A Culture of Violence (peace)

It takes lots of cover-up and myth-building to create the illusion America wants peace, is “beautiful,” and respects the law and rights of people everywhere. The truth is quite opposite abroad and at home where essential needs go unmet and violence is a way of life.
It recently showed up in the newly launched Global Peace Index’s (GPI) ranking of 121 nations. It was prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks, and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. It aims to “highlight the relationship between Global Peace and Sustainability (stressing) unless we can achieve” a peaceful world, humanity’s major challenges won’t be solved. GPI ranked nations by their relative internal and external “peacefulness” using 24 indicators. They include its:
— military expenditures as a percent of GDP and number of armed service personnel per 100,000 population;
— number of external and internal wars including the estimated number of deaths from them externally and internally;
— relations with other countries;
— respect for human rights;
— potential for terrorist acts;
— number of homicides per 100,000 population including infanticide;
— level of violent crime;
— aggregate number of heavy weapons per 100,000 population and ease of access to small arms and light weapons;
— number of jailed population per 100,000 population; and
— number of internal security officers and police per 100,000 population.
The US was a shocking 96th in the overall rankings – to the naive and innocent, that is. Norway, New Zealand and Denmark scored best in that order while Iraq ranked lowest followed by Sudan and Israel, that should be a wake-up call for its supporters.
Violence in America – A Way of Life at Home and Abroad
This article began with a snapshot account of our violent history and culture. So much is in our communities and homes that it’s easy selling foreign wars to people used to settling disputes confrontationally, not calmly. It may start with bloody noses in school yards or playgrounds. It’s then made to seem commonplace in films and on prime time TV where assaults, violent crime, murder and even torture are everyday forms of entertainment. Then there’s sports. The most popular ones involve contact, often brutal, with one played on ice once described as a fight with occasional hockey breaking out.
Television features sports of all kinds, the more violent the better. Studies show nearly every home has at least one TV set, and 54% of children have their own in their bedrooms. They spend 28 hours a week on average watching, double the time spent in school, so they learn more about life through the media than anywhere else. Before age 18, the average American child sees 200,000 acts of violence on TV including 16,000 murders, and studies show homicide rates doubled 10 – 15 years after television was introduced.
They also link the following potential adverse effects to excessive media exposure:
— increased violent behavior;
— impaired school performance;
— increased sexual activity and use of tobacco and alcohol; and
— decreased family communication among other negative influences unrelated to violence.
A National Television Violence Study showed two-thirds of children’s programming had violence, three-fourths of it went unpunished, and most often victims weren’t shown experiencing pain. Even more disturbing, the study identified nearly half the violence children see is in TV cartoons. They’re most often portrayed in humor with victims hardly ever experiencing long-term consequences. There’s more:
— Unsurprisingly, it’s no different on the big screen as film studios produce entertainment for theater viewing and at home.
— There’s a great, but unmeasurable, amount of different types of violence online, including pedophile cyber-seduction on unsuspecting, vulnerable children leading to sexual assaults.
— Studies show violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Mortal Kombat can increase aggressive thoughts, beliefs and behavior both in laboratory settings and real life. They’re even worse than TV or films because they’re interactive and engrossing. They get players to identify with aggressors since they act like them while playing. These games teach violence. Many young people play them often and parents allow it. It’s no wonder they become aggressive and continue the same behavior later as adults for real.
— Music also teaches violence. The Parents Music Resource Center reports teenagers hear an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between grades 7 and 12 alone or nearly as much time as they spend in school. Entertainment Monitor reported three-fourths of popular CDs sold in 1995 included profanity or lyrics about drugs, violence and sex with some popular rap artists’ music glorifying guns, rape and murder.
With this as backdrop after 500 years of belligerency, it’s no wonder violence in the country and attitudes toward it are out of control. The record includes harsh private and government homeland crackdowns against dissidents, labor, minorities, street protesters, rioters, ethnic or religious groups and others plus all the one-on-one confrontations as well. For centuries, violence was monstrous against our Native peoples and nearly exterminated them all. It was used against black slaves as well with whippings, other beatings, rapes, mutilations, forced family separations and even amputations as punishment for runaways. Post-slavery, the pattern continued, mostly in the South, under forced Jim Crow segregation that enforced white supremacy over blacks that played out violently for those “stepping out of line.”
A snapshot of recent data on violent crimes provides more evidence. It comes from the Department of Justice (DOJ), other sources, and shows the following:
— 960,000 violent acts against a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend and up to three million women physically abused by their husband, male partner or boyfriend annually;
— in 2001, more than half a million American women (588,490) were victims of nonfatal violence committed by an intimate partner;
— intimate violence is mainly a crime against women accounting for 85% of these incidences;
— women are up to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner;
— in 2001, 20% of violent crimes against women were by intimate partners;
— up to 324,000 women experience intimate partner violence during pregnancy;
— women of all races are about equally vulnerable to intimate partner violence;
— women are up to 14 times more likely than men to report suffering severe physical assaults from an intimate partner;
— 20% of female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner and 40% of 14 – 17 year old girls report knowing someone their age struck or beaten by a boyfriend;
— in a national survey of 6000 American families, 50% of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also abused their children;
— studies show up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually;
— over half a million women report being stalked annually by an intimate partner while 80% stalked by former husbands are physically assaulted and 30% sexually assaulted by that partner;
— the FBI divides violent crime into four categories: “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.” It uses the International Association of Chiefs of Police Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s definition of violent crime as involving force or threat of force. The annual data show these crimes topped one million in 1975 and from the mid-1980s ranged from around 1.5 – 1.9 million annually;
— since 1975, annual violent crimes of murder and reported rape ranged from around 100,000 – 130,000;
— Every year over the past century, 10% or more of all crimes committed were violent ones; and
— More Americans killed other Americans at home than the total death toll from all foreign wars in our history combined.
Violence, of course, becomes ingrained in the culture. It leads to crackdowns against society’s least “worthy” victims of state-sponsored repression. It made America the incarceration capital of the world with over 2.2 million in our homeland “gulag” prison system today, a greater number than in China with four times our population and a history of governments not known for gentleness toward those breaking its rules. Here 1000 new inmates weekly join others locked in cages, most for non-violent offenses. They’re brutalized by prison guards and other inmates while there and become more likely to exact revenge on release for society’s unjust treatment. Many, in fact, do and end up back in prison for longer sentences.
This kind of information and our national predilection for violence isn’t taught in schools or explained in the media. Instead we accept the illusion of “American exceptionalism,” moral superiority, and innate goodness in a nation chosen by the Almighy to lead the world. That’s provided it’s by rules made in Washington with people everywhere told accept them, or else. Going to war, we’re told, is a last resort choice and one never taken lightly. It’s to liberate the oppressed, bring democracy when we arrive, and target “national security” threats too great to ignore. It takes powerful propaganda persuasion convincing people to accept this, but it’s made easier if they’re already predisposed to violence and receptive to more of it.
Five centuries at home and abroad add up to potent conditioning, but the dangers were less threatening earlier than now. Today’s super-weapons make older ones look like toys. They leave no margin of error, and if we slip up we’ll endanger what Noam Chomsky calls “biology’s only experiment with higher intelligence.” Unless we confront the threat to our survival from foreign wars and a violent culture accustomed to them, we face what Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell warned 50 years ago saying: “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war” and a culture of violence and live in peace because no other way is possible.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
Also, visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.

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