暴力是與生俱來的? Is Violence Innate?

前陣子,我體驗到將大量假設的情感轉化為現實的經驗。在我們這一區,有位年邁的婦人在收集瓶罐與紙類,去年農曆新年,我自覺出於善意而給了她紅包,但她很友善且客氣地拒絕了。Maggie解釋道,婦人很獨立,自尊心強並覺得無功不受祿。

以下是我的經歷:上週六晚間約莫九點,我正要回到辦公室。停車時,我聽見有人不斷尖叫,我四處張望後發現一位男性正威脅婦人。奧修(Osho)說懦弱的人與勇者間唯一的差別在於行動。當我朝他們走去,馬上就意識到要保護這個脆弱的婦人免受攻擊。我並沒有暴力傾向,但必須有所行動,幸好一切順利,她也沒受傷。

我們的殘酷與暴力會是與生俱來的嗎?難道人類要永無止盡地壓抑潛伏於內心那頭蠢蠢欲動的猛獸嗎?任何學識淵博的歷史學者都能將人類歷史歸類成一場又一場的戰爭,點綴以許多文明與商業活動。但要是我們猜錯了呢?

作家Alfie Kohn所寫的Are Humans Innately Aggressive?一文便完全駁斥了這個論點。「…這個假設相信人的內心有著一股侵略性的能量,這股力量自發性地成長,必須不定時釋放─例如藉由運動─以免爆發。

這論點之所以有說服力是因為事實看似如此,但這是錯誤的。誠如動物行為學家兼鮑林格林州立大學名譽教授John Paul Scott所著述,我們現有全部的資料都指出高等動物─包括人類─的打鬥皆由外在刺激所引發,並無證據顯示是由內在因素觸發。事實上大多數人在整體文化中都能有文明的表現,也沒有其他例子能證明前述理論。

所以我們有個美好的假設;我們並非天生好戰或自私的。事實上,我們是喜好和平、關愛彼此、願意付出的生物。我們之中好戰的將會式微,這當然是帶點天真的想法。軍事工業情結不會那麼容易被消滅,重要的是要意識到人民即政府,若我們願意,就有權力,未來就掌握在我們手中。

聊點輕鬆的議題:The London Gin Craze一文討論到資本主義者如何利用第一次工業革命來增加琴酒的銷售量。隨著勞動人口認知到社會並非自己想像的烏托邦,他們便藉由藥物來紓壓,而他們的藥物就是琴酒。「…許多人開始在公共場所喝酒,包括女人,這是歷史上頭一遭。整個街頭吵雜不堪、眾人胡鬧、尋歡作樂。」十八世紀墮落的最佳見證者是William Hogarth。這個星期在倫敦泰特現代藝術館有他的三百多幅畫作展覽。不過這裡我要說的是,社會的發展會跟隨著大眾利益的方向。現任教宗方濟各曾說:政治是崇高的活動,我們應當重新評估它,將之視為職業與奉獻,為大眾利益而服務。

本週散心時,也想想大眾利益對你而言有什麼意義吧。

每天試著尋找生活中神奇、美麗的事物。

 

The other day, I had an experience that brought a tremendous amount of theoretical emotion into reality, and the present. In our semi-affluent region, there is an elderly woman who collects cans, paper, bottles, etc. Last Chinese New Year, in what I felt to be a generous act of kindness, I tried to give her a “red envelope.” She very graciously and kindly declined. I was “taken aback.” Maggie explained to me that the woman had a concept of independence and dignity that precluded charity, as she saw it.

My story: last Saturday evening, I returned to the office around 9 o’clock. As I parked my scooter, I heard an enormous amount of screaming. I looked over and here was a man threatening this old woman. Osho says that there are no heroes or cowards, only action. As I walked over to the altercation, I realized that I had to act to prevent an assault on this old soul. Now, I am not a physical man and I was not attracted to the prospect of pain, however I had to do something. In the end nothing occurred and she was fine.

Our prolific violence and brutality: are they innate? Must humanity suffer ad infinitum from the proverbial monster in the box, lurking and pacing: ready to spring out a moment’s notice? Any armchair scholar of history would certainly remark that the records of human existence appear to be but a collection of wars and battles, punctuated by a period of strained civility and commerce. Now, what would we do if that concept was totally wrong?

Are Humans Innately Aggressive? In a paper published by Dr. Alfie Kohn, he totally refutes this thesis. “…The belief is that we have within us, naturally and spontaneously, a reservoir of aggressive energy. This force, which builds up all by itself, must periodically be drained off—say by participating in competitive sports—lest we explode in violence.

This is an appealing model because it is easy to visualize. It is also false. As animal behaviorist John Paul Scott, professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University, has written: ‘All our present data indicate that fighting behavior among higher animals, including man, originates in external stimulation and that there is no evidence of spontaneous internal stimulation. Clearly many people –and, in fact, whole cultures–manage quite well without behaving aggressively and in fact there is no evidence of the inexorable build-up of pressure that this ‘hydraulic’ model would predict.’

Here we have a fascinating thought: we are not intrinsically war-like or selfish. We are, in fact, peaceful, loving, giving and caring beings. What a concept! The war mongers among us will be denuded. This, of course, is naïve. The military-industrial complex will not easily be diminished. It is important to note that we are the government and we have the power, if we choose to use it. The future is truly in our hands.

On a more amusing note: The article The London Gin Craze describes how the capitalists used the advent of the First Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) to increase the sales of gin. As the working population began to realize that utopia was not “at hand,” they took to drugs to alleviate their stress: their drug of choice being gin. “Many people turned to gin—including women, for the first time in history—were frequently seen intoxicated in public, and the streets bustled with mischief, gluttony and prostitution.” The great chronicler of the fallen 18th century was William Hogarth. This week he has over 300 painting and engravings exhibited at the Tate Modern in London. The tale to be told here, of course, is that society will always run counter to the needs of the people in their forging of the Common Good. Our current pope, Pope Francis (b. 1936), leaves us with a thoughtful quote: Politics is a noble activity. We should revalue it; practice it with vocation and a dedication that requires testimony, martyrdom: that is to die for the common good.

This week on your meditative stroll, please answer the question: What is the Common Good?

Every day look for something magical and beautiful.

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