Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
30 Aug

Violence: An Introduction to a Primal Instinct

For a guy that people don’t usually reference when talking about the ancestral health community, Tucker Max gave a fantastic talk on the importance of violence a couple weeks ago at the symposium. It was on the importance of violence in human evolution, and it centered on what he’d learned about himself since joining a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym several years back. His slides are now available, so I’d recommend taking a quick glance at them. The real meat was in the talk itself, though. Check out the video (and stick around for Seth’s talk, too). Hat tip to Tucker for stoking my thoughts on this topic.

We have a weird relationship with violence, especially in the 21st century. For the most part, we live in a time of unprecedented peace. Although with civilization and government come new challenges to personal freedom, most of us aren’t in immediate danger of being robbed, raped, assaulted, murdered, or dragged into war. Physical violence is easily avoided, and yet we are drawn to it. It fascinates us even as it horrifies us. We condemn those who engage in it while sneaking peeks and wondering what it would be like to fight.

But here’s where we run into trouble: violence is bad, right? Torture, rape, murder, serial killers, genocide, war… these are not nice things, and they’re all examples of violence. Anyone and (mostly) everyone will agree that these are absolute negatives. Laws against murder are universal (if selectively applied), and any reasonable culture considers rape to be a monumental crime. War is sometimes necessary, but it’s not a pleasant endeavor for anyone, neither victor nor loser. “War is hell,” remember. Torture is craven (and from what I’ve read, ineffective) and cruel, while genocide is the ultimate evil (even if some people somewhere support it).

If violence is bad, why are we drawn to it? You say you’re not? Okay – what happens to you when you see two people duking it out on the street, or preparing to do so amidst tough talk? Two things, if you’re like most people. You think “someone should break this up,” and you might even try to break it up yourself. Fighting’s wrong, talking is better, call the cops, etc. At the same time, though, you can’t look away. You might crowd around and crane your neck to get a better look. When the first punch is thrown, a thrill passes through you. You don’t mean to feel it, you might even feel ashamed, but you can’t ignore the excitement. It’s “wrong,” someone is probably going to get hurt, but just the same, something feels very “right” about this. I remember as a kid in elementary school, any time a fight or scuffle jumped off at recess, kids would come running from all corners of the playground as if they could sense it (the kids yelling “fight, fight, fight!” didn’t exactly keep it secret, either). I was right there with them. This was before ultra-violent video games, television, movies, and music were around to get the blame. Nope – this was interest in violence for violence’s sake. No outside influences.

Longtime readers will know that inherent human traits or behaviors pique my interest. When people seem instinctually drawn to something – playing with dirt, sunbathing, delicious animal flesh – I go looking for an explanation, because more often than not, there’s evidence of a benefit to the activity. There’s usually some deep-seated “reason” couched in our evolution as animals. Kids eating dirt introduces novel bacteria to young immune systems, sunbathing provides vitamin D, animals give us fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. What does violence give us? Broken bones, black eyes, and bruised egos aside, I can’t help but wonder if fighting is somehow good, or even necessary for us. At the very least, our apparently instinctual proclivity to violence suggests that violence isn’t a product of civilization, but that it’s much, much older. That there is an evolutionary adaptation to violence. That the potential for it exists in all of us as a holdover from our prehistory.

If you examine our history, it’s obvious that early man knew violence. I won’t say “he was violent” or ascribe a degree of violence, because we just don’t know enough. What we do know is that evidence of human-to-human violence exists in the fossil records and confirms that life in the paleolithic wasn’t auroch milk ice cream and rainbows all the time. Skeletons with stone arrows embedded in chest plates, bones with blunt trauma fractures… it wasn’t necessarily a regular occurrence, but violent death certainly occurred.

It may have even been rare; as one recent article suggests, inter-group conflict most likely occurred due to resource scarcity and territorial infringement (that’s usually why conflicts arise between groups of chimps and there’s plenty of evidence suggesting the same for preagricultural humans) and given the low human population densities of the paleolithic, regular full-scale war didn’t really make sense. The authors do note that the potential for violence probably always existed in hominids. There’s even evidence (PDF) that moderate aggression, which might be described as the potential for violence, was a selective adaptation, since the aggressor would have a better chance of procuring resources and, thus, mates to bear his offspring.

So while most modern humans are largely divorced from violence (at least in any physical, active way), we are drawn to it, and it was a contextual feature of human evolution. Tomorrow, we’ll explore whether we should banish violence outright, or whether we ignore it to our peril. For now, though, I want to hear your thoughts on violence. Have you been in a fight? How do you see violence – is it an absolute negative or is there possible good in it, too?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m a woman and in general we aren’t as fascinated by physical violence as men are. I have been attacked by men several times and I fought back, hard, and won. Last summer I was being sexually harassed every day by a man in my neighborhood. I asked him repeatedly to stop and one day he told me I couldn’t make him stop. So I took off my shirt and beat him across the belly with it. It worked. He has been very respectful to me ever since. (My neighbor went right on picking her beans while all this was going on.)

    So I guess I’m saying that sometimes it’s necessary in self defense.

    Hugh Brody’s book, The Other Side of Eden, suggests that hunter-gatherers rarely fought each other because they weren’t expansionist like farmers. Farmers increase in population and then are forced to invade other people’s land. Hunter-gatherers don’t grow in numbers much, so they have worked out boundaries with other groups that stay mostly stable, and little conflict arises.

    shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • You were being sexually harassed so you took your shirt off?

      Jim wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • That made me blink too…

        Nelly wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I guess if it’s the only weapon you have to hand…

        Did it have a buckle on it or something? Or was it more of a public humiliation thing? Because I’m having a hard time imagining being beaten with a shirt, seems like that wouldn’t hurt a bit no matter how hard it was swung…

        Uncephalized wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • You ever think she might have more than one shirt on?
        Also, that’s all you took from that? >_>

        Dannielle wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • C’mon… what better way to fight a sexual harasser than the assault them with the chest guns blazing?

          Dave wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Shannon, also one aspect that hasn’t been looked at is the consciousness of testosterone i can only focus on two basic things, “how to screw it or how to kill it” as a short influence hormone i can get one into lots of trouble.

      ruben wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Violence…I would suggest after working in and around violence, that at its source it is not just damaging another human, but the innate capacity of risk taking, the testosterone/adrenaline fueled risk taking of not having what the situation may take from you- simply, to eat, to mate, to stay warm. I believe this ability to be aggresive, is not like an aggresive dog per se, but with intelligence attached to it. Being risk averse may keep you from taking a wounded animal, crossing a dangerous creek, protecting a tribal member, attacking an animal, it is not as if a primal man would have serious moral implications from protecting his kill from another outside tribal male or animal, violence is necessary still in some professions, it has now been honed into risk and assertiveness. I believe it is in our genes to take risk-expressed as violence, for those who didn’t take risk may not have ate, or found new hunting grounds. It may be a large stretch to associate risky behavior with violence, but I believe they are ALMOST one in the same and very much a primal part of our DNA….

      LB wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • The genetic analysis explored by Brian Sykes (Seven Daughters of Eve) has mostly exploded the myth that peaceful hunter-gatherers were wiped out by expansionist agriculturalists.

      The DNA trail shows that 90% of modern Europeans can trace their (mitochondrial) DNA to pre-agricultural peoples, with only 10% coming from the ‘agricultural’ fertile crescent peoples.

      What spread was the knowledge of farming – both animals and plants.

      homehandymum wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Where do you live that you’ve been attacked several times? That’s crazy bad luck.
      Glad you kept your wits about you.

      Milemom wrote on August 31st, 2011
    • Like I tell my son, “we only hit to defend ourselves or someone else.” I feel violence is always a bad thing, but sometimes it is necessary. I also feel that mindless violence for the enjoyment of others is a step back in the evolution of human beings. We need to get past the fascination with violence as a people if we are expected to move to the next level of evolution. That said, I also feel it is absolutely necessary to be able to use violence if it means protecting yourself or your kids. Being physically and mentally prepared, and trained to fight is our moral obligation, but we need to know where the line is. I am a veteran and have been an inner city cop for many years, so I have seen and inflicted my share of violence, and I can tell you that it does not come without a price you will inevitably pay at some point in your life. Just my 2 cents.

      pizzmor wrote on September 4th, 2011
  2. Violence – don’t you think this might have something to do with our love of football and other contact sports. It’s controlled, legal and still violent as hell.

    Guy Jones wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Most interspecies violence in social animals is used to establish hierarchies. It is not on the whole a fight to death. An MMA event, or football game, which is violent certainly, but governed by clear rules understood by both participants, is different from a robbery or murder, or other act with intentional death or injury as the desired outcome. Grok evolved in small egalitarian bands in which everyone shared in the fruits or hardships. The violence we demonstrate as a species towards one another is dysfunctional in relation to our primal roots, but still in line with our closest relatives the chimpanzees.

      Ken wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I agree. All animals have their scuffles to establish dominance. My brother and I had plenty of fights growing up, even my spoiled lazy house cats wrestle around on a regular basis.
        As a female I find that violent sports such as football, rugby, and boxing don’t bother me but a bar fight makes me sick to my stomach. That kind of anger and violence is not something I secretly get a thrill from.

        FoCo Girl wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Bar fights make me sick too but probably because of the stupidity emanating off the guys who are usually doing it. Drunk dudes fighting about stuff that doesn’t make any sense is not appealing to me as a woman. Maybe for guys it’s different. Maybe they see the fight on a more animal level and are more drawn to it. I just can’t help but think how stupid they are. MMA is another story. Those guys are fighting because fighting feels good. I don’t have to see the stupidness and think it’s pretty much just hot.

          Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I think It’s quite the opposite. Exactly because most of our fights took place in order to etablish hierarchies we can see them as competitions. Most animals compete, and it happens normally in even conditions, somewhat organized i’d say. Just check Natural Documentaries and see how animals do it. Often it’s 1×1, at a given moment and with a certain ritual. Pretty much like sports.

        Bernardo wrote on August 30th, 2011
  3. This is something I really never thought about before. It’s much like people going to the stock car races to see a crash. Not sure if the draw to violence is anything more than a need for drama, or excitement.

    Susan wrote on August 30th, 2011
  4. I’m not going to fight you, I’m going to kill you or die trying. This is my attitude and I think it is what has kept me out of any number of potential conflicts over the years.

    IvyBlue wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I know this attitude has kept me out of certain conflicts over the years.

      Haggus wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I think the key issue is who you are fighting. Scuffling between friends is about dominance and position.
        If I was ever forced to fight a stranger in defense, I’m going to let the DA decide whether or not to prosecute for murder. Fighting for self-defense or defense of others is deadly serious, which is why I despise those who intentionally seek out violence in streets and bars.

        Tim wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Agreed fully Tim. To the drunken idiot looking who throws a punch for no good reason, it’s just a laugh he’ll be lucky to remember in the morning. To the unlucky recipient of said punch, it’s self defense time, and he’s taking things seriously. There’s no time to analyze when you’re getting beaten, you just react. If that’s me, I’m fighting for my life.

          I think violence has been in our genes for a long time when it comes to dominance and hierarchy. When two wild animals are starving and there is only enough food for one… I’d imagine that the animal not holding the food would go after it, to the death. It’s death NOT to do that. Why would humans be any different? I’m sure that we have fought to the death for both dominance and survival.

          Nick wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • My general way of thinking also>>>

      Daveman wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Totally agree with this sentiment. My “fear” of hurting someone–simply because I lose all rationality when provoked to the point of violence–has always caused me to walk away (or, almost always)…even as a kid.

      However, if forced to protect a loved one and/or innocent person, “primal instincts” definitely take over. This is, perhaps, what motivated our ancestors to hurt/kill another human. The idea of fighting as a sport (vs. just play fighting of male “cubs”) didn’t likely “evolve” until much later.

      Will wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • From my understanding of the psychology of violence, primal instincts may take over but its a poor choice to rely on them without having the training. If you honestly feel fear at hurting someone, that is likely to cause your a mental freeze in a real situation. It is a glitch. These types of brain glitches must be worked through and trained through. If you have any hopes of surviving a violent encounter, you must be able to use brutal lasting violence quickly and harshly. The techniques you are looking for are that of a ruthless assassin. It is wholly silly to hope for some instincts to take over without any physical training to prepare them and back them up.

        Vlad wrote on August 30th, 2011
  5. I can’t speak for anyone else but I go insane if I don’t hit something every day. The punching bag helps but I miss beating on my brother.

    Alex Good wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Dude, based on your activity in the forums and now this comment, I think you have some serious socialization/anger issues. You might want to think about getting some kind of help.

      Uncephalized wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Yeah, his comment freaked me out too. Don’t know if the need to hit something everyday is considered healthy.

        Lisa wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Quick, call Cesar Milan to get him socialized!

        Dave wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Anger management makes me angry ;).

        Alex Good wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • you are just a typical bully that needs to get over your complexes.

      Lya wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I read once about the therapeutic benefits of hitting things hard (like punching bags), as though it’s a safe conduit for releasing pent up psychological pressure of some kind. May not not be so beneficial when punching brothers, from the brothers perspective at least :)

      Shane wrote on August 31st, 2011
  6. There is i point at which being able to think and reason should be more important than giving in to primal urges.
    If you were talking about wrestling with your mates in the yard, that would be different, but using your physical strength to harm another person is just dumb, and usually involves being overcome by frustration, confusion and rage. none of which are emotions you want dictating your actions. as primal as it sounds to be capable of defending your tribe, our modern world has laws on assault, and also its just dumb.
    stick with sparring in a gym. to much at stake irl

    tilden cats wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I have been reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” He has a chapter on sexual transmutation, where one takes the sexual energy they feel and, instead of doing the obvious with it, they redirect it toward achieving their goals. Surprisingly, he does not vilify lust or sex, which is what I would have expected from a early 20th century book. In fact, the more of this lust you have, the more you have available to transmute.

      Your response makes me wonder what amount of self-control would a person need to break the anger-rage-violence progression? If one could just walk away, cool off a little, and then make plans for dealing with this person, they would find they have more and better options than reacting in the heat of the moment.

      chipin wrote on August 30th, 2011
  7. I could not agree more… speaking from personal experience some level of violence (sports, competition) feeds some sort of primal nature inside of me.

    Even just braking things (my fav is skeet shooting) feels good. How many people in here blew something up with a m80 when they were kids (and before it made you a terrorist)

    It just feels good…somehow calming and zen to me.


    Glockin Grok wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • In addition to its ability to benefit a primitive fighting for land etc., violence just seems to be a method of psychological release. But would our ancestors need that release to benefit health? We need to hook that guy who wants to hit things every day up to an EEG!

      Tubes wrote on August 30th, 2011
  8. No matter what you think about violence, it is important to know the world around you and be prepared for anything. That is where the primal instincts come into play because there could be a situation where it is kill or be killed. Even though those are few and far between I would rather be prepared then ignorant even though I am opposed to violence against people.

    An aside from the violence, I think Tucker Max should be listened to with a grain of salt. You actions dictate who you are, and his have certainly shown his true character.

    Nic wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I couldn’t agree more about Tucker Max’s character. Given his notorious misogyny I’m a little surprised to see him and his thoughts featured here.

      Paleo Spirit wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • If Tucker Max is a misogynist why do the women reward him so?

        Pls clarify this for me.

        Evan wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Some women feel the need to pacify/propitiate violent men, and also to seek their protection.

          It’s a disturbing dynamic.

          Please don’t consider the actions of a few women to be representative of the whole.

          *Some individual* women reward him – not *women in general*

          homehandymum wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Some women have little self respect. Most of us who do want nothing to do with a creep like him. It’s pretty simple.

          Paleo Spirit wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I agree. I am disappointed that Mark would suggest that anyone listen to anything Tucker Max has to say about anything.

      The guy (Tucker Max) is a woman-hater extraordinaire, and he has nothing to contribute whatsoever to any kind of discussion involving human behavior (other than as a walking example as to how a human ought not act).

      One of Mark’s rare fails.

      Duncan wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • The dude is amusing and hilarious. People eat his shit up.

        He’s no different from say some A-Hole comic that smokes and rhymes about little miss muffet’s tuffet.

        Dave wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • The fact that Tucker Max may or may not “hate” women does not discredit his presentation nor his research. Also keep in mind that there is scientific evidence suggesting that humans as a species are physiologically designed to engage in group sex as well as sex with multiple partners within a tribe/group.

        I guess that’s just a round about way of saying you should judge his work by the quality of the work not the quality of his character.

        Nick wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Rejecting an idea based on who it came from is plain and simple discrimination, and not scientific. I’m not convinced that we have a “fail” on our hands.

        Mark, thanks for the interesting post.

        Reiko wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Tucker Max is also extremely successful at what he does, and has a ton of insight into human nature (which is one reason WHY he is successful). He’s a douchebag for sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a smart guy with a lot of insight. Calling into question what he says because of who he is is a classic logical failure.

      James A wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • A lot of despicable people are “good” at what they do (or did). I can think of tons of examples from history. And no one is saying it isn’t an interesting subject to ponder in terms of human nature. But featuring a proud womanizing, low-life as some sort of “expert” on human nature is scraping the bottom of the barrel if you ask me.

        Paleo Spirit wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • No where in the article does it say Tucker Max is an “expert”… it doesn’t even suggest that whatsoever.

          Nick wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • I, too, hate what Tucker Max stands for, but I have to disagree with you. He’s no expert, but he’s Tucker Max J.D., so he’s not an idiot, either. Plus, Mark isn’t exactly “featuring” Tucker Max. He’s just using his talk as a prompt for this article, and rightfully so. It was a stimulating talk, imo.

          Reiko wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • “Calling into question what he says because of who he is is a classic logical failure.”

        I choose not to listen to people whose conscious actions have not warranted any kind of respect. Maybe you should reconsider your thought on this or suffer the consequences when a really terrible person tells you something that sounds good to you and you form your mindset to it. A lot of the world’s most terrible acts of violence came from the followers of terrible men with that logic

        Nic wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • So essentially, you’re saying follow the man, not the reason. Ignore logic and reason, and follow the person who seems good.

          Its all fine and well if you choose to take that path, and it will generally serve you well. But it does not invalidate the fact that it is possible to judge the value of a person’s knowledge separately from the value of a person’s actions.

          James A wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Your logic makes little sense.

          It’s not just that Tucker Max is saying something that just sounds good; he has verifiable evidence to back it up. His argument is still valid even if he’s the biggest douche in the world. I would much rather take advice from an informed asshole then from a nice guy who’s a dumbass.

          Nick wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • I think what he means is why not have the standards to listen to/ follow people who NOT ONLY have the LOGIC but also the INTEGRITY. Really, it’s not always one or the other.

          It’s the whole “walk your talk” ting.

          Karen W. wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Gah! “ting” should be “thing”. Hate that.

          Karen W. wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Insights into human nature? Perhaps, but a very limited scope, i.e. low-self-esteem women…he is a predator for of those women, which is reprehensible.

        That’s the extent of his expertise and “insights” into human nature.

        Peter wrote on August 31st, 2011
        • I was also disappointed to see Tucker Max being used as an example on MDA. Without refuting that violence may have a place in society I would like to propose that Tucker Max’s additional views qualify him as a poisonous thing that should be avoided on MDA.

          MDA appeals to me because it encourages something beyond just a work out routine or a diet. Part of the MDA allure is its unique “whole” approach to health and life, including emotional health and a welcoming supportive community. I’ve been impressed with how women’s issues have been addressed and how many amazing women are part of the MDA community. However, I felt unwelcome at MDA when Tucker Max was presented as a role model. I believe a robust discussion of violence can occur without him.

          Kai wrote on September 6th, 2011
  9. Few memories from my childhood and teens are as vivid as the ones including violence. Still to this day I remember the exact feeling when I finally hit back at the bully that had been pestering me for a while when I was 13-14 years old. I think situations that turn in to violence are critical points where you learn very much about yourself and your own capabilities. It’s probably the most intense learning experiences you can possibly have. Probably the reason it can take a lifetime to be free of really bad experiences of violence too..

    This learning experience is not only a good thing, of course. I’ve never been in the power of someone controlling me with violence, like an abusive father or anything like that though, so this is probably kind of a blue-sky way of reasoning.

    Good luck walking the line on this topic!

    DB wrote on August 30th, 2011
  10. I just watched the Tina Fey movie Mean Girls this weekend; the plot revolves around teenage girl conflict. There’s a scene where Cady imagines violently attacking another girl, tiger-like, when she’s feeling attacked by her. But then she says, “but no, we’re girls, so all the fighting is sneaky.” Violence sounds so normal and natural compared to passive-aggressive alternatives! (Because we’re human: conflict is a given. The question is how we deal with it.)

    I was surprised to see this topic come up, but I am very interested in hearing what you have to say about violence.

    Anne wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I’ve always laughed when–in a story or real life–some high-powered man scoffs at the idea of women being in a similar position by saying they wouldn’t be any good at the social and political intrigue needed for the job. I’m like, “B****, we INVENTED social and political intrigue!”

      cTo wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Passive-aggression can be almost more damaging than some forms of straight up violence. At least if someone is throwing a punch you know what you are dealing with.

      Paleo Spirit wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I agree. My theory is that this crap has evolved because they are trying so hard to banish violence in children. It goes underground and turns sneaky.
        I don’t feel any thrill when someone is hit, I’m way too empathetic. I do feel that sometimes a violent reaction is necessary.

        bbuddha wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Wow – only 50 comments until anyone suggested that women might actually exhibit violence – and said comment was about a movie!
      That is, except for the shirt-wielding incident (not to make light of the harrassment – my sincerest best wishes in that regard).

      Any gender-specific comments heretofore have been about “Drunk dudes” & “he’ll be lucky to remember”…

      Does no one here think that women ever have aggressive urges, especially when it comes to competing for a suitor (read “mate”)?

      I’ve seen plenty of women get VERY defensive and aggressive regarding “THEIR MAN”…

      Ben wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Like in Thelma & Louise. They should do a sequel to that.

        Shane wrote on August 31st, 2011
        • Totally off topic here, but how in the world could you to a “sequel” to that movie, given the final scene?

          Jenn wrote on August 31st, 2011
      • From personal experience, violence is an overwhelmingly male phenomenon.

        I’m not saying women are never violent (or even that I’ve never seen a woman act violently), but to claim that violence is of equal incidence across men and women strikes me as political correctnes.

        But maybe I’m wrong.

        Louis wrote on September 20th, 2011
  11. One thing to keep in mind is that violence is often an expression of “the will to power.” Humans, like some other primates, have a sort of hierarchical social structure. Violence can be a way to become, or stay, a high-status individual whose power is feared.

    Since the Enlightenment, however, we have been trying to get away from violence and wealth as the sole determinants of who has the power. More egalitarian ideas have been circulating now for over 200 years. I think this is progress, and ironically, it may be a return to more egalitarian social structures that were the human tradition before farming and city-states began.

    As primal primates, we should be advocating equality and respect rather than violence. It’s probably closer to the way small bands of hunter-gatherers lived. But it’s also less stressful to live in a society where might does not make right.

    shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • No one is “advocating” violence, simply attemting to piece together how our paleolithic ancestors lived and how those impulses and behaviors manifest themselves in modern man. Violence is one primal urge that should be dampened in MOST situations and most societies do a good job of it.

      Damian Barbosa wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Actually, we are surrounded by advocates of violence — as long as that violence is perpetrated by people wearing the right uniforms. Such violence is the foundation of all government.

        Break any law, however illegitimate or inconsequential, and prepare to face the mailed fist. My local food co-op was recently raided by men with guns drawn for lacking the proper permits to sell raw goat milk, and several peaceful people were jailed. In the ensuing reaction, I was shocked at how many people sided with the aggressors.

        And although rape in general terms is universally condemned, consider what happens in today’s airport terminals as a matter of routine, even to small children, and marvel at the excuses people make for it.

        Rare indeed are those who renounce all initiation of violence, instead embracing mutual consent as the foundation of society. Happily, though, this attitude is much more common among the primal population.

        Timothy wrote on August 30th, 2011
  12. I know many pre-agricultural Native American tribes could be extremely violent. Sometimes for pursuit of territory, but also at times for sport, prestige, or wealth. To be chosen as a warrior and hunter was a great honor.

    jimmy wrote on August 30th, 2011
  13. See Robert Sapolsky’s great book, A Primate’s Memoir, about the effects of violence and hierarchy on baboons’ stress levels.

    shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
  14. Due to low population density inter-tribal violence was rare. But…it is safe to assume that when two bands of hunter gatherers did cross paths that violence most assurdly occurred. It takes a thought experiment to see why, (this example is my own but is a variation of the ‘cheater principle’ illucidated by Richard Dawkins)…

    Lets assume many populations of peaceful, non-violent hunter gatherer bands all ‘just getting along’. As soon as a renegade band were to evolve and/or invade from elsewhere they would displace the peaceful HGs rather quickly by the time tested strategy of killing the peaceful MEN and abducting the WOMEN. These women will now give birth to more violent males…etc. Thus the violent males would breed more than the non-violent males.

    Finally, lets not forget that Cromagnon man exterminated the Neanderthals (though to what degree is disputed)and that most world conflicts of today happen along ethnic lines i.e. tribal warfare, the Balkans anyone?

    Damian Barbosa wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • …oh yea, one more thing! If the thought experiment were reversed? Many bands of VIOLENT bands, what would happen to a band that eschewed violence? There survival is not even imaginable!

      Damian Barbosa wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Except that a propensity for aggressive behavior also brings with it many negatives. When you have a bunch of highly aggressive humans together, you get higher stress levels as everyone constantly competes for dominance. It’s great if you need to bash someone’s skull in to take new resources or defend yourself against an enemy but when the danger goes away you’re still seeing enemies.

        A more cooperative, trusting, friendly person would be more useful in the good times, keeping group cohesion, making friends, looking for ways to improve things that don’t involve fighting. I’d think the best societies are those that have both of these kinds of people. The high and low testosterone folks (a look at your digit ratio can tell you which one you are) work together to both build and defend a society.

        Tim wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • This is true. I was watching something recently, I cant remember what, but it talked about a band of baboons where all the males in the band were excessively violent, constantly fighting each other and acting aggressive toward the females and babies. The levels of stress in the entire band was really really high.

          Well apparently, this band of baboons was raiding the trash dump of some human town or resort as their primary source of food. All the aggressive males were taking the best forage (scrap meat) for themselves and not leaving any for the females, babies, and weaker males. But in a twist of fate, the majority (if not all) the aggressive males caught a disease from the meat they were eating, and died.

          The show said that after these males died, the entire behavior of the band changed. There were still males, but they were a lot calmer. Stress levels dropped considerably in every member of the band.

          From this, I extrapolate this idea: groups that have a high level of aggression in their behavior might be able to turn this onto outside forces, yes, but when there aren’t any outside forces to focus on they might turn it on each other. This increases stress within the group, and high levels of stress would put the entire group at a selective disadvantage for reasons that everyone here should be familiar with.

          cTo wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • The Balkan conflict was not an conflict along “ethnic lines”. This was a perspective sold to the West by idiotic news organisations who need to reduce everything to “good versus bad”.

      The Balkan conflict was, instead, about the collapse and fall of a Republic, and the ensuing fight over control of land and resources (a major issue being access to coastline). The conflict was completely inevitable once Slovenia ceded.

      This is why you got “anomalies” such as a Bosnian Muslim regiment in the old YNA fighting for “Serb interests” etc.

      Alex Grace wrote on August 30th, 2011
  15. I think in the modern day first world countries, people are drawn to violence because it feels “real” to them.

    We spend so much time in a fake world consisting of apartments, homes, offices, cars, the internet, television, etc that we no longer feel like anything is real. There is rarely the feeling of a life or death situation. Pain is not something we know on a regular basis.

    I think this is why some people cut themselves too. It helps them to stop thinking and connect with the moment.

    This quote from Fight Club kind of says it right:

    “Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

    People don’t know what to do with themselves. Violence and other primal behaviors is what they want, but are afraid to seek out.

    Lee wrote on August 30th, 2011
  16. Grok would have had to fight for his very life once in a while. Call it fight or flight, call it kill or be killed, call it what you will.

    Maybe he had to fight off a wolf or a bear or whatever or perhaps just catching and killing something to eat. That 100+% effort for survival is important to any animal.

    For a long time and especially now the most dangerous animal (most!) any human will come into contact with is another human. And, sure, violence should be avoided – but if you are attacked there is a reason for that adrenaline – use it!

    Brian Clasby wrote on August 30th, 2011
  17. Very interesting! No doubt the rush of hormones definitely has something to do with it. Having grown up in a violent home, I try to avoid violence as much as possible. However, if I feel threatened in any way (and as a commuter cyclist I have threats fairly often), I am always shocked by my own reaction–intense anger bordering on violence. As a female, not only am I often shocked by this but so is the person on whom this aggression is released. Primal energy? For sure. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.

    Happycyclegirl wrote on August 30th, 2011
  18. In Nicholas Wade’s fantastic book about Paleolithic man “Before the Dawn” he quotes anthropologists who suggest the rate of homicide was likely around 30%. According to them, most hunter-gatherer groups were in a constant state of low-level warfare with neighboring tribes, and that it sometimes escalated into full-blown genocidal attacks.

    Raul Johnson wrote on August 30th, 2011
  19. Well based on a personal experience, sometimes when I get angry or frustrated I have this urge to take my sledge hammer and just start bashing random objects.

    Aaron (Grok Mendoza) wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Comedian Leo Gallagher had the right idea.

      Timothy wrote on August 30th, 2011
  20. The problem with these ideas that “violence is natural” is that it easily morphs into, “and therefore it’s ok.” Anthropologists from the very violent patriarchal world we live in have a hard time imagining a world that wasn’t constantly plagued by interpersonal violence, and they project their own worldviews onto ancient humans.

    Similarly they imagine that the ancient family was like a modern-day patriarchal family, with a father/husband, a mother/wife and their kids. But there’s a lot of evidence that the ancient family was a grandmother, her sisters and brothers, her own children and her sisters’ children, and the grandchildren.

    Some early ancient towns show almost no sign of warfare or weapons. These were towns that were built in the very early days of the Neolithic, when gardening was just started to supplement hunting and gathering.

    shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
  21. I think the scope is the important thing, in many ways, and I would even say that under certain circumstances, we should stop trying to stifle violence. That is, if there are two kids with a disagreement and it’s broken up or “resolved” by the parents, it doesn’t actually get resolved and the bad blood between the kids remains. On the other hand, if the two kids are similar in size, and you let them duke it out, the odds of permanent or serious injury are very low, and no matter who wins, or even if no one wins, it tends to settle things. Basically, if there’s not much chance of serious injury, I think the cathartic benefits of a little fighting are totally worth the bruises and scrapes.

    Ware wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • if it only stopped there…! but i see your idea being like a plot-line from a fifties-vintage sitcom, where the little boys inevitably end by shaking hands and the winner treats a loser to an ice-cream cone. doesn’t happen, in my experience of the world. rather, the winner is encouraged by his success to behave like a bully, and the loser suffers from self-immolation for his failure as well as taunting from his peers. if kids can be taught that might *doesn’t* make right, i think it’s a step in the right direction. let them work off their excess energy on the ballfield!

      tess wrote on August 30th, 2011
  22. I’m not sure I really see the good in violence, unless it is being used to do a good thing, such as break up a fight or maybe apprehend an attacker. But I guess there is more then I meaning to the word violence, isn’t there.

    I have never been in a physical fight and I have never wanted to. I have wanted to bitch slap some people now and then, but I guess I am evolved enough to be able to control it. :-)

    Primal Recipe wrote on August 30th, 2011
  23. Very interesting post and topic.

    When you think about it… ALL ANIMALS show some signs of “violence.”

    No animal is out to kill an animal of the same species. There are exceptions of course…

    Let’s take regular ole dogs for example… My family owns a Boston Terrier and my sisters fiance has owned a Boston Terrier for about 2 years.

    There names are Dave (sisters fiances dog) and Chauncey (our dog.

    Over the past 2 years my family has taken care of Dave quite frequently. In the beginning Dave was just a puppy. Chauncey is now 8 years old and is thus very used to being the only dog in the house. It’s his space, no one elses. When Dave would come over, Chauncey would “attack” Dave. Dave would hide and do everything he can to protect himself.

    As time went on Dave would be less afraid. They played then and really play now but I can sense that Chauncey was, in a way, trying to “fight” Dave to prevent him from taking over his space.

    I mean, Dave now sleeps in Chauncey’s bed when he is over!! You can be sure that Chauncey was trying to prevent that from happening in the past – I guess he lost!

    I know how to get them to “fight” or “play” if you want to call it. You bark at them or push them together, etc. It’s an absolute riot! It’s not deadly violence but, as you will see in a video that I will link to, Chauncey does raise his paw and tries to “punch” Dave. The are playing but being defensive too.

    Today, they are very playful. They still “fight” but it is just a way of playing.

    You see this in most species. This includes us of course.

    Boxing is a sport. A fight in the street is just like boxing without gloves. So is it right or wrong? It of course depends just like with everything else. If the 2 people fighting are best friends and they know they always will be then why should a fight be stopped unless it gets bloody? Or wrestling – that’s a kick ass workout!

    It can get to extreme behaviors, such as the attacks on 911 (it’s been just about a decade – wow!) which is why we need government, etc. in today’s world. We love some forms of violence but no one should be a fan of any type of war. Is war necessary? I think so in some circumstances but it can be avoided.

    We will always have some form of “violence” but I also hope and believe we will have “world peace.”

    Primal Toad wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Here is a link to the video where Dave and Chauncey “fight.”

      It’s fighting which is “violence” depending on how you look at it but its more “play.”

      Enjoy! It’s hilarious and cute!

      Primal Toad wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • In the early days of the Boston Terrier, they were bred tougher, larger, and meaner, as fighting dogs. Which is hard to believe because they’ve been bred down to high energy clowns now (I have one also).

        But yeah, the fight instinct still peeks through in play and boundary-setting with new buddies.

        Joe Brancaleone wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • Even in a serious fight between dogs, it is mainly threat and display. It sounds and looks terrible, but usually injuries are minor and incidental (a result of fast-moving teeth), if both dogs are well-adjusted and adept in proper “doggy” relations. Serious fights that would actually damage pack members would handicap the pack as a whole when it came time to hunt. Their play also mimics fighting, probably to allow them to hone their skills for the real thing.

        Miriam wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Cats will kill other cats. Chimpanzees frequently fight for territory and the victors will both kill and cannibalize the losers.

      Violence throughout human civilization has been fairly well documented as well. While death is not necessarily the goal of this violence, it is important to realize that it was (and in reality continues to be) an important part of human civilizations.

      Frequently ritualistic mutilation was used to denote tribe or group, or to denote acceptance into adulthood or a specific part of a civilization (the high priests, the hunters, what have you). This was also a method to test your bravery (see Land Diving by the Naghol). There are times where it ends in death, certainly, but even a ‘successful’ jump can leave a person injured.

      I honestly think that our society has become too far removed from the small day to day small violences which have traditionally determined social status within a group, acted as a rite of passage, etc, and in turn are left without an outlet for violent tendencies, at which point it explodes and we are left with a disastrous mess to clean up. Controlled violence leaves people feeling empowered, and leaves them less likely to have bouts of uncontrolled violence, from my point of view.

      Hal wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Primal Toad,

      I disagree with the statement “No animal is out to kill another animal of the same species.” It happens quite a bit. In addition to the chimps, cats, and humans that Hal mentioned, think about Black Widow spiders- the female will kill and eat the male after mating. There is also the Sea Louse- the female is split apart by her offspring and dies as a result.

      While these animals may not be “out to kill” other members of their species, they will certainly do so if there is a benefit to the individual committing the violence (like the female black widow getting an extra meal out of mating, or the young sea louse surviving birth).

      John wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • The female is split apart by her offspring as a result of giving birth. Sorry, left that part out.

        John wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • And care needs to be taken when introducing new chickens into a flock, too, because the dominant ones may kill the newcomer(s)

        homehandymum wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I agree with what you have to say. I forget about the true wild sometimes. My example was cute, honest little boston terriers that live with people! Lol

        I guess we all need to accept that there probably will always be some violence and that it may even be for the best. I am all for world peace… for no wars, etc. But a little violence amongst us and other species, as long as there is reason behind any kill that may happen (defending yourself from a robber, rapist, etc.).

        With black widows it makes sense as they are just trying to survive. It’s what they do. Us humans don’t need to kill or harm unless we are being threatened. I do believe threats will start to decline at some point in my lifetime. Time will tell.

        Primal Toad wrote on August 31st, 2011
        • Really? You think that wars and major threats will decline in your lifetime? Resources are getting increasingly scarce while demand rises. I’m not just talking about the things you think about everyday – oil, ore, etc. – but also things like food and clean water. We are currently in the middle of an economic miasma while world banks are running out of ‘tricks to keep everything going’. There’s political polarization across the US and world at large. We will see the shifting of world superpowers in our lifetime… at least once. Extremists from around the world are growing increasingly erratic.

          I’m glad some of us out there are “glass half full” types.

          Ideally, yes. I would love to never see anyone kill anyone else. Realistically, however, I worry about the state of the world for my kid. He’s the one that gets to inherit this mess. For all of us, I hope you’re right, and that everything I stated above just evaporates.

          Hal wrote on August 31st, 2011
  24. Interesting topic. This got me immediately thinking about how, though we may not engage in physical violence outright anymore (it’s not socially acceptable afterall), we certainly do love to practice or watch it in more acceptable, controlled venues such as sports or competitive fighting.
    This might be completely off the mark but when I read this ” inter-group conflict most likely occurred due to resource scarcity and territorial infringement ” my mind immediately jumped to the political/posturing/backstabbing jungle that is middle management in coporate America. We might not engage in outright physical violence, but we ‘fight’ others by any means necessary in order to keep our footing on shaky job ground. Perhaps career advancement is the new survival of the fittest in this modern age?

    Amy wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • hadn’t thought of that aspect, but it sounds very reasonable. when i think of constructive things into which modern man expends his aggressive instincts, i think of the “true crime” shows that used to be ubiquitous on television, and the job-satisfaction that a cold-case detective displays when he successfully closes one!

      tess wrote on August 30th, 2011
  25. The idea that violence is natural and therefore ok is only possible in a discussion between people who are not subjected to it regularly. If you’ve ever lived in a situation where other more powerful people were allowed to beat up on you whenever they wanted to, you know viscerally that this somehow not “natural” and definitely not “ok.”

    Ask somebody who lives in a truly violent neighborhood, for example, where shootings, kidnappings and armed robbery are weekly occurrences. Their stress level is off the charts.

    Or ask somebody who grew up in the Jim Crow South. Or somebody who grew up with a violent parent. You can’t convince me that it was ever adaptive or natural to beat your child to the point of injury or death, or that humans evolved doing that: people who did that wouldn’t pass on their genes very successfully. Yet it’s pretty common in the US. I say that our society is violent way beyond what’s “normal” or “natural.” Other developed countries don’t have nearly the rates of homicide and assault and rape that we have here.

    shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
  26. There are some interesting notes about violence and Alpha male in the married man’s sex life primer by Athol Kay. Basically, those Alpha males that would have been most dominant in an ancient society, are now in jail. We have now adapted to live more Beta like, be more peaceful, and less domineering. This is not always the case, but seems to be a trend. The book talks about Alpha traits, which include violence, releasing dopamine in the female watching, which basically just turns her on. The book didn’t seem to cite a lot of research, but it was interesting and I have wanted to be a little more violent to turn my wife on a little more ever since. haha

    Caleb wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • haha. Let us know how that works out.

      shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • You never, ever have the right to abuse your wife physically, verbally, or emotionally, unless she’s coming at you with a kitchen knife. Of course, this goes both ways. I’m a 68 year old woman with a black belt in tae kwon do that I achieved at 48. I was a nice Jewish girl, had never been in a fight, and was amazed at the power and self confidence martial arts can give someone like me. When dating my present husband, he playfully grabbed me around the neck from behind. I instinctively smashed my heel into his foot, and he never did that again!

        Maxmilliana wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I know my fiancee is certainly turned on by male aggression/violence. Obviously not if she gets hurt though! She loves watching me spar, or even just practice kata. I think the idea that I am capable of fighting turns on a switch somewhere that ramps up her attraction to me. And I am soooo OK with that. 😀

      Uncephalized wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Maybe for women it has something to do with a man being able to protect her (real or potential)offspring?

      Shane wrote on August 31st, 2011
  27. I once read a synopsis on a research paper that said early explorers who came across hunter-gatherer inuits discovered that between 60 to 70 percent of the males had committed homocide at some point.

    And to some extent, I can understand why this would be the case. What I think we need to remember is that we now have a justice system that stops us needing to take violent measures against other humans within our zones of existence, but, without such a system, we would have to take those measures.

    I think this notion is explored very well in Stewart’s seminal post-apocalyptic novel “Earth Abides”, where the adults in a group of survivors realise they need to do something about a dubious straggler that has appeared in their area and seems to be a malevolent and dangerous sort. When faced with the consequences of both not killing and killing, the group realise that killing him is probably the only sure way to ensure the survival of the group.

    Because of similar kinds of pressures on paleolithic and mezolithic groups, it would not surprise me in the slightest for researchers to discover a “violence tendency” in homo sapiens. Our greater problem is not just plain straight physical threats borne out of straight challenges to territory or access to resources and mates from others, but also human’s ability to use the brain and be downright sneaky.

    What I have noticed in my life, however, is that violence in most people only appears in moments of intense personal stress of some sort, but often it can be hard to notice the stress behind the violence and not all intense stress causes the same kind of violent response. I do wonder whether violence is one of the reactions built into the fight or flight response to stress and “danger”, which is nowadays triggered by all manner of aspects of our modern culture — think of kids throwing violent tantrums and pummeling their mothers in supermarkets, for example. You can even fit the principles of Fight Club into this reading, that the men are facing extreme stress due to the unnatural environments ad pressures of modern society, so they need to realise that stress through violence.

    When you think about it like this, violence becomes a very interesting phenomenon … a consequence of stress rather than an action in and of itself. Then the question becomes … why are all these violent people so stressed? What is causing it, and what is it about?

    So, if you see it like this, in a sense, violence is about as “natural” as vomiting. Yes, it is a natural reaction, but a reaction to some sort of poison in the system.

    Alex Grace wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • It would help if I checked my spelling: “homicide”.


      Alex Grace wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • On the other hand, an anthropologist named Jean Briggs studied the Inuit closely and found virtually no violence in their society. Since they live so closely together in the winter, she reasoned, they are trained to get along no matter what. Only very old people could even remember an incident of interpersonal violence in their lifetimes. Even expressing anger was considered in very bad taste. The same is true in some traditional Asian societies such as Ladakh.

      shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • They’re “stressed” because they perceive a threat to their dominance, in my experience. If you challenge an alpha male, he will threaten you. He tries to dominate you in more subtle ways at first–veiled threats–but if you challenge these and call him out, he will quickly resort to threats of outright violence, and then violence itself. Only social sanctions keep this in check. In places where there are “failed states” and social sanctions fail to keep alpha males in check, they run rampant over everybody in their path. They are warlords. You wouldn’t like a society like this.

      shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
      • I think it is more complex than that. What is often forgotten or never mentioned is the extent of the use of drugs and alcohol in civil or transnational conflicts. Crikey, most of the “soldiers” of African warlords are permanently high — to the extent that they rub cocaine into male youths wounds to get them to fight.

        This leads me into why I suspect the “threat to dominance of an alpha male” explanation does not really illuminate why some people use violence when they do. For example, why is it that so many “alpha males” often cannot commit violence when they actually really need to? Over 90 percent of all soldiers in the first world war never fired their gun at the enemy, for example; they shot wide or into the air. The same phenomenon was found in WW2 and Vietnam, and led to changes in military training in the US and Europe.

        These are situations where all social sanctions against violence cease to exist, but yet significant numbers of alpha males can still not commit violence. Yet what is strange is that it seems plausible to consider that some of this 90 percent of men probably committed violence against others in a different context.

        And to be honest, I found your last sentence to be a little patronising. My family is from a “failed state” that was over-run by “warlords” and I am all too aware of what can happen in that scenario and also what, strangely, does not happen.

        Alex Grace wrote on August 30th, 2011
        • Presumably your family left because you didn’t, in fact, like it.

          shannon wrote on August 30th, 2011
  28. Violence is something I have given some thought to over time but have not engaged in any formal research.

    I was a bit of a tomboy as a child and if I encountered a persistent bully, I usually beat him up. It was always a him by the way.

    I taught 7,8 and 9th grade physical education for a few years and always thought sports was a good way of getting out some aggressive or violent or anxious feelings in a socially acceptable way. A way to let off steam.

    I did movie reviews for a time. The question always came up about violence in movies and whether it encouraged violence in viewers. It is a good question that I am not sure we have a definitive answer to.

    Generally I don’t think it does for the majority of people. It seems to be a safe and socially acceptable way to experience violence and see the terrible consequences of the behavior. Some of the kindest, gentle males I know love violent movies and TV.

    I also think experiencing violence on the screen is totally different than experiencing it in real life.

    I also think if one is watching a movie with a child and there is disturbing violence in a scene it should be a teaching opportunity about the reality of violence.

    When I was about 6 years old we saw a cartoon at the movie theater where one of the comical scenes involved one character biting the other character on the butt.

    When we got home I decided it would be equally funny to bite my sister on the butt. I was totally surprised that no one, especially my sister laughed.

    Sharon wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • After watching every movie to hit the theaters for about 5 years, I came to realize that violence is more than one thing.

      It can be simply entertaining, or used to make a point, illustrate reality or even as humor. And, occasionally, some just seems gratuitous and over the top.

      Sharon wrote on August 31st, 2011
  29. Well, it seems kinda obvious to me that violence would be interesting. Is someone going to die, get wounded? Important things aren’t necessarily pleasant. People are similarly interested in natural disasters.

    Sofie wrote on August 30th, 2011
  30. I think violence was a natural part of the caveman’s experience in that he had to kill in order to eat, and the probabiity he had to kill in defense from predators.

    Jon wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I totally agree. Just killing an animal is extremely violent. Even though we have become more civilized and usually don’t kill what we eat, we are still attracted to seeing violence in action. We are very curious creatures. We react more to our genetic makeup than we know. This was a very interesting posting I hope you research it further, JB

      JohnnyBolton wrote on August 30th, 2011
  31. I would say this although we may have inherited a predisposition toward violence as a part of our genetic inheritance and that this predispostion may come in handy in defending ourselves and our loved ones from harm, and defending our foodstuffs and posessions from raiding, that I agree with the anarcho-primitivists when it comes to the more endemic societal ill of “violence”

    Anthropologists indicated that hunter-gatherer groups did/do often engage in small scale tribal war-fare but that these engagements were often non-lethal. The more objectionable forms of systematic violence in sexism, classism, and large scale lethal engagements tend to emerge with the increased population and social stratification of agriculturalist societies.

    I do mma/brazilian jiu-jitsu, I have read, and enjoyed, Yukio Mishima’s “Sun and Steel”. I enjoy “violent acts”. but violence can be done without hate, and without the desire or intent to harm. Perhaps “strenuous physical exertion in the opposition of a mutually engaged opponent’s will” would be a better name for “healthy violence”. Sounds like sport. “Imposing your will forcibly upon another” is the violence we should try to avoid. this definition could even inlude non-physical acts of aggression. One is healthy and part of our nature, and the other is morally reprehensible.

    tom h wrote on August 30th, 2011
  32. As someone who grew up in an abusive/violent home, I know that ‘violence’ absolutely has a place in our society.

    The person doing the abusing, my father, was a hippie, make-love-not-war type. As a kid, I was absolutely dumbfounded that he could espouse the ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, then come home and turn into a rage-aholic.

    The basic fact is that testosterone absolutely causes aggression, however, there is less outlet for this aggression in a ‘civilized’ society. There is something to be said for supervised violence so that it doesn’t erupt uncontrollably during times of high stress.

    Anger, stress, fear (as well as positive emotions) are full-body experiences. We don’t simply feel these emotions in our heads; we feel anger from our heart to our extremities.

    We act, however, as though the emotions are not visceral, physical experiences and that they are separate from our bodies.

    Additionally, there is nothing wrong with anger which can be the subtext of some new age thinking. Anger is a healthy, normal reaction. Our expression of that anger is where the problem lies, if there is one.

    There is a reason that “Fight Club” did so well.

    Hayden Tompkins wrote on August 30th, 2011
  33. I have to take issue with Mark’s assertion that we are living in relative “peace” in the 21st century, or that the average person is “divorced” from violence. Makes me wonder if we’re living in the same 21st century. I work for a police agency, which is going to color my view, but any typical evening news cast is going to be mostly concerned with the latest violence whether local or international. Also, this is a weakness with the “Grok” character. The “bio” fails to emphasize that he was probably envolved in some kind of violent conflict with his fellow “paleos” for a fair number of his waking hours.

    James wrote on August 30th, 2011
  34. The presentation of Tucker Maxx shows he was humbled by getting punched in the face a few times, for him it was much needed.

    Most people that condone violence forgot what was said in the beginning of the presentation: people who can fight are less likely to use violence.

    It is politically correct to say violence is bad, but it is everywhere. It’s also the “bad people” that know how to fight better, that is a problem.

    It’s like in these London riots that could have been avoided by kicking a few teeth in, and then the other “kids” would see it was not ok to torch buildings.

    It’s teaching a bullied kid how to fight back instead of mommy telling him to “be the better person and ignoring it” so he is a constant victim of physical and psychological abuse (needing anti depressants and opening the way to continuous poisoning of body and soul).

    It’s been a while that I read the Primal Blueprint but there was something about “Common Sense” which applies here! Some people should try Tucker Max’s advice, when you get punched in the face you get off your high horse very fast! It’s a great stress reliever!

    Emagrecer wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • I think you’re onto something here. There is a big difference between being a bully and being strong. I have a black belt in Kenpo karate and while I would fight if backed into a corner, I’d just as soon avoid a fight if possible. That said, I’m not teaching my kids to back down from bullies because there are some people who only understand the language of violence.

      We can argue all day that we’re more evolved than that, but reality would argue otherwise. Common sense and high-minded philosophy don’t tend to go hand-in-hand.

      sqt wrote on August 30th, 2011
  35. Physical strength was also a means of selecting social pecking order in tribes. The alpha male could probably beat the shit out of all the beta males, but I’m sure the beta males gave it an effort once in a while because being an alpha has its perks.

    Laws of the Cave wrote on August 30th, 2011
  36. check out the book manthropology

    primal pal wrote on August 30th, 2011
  37. Pretty much all the fights I have been in were in junior high, this was back at the beginning of integration, worst two years of my life by far.

    Most humans find striking another human to be repugnant, unfortunately there are a few who enjoy it more than almost anything else.

    I was involved in martial arts when I was young and was good at sparring but I could not, and never will be able to, strike another person with the intent to hurt them without feeling sick to my stomach.

    rob wrote on August 30th, 2011
  38. “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

    Yet war is evidently not terrible enough, for it remains immensely popular among homo sapiens, 150 years after those words were spoken. The modern examples are too numerous and depressing to list.

    The urge to violence against our own species is innate in humans, as it is in our closest relatives, the chimps. We define artificial out-groups, dehumanize them, and treat them worse than animals when given half a chance. The evidence abounds in our behavior in the real world and on the internet.

    We can’t ignore the impulse and wish it away. We must seek to understand it, the better to sublimate our destructive instincts into productive pursuits.

    Personally, I enjoy smashing things with a sledgehammer.

    Timothy wrote on August 30th, 2011
  39. In the past I found sports and music to be great outlets for aggressive impulses.

    Steve T wrote on August 30th, 2011
  40. i’m not coming out to play today. I think i’ll stay home and clean my guns.

    Dasbutch wrote on August 30th, 2011

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!