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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 30 2011

Violence: An Introduction to a Primal Instinct

By Mark Sisson
230 Comments

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.

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230 thoughts on “Violence: An Introduction to a Primal Instinct”

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  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.

      1. 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…

      2. You ever think she might have more than one shirt on?
        Also, that’s all you took from that? >_>

        1. C’mon… what better way to fight a sexual harasser than the assault them with the chest guns blazing?

    1. 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.

    2. 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….

    3. 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.

    4. Where do you live that you’ve been attacked several times? That’s crazy bad luck.
      Glad you kept your wits about you.

    5. 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.

  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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

      2. 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.

  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.

  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.

    1. I know this attitude has kept me out of certain conflicts over the years.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

  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.

    1. 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.

      1. Yeah, his comment freaked me out too. Don’t know if the need to hit something everyday is considered healthy.

    2. you are just a typical bully that needs to get over your complexes.

    3. 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 🙂

  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

    1. 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.

  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.

    Cheers

    1. 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!

  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.

    1. 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.

      1. If Tucker Max is a misogynist why do the women reward him so?

        Pls clarify this for me.

        1. 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*

        2. Some women have little self respect. Most of us who do want nothing to do with a creep like him. It’s pretty simple.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. No where in the article does it say Tucker Max is an “expert”… it doesn’t even suggest that whatsoever.

        2. 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.

      2. “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

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. 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.

      3. 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.

        1. 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.

  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!

  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.

    1. 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!”

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

    3. 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”…

        1. Totally off topic here, but how in the world could you to a “sequel” to that movie, given the final scene?

      1. 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.

  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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  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.

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

  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?

    1. …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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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.

  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.

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

    1. 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!

  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. 🙂

  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.”

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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).

      1. The female is split apart by her offspring as a result of giving birth. Sorry, left that part out.

      2. And care needs to be taken when introducing new chickens into a flock, too, because the dominant ones may kill the newcomer(s)

      3. 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.

        1. 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.

  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?

    1. 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!

  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.

  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

      1. 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!

    1. 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. 😀

    2. Maybe for women it has something to do with a man being able to protect her (real or potential)offspring?

  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.

    1. It would help if I checked my spelling: “homicide”.

      😀

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. Presumably your family left because you didn’t, in fact, like it.

  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.

    1. 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.

  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.

  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.

    1. 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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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!

    1. 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.

  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.

  36. 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.

  37. “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.

  38. In the past I found sports and music to be great outlets for aggressive impulses.

  39. i’m not coming out to play today. I think i’ll stay home and clean my guns.

  40. Love the timing of this article. I’m starting a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class tomorrow and am looking forward to the physical aspect of fighting, defense, etc.

    1. Enjoy it! BJJ is like someone sat down and thought of a way to combine street fighting and chess. Genius!

  41. You lost me at “Tucker Max.” What a complete DB that guy is. If he is held up as and example of what it means to be “Primal”… then I’m finding a different adjective to describe this new lifestyle of mine.

    1. Those were exactly my thoughts! But I watched his talk, and it’s almost scary how different he sounds from the person he portrays himself as in his books. I never thought I’d hear this guy PRAISE things other than himself, and yet here he is… Like yes, he’s an idol to douchebags everywhere, and clearly he thinks of himself as the best. But the fact that he picked up MMA and the primal lifestyle to reinforce that notion says a lot about “primal”. It’s essentially about self-improvement. And maybe I’m getting fooled by his facade, but I think it’s humbled him a bit as well.

      1. Just keep in mind, sociopaths are experts at mimicking real emotions, manipulating and charming others to get what they want, playing the sympathy card, etc…

        1. Agreed. And he is a sociopath. And, inevitably, his schtick of heavily fabricated stories lost its cachet as he has gotten older, so he needs a new schtick. I didn’t watch his speech, nor will I.

      1. There is a lot of info out there on the interwebs about the validity of most of his stories. No question there are kernels of truth to his abhorrent (no folks, NOT alpha) behavior, but way overblown. And the reality is, he has become the guy that is still living in his past, and those around him are wondering when he will move on from it. It is unfortunate that there are women who, for whatever reason, considered it a badge of honor, or a good story, or whatever, to give themselves to him, but as they have matured, I’m sure they are more and more regretful. I can’t believe anybody would buy his book(s)…he’s trying desperately to hang on with more stories in new books…nor admire him. The worst example of a “man” out there. And obviously fraught with deep issues, if you find some independent accounts about him, not those created by himself.

  42. Not all violence is created equal…

    Just as farming manifested from eating, war has manifested from scuffles involving a couple of bare handed people. Technology has given it wings and our ability to inflict violence has expanded exponentially…much like our ability to do everything else (eat, drink, offend, pollute).

    Violence has its place. If it did not, there would be no leadership in pack animals. How is dominance asserted? Through violence. We are offended so easily by horrific pictures on the 6 o’clock news, but watching a nature show about the African Savannah is interesting and compelling. It’s “The Circle of Life”. They are 2 different extremes of the same violence.

    Longevity aside, what good is all this physical prowess? It gives us a physical edge over our peers. It helps us rise against adversity (violence), or it would have 10,000 years ago.

    Violence is not a problem. It’s what humans do with it that is the problem.

    1. I totally agree.
      Also, most people think women were 2nd class citizens, they weren’t.
      The leaders female ate second in line before the rest of the males.

      There is a reason why man kind gets and lived along side wolves for thousand of years. They have the exact same pecking order. Alpha dog first, then his female, then whoever next.

      1. That’s true, I observe this with my pack of dogs every day at feeding time.
        If a new female dog is introduced, the alpha dog has the first chance to win her over and make her part of his new female pack. If he shows no interest, another male will claim her and she won’t eat first together with the alpha dog. She will be in line with the rest, however the pecking order goes.

        Of course, I make sure everyone has lots to eat and gets some of the important parts like liver or brain. They’re all on a primal diet 🙂

  43. “inter-group conflict most likely occurred due to resource scarcity and territorial infringement”

    You can apply similar modeling to modern warfare. It helps if you imagine humans as inherently competitive.

  44. Another thought; I’m sure if there was more violence obesity would no longer be a problem. People would have a REAL incentive to be fit, healthy, eat well etc.

  45. This might explain why I love competative sports. I’ve always loved wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Now I just battle in the paint on the basketball court.

  46. This reminds me of a book I read a while back called Ecotopia. It was a pretty cheesey read, actually, but described a utopian nation formed from what was formerly California. The citizens lived in close harmony with nature. But, the men also had organized tribal ‘wars’ with spears, war paint, the whole bit. It was intended as a way to vent the human (specifically male, I think) instinct for violence and action, and in the long run to improve the mental and physical health of the citizens by providing that outlet. Again, fairly cheesey and out-there. However, maybe we are seeing “safe” real-life parallels to this in the hardcore action/adventure races like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race?

    1. I was going to mention Ecotopia as well. It is written from the fictional perspective of a typical 1970s reporter, so it is kind of outdated and sexist, despite the equality women have in that society. The fighting was highly ritualized and women could participate if they wanted, but mostly the women’s role was to tell the men how brave they had been and tend their wounds. Though I’m not super into the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thing, it seems like there might be a biological need in some folks for this kind of activity. See also “Endemic warfare” on Wikipedia. Forgive me if it’s been mentioned before.

  47. It’s interesting you posted this today since last night my fiance was watching random fights on YouTube last night. I agree with the first commenter, as a woman I am not fascinated by physical violence. In fact, it usually makes me uncomfortable (perhaps as being more of a nurturer?). I guess what I get uncomfortable about is excessive violence (continually hitting someone when they’re down) or violence for no reason at all. Violence for self defense is one thing, unnecessary or excessive violence is certainly another.

    I mean, when angry, most people WANT to do harm on SOMETHING, be it inanimate object or the other person making us mad. Violence does seem to be something instinctual.

  48. Maybe one could say violence, at its best, is a tool for returning to “homeostasis” at an interpersonal or social level. It should never be just about what someone needs to get out of their system. A worthy and valid goal should be in sight. Otherwise you’d be perpetuating chaos to satisfy your own hormonal surge.

  49. Weston A Price states that people with deformed facial bones and dental arches also have suffered prenatal injuries in the brain. Behavior is therefor defective and results in high amount of violence.
    Chapter 19: Physical, Mental and Moral Deterioration.

    I had a high amount of anger and a raging temper my entire life. This all went away when I started eating PRIMAL and started undergoing a slow palatal expansion to fix my dental arch. My hearing and sense of smell has increased as a result of my palatal expansion.

    If you’re eating primal, and are still suffering from rage and temper tantrums, then look a little deeper.
    Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price sure is an interesting read, and explains in details why usually the more deformed looking people are the most violent ones.

    Also, most house dogs (not to mention they never get out) turn aggressive when fed a diet of kibble (grains, starches and canola oil).

    Looks like bad nutrition goes hand in hand with bad behavior.

    1. “Looks like bad nutrition goes hand in hand with bad behavior.”

      OMG, I totally agree.
      If you look at history it shows that violence amongst each other inreased dramatically when the neolithic era started.
      Grains made everyone kookoo.

  50. I play ball hockey outdoors in the rain and snow all winter with a group of people (mixed women and men) and there is *plenty* of aggression and violent actions (from women and men though the men obviously take it a bit easier on the women and the older men or anyone who is playing injured) but nothing injurious in a major way, just pushing and shoving to get at the ball or knock someone off it in the corners etc.

    Lot’s of yelling and shouting and pushing and shoving, it’s a blast!

    It’s one of the most rewarding things I do in life precisely because of the ability to take out aggression and violent urges.

    At the end of the day we’re all enjoying beers and best friends, no aggression outside of the game at all.

    I think contact sports are a key component of good mental health.

  51. Gotta say, Mark couldn’t be more right. While initiating violence is generally bad, nobody denies that its acceptable to fight back. There’s a pretty good evolutionary justification for males to fight each other – practice for when they actually need to defend themselves or their families. That’s certainly one explanation for why young brothers love to fight each other, and why me and my buddies from college still enjoy the occasional spontaneous wrestling match.

    I don’t see this in women as much though – it seems to be pretty unacceptable for women to fight in western cultures. However, doesn’t change the fact that I find the scene from From Russia With Love where the two gypsy girls fight to the death for a potential husband highly entertaining 🙂

  52. An interseting subject. I started training mixed martial arts about 6 months ago. Joe Rogan had an amazing bit in his podcast about how training jiu-jitsu humbles you as a man. I completely agree. Getting you ass kicked for five 5min rounds seriously humbles you!

  53. I train submission wrestling now regularily and olympic wrestling before that from a young age. There is no amount of heavy lifting, crossfit, and other “non-agressive” forms of training (which I also do on a regular basis) that really get my adrenaline going the same way. Lifting something really heavy just doesnt compare to rolling around wrestling and choking a guy out after a well fought battle. The satisfaction is just more complete for me if that makes sense.

    Im not saying I crave aggression outside the controlled enviroment of my submission wrestling club but I would be in some way unfulfilled with only doing other non-martial art sports. Maybe Im just an adrenaline junkie? Or is there something primal in besting another human for bragging rights?

  54. My six-year-old son recently commented, “You know one kind of wiggle that I wish I could get out? I want to hit things or people.”

  55. I’ve been thinking a lot about violence recently and realized that violence is as much a part of life as nonviolence. Fact is, for me to live something has to die and that involves violence. However, violence must be used judiciously when dealing with the world. Peaceful means are preferable, but sometimes violent measures are necessary.

  56. All you folks looking for an outlet for your built up excess energy, go live on an amish farm for a year.
    By the time each day is over you’re gonna wanna be in bed, asleep.

  57. I think our fascination with violence is evident in the number of comments so far.

    There has to be some level of attraction…why else would my 4 yr old LOVE to pick on his younger brother? 🙂

    Great post Mark!

  58. Great post Mark! And great comments too. I love this topic and do hope you’ll continue with it. I am also deeply interested in inherent human traits and I’ve wondered if violence is just a part of being human.

    Video games and TV are kind of freaky, though, in their level of violence. But I wonder if that is just a reaction to our pacifist ideology. And if our pacifist ideology isn’t responsible for needless and extreme violence like Columbine.

  59. Even in judo or wrestling practice, I hated to lose. It’s a little like being killed. Of course there are rules, but still, it sucked.

  60. I am an amateur mma fighter. I think fighting is fun and love the competition of the sport. When I have been in fighting and training often, I am typically a happier person. I have never been in an unsanctioned fight, but at times feel aggressive towards males I have never met. This feeling is typically towards the male around that is trying to draw all the attention to himself. I would say this feeling would be a primal urge to prove dominance, but when I have been training and competing regularly, the feeling is not as strong.

  61. I think violence in any form is a threat to society as a whole. Usually violence is a last resort when when all intelligence fails. It is violence today that is breaking down society. Lack of respect preludes actual violence – violence follows. Lack of personal space in today’s society encourages violence just a providing too small of space for any specie will provoke fighting and violence.

    1. You do realize you wouldn’t have society if it weren’t for violence?

  62. Someone mentioned scientific arguments cited by Wade that violence was very common. For a strong argument that warfare was virtually non-existent among nomadic foragers, see Douglas P. Fry, Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace (Oxford, 2007). He shows that most violence is episodic and between individuals, usually over women, and that hunter-gatherers had a multitude of cultural means for limiting and overcoming violence. As for Darwinian arguments that the violent would have more mates, he shows that there is plenty of evidence against that and that being excessive violent will also get you killed by other members of society that have had enough. Most scientific work on this question has been highly biased by the blinders of civilization (and outright scientific fraud in some cases), and seek to extend violence over property back in time pre-agriculture when it just doesn’t apply.

    1. don’t forget that most tribal “warfare” was really low intensity conflict resulting in a few broken bones or minor cuts. Deaths in these conflicts were apparently fairly rare. Many cultures even used aggressive sports such as lacrosse and early variation of soccer/football/basketball to solve such conflicts.

      a dozen toddlers in a sandbox having intermittent and minor scuffles is far less threatening a thought than 2 adults with shotguns having even infrequent disagreements in that same area.

  63. Anyone else watch Braveheart (Mel Gibson); an early scene with the 2 kids where they just have a slugfest with each other to solve an argument?

    I was jealous.

  64. The first thing I thought of while reading this article was the “fight” that takes place in the movie Bridget Jones Diary between Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver. Everyone is stunned and then the gay best friend runs into a restaraunt and says “fight…well quICK! IT’S A REAL FIGHT!” and everyone rushes outside to watch the two “gentlemen” go at it (they clearly have NO fighting skills).

    As a lady, I admit, I kinda dig violence… to an extent (not a fan of gore). A couple random, scattered thoughts:

    1. There is a strong connection between sex and violence… perhaps as part of the Alpha scenario. If a boyfriend were to defend my honor by punching the offending douchebag, boyfriend would be rewarded… repeatedly. I also find wrestling/play fighting with the bf to be excellent foreplay.

    2. Handling guns and practicing martial arts are also enjoyable… both are very focused and calming and I like the assurance that comes from knowing I could handle myself in a violent situation. And knowing I could handle myself makes a fight unnecessary a lot of times. There’s a lot to be said for simply standing one’s ground.

    3. I wish that it were more acceptable for women to fight with fists instead of the back-stabbing/passive-agressive bull. BUT – I think the passive-agressive stuff is a skill in and of itself.

  65. Last week, one of my weight loss clients told me he was a “bad person.” I asked “Why in the world would you feel that way?” He said it was because he’s been in two fist fights since going primal 9 months ago…people were rude or just pissed him off and he started swinging. Now this is an educated, well-employed man in his mid-40’s (so highly usual behavior for him).

    We regularly see natural, measurable increases in testosterone levels on a Primal/Paleo program. Soy seems to be emasculating the men in our society as well…take that out of the diet along with a Primal/Paleo regimen and it’s not surprising that some men will experience a higher tendency towards physical aggression.

    Seems perfectly “natural” to me.

    Thanks for a fascinating post, as usual Mark!

  66. The problem may be that there is a failure of the language to describe “violence”. When is violence okay? I would think it is okay when you are defending yourself, your home/territory , defending someone else (ie: a child), or when you are hunting food. These forms of violence are found all around the animal world. No one thinks the lion is wrong for killing the gazelle. But when is violence wrong? Well, what if that lion decided to kill all of the cheetas in order to hunt their food. Or if a lion had just killed a gazelle and then it decided to kill a wildebest. In both of those cases the lion would seem off, or not right… So doing something violent doesnt make it wrong; it depends what you are doing.

  67. Most of us claim to be non-violent, while asking proxies to perform violent acts that we refuse individually to commit.

  68. Its weird, I like violence (sparring and wrestling) among friends when there’s no ill will; just the thrill of besting someone else and using muscles the most natural way (combat).
    However I avoid fights out at bars and have had to side-step some situations before. Its not just because someone could pack a weapon or a group could jump me but because I don’t like the ill-will associated with it. I hate feeling like I have to watch my back.

  69. Go on Google and do a search for “Dr. Ruthless”. This lady has taken women’s self defense totally primal.

  70. I practiced aikido for three years, and often miss it. It gave me a (mostly) safe physical outlet for what you’re describing in this article.

    I consider my daily physical exertion (i.e., weightlifting, metcon, etc.) to serve the same purpose. I still miss aikido (though not the back pain).

  71. There are no places and really no peoples on Earth which are not “threatened” by the hand of man in one form or another..
    Violence is just another form of mans greed..self gratification..need to control…
    whatever you call it…man IS a violent creature…just wait until we have shortages of fuel, water or food…THEN you will see the so called peaceful people..become as violent as the rest…Violence is the excuse for not thinking..and or getting along>>>

    1. As said by Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: “When you’re pushed, killing comes as easy as breathing”. The best example from the movie of that is the Christian missionary who jumps one of the soldiers and kills him with a rock. For real life examples, one just needs to look for stories of ordinary citizens defending themselves. These are often people who have no formal combat training, only some pistol training to qualify for their CCW. Yet, “when pushed”…robbers, rapists, burglars and other scum end up dead. “Comes as easy as breathing”, for sure…

  72. Great post. Loving the evolutionary biology perspective. In my opinion, I feel that violence, for the most part, has been sequestered due to establishments such as government.

  73. To me, the ability to be in touch with your violent side is key to being able to preserve your own safety, should the need ever arise. Fighting for sport is a good way to unleash our inclination to fight, doing so in a controlled way…but I think that a lot of us have lost interest in being able to defend ourselves; we assume we’ll never have to, or that someone else will do it for us. The reality is that our PRIMAL instinct that says, “If you threaten my safety, I will rip you apart” is the only thing that will really save us if we’re ever attacked. Violence is mostly psychological, so I recommend training yourself to unleash your killer instinct for the day that you hope never comes.

    1. Not as much “lost interest” as just having been mentally neutered by society. This neutering can be undone, either by training, or by “contact with reality”.

  74. We are endowed with a sympathetic nervous system in which autonomic summations interact with the conscious mind in determining fight or flight. Very primal indeed. The violence issue becomes infinitely more complex in the arena of civilization, government, social moray, and the rest. For the individual to survive it is a necessity to either fight or flee when the causative circumstances arise.

  75. I’m also female and I enjoy a bit of controlled violence myself. I like action movies, I play a lot of computer games (I used to be a PC games journalist) and I used to do Thai boxing, where I enjoyed contact sparring.

    Obviously, this is a lot different to being harrassed by an aggressive male or worse – but the instinct is there nonetheless.

    I think we all have this instinct, to a certain extent, and finding the right outlet for it is important. Bottling it up only leads to stress and illness.

  76. I have a 4 year old boy. The ability to push, hit, kick, poke, and grab is deeply embedded in his dna. We have to work with him every day on how to play nicely with his friends. That’s not to say our species is inherently violent. If you look at young lion cubs, they fight constantly. You might think they are learning to be aggressive. They are not. They are learning to control their aggression. When adult lions fight, they are fighting not with all their might. Neither one wants to be permanently damaged. So it is with preschool boys too (and our species). I think they are created to be physical but that they are learning, through all the punching hitting and grabbing, to control their aggression.

  77. Violence is healthy, and cathartic within reasons. Rules are a good way to handle that.

    Especially so in today’s world where “enlightenment” so often means neutering for guys. Sometimes a nice little scrap is the perfect thing to bring your feelings up.

    That’s why so many normal guys are experiencing a renaissance with sports like MMA and boxing.

  78. Violence is an unavoidable truth. Whether it be sport, crime or war, there will always be violence. In the Primal lifestyle we learn to indulge our instincts, but at the same time we must balance that with being modern civilized people. I can’t go beating up every jackass that cuts me off on the interstate….no matter how much instinct and desire makes me want to. That being said, watching or participating in violent (but controlled and consensual) activities such as MMA is a great way to indulge the violent side many of us might have. Also, one of the main reasons we live this lifestyle is to live long healthy lives. So wouldn’t logic dictate us making other steps to assure a long life? I buckle up anytime I get in the car and using that same self preservation logic I carry a concealed firearm anywhere I am legally allowed to. So my take on violence: maturely accept it, embrace it, prepare for it and be smart enough to avoid it in uncontrolled circumstances.

  79. I have noticed that since I went primal in April, I’m much more violent. I keep it all my head though, which is good 🙂

  80. I don’t relate to this article at all. I think what it’s getting at, is the competitive side in all of us; this does NOT have to resort to violence.

  81. I don’t relate to this article. I think these are huge and broad slippery slope generalizations. What I think it’s getting at is the competitive nature that’s natural in all of us.

  82. When I was a bit younger that “thrill” was certainly appealing, and evident from the accompanied adrenaline. But even with it I still refused to participate in what was happening around me, and I’m still clean to this day. Time eroded my wayward curiosity towards violence, and for that I am thankful. The modern rendition of violence is a sickening, pathetic invention that holds no substance or positive conclusion. I’m talking about cases such as the aforemention bar-fight, or the typical street-scrap after a night out over something so fruitlessly nonsensical. We should all be capable enough to tunnel through these urges. I don’t understand why people have to be so fucking bad to each other.

  83. there’s alot of bad men in this world. crazy F#*@ks that want to seriously hurt you, just because you’re not what they are. who would you want in your camp when you come under attack, a pasifist or a fighter? ANGER was how one protected his clan (fight or flight response). i guess it’s one of those genectic traits.

  84. Great article and one that I was actually thinking of requesting. Glad someone else did it! I’ve been involved in combat sports for over 10 years now, and in my opinion the reason we see so much spontaneous violence in bars etc (aside from alcohol of course) is because we are continuously told by society to push down those urges. Out of the hundreds of people I have met and know from fighting, not one has the inclination to go out and get into trouble because they “get it out of their system” at training.
    I believe on some level fighting is as innate to us as breathing, however there doesn’t have to be violent intent behind it. Look at all the different animals that play fight for instance. When I am injured or take an extended layoff from training, I inevitably get a bit down. It’s not the down from a sudden withdrawal of exercise (I find ways around most injuries), but the withdrawal from fighting leaves me feeling flat, like something isn’t quite right.

  85. Violence is not nice but sadly sometimes seems necessary. I’d love to live in a world without it.

    I’d like to think violence is tempered by good society which in turn is tempered by thoughtful intellect.

    Lets keep evolving.

  86. I’d like to add only necessary in extreme circumstances like when ones life is threatened to some degree.

    I agree with Ashley that violence is different from a competitive nature.

  87. It’s not really a question of good or bad. It’s simply a necessity of living on a planet with limited resources. All animals need to utilize some degree of violence to protect themselves and their interests.

    We now have the technology to overcome most forms of scarcity, so technically violence shouldn’t be needed anymore… but it’s so deeply ingrained in our DNA that it’ll always be with us – just like our need for delicious meat, sunshine, and physical companionship.

  88. Violence is anger without rules.
    Anger is violence without rules.
    Which is it??

    OK, so who the hell needs “rules”? But those rules seem to be there — unspoken, unseen, unacknowledged. Like them or not— they are there-

    Anyone, besides me, been guilty of either one?

    1. Anger is an emotion
      Violence is an act

      Not sure what you mean by either having or not having rules. There’s different sets of rules for violence depending on your surrounding, who you are engaging with, etc. There’s also rules in the sense of what helps you win or lose. In true warfare, there’s no rules at all. That’s why you have be careful with violence. If you breech certain untold rules “out in the street”, the other person will be more likely–if not certain–to do as well.

  89. As a man that came from a machismo and military culture I DO NOT like undue or undisciplined violence. Let me explain it in the way I tell my 9 year old son. It’s called “Don’t mess with Daddy’s marshmellows”

    We love to go camping and have fun around the campfire especially roasting marshmellows and making S’mores. We also love to sing songs that I affectionalely call singing “kumbaya” round the campfire. This philosophy extends to all areas of my life.

    All my friends, fellow campers etc are invited to sing, share and have fun in our little campfire neighborhood. Inevitably someone, somewhere will not like my “kumbaya” style and friendliness and mistake it for weakness. I tell my son that there are people that will take our marshmmellows because they think they can. That they hide in the shadows waiting to prey on weak people. They will have the idea that they want our marshmellows and demand that we give it to them even though they didn’t earn it. I always politely ask them to leave us alone and go away while at the same time mentally preparing myself ie prepping the battlefield. He always asks “why” people would do this and I say I am not compleletly sure since we don’t live in that world outside our campfire/kumbaya world but we must always be prepared to defend our marshmellows becasue we like them so much and its so fun to have them and we bought them. Then if someone comes into our marshmellow and kumbaya world uninvited and is violent then the only way is to react with “focused sheer and utter violence” because I am defending our family, campfire (house) and all that we love. Beacause that is what Daddy’s do for those he loves. He provides marshmellows, fun and family and he defends them when necessary. After that we go back to roasting marshmellows and singing kumbaya! 🙂 Just for the record.. I do not condone violence or want or like it. Just that it may be needed at times and one (Me) must have and maintain the ability to react and defend when necessary.

    1. Well said!
      This is my husbands mentality, too.
      He is also ex-military and hardly sleeps during camp nights because he feels like pulling guard duty for the sake of safety and survival.
      I always tell him to try and learn to let go a little and he just looks at me with a mischievous grin.

  90. Evidence from New Zealand’s very recent pre-European past does show that hunter-gatherer communities skirmished over resources and territory. But the low popluation density (for instance in the lower South Island) meant this didn’t happen often. (Michael King’s Penguin History of New Zealand)

    But in places of higher population density full-scale ‘warfare’-like interactions (with fortified villages etc) were seen amongst settled, agricultural tribes (still pre-European).

    It’s a factor of population density and resource-wealth, rather than ‘hunter gatherer’ versus ‘agriculturalist’ I think.

    On the other hand, ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell points to research which shows that communites who have been agricultural for the longest have the least propensity for violence – and those that are from ‘herder’ backgrounds are far more likely to pick a fight.
    The reasoning being that the biggest threat to an agriculturalist is the loss of their *land* and they will do anything to maintain access to their crops – including submission and slavery. They can’t run away from a fight and so tend not to pick them. These communities often see the extended family as being more paramount than an individual’s status/ego.

    Whereas a the biggest threat to a herder is the loss of their *animals*, to rustling etc, so an early aggressive response is often seen, to chase away theives in the immediate term, and then get the hell out before they come back. These cultures also highly value individual status, and more quickly respond to ‘shame’ with violence and retribution.

    The examples given in the book are university students who came from different cultural backgrounds – those with English/French/Western European ‘farmer’ heritage versus those with Irish/Scottish/Cicilian sheep/goat herder heritage (think Appalacians).

    Those with ‘herder’ bakcgrounds (and we’re talking *generations removed* from that heritage) consistently had a higher ‘rage’ response to an insult, and held onto that rage for a much longer period of time. REALLY interesting study – and my own heritage is the Scottish/Irish herder one, and BOY did it explain the behaviours of some of my male relatives!

    1. As a half-Sicilian I find this very interesting.
      Now I managed over the years (43yo now) to control my aggression so much that 95% of the time most people can’t even tell that I’m pissed but inside I’m cooking fast and high and are ready to kill so to speak.
      Sometimes I can get really aggressive and loud during discussions, even at work and even when I know very well that it isn’t professional it just happens.
      Not much different from my sicilian relatives, but including the females!

  91. “Maternal Defense: Breast Feeding Increases Aggression by Reducing Stress” appears in the September issue of Psychological Science…

    I’m just saying…

  92. “Give as good as you get and every once in a while be unpredictable.” I think that was from ‘My Ismael’

  93. While violence was certainly paramount in our evolution, I don’t find much intrinsic good in it. The training of violence (combat, martial arts, self defense) can certainly have mental and physical health benefits. Anyone who has seen and tasted the battlefield of human violence knows its a dark and evil place. There is no romance or beauty in this violence, just hopes of survival. We must also consider that humans can be a part of social and asocial violence. Social being human on human violence reminiscent of two mammals showing seniority through growling and eventually attacking. Asocial violence is that in which a human sees another as a member of an alternate species and can then attempt to murder, rape, or rob them. My opinion is that a certain level of preparedness is paramount in avoiding violence. One must simply learn to be aware, avoid, talk down, and run away. This can be a great success in violent encounters. Physical skills should be last resorts and should be trained to a near reflex. Fighting skills should back up pre-emptive maneuvers that take the initiative. Those that wish to round out their Primal fitness with fight training are entering something very positive but must also understand what they are entering. MMA is NOT what humans did to survive no matter how much it is said. If an MMA fighter takes the fight to the ground and dominates on top, he is winning. The same situation in the Paleo times or on modern streets often results in tribe members sending their boot through your face. One must understand which aspects of violence he/she is recreating in their training.

  94. there are many types of violence but the two main types could be described as compassionate violence and stupidity violence.

    Killing an animal is violent but it’s comes from compassion knowing it will suffer less when you masticate its tasty body.

    getting in a bar fight is stupidity – completely avoidable , serves no purpose unless your joining a gang.

    1. While I disagree that killing an animal shows compassion since I’m sure it would much rather enjoy a longer life followed by a death of old age, I do agree that a bar fight is the stupidest choice one could make.

    2. I have to say that I agree with you on this one. The Dalaih Lama, who is a staunch advocate for non-violence, implies that even an act as violent as killing another person can be ethical if done with compassion and for the right reasons. It is not quite the same logic as that behind the idea of a “just” war, but it is similar in kind. Mainly has to do with where the “ego” is in the conflict.

  95. You and I have very different senses of humor. I personally dont’ find the following “Tuckerisms”about women all that “amusing and hilarious.”

    – “I will gut you and grind you into pig fodder.”

    – “Get away from me or I’m going to carve a f*** hole in your torso.”

    – “I want to shoot every one of these b*****s.”

    – “The only way I can cut you deep is with a battle
    axe and a running start.”

    – “Rape’s not funny, but murder can be.”

    That’s only a small sample.

  96. This makes you wonder if this could be the reason that violent video games are the most popular? After all, non violent video games are very rare and not so popular except maybe farmville, where you go around farming…I think. i’m not sure I never really got heavily into that game, i let my crops die and nature take the land back for herself.
    Well another comes to mind – leisure suit larry, lol. Make love, not war.

  97. How timely this post is. Self defense is the 11th Commandment of the Primal Blueprint. Often ignored by zoo humans cosseted by the false security of 911 and EMS. The correct primal (but civilized) attitude to violence is ‘First Do No Harm’. This doesn’t preclude the use of defensive violence (the GOOD type of violence). Exposure to most modern martial arts and entertainment has blurred and confused our understanding thus our negative view of violence. Most self defense concepts taught in zoo human dojos are aimed at obliteration of the opponent (not consistent with non-aggression and preservation of life). However, some martial arts like Systema are completely primal with respect to natural human movement, biomechanics and non-aggression. Some Systema variants (e.g, Homo Ludens) are based on learning through human play (think Exuberant Animal/MovNat martial arts). In Systema, we may have found a framework to use violence in a manner consistent with Primal living.

    1. Interesting. I posted something about systema. I thought I was the only one who saw a correlary between that particular art, and the Primal way of life. It’s refreshing to see. To anyone out there reading this, type in ‘Systema’ on youtube and see what pops up. Do a little research. Systema is also great for combating that most prevelent of human killers – stress!

  98. Considering what has been said I must assert that if it were so, and it does seem like it, it would be most unfortunate for the said parties in the long run. Especially if the involvement was to rise and therefore substantiate. I have to point out that it is of course highly improbable while at the same time very intriguing to play around with.

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    I doubt that no one reads this comment…

  99. I’m from South Africa. It almost seems like I grew up with violence. I’m 31 and in my lifetime we’ve had numerous thefts from our homes, my car was stolen and my dad was hi- jacked at gunpoint.

    It is on a monthly basis that you hear of somebody you know, no, not know of, personally know, being personally involved in some form of crime related incident.

    It might sound strange to be able to live in circumstances like this, but it seems that, as of old, crime still prefers darkness. It is quite unlikely that you will find trouble during the day, the risk is higher at night and of course in certain areas.

    Limiting your exposure to risk is a practice that people actively engage in. We live in a security estate with security measures that might seem exhuaberant. Biometric scanners, double outside walling, electric fencing, armed guards 24/7 and a helicopter on call. I also have two staffordshire bullterriers living inside the house, they get poisoned when left outside.

    Bed time ritual unfortunately does not involve story telling. It includes rounds through the house checking that all doors and windows are locked and the alarm is set.

    With that said… As a woman, I never thought I could be violent. But when it comes to protecting who you love, you’ll be surprised at what lengths you’ll go to. A healthy dose of fear is what keeps me and my loved ones safe.

    What is also interesting, and might sound like a contrast, is that this situation, rather than making me depressed, makes me love life even more. When you are constantly reminded of what you stand to lose, you embrace what you have.

    Living Primal has been more than just about health for me personally. I have to ensure that I am physically ready…. Ready to defend myself physically, ready to carry a family member physically, ready to run for my life, ready to heal optimally if it comes to that.

    Yes, when you’re woken in the middle of the night by the sound of glass breaking the adrenaline shoots through the roof!! Fear and aggression alternates through your being and your brain is in pure survival mode. The high lasts for some time, even when it was established that the threat is gone. But being exposed to violence has kept me alert and taught me skills that I need for survival.

  100. hey all….the video link to Tucker´s talk didn´t seem to work for me…anyone have better luck or an updated link?

  101. The fact that Mark says it is a universal law that violence is wrong is a key to the fact that it it not natural. We all have a conscience, even people who live in the most remote tribes that have not been touched by modern man and are still hunter gatherers have tribal laws that reflect that internal, universal conscience. It’s something animals don’t have and never will have, it’s God given. Unfortunately as the bible says: the heart of man is wicked and as the prophecy in 2 Tim says, we are living in the last days when people will be selfish, lovers of themselves, haughty and all other bad things that we see today. Unfortunately we know it is wrong but our heart want us to do or want to see bad things. However the bible also says that soon there will be a time when we will learn war no more and humans will again be a peaceful community.

  102. Not sure I agree with sweeping value-based judgments of right and wrong on violence. I live in Spain and was thinking of the interesting (to me) juxtaposition of bull-fighting and MMA. Both violent for sure, but quite different. The bull-fighting puts up a willing participant engaged for the sake of sport, against a creature relying on its instincts to protect itself and survive. MMA is between two knowing and consenting adults (presumably)…so for me, while both of these are violent “activities”, they seem very different when it comes time to dole out good/bad labels. Thoughts?

  103. I’m a woman, and I’ve been in a few fights (if you call cold-cocking a bully three grades older and blackening his eye a “fight”) when I was in grade school. I only did it in self-defense, after all other avenues had been explored.

    As an adult, I’ve taken street fighting lessons (part of my police academy training), martial arts training, and I enjoy watching mixed martial arts fighting.

    I would say that violence – or the ability to procure it at any moment – is essential to preventing violence. I’ve found that the way I walk, the way I hold myself, the way I act, and my fitness level all prevent people from confronting me in the first place.

    I am not aggressive, but I am not fearful. I know how to bring it if I am forced, but the fact that I exude the willingness to do so keeps aggressive arseholes from targeting me in the first place.

    People who bully others are usually cowards who pick victims weaker than they are, who will not hurt them in return. They don’t want to be caught, they don’t want to pay the penalty for their viciousness, so they look for someone who won’t fight back.

    One reason humans enjoy watching violence, I think, may be to see that we can sustain a beating and still get up and fight another day. It instills hope, in a strange way. Listen to the crowd roar when the injured quarterback gets up on his feet again.

    Whose name do we still remember today? Spartacus!

  104. It seems I’m in the minority here but I am thoroughly sickened and horrified by acts of violence. It’s not that there aren’t situations that make me angry enough to occasionally want to hurt someone. These situations usually involve children being hurt by bullies or abusers or women being violently mistreated by men. As a mother, I can see how someone hurting one of my children might perhaps cause some violent urges to surface. However, I simply cannot fathom how some people can instigate or seek out violence. I can’t even sit through a Tarantino movie! Neither am I drawn to men who engage in violent sports (I know it’s just sports). As for bar fights–totally repugnant–I wouldn’t even be able to look.

    I admire people who exercise self control and restraint when they are angry and find ways to resolve conflict through non-violent means. A smart retort is a total turn on, while a punch in the face ( though it may be deserved) shows a sort of impulsiveness that’s a little scary to me.

    It would be interesting to explore the testosterone link to violence because, often, there is a total disconnect between women’s and men’s attitudes towards violence.

  105. Tucker Max …. Sigh.

    What he learned about violence when he joined a MMA gym…. What does sport fighting have anything to do with violence?

    A really good website to visit on this is Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller’s website Conflict Communications @:

    http://conflictcommunications.com/

    If you want a really good source and study of violence read Rory Miller’s two books “Meditations on Violence” & “Facing Violence,” or any of Marc MacYoungs.

    Just my 2 cents,
    Josh

    I’m going to link to websites

  106. We can confirm or deny violence’s place in our society. But if you have a curiosity about that inner cave-man, I recommend harnessing it in a ‘Systema’ class. Systema is a Russian martial art, and is like yoga-meets-bare-knuckles-brawl. Harnessing your tension and fears (and fear is a healthy primal response to things) and know how to work through it, it is hugely beneficial. And the biggest thing in Systema – BREATHING! That sounds like a ‘no-duh’ statement, but try breathing next time you’re in a really stressful situation. Check systema out on youtube. Don’t deny this inner monster – harness it a little. It’s a healthy thing. It’s done a lot for me.

  107. Men punch you in the face.
    Women stab you in the back!

    Men always think we’re the lesser evil, don’t be fooled. We have the exact same thought process when it comes to violence, except knowing that our opponent is stronger, we think up a battle plan to win the outcome.
    But, women forgive easier and that is one of our biggest down falls.

  108. Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” one of the finest books in modern literature, explores the nature of the violence and its place in the human psyche. By the end of the book, one comes away with the sense that violence – in both the active and the theoretical sense – is literally at the core of the human experience.

    As an epigraph, McCarthy uses a quote from a newspaper article that reports on a discovery of a 200,000 year old human skull that displays evidence of having been scalped.

  109. I should also say that there’s a very big difference between violence and cruelty. The former derives from an emotional necessity that has evolved along with our species: a primordial passion, if you will. The latter, I believe, is only really possible when one’s own relationship with violence becomes divorced from the passion (i.e. the evolutionary instinct) that governs it, submitting instead to an intellectual attitude towards harming another person in excess of self-defense or the welfare of one’s immediate community.

    For this reason, I very seriously doubt that paleolithic humans would have engaged in the sorts of violence that makes many of the headlines today. Most of that stuff is outright cruelty: serial murder, torture, rape, kidnapping and imprisonment, etc. Someone above had a really good point about how agriculture is, by nature, an expansionist technology and therefore impels interpopular violence. It’s only with the advent of civilization that these sorts of violent behaviors became “worthwhile” from an evolutionary (i.e. social – where “society” becomes the civilized equivalent of evolution) perspective. From a hunter-gatherer’s perspective, strapping a rival tribesman to a plank and torturing him to death would have been a total waste of time: far easier (and more cost-effective) just to bludgeon him quickly and leave his body for the buzzards.

  110. Maybe violence is prevalent because more peaceable folks are having to defend themselves against imposing aggressive types that insist on taking what they want – steal your car, set sight on mate; Even push you out of a livelihood. Only time I think of defense is when someone does not respect some very common sense boundaries. Then, it MAY become necessary to hold your ground, prepare to defend best you can, come what may to protect your home or family. In such situations it’s necessary. But, it SHOULDN’T be. That’s the problem I have with this theory. I believe the prevalence for violence in human societies comes from a flaw in human nature.

    And I see the difference in high energy sports where the surge to move reaching physical limits is a cathartic release, the purpose being not to hurt or kill your opponent.

    I believe violence is begetted by selfish actions not from some awesome selective trait for the betterment of the mankind. Technology has progressed but human handling of social and governing responsibilities remain miserably the same. Always comes back down to someone or some group looking for selfish gains.

    The BIG difference is that we are REASONING creatures, in contrast to all the referred to animals that operate mostly on instinct.
    I don’t see violent impulses as a desirable trait when we have the reason to make intelligent and considerate choices.

  111. I embrace hate filled testosterone fueled violence fighting is such a rush even when im on the losing end i know i stood up for myself and didnt back down like a punk. i love the chess game while your focusing aggression and using natural instincts to guess your enemys next move and set up your next pain rattaling punch to the guy that in the moment you hate more than anyone and want to destroy! I dont start fights im not going to assualt someone without what i would consider a good reason. i think being hyped up overly aggressive and territorial about what we care about and have is pure in a way cause its primal its not a facade like “civilization” is. Fighting is a good way to settle arguments over mates, politics, money,sports ect i love fighting and bloodsoaked violence in my opinion its awesome and brutal and im not ashamed of it

  112. I think that people don’t want it to happen to them but enjoy seeing it done to orther’s. That’s why they turn there nose up in the air like as if it’s a bad thing but is it really? “I don’t think so” we to are animal’s But we hide behind are intelligence so we can look like the superior specices but the truth of the matter is human nature is revealled in that moment we get upset and we feel like something is taken from us we change back into that animal we have always been in the first place. So it’s like we wear a mask every day trying to be something were not. Now should we give in to it or not that’s up to you! I loved the article I would love to read more.

  113. I googled this subject because I was wondering about the problem of violence toward women (VTW). It baffles me that some men are drawn to hunting, hurting or even killing women like prey. Are these men only sick & twisted, or are they also deeply frustrated by their unsatisfied ancestral urge to hunt, or both? I would never hunt animals since I’m a ultra-fem chick who digs most of them, but I wonder if some kind of hunting therapy would benefit those men who are violent toward women, akin to extreme play therapy benefits those with ADHD? I’ve been on the bad end of VTW, as I think many if not most women have at one time or another, so I’m not marginalizing it. But I’m wondering if there’s some primal urge that would make men tend to sometimes look at women as prey if their natural instincts aren’t being exercised.

  114. I’m a woman and I’m disgusted by violence. I can never understand why people are fascinated by it. It just makes me feel sad and awful. I can’t bear to watch it. I’d rather turn my face away if I see two people fight. I can’t watch violent movies. Yes, I used to fight a lot with my brother and I also really enjoyed martial arts, they called me the girl ninja but I find meditation and yoga much better. I am competitive by nature, that’s why I (used to) love winning but I’m also very empathetic. Other people’s pain makes me feel pain and I can’t bear to watch it because it stays on my mind for days or even weeks. I honestly think empathy is what makes us human. Also, forgiveness. Well, maybe I have too much empathy because it gets on my way but I do believe people can survive without violence between each other but without empathy we are dead and gone.
    The strange thing is as much as I can’t stand violence violent sex is what turns me on. But not brutal kind of sex, more the “I can’t resist you” type of sex. I think many women enjoy being dominated in bed (by an attractive man they trust, not a rapist). I do love it and it’s almost the only way to reach orgasm. I’m also a feminist but that doesn’t change my primal sexual urges.