thoughts

Why Do We Kill Each Other? Murder — the eternal common ground.

Bit of a random one here, a nice interlude maybe. I’ve posted this on medium.com, you can check out the links on my twitter @paddywords but something i’ve been dwelling on for a while…

Violent death has long been a part of human civilisation. The vast chasm of time makes it hard to understand how our ancestors lived. The details of their culture, beliefs, pasttimes — all of this is either rare or non existent. However, we can say with certainty that our common ground, that which is unchanging since time immemorial, is death, and the killing of others.

The first recorded murder is a murky fact to sieve out of the soup of history. Some would say that Cain and Able are the original perp and victim. The story was written as far back as 1500 B.C., so it could be the first documented murder. By the same token,there is no real hard evidence of the murder occuring, we have no dental records, there’s no mummified remains.

We do have a preserved corpse of Ötzi the Iceman, who suffered a blow to the head from a blunt object prior to his death. The motives behind the murder do not survive through time, but the evidence is clear. Perhaps Ötzi was just minding his own business, going about his day to day life. He might have been out hunting, trying to find some sustenance for a family when he was set upon by someone, or a group. Whatever fate had in store for him that day, 5000 years later Ötzi is a fascinating glimpse into a world that shared a certain brutality with our own.

Similarly the Bog Men of Jutland have been found with slit throats, evidence of ritual sacrifice, murder, or realistically both. Egyptian pharaohs have fallen victim to murder, and we have the mummified remains to prove it. Who knows why Ramses III was murdered, in our own time we have conspiratorial murders that remain unsolved, therefore solving those of the ancient past are nigh on impossible. We know the Maya were no strangers to the concept of homicide, and if there was a political gain to be had, all the better! This may be the first example of murder being used as censorship.

Which leads me in a roundabout way to the point of my article. Why do we kill each other? What is the value in causing the death of others?Why are we drawn to the violence, the murder? We send large groups of men and women to fight, and kill other men and women who oppose our views. We murder politicians who try to change, gangsters who try to rat, lovers who break our hearts. Some people, sociopaths, are able to murder for no reason at all. Why?

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent”

  • Mahatma Gandhi

When you delve into the psychological and sociological reasons behind murder things get tricky.

Primal

There are primal reasons to murder. We observe fighting in monkeys and other, less human looking, animals. Normally this kind of violence stems from a desire to maintain control, an instinctual need to dominate territory. This is how most animals survive.

Materialistic

In nature animals will fight and kill for resources, so too will a human. This becomes even more complex when you weigh in the human mind and it’s ability to rationalise and comprehend. An animal normally fights for resources because it has none. As humans we kill for resources even when we have an abundant supply, we call this greed. The pursuit of materialism is one of the dominant motives for any murder, and it is also one of the dominant ethos’ of the day. The greed family that kill off granny for her insurance policy are not far from the lions that kill their weakest member for more space at the watering hole.The burglar that shoots the homeowner is a startled bear, growling snarling, and finally gnashing.

Jealousy

This goes beyond just wanting someones materials and banging them over the head. Murder by jealousy involves a deep hatred that has built up in the person, for whatever reason. The killer may hate the victim for their job, their bank balance, their house. It might be a so called crime of passion, where a jilted lover takes a life in spite.

Revenge

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Revenge is a dominant motive for murder. The deep intensity of hatred that develops when someone seeks vengeance knows no bounds. In the not-so-distant past, revenge was an instituted part of society. Men “demanded satisfaction” of those who they felt had insulted their honour. It didn’t always work out in their favour.

Ideological

Crimes of hate, murders used to further a certain dogma or ideology. Homicide is a powerful tool when it comes to shaping the world we live in. From Kennedy and Lincoln to Saddam and Bin Laden. We murder political figures to further our own ends, keeping them alive would be too much of a threat to the status quo.

Cult

With the 25th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre passing recently, the world was reminded of the power of the cult. A leader who is able to convince his followers that he is speaking the word of god directly, and that they should end their own lives — it’s a cliché at this point. Much of this cliché stems from the Jonestown massacre. Unfortunately, beliefs of all kinds are used as a reason to murder, like the mother who killed her own child by stuffing the bible into it’s mouth. Within this category there is significant crossover with…

Psychological

There exist a class of people in the world who do not feel emotion. To sociopaths murder is nothing. The (non-sociopathic) mentally ill may kill in a frenzy of emotion. However, mental illness should not be equated with a drive to murder, as the stigma around mental illness and murder are easily disproven by looking at the statistics. When you compare the incidences of violence in mentally ill populations with the mentally stable, the differences are negligible.

That’s my attempt at grouping the reasons we kill into overarching classes, but even then it involves generalisation and abstraction. To me, the saddest thing about all of this is that, despite all the technological revolutions, changes in public perception, waves of different ideologies and viewpoints. Despite all of this, we are driven to kill each other. While standards of living rise, food becomes abundant and all of the other worries of man disappear, we still have the intrinsic focus on causing death to our fellow human. The driving force behind so much of what we do in the world is death, or activities that cause death to others — from waging war for oil to sending kids in Congo down a mine for coltan. If Asimov is correct when he asserts “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”, then the history of man is a sad inept folly, a terrible disgrace.

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Writing Journal

My Writing Plan – Trying to Defeat Procrastination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am determined to defeat procrastination. I haven’t written enough fiction lately, and I want to devote more time to the crafting of stories. With this in mind, and in another depressingly nerdy move, I’ve added an event reminding me to write every day. 

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Yup, it’s pretty lame, but I’m hoping it will help motivate me to get my 10’000 hours in.

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Poetry

Poetry and Character Development

I love to write poetry. It’s short and sweet, exhibits rhythm and beauty, and can move someone as much as a novel in a much shorter space of time. I don’t really like to call myself a poet because it feels pretentious, but I love to write it.

With poetry, you learn brevity. You can create an implied character in a particular scene and  figure out how to tell a story in a compressed space. I firmly believe that mastering developing a character in a short format like a poem reaps rewards when building characters in a longer format like a short story or novel. Within the practice of refining imagery for a poem lies the beauty of writing.

The Dancer

Our stage is lit, the curtain stirs, a dancer takes the floor,

She flicks her hips, throws her tired toes across the boards,

A draping gown with sequins flashing light across the seams,

Each movement pulses passion from her deepest darkest dreams.

Terrified of time and cracks appearing on her face,

Furiously whirling, like a dervish through the place,

If spinning turned the clock back she would be a little girl,

A shock of raven hair on a complexion white as pearl.

One by one her garments fight to claim the solid ground,

A slight reveal, she cranes her neck and flashes eyes around,

There’s no applause, the nurses simply lead her to the bed,

“The poor old woman”, they conclude, “she’s dancing in her head”.

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thoughts

My Inspirations, Spider Man and Hamlet

I’ve been writing since I was a little boy. I took to writing a little better than speaking, the opposite of the gift of the gab so notorious among Irish people. When speaking I didn’t have time to organise my thoughts, I wasn’t the quick fire type as child, but in my stories I could create heroes in my image who always had the last laugh, and the quick witted one liner. This approach to writing a protagonist came from two places, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Spider-Man. I was a nerdy kid, ok?

Spider-Man and Hamlet are both masters of wit, both muster the right words at the right time to put down their enemies. The main difference between the two heroes? How they feel about their uncle. In Spider-Man, uncle Ben is the reason that Peter embraces his role as a crime fighter rather than a freak show. In Hamlet, the prince hates his uncle, and plots revenge for the murder of his father. Pretty different.

I’ve recently made a commitment to myself to return to writing in my spare time, I’m not sure how much of this can manifest itself on blogs and twitter. I want to write comics, because it’s the medium that changed my life as a kid and still blows me away today. With authors like Neil Gaiman understanding how powerful an art form the graphic novel is, comics are gaining more respect for their writing than ever before.

Rightly so, Comics were much maligned as low brow for so long, by people who didn’t understand the talents of comic writers like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison. Much as the people of the renaissance could not, from their culturally myopic viewpoint, understand the historical importance of Shakespeare’s plays.I’ll keep you posted on my progress, have you ever wanted to write a comic?

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