing myself from your list. I disagree with many of your sentiments and I feel like perhaps you haven’t researched the topic very thoroughly.

    I work in the video game industry, and I’ve worked on many action titles that allow for violence. Of course several of these games also allow for non violent solutions – or non lethal solutions – to pretty much all of the scenarios. This is a growing trend and something I’m proud to be a part of.

    First of all there is violence and then there is killing a sentient being. The second is far far more serious than the first. Sentient life is the pinnacle of creation and very valuable. That said, a sentient being could be ‘violently’ subdued and detained, tried and found guilty/not guilty, and then be released/incarcerated and live out the rest of their natural lives. We live in a violent world. Nature is violent, we don’t see too many predators these days, but go back more than one hundred years anywhere in the world and the possibility of being eaten by another animal is fairly high. Being armed and fluent in a martial art was essential to human survival for the entirety of our existence up until about 1900.

    I was very interested in the segment about various cultures banning various weapons. Learned some new stuff there like I usually do when I read your stuff. Super rad man. That said, we actually live in the least violent moment in human history.

    Links:
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/hayesbrown/world-war-ii-deaths#.mkDZEeB7Aj
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/globally-deaths-war-and-murder-are-decline-180950237/?no-ist
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/22/world-less-violent-stats_n_1026723.html

    …. I’d love to have a longer deeper conversation with you about this… I have a major deadline tomorrow so I gotta cut this short… but I’ll had a few more notes…

    – I grew up in a household full of guns. My father began teaching me how to shoot at five years old; I’ve never shot another person
    – I’ve studied martial arts; I have been in fights, but have never permanently injured anyone.
    – I spent 8 days in jail once while awaiting a court hearing (charges were dropped) I was very happy to have the confidence and presence that my training gave me when I was there; jail is a violent place.
    – My wife was raped by a man she had been dating and broken up with. He beat her up and thrashed her apartment and then forced himself on her. He did things like drive her out to the desert and threaten to leave her there. He stalked her at work and at home. She was too scared to go to the police. She lived in constant fear of this asshole. I wasn’t with her when any of the previous events had occurred but I was aware of what had happened and I’d already phoned him and told him that he was not to come near her or contact her ever again. We’d only been dating a few months at this point. I’m not sure if he was using her “Find my iPhone” service to track her or if it was pure coincidence, but this guy approached us in a restaurant one day. The situation quickly escalated. I weigh 150 lbs, he’s a body builder and weighs at least 200 lbs. He clearly wasn’t used to people standing up to him. I calmly asked him to leave. I calmly explained to him that she was afraid of him, had no wish to see or speak to him, and that if he wasn’t going to leave then we were. He quickly grew irate and threatening. I stood up and pulled a Buck knife on him. It scared the shit out of him. He attempted to disarm me and cut his hands badly in the process. I didn’t hurt him any further and we quickly left the scene. The police arrived, took statements from witnesses and quickly decided that he was in the wrong. This led to them speaking to my wife who then turned over countless emails and texts in which his behaviour was very clearly spelled out. We never heard from that guy again. My wife was suddenly not so afraid anymore and since she’s really learned to stand up for herself. She also carries a knife now.

    Goodness can only exist alongside evil. If you are powerless than being merciful is meaningless. If however you are powerful and capable of harming others and you judiciously choose not too except when you absolutely have to – that’s goodness, that’s virtuous. I would prefer a world where everyone was armed and trained in a martial art but no one ever chose to use these powers over a world where everyone was disarmed and helpless.

    When wolves are at your doorstep are you going to get eaten or are you going to grab your shotgun?

    This world we live in was forged by violence every step of the way… for better or worse… A fierce gentleman in my mind is a man who is armed and dangerous but no one ever knows because he judiciously never uses it except in the defense of innocents.

    I think your article is very misguided and kind of surprising for a guy who just trained with a Navy Seal.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Hey Dela,
      Thanks for taking the time to lodge a criticism — I knew the focus on video games in particular would draw some fire, particularly because most people I’ve known who are involved in video game media are the sweetest, kindest, most creative, and most non-violent people I’ve known. (For a while, I wanted to get into video games myself.) I think people involved in video games are awesome, and I think most video games are awesome.

      But that awesomeness can’t distract us from the very real moral choice we have to make: when we make addictive video games, we know people are going to play them repetitively. So what do we want them to be practicing, repetitively? Is violence just a ‘fun’ game mechanic? Can it be totally isolated from real-world implications? I’m genuinely asking, because I think game developers like yourself need to genuinely ask, answer, and go on public record with their answers.

      I haven’t read Pinker’s book, but I’ve seen it do the rounds.Briefly: does he address the massive improvements in medical technology? From your Smithsonian link: “the incidence of non-state conflict seems to be rising. This suggests that even though there is more fighting, fewer people are dying.” Lt. Col. Grossman addresses this: medical technology has lead to a steep decline in battlefield (and non-battlefield deaths). Instead, there are more injured and maimed people. They would have been casualties in past conflicts.

      Even so I think the overall numbers showing a decline are probably pointing to a true trend. Which is good! But just because we’re heading in the right direction doesn’t mean we can stop pushing. This article is my attempt to keep the ball rolling. How many deaths from violence are acceptable on this planet? 0.

      I absolutely agree with you on guns, martial arts, and command of the capacity to wield force. That’s why I included it in the curriculum. But I disagree about mercy only being possible from a position of power, and good only being able to exist alongside evil. If we have to have equal measure of good and evil, tenderness and terrorism, what’s the point? Duality leaves me cold. The world I want to live in is a world of total peace. Again: zero fatalities. Don’t you agree?

      I think that’s what Nietszche is saying: unilateral disarmament is the ultimate power. The idea that we’d rather be utterly destroyed by an invading power than take up the sword and spill more blood, that is the height of power, that is the complete defenselessness against which there is no effective weapon. From the Fierce Gentleman manifesto: “The Fierce Gentleman understands that defensiveness invites attack, so he knows that true safety lies in standing naked and undefended against the world.”

      That’s important: defensiveness invites attack. Remember in Return of the Jedi, where Luke goes into the dark-side cave? He asks Yoda “What’s in there?” And Yoda says, “Only what you bring with you.” He debates bringing his lightsaber. Yoda says he won’t need it. Luke can’t give it up, takes it anyway. He meets a terrifying figure, Darth Vader, and they fight.

      Now ask yourself: what would Luke have encountered had he not brought his lightsaber with him?

      Imagine what would happen if the United States made an announcement tomorrow: “We are going to turn our military, including all 300 overseas bases, into a Force for Peace. The Defense Department is henceforth the Department of Peace. We are going to use our training, technology, logistics and capabilities to distribute food and end economic insecurity and end violence everywhere we find it in the world.” The US military is the mightiest force on the planet. My God, can you imagine what would happen in other countries if we did that? Can you imagine the ripples of goodwill that would spread outward? The U.S. would become, overnight, literally unconquerable and even more secure as the most important country in the world.

      If you are just concerned about being physically harmed, then this logic sounds insane. But if you are concerned with living a principle, there is no clearer logic. Undefended nonviolent compassion is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof.

      Reply
      1. Sid

        Hi Drew,

        I respect what you’re trying to do and what you’re saying, and I’d like to add my two cents worth. You talked about a lot of stuff, both in the original article, and in your response above, so I will tell you in advance that I’ll probably be all over the place, so please bear with me.
        “Duality leaves me cold”-nature is all about duality. Night and Day are two pretty obvious examples. We need both to survive no? The fact that there are two opposite sexes in almost every species is the foundation of the continuation of life itself. If there were only one sex, life ceases to be.
        Good and evil: one cannot exist without the other, or else how would you define what is “good” and what is “evil”? Also, these are subjective terms. We as Americans think of ourselves as the “good guys” yet others in the world would disagree.
        Nature is violent. It is the natural order of things. There is no non-violent way that a lion kills a gazelle or a water buffalo. And, yes- I understand the difference between a lion killing a gazelle, and some hateful shithead killing people in a church.
        Before I continue, let’s address that head on. One person’s hateful actions don’t speak for all of us. In fact, I’d say the majority of people on this planet aren’t racist. We just want to get along, do our thing, take care of our families, and be left alone. Racism is taught, and it can be untaught, and yes, we have to start somewhere. And just so you’re aware, racism is not limited to the white community. So why don’t we talk about that part of it? I’m an Indian immigrant, so when I talk about non-white racism, I want you to understand that it’s not me speaking from “the privilege of growing up white”, or from a white viewpoint. All that to say this: I’m really quite tired of hearing some in the white community talk about this “burden of privilege”, and how the white community needs to make a greater effort to understand other communities and what makes them tick. It may not seem like it, but that’s actually a pretty racist thing to say. It automatically assumes a superiority that no one actually granted you. As though you are Lord of the Manor taking the time to see how the other half lives. Another point about racism: as long as we continue to allow Americans to hyphenate themselves, we tacitly encourage racism and segregation. Hyphenating is divisive because it encourages the association by ethnicity, not by ideas. And if we are to truly make changes, lasting changes, we must band together based on shared ideas and principles, not on skin color or point of origin. I was born in India, and now I’m a naturalized citizen. I’m not an Indian-American. I’m an American. I don’t care about the color of a person’s skin, I care about their ideas and their actions. If you want a level playing field, start by teaching that.
        The Sins of the Father: should die with the father. Unless you continue your father’s prejudice or hatefulness, you are not responsible for his actions. Free will anyone? Also, stop apologizing for things that happened generations ago-whatever they were. You didn’t do it. Was it unconscionable that it happened? Absolutely. And we should make sure it will never happen again. But, by assuming guilt that isn’t yours, you only perpetuate a victim mentality on the part of others. If you’ve done wrong, make it right as best you can. Otherwise, get over it.
        Star Wars, James Bond, Batman, et al:
        When Luke went into the forest, he went in to confront his own demons. Which is why when he cut off Vader’s head, he saw his own face in the mask. The lightsaber was metaphorical, because he obviously didn’t cut off his own head. Maybe the one he took into the forest was still on his belt. Terrible example. And I’m not even going to start on your use of James Bond, Batman, et al.
        Movies glorify violence. Agreed. And we need to do a better job of parenting our young people to teach them the difference between what is real, and what is make-believe. So maybe instead of advocating censorship (let’s call it what it is) because you feel that exposure to these kinds of movies encourages similar behavior, maybe you need to encourage better parenting? Part of the problem with our culture today is that we’re trying to sanitize everything. If you don’t like a particular movie, don’t see it. Don’t let your kids see it if you think it’s detrimental to their development. It’s that simple. That’s the nature of a free market economy. Vote with your dollars. If enough people vote a certain way, they’ll stop making it. But saying “don’t make this because I don’t like it” quickly become a very slippery slope. Over sanitization discourages free thinking and growth. And it’s the more PC way of saying “Censorship”. You don’t have to like what I say, or write, or put on film, but you have to support my right to say it. Otherwise there will come a day when someone who doesn’t like what you say will try and take away your ability to say it.
        Also-I love James Bond movies. Also, Jason Bourne, Batman, and even Riddick was ok. But I’m not going to emulate that behavior because I know better. Again-that brings us back to proper parenting. And knowing the difference between real and fake. So maybe let’s talk about the breakdown of family in this country before anything else.
        Violence in general: At our very core, we are animals. The biggest difference is that we, for the most part, act on reason, and not on instinct. We have that capacity, but we are also capable of great violence, as history demonstrates. It is part and parcel of who we are. But, our reason tempers our baser instincts. For most of us anyway. Non-violence is a wonderful ideal, and certainly something to strive for, but don’t delude yourself by thinking we’ll ever be completely non-violent. Nor should we be. But, having the capacity to do violence is not the same as violent aggression. It is a defense mechanism, a survival mechanism. I am not by nature a violent person. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised like you were-do no harm. But, if I have to, and I hope I never do, I will defend myself, my loved ones, and my property by any means necessary. The Enterprise had shields, phasers and photon torpedoes, but they didn’t cruise the galaxy looking for a fight. When someone came at them, they tried diplomacy, but when push came to shove, they handled business. They walked (flew?) softly, but carried a mighty big stick. And no one messed with the Federation. Yes, we should teach peace. We should encourage peace wherever we can in the world. Hell, we should start at home while we’re at it. But what about people in other parts of the world who are under the thumb of someone less evolved than you or I? Someone who subjugates others because he is stronger than they? What do we do then? Do we ask him nicely to stop? Show me where that has worked. We use other means don’t we? Sure economics are one way-trade embargoes, sanctions, etc, but the real threat is always our mighty sword. Or it was at least, until recently. Do you think there’s no connection with our perceived lack of resolve to use military strength and the eruption of terrorism on such a massive scale? We have all those military bases all over the world because when the shit hits the fan, and it always does, everyone comes running to us to open the umbrella.
        Anyway-that’s my 2 cents worth. I’m sure I’ve neglected to address some things, but this is just a starting point anyway. Thanks for starting the dialogue. Cheers.

        Reply
        1. Drew

          Hey Sid,
          This gets quite philosophical — depending on your beliefs –it is a question of what you believe about the underlying structure of reality — real reality, not the illusion we call reality, which is dual and violent, as you point out. But it is too easy for this to be called “spiritual bypass” so let’s lay the point aside for now.

          The only other thing I feel called to comment on is this you said: “Non-violence is a wonderful ideal, and certainly something to strive for, but don’t delude yourself by thinking we’ll ever be completely non-violent. Nor should we be.”

          I can’t agree. Non-violence is not a wonderful idea, or something to strive for but never reach, it is the way and the only way. The Nietszche quote is there to get that point across. Ghandi’s revolt would not have been powerful had his followers pulled out guns and knives and gone after the British. They would have been slaughtered and forgotten. Laying down your arms when you are best armed is the height of feeling. That is what gets results.

          It’s quite easy to champion America’s military ascendancy right now, because it seems impregnable. But it is a paper tiger (and I say this as an American citizen.) And I’m afraid you’ve put the cart before the horse with your comment about the “eruption of terrorism on a massive scale” — which is really mostly a massive eruption of column-inches dedicated to scaremongering — what you actually saw with 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and London is the chickens coming home to roost from decades of Western exceptionalism and imperialism and adventurism in undeclared wars, rather than any “perceived weakness of resolve.” A few wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ought to have convinced all but the most stubborn observers that America is still quite willing to put her soldiers in harm’s way for….for what again?

          What you’ve essentially said here is “Might makes right.” This is all well and good when America is the mightiest country, because are relatively benign in our use of military power. But I wonder if you’d be singing the same tune if the Third Reich was the global military power right now.

          Reply
          1. Sid

            Hi Drew,

            No argument here that a lot of what we’re seeing in the world, and at home, today is a result of our foreign policy, and our readiness to jump into the middle of century old conflicts that we don’t even remotely understand. And yes, certain hegemonic intentions that all great powers have had over the course of human history. I also agree that there is a whole lot of media scaremongering that goes on today about pretty much everything. Whatever gets the highest ratings. It engenders fear and distrust, pits us against each other, and increases the racial and class divide. And our political “leadership” hasn’t done much to help bridge that gap.
            On the general topic of wars-I agree with the question. I’m not sure either “for what?”. Doesn’t seem like we’ve done much other than further destabilize the a region that’s been a powder keg for centuries.
            I’m not saying “might makes right”. I am saying might makes it easier to do what’s right. There’s a rather significant difference. Although I suppose what’s “right” becomes subjective depending on which side of the sword you’re on. As far as the Third Reich is concerned, our might made it so that theirs didn’t make Hitler right. By the same token, I’m wondering if you’d be singing the same tune of non-violence if the third reich was the global power? Would you go quietly into that good night or would you rage against the dying of your light? Or that of six million other people?
            “And perhaps the great day will come when a people, distinguished by wars and victories and by the highest development of a military order and intelligence, and accustomed to make the heaviest sacrifices for these things, will exclaim of its own free will, ‘We break the sword,’ and will smash its entire military establishment down to its lowest foundations…” Nietszche isn’t talking about universal disarmament. He’s talking about one group-maybe a country, maybe a planet-more intellectually evolved than we are now. Would he want us to lay down arms in the face of the 3rd reich? Is the idea then that we, in the face of violent aggression, lie down and die?
            Universal disarmament only works when there’s universal trust. We don’t have that yet. Should we work towards that? Absolutely! Does it start with us laying down our arms? I’m gonna go with no. Or-not yet. Maybe one day.
            You’re right about Gandhi and his approach. But how much of that was pragmatic versus philosophical? Gandhi wasn’t the best armed. The British had all the weapons. Indians would have been massacred wholesale. I’m not saying he would have done it differently if the Indians had been as well armed as the British, but it bears thinking about. But the British also didn’t invade India. They gained a foothold over a few hundred years and conquered by dividing. It’s a little different when you’re trying to kick out your colonial masters after 400 years versus defending yourself from invasion.
            Gandhi also said “I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor…” so let’s not think for one second he believed that non-violence was the only way. Was it his preferred way? Definitely. Was violence the last option? Absolutely, but he wasn’t opposed to it. And read up on the Amritsar Massacre sometime. Even non violent resistance isn’t without consequence…

          2. Sid

            PS-there’s no such thing as an “assault” rifle anymore than there is a “defensive” rifle. Any weapon is an assault weapon if you’re assaulting someone with it. A car becomes an assault weapon when you drive it into a crowd, but you don’t normally call it an “assault” car. Another example of media scaremongering.

          3. Drew

            Great point Sid. So where do you come down on automatic rifles and handguns with large magazines? I need to change the language in the article to be more precise.

          4. Sid

            I’m honestly not sure about where I am on automatic weapons and handguns with large mags. What I do know is that I have a double standard. I.e. if someone is coming at me, I want them to have as few rounds as possible-ideally none. But if I’m defending myself, I want to be able to fire as many rounds as possible before I have to reload. Doesn’t matter if it’s bullets, arrows, or rubber bands. So-good question. Depends on the situation I guess?

    2. Drew

      P.S. training with a Navy Seal, if anything, convinced me even more of the importance of training in non-violence. Meeting a guy who has literally killed men by slitting their throats in the dark and holding his hand over their trachea so the bubbling would be muffled convinced me that, to this level of proficiency in killing, we have to create an equivalent or greater proficiency in non-violence. Men are not meant to slaughter each other with such coldness — the historical record shows that clearly. Only through careful application of extremely intense psychological conditioning can this be possible. Man is not fundamentally violent, he is made that way only through great effort. That is the point of this article, and that is what you, as a game designer, have power into changing, as you see fit.

      Reply
  3. Troy McNay

    Obviously some truth to many of your points, and praying for guidance and the qualities that will bring peace is an important thing, but the concept of white privilege is divisive as well. As a white person when white privilege is invoked I feel like I’ve been left out, I sure don’t feel privileged. However, I do recognize I have it better than others but at the same time I recognize many who aren’t getting what they deserve for the better or worse. In my experience nobody ever feels like they are getting what they deserve. That’s just life.

    As Individuals we need to pray for each other and that we have the patience and compassion to accept and love the person next to us regardless of their ethnicity, abilities or lot in life.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Well said Troy! I appreciate you bringing light to the fact that you don’t feel privileged. I think a LOT of people feel (or rather, don’t feel) this way.

      One of my insights is as long as we feel individually disempowered (i.e., economically) it is harder for us to see and care about the plight of our brother. As you say, the correct remedy here is to have compassion and care for others regardless of who they are. It is paradoxical but caring for others is one of the fastest ways to secure yourself economically, as well.

      Reply
  4. Stewart Roldan

    Great article, once again. I cant agree 100%, however the points are taken. These words are pretty awesome reminders, and reinforcement, of how men should act. And what we should aspire to. As you, my perspective is limited. I am first generation latino, and was a bad, let me be more accurate, horribly bad kid from Los Angeles, and now a responsible family man. I have been enjoying these articles tremendously, and just wanted to let you know. As a community of men, we need to call the bullshit what it is. Abuse and neglect. Please keep up the good work, and thanks for the reminders.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Thanks Stewart for taking the time to comment and add your voice. I also appreciate you for taking the time to respectfully disagree. We can’t expect a world of perfect 100% agreement – that would be boring – but we can expect and demand a world of non-violence and personal responsibility. As a community of men, it’s important to remember that we are always stronger than the bullshit. We decide what goes on in our world. Thank you for standing with us.

      Reply
  5. Kirk Hunt

    Mr. Long,
    Thank you for a heart-felt and well-reasoned article. I cannot agree with some of your conclusions regarding media but you clearly have declared yourself for taking responsibility. I stand with you in this call.

    I would add to your call: what we consume creates what is made. Take responsibility for what you watch, read, wear. Encourage friends and family to do the same.

    That may extend to ignoring merchants and organizations that do not “get it.” No violence. No disruptive protest. Just the silence of buying from others who contribute to a more peaceful and just culture.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Kirk,
      Thank you for standing with me in responsibility, even if you don’t agree with some of my conclusions. The world needs more respectful disagreement.

      Your addition is wonderful and important. We have to vote with our dollars and, increasingly, with our attention. What links do we click on? Where do we spend our time and attention? What topics do we repeatedly raise in conversation? These are the questions that we must ask and answer if we are going to create a culture of non-violence. It starts, and ends, with each one of us. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *