An unofficial report on the causes of violence

Ron Seigel

 President Obama recently asked the Center for Disease Control for a study on the causes of gun violence. Congress, however, failed to provide funding for it.

With a little effrontery, I decided to submit my own unofficial report on the causes of violence in general.

I believe one major reason for such violence is a widespread disrespect for human life, a blatant disrespect for others, for their very being. In many cases this is because people are insecure about receiving respect.

Our entire country came into existence with a declaration affirming all people are created equal, that essentially all people are important and worthy of respect. Nevertheless, in everyday life many have been conditioned to feel throughout their lives that they must struggle for respect, whether on school playgrounds, teenage cliques, in finding a job or holding onto it, in maintaining their dignity in old age homes and even within their own families.

Many have developed an overwhelming preoccupation with receiving respect, an obsession about making an impression. Whenever they are disrespected they feel inside that other’s scorn or rejection represent the judgment of the world, the verdict by an ultimate reality that they are an inappropriate part of the universe.

Many have been programmed to feel they must win respect from others at other people’s expense, to become “a success” through another’s failure.

This is intensified by the fact many boys are conditioned to identify aggressiveness with masculinity and associate aggression with their sexual identity.


Psychologist Jean Baker Miller declared, “Boys are made to fear NOT being aggressive, lest they be found wanting, be beaten out by another, or, worst of all, act like a girl.”

I call this state of mind a “Rambo Complex.”

Many boys are programmed into this attitude in much the same way the Russian psychologist, Pavlov, programmed dogs to be afraid of ringing bells. Pavlov systematically rang the bells before he gave the dogs electric shocks. The dogs associated the ringing with the pain and were terrified whenever they heard it.

Often when boys show traits that are labeled feminine (like a failure to be aggressive), classmates, teachers, football coaches, and parents administer tormenting doses of verbal abuse, creating the emotional pain of shame.
Aggression (in contrast to healthy assertiveness ) represents a readiness to hurt others emotionally or physically. Essentially it represents an expression of profound disrespect. Boys shamed into aggressiveness have been brainwashed into feeling that in order to keep their self respect they must deny respect to others and respond extremely aggressively when anyone shows disrespect to them.

This leads to violence. In the 1990s, the Wayne County Task Force on Violence concluded “Among teenagers and adults, a mix of pride, goading and ignorance often escalates arguments and even dirty looks into violent confrontations. “

A few years ago the press reported a man shot a teenager for giving him a dirty look.

Sociologist Tristan Bridges stated we should consider those engaged in mass shootings as “overconformists” to such concepts of masculinity.

“They’re very conforming to masculinity,” Bridges declared, “because they see themselves as emasculated. It is a terrible statement about masculinity to say when you’re emasculated one way to respond is to open fire. “
The Rambo Complex not only stimulates violence, but often severely weakens the psychological restraints on violence, much like the AIDS virus biologically weakens immunity to disease.

Because emotions are often considered feminine, many males are ashamed of them and develop a phobia about feeling. To the extent men are pressured to see their feelings as a source of shame, they are brainwashed to hate their capacity to love.

 The Rambo Complex seems to have all the qualities Freud attributed to a death instinct.

 However, much loss of human life occurs more undramatically, when company executives decide to make unsafe poison or poison the environment causing more deaths than those attributed to Lucrezia Borgia.

Often, though, what is labeled as “corporate greed” represents more fundamentally a desire for status and the possessions that confer respect. What drives people to such abuses is not so much a material desire for things as a psychological desire for significance, even at the cost of other lives.

To ease the insecurities which push people into destructiveness, we Americans might consider ways to create a greater climate of mutual respect. Perhaps we can begin by freeing ourselves from our own programming and the lingering fear we are not worthy of respect, so we can feel secure to recognize the worth of others.

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