By Don N.
Are instances of child violence on the rise? To tell the truth, I don’t really know, but I’ll go out on a limb and say it sometimes seems like it. There are good reasons why this could be true. Regardless, child violence is a problem worth solving whether the rates are increasing, decreasing, or static. To really start solving this problem, whatever its size, we MUST address the incentives and motivations for kids killing each other. Bullying is an obvious motivation. Bullying is a common feature of any population of the human animal. For kids, bullying used to be somewhat escape-able . . .
A child could seek refuge at home. A parent could move the child to another school. Now the bullying follows the child persistently wherever they go. It comes into their lives through their social media and cell phones. Frankly, I can’t imagine having that level of exposure to bullying as a kid, feeling that level of persistent threat with no refuge. When an animal is threatened it first tries to retreat. If it can’t retreat it fights.
Before we address the incentives and motivations we must cease being naively fixated on whatever the current locally popular means of killing is and maybe for the first time seriously acknowledge that incentives and motivations exist. There are two psychological roadblocks in our way:
First, our naive reliance on symbolic reasoning. The use of symbolic reasoning allows the attentive to compactly represent and deal with complex ideas, but often too easily lures the inattentive into the fallacy of mistaking the simplicity of the symbol itself for the complexity of reality.
Second, to look at incentives and motivation for violence we would have to acknowledge that violence follows from incentives and motivations, and therefore has a logic to it. We prefer to delude ourselves that violence is irrational because that abdicates any possible responsibility we have for providing incentives and motivations for it ourselves. The idea that violence follows logically from incentives and motivations we supply is far more terrifying a prospect to us than irrationality and randomness.
What if we can’t overcome these roadblocks? If we don’t acknowledge and vigorously shift the child violence debate to the logic of their violence, something really bad will happen. The violent solution will solve the problem for us, at the cost of human life. Eventually enough kids who are cornered by technology-enabled tormentors will be driven into a hopelessness and will make the only choice they think they have left. They will inevitably fight. They will shoot their tormentors with guns, if not, slash them with knives, if not, ignite roomfuls of them with water bottles filled with flammable liquids. Eventually it will be “common knowledge” that bullying people is extremely dangerous. We DO NOT want this to occur because then the violent response has solved the problem where an intellectual process could have instead. The violent response becomes validated.
Instead we need to quit worrying about HOW and put as much effort, money, activism, and debate into WHY. That way our deliberative and intellectual processes may deliver the solution to the problem, and these non-violent solution techniques become validated instead of the old-fashioned, primal, but tried and true violent ones.