Lesson 10- Preventing Intraspecie Killing
In my last program I was talking about the two different ways in which the right and left lobes of our brains communicate. The nonverbal right lobe which is related to the animal kingdom communicates through facial expressions and body language. Like animals, we use "intentional movement" when we are in a state of aggression. We use our bodies and facial expressions to display our intention for "fight or attack" or for "flight or retreat." When our bodies or fists or fingers go forward, it indicates, "fight" when we lean backward or pull back our fist or finger it indicates "flight or retreat." These are called "intention movements" because they illustrate what we are threatening to do.
They are not the only mechanisms that we share with animals. In many species there are mechanisms to prevent intra-specie killing for the obvious reason that killing your own kind lessens the survival chances of the species. Therefore many species have various devices to defuse aggression within oneself or in the one attacking you.
The first one is called redirected activities and it occurs when our impulse to attack builds up to the point where we either have to attack the object of our anger or explode. An attack is always dangerous because it takes aggression from the level of intentional movement to the level of physical violence where one or both combatants risk physical damage. This is especially true where the aggressor is bigger than you.
Two moose, facing each other on opposite sides of the invisible line that separates them in the forest, will lower their heads and make threatening intentional movements with their enormous antlers. As the threatening gestures continue and reach a high level of anxiety, one of them releases the building tension by redirecting his urge to attack on something safer than his opponent. He turns and begins to attack the tree next to him that is much safer because it cant strike back.
We do the same thing. A 5'2, 100 lbs. Wife is having a heated argument with her 6'4, 250 lbs husband. Her face is pushed forward in anger, her finger and fist are making intentional movements indicating her desire to attack him, but shes not crazy. She is no physical match for her husband. Suddenly, her 5-year-old son enters the room and asks for a nickel and she smacks him. The poor kid doesnt know what he did because she is really venting her anger directed at her husband on the child. Just like the moose, she is redirecting her pent up aggression on something that is safer. And, if a small child or animal is not available shell bang the table, slam the door, kick the wall, stamp the floor or smash a dish. It really doesnt matter so long as it provides a safety valve for her rising aggression against her husband.
Sometimes redirected aggression is subtler and a lot more devastating. When I was a volunteer teacher in prison, I met a young man who was one of the nicest persons I had ever met. I couldnt understand how he ever ended up in prison. Then one day he told me that he had raped his cousins wife while high on drugs and that he almost beat her to death. As we talked, I learned that his father was a Jamaican who had met his mother while visiting our country. They began living together and he was conceived. Shortly after his birth, his father deserted both of them and returned to Jamaica. His mother, feeling rejected and betrayed, was filled with anger against his father but was unable to vent it since she didnt know where he was or how to contact him. Eventually, she formed a relationship with another man with whom she had three children. The young man told me that, although the other children always addressed his mother as "Mom", she forbade him from doing it. He was required to call her by her first name. Obviously, she was redirecting her anger for his father on him, and one wonders whether he was redirecting his anger against her on his cousins wife. Often, innocent people are the victims of redirected aggression.
There was an incident back in the 60's in which twelve teenage boys in Central Park in New York attacked another paralyzed boy in a wheelchair and beat him to death. They turned over the wheelchair and as he lay helpless on the ground, the beat him to death with a baseball bat.
All twelve were arrested and charged with murder. However, as psychologists started to question them, they discovered that only two of the boys were really responsible for the young boys death. Both of them had alcoholic fathers who regularly beat them. They were the ones who led the assault on the paralyzed boy and both admitted that while they were swinging the bat with full force, they were thinking of their drunken fathers. The other ten boys, seeing the helpless boy on the grounded, pleaded with the other two to let him go. But the two ringleaders threatened them if they didn't join in the beating. They gave him token taps with the bat simply to appease the other two.
It makes you wonder how many times, we are the victims of redirected aggression. Once I became aware of it, I started to recognize it in my students. Whenever I ran into a boy or girl with an "attitude" whose response to me exceeded anything that I had done to them, I would say, "Whos been kicking you?" They would look at me with a puzzled look and say, "What do you mean?" Then I would reply, "I spoke to you in a very polite and reasonable tone and you exploded all over me. Haven it you ever seen a dog that has been kicked at lot who attacks people for no reason? Well, you act just the same. Whos been kicking you?" On a few occasions, they actually told me and we both left with a better understanding of each other.
Another method used by animals to relieve tension while in a state of aggression is called "displacement activities." For example, if you have a dog and you back him into a corner while threatening him with "intentional movements" such as moving towards him and shaking your finger, at the point of greatest tension, he will start to displace his tension by scratching his ear or biting the fur on the back of his leg. The reason is that he cant run away, youre too big to attack, and theres nothing on which he can redirect his own aggression and, so he relieves the tension through nervous activity.
Once again, we do the same thing. When we are in a state of nervous tension, we try to relieve it by "displacement activities" such as smoking, pacing, playing with our hair or beard, rearranging objects that have already been arranged or eating when we are not really hungry.
Have you ever been taken to a party or gathering by a friend where you didnt know anyone and, as soon as you arrived, your friend leaves you alone while he or she goes to talk with someone else. When this happens we all start to get angry and nervous: angry with our friend for leaving us alone and nervous because we feel like we are on display. We would like to vent our anger on the friend who brought us, which is fight, or to run out the door, which is flight, but either would only add to our embarrassment. Therefore, we start to look for a way to displace our anxiety. If there is food nearby, such as pretzels or potato chips, we will use them by eating even though we arent hungry. Another method is to start playing with a child or an animal that, because they both are nonjudgmental, are safe to interact with. Some people, who use food as their favorite method to displace, acquire a weight problem. One of my students, for example, weighed well over two hundred pounds before she lost most of it through dieting. She told me that part of the problem was that every time her mother scolded her, she was not allowed to talk back and so, after the scolding, she would make a couple of sandwiches and go to her bedroom and eat them. Not being allowed to defend herself, she was full of inner tension that had to find some outlet and eating became her way of reducing it.
When all of these methods fail to prevent intraspecie aggression, the final method is to use a "surrender signal" which lets the aggressor know that you have had enough and that he should discontinue his attack. In most animal aggression there is a specific area that each combatant is trying to attack. Among dogs and wolves, for example, it is the neck, where the veins and arteries which carry blood to the brain are located. If either one can rip these open, the opponent will lose consciousness and die. Among peacocks, it is the area at the base of the skull where the portion of the brain which controls the automatic vital functions such as breathing and heartbeat is located. A sharp blow to this area can cause these functions to shut down, resulting in death. The same thing happens to us if a strong karate chop is administered to the back of our neck. Thus, during combat, creatures instinctively try to protect these areas, while, at the same time, trying to attack the area in their opponent.
Zoologist says that among species that possess the tools for killing, there is an instinctual restraint that prevents them from killing their own kind when the other animal uses the correct signal. This is usually done by opening up or exposing the vital area to the attacker. Dogs and wolves will open up their necks and, by doing so, indicate that the attacker is free to kill them. Surprisingly, instead of this happening, the attacker, while pressing his snout against the exposed neck, does not bite but rather stands there, poised for attack, so long as the surrendering opponent does not move. Eventually, he calms down and the loser is allowed to walk away.
I once saw a documentary on scientists who were studying wolves in their natural habitat. After spending months observing them, the wolves grew familiar with them and allowed them to approach at a close distance. One day, while one of the scientists was video recording another scientist crossing an open clearing, there was a sudden growl and the camera went out of control. When it came back, a large male wolf had attacked the scientist crossing the clearing. The scientist was still standing but the wolf had one paw on his shoulder, the other on his thigh, and his bared fangs up against his throat. The wolf had attacked him because it was mating season and he had established a territory that the scientist had invaded.
The other scientists were telling their colleague to open up his throat, lower his body, and begin to whimper like a dog, all of which are surrender signals that wolves would understand. It was obvious that he was terrified and had to force himself to follow their instructions. However, as he did, the wolf, although still threatening to attack, seemed to calm down. After about ten minutes, the scientist, thinking it was safe to move, tried to walk away and the wolf was upon him again. It took another half hour of the same posturing before it was safe for him to leave. By using the correct surrender signals, he had saved his life.
Peacocks will stretch their necks on the ground to allow the attacker access to the spot at the base of the skull. Humans, on the other hand, try to protect their chest, where their vital organs are located, and their head, where the brain is located and, when we wish to signal surrender, we open up our chest and raise our hands above our heads. If our attacker has normal functioning instincts, this should reduce aggression in him and he will cease to attack. If this is not enough, then we will start to use additional surrender devices such as lowering our bodies, backing away, and crying. We lower our bodies because, in the nonverbal language of the animal kingdom, expanding our bodies and moving forward indicate our intention to attack, while lowering our bodies and backing away indicate surrender. In other words, we "cower" and a person who does this too often will get a reputation for being a coward.
But what about "crying"? How does that fit into our defenses for stopping aggression? A rule of thumb might be, "Whenever everything else has failed, act like a baby."
Babies are born into a world of giants who, either intentionally or unintentionally, are capable of doing serious harm to them. Therefore, they have to have some way of protecting themselves from adult aggression.
Zoologists say that their first line of defense is their round faces which invoke in adults a desire to hug and cuddle. Thus among many species, including our own, the young have rounded faces, while the adults have elongated ones. It is hard to resist a puppy or a kitten even though one might not like the adult version of either one. There seems to be something in us that says "round faces are jolly, friendly, and loveable while straight faces are not." Thus, Santa Claus is round and merry, while Shakespeare in his play on Caesar has him saying that he preferred to be surround by fat and well fed men and that people should "Beware of Cassius, because he has a lean and hungry look." Thus, the round faces of babies are a protective device to inhibit adult aggression against them. But that is not their only defense that they have. Crying is another.
Babies have different types of cries that they use for different purposes. Theres the annoying cry that makes adults pay attention and to search for the sources of the problem. Theres the wail that lets you know that something is really wrong and needs immediate attention. And then there is the heartbreaking sob that melts away any aggression that the adult might feel towards the child.
When my first daughter, Carolyn, was born my wife and I worked out a schedule that allowed both of us to get some descent rest. She would be to bed at 8:00 p.m. while I stayed awake until 11:30 working on my schoolwork. At 11:30, I would change Carolyns diaper, give her a bottle, burp her and put her back to bed. Then at 3:30 my wife would get up and perform similar chores.
One night I was swamped with school work and I didnt see how I was going to get it all done. At 11:30, Carolyn awoke and I went up to perform my duties, expecting that I could soon return to my unfinished work. Well, it didnt happen that way. For some reason, Carolyn, a normally good baby, decided that night to be difficult. I fed her, burped her, diapered her and put her back to bed but every time I started to leave the room, she began to cry. Each time, I tried to locate the problem. She wasnt hungry, the diaper was on right, and she didnt have gas. Yet, the crying continued. I began to panic. I had tons of work to do and this kid wasnt cooperating. As my impatience grew, so did my aggression and my animal nature took over.
Convinced that she was being difficult on purpose, I gave her a smack on her well padded behind. Immediately, the tone of her crying changed and my heart melted. I couldnt have raised my hand to spank her again if my life depended on it. Within seconds, my wife appeared at the door and demanded to know what I was doing with "her baby." I told her what had happened and she said that spanking her wouldnt do any good. I said, "It might not have done her any good but it certainly helped me." I think that was the first and last time that I ever spanked Carolyn.
If babies have this secret defense of crying to reduce aggression in adults, there is no reason why adults cant use it, and we do. Women are often accused of winning arguments with men by crying but men also are capable of using this technique. During the Gulf War, I remember seeing pictures of Iraqi soldiers who were crying and kissing the hands of our soldiers as they surrendered. Even though they were the enemy and had committed atrocities on the citizens of Kuwait, it almost broke my heart just watching them. I guess my instincts are healthy and operational.
Now let me review the different mechanism that animals and we use to prevent or reduce intra-specie aggression, which is aggression against members of our own specie.
First, are "intentional movements" when we show what we intend to do without actually doing it.
Second, are "redirected activities" when we redirect our anger and aggression to someone or something else that wont or cant strike back.
Third, are "displacement activities" where we reduce tension through some type of nervous behavior such as pacing, smoking, fidgeting, eating etc
Fourth, are "surrender signals", such as, lowering our body, backing-up, exposing our vital organs, crying and acting like a baby.
Now you would think that with all of these mechanisms there would be little or no intraspecie killing and, for most animals, this is true. However, when it comes to humans, the protective devices seem to break down. No specie, possessing these mechanisms, kills as many of it own members as we do and there ought to be a reason.
The first reason seems to be connected to our great intelligence. Most of these mechanisms are designed to work "close up", which is how most animals have to kill. In our primitive state, we would have to fight in "hand-to-hand" combat and the only available weapon would be our hands. The normal human being would find it very difficult to kill another human being with his "bare hands" while he was crying, cowering, pleading and begging for his life. However, with out great intelligence, we have invented weapons that kill instantly and at a distance. A person who is killed by a snipers bullet at a thousand yards doesnt see it coming and isnt close enough to use surrender signals even if he did. When killing happens so fast that there is no time to use these mechanisms or at such a distance that they couldnt be seen, then the instinctual defenses against intraspecie killing are nullified.
Because of this, it is quite possible for a loving, church going father to drop a napalm bomb on a coordinate marked on a map and be totally unaware and unaffected by the consequences of his act. If he had to go down to that village and see the burnt men, women, and children, he would have to deal with a strong emotional reaction.
Because a normal human being should have trouble killing any human being with which he identifies, both sides in every war uses techniques to dehumanize or depersonalize the enemy. We dehumanize him by claiming that he is an animal or less than human. Heist a pig, a gook, a cracker, a nigger or spic. We depersonalize him by using names that make him a faceless abstraction. Heist indigenous personal, a VC, a "hit", a fetus.
Both of these techniques are related to the right and left side of the brain. The right side of the brain, because of its closer connection to our animal nature, is motivated more by feelings. Thus, we might say that it is a "hot blooded killer" because it needs to generate hostile feelings in order to kill. Because it takes things personally, it has to feel some personal animosity towards the enemy and, by the same token, it finds it difficult to kill anything with which it personally identifies. It hates its enemies and loves its friends.
The left lobe, being logical and rational, is pragmatic and goal directed. It is a "cold blooded killer" which is capable of taking a life in order to attain its end or out of a sense of duty. Like the "hit man" in Murder Incorporated who, for a certain amount of money, will kill a perfect stranger, the left lobe would say to the victim, "Nothing personal. Im just doing my job."
Another example is the executioner who pulls the switch that kills the convicted murder. Therefore, the logical left-brain doesnt need words like gook, nigger, honky, or pig to enflame its emotions because it doesnt need emotions to kill. So, instead of using words that dehumanize the victim, it uses words that depersonalize him and which are designed to prevent any unfavorable emotional reaction. It is a master at creating "euphemisms" which are words that disguise what a thing really is in order to prevent an unwanted emotional reaction. For example, we order a Big Mac instead of a "ground up dead cow on a roll" because if we thought about what it really was, we would have trouble dealing with it. The same is true when it comes to killing another human being. We can overcome our difficulty either by convincing ourselves that he is a subhuman, monster that we detest or by convincing ourselves he is a non-person with whom we have no personal connection.
The military and the Pentagon are masters at sanitizing war and the killing involved by using abstract terminology which hides the reality of what is happening. For example, soldiers dont kill people. Instead, they "neutralize indigenous personnel." They dont drop bombs. Instead, they use antipersonnel devices to neutralize coordinates on a map. The enemy is not a "gook", which conjures a picture of a despicable creature. Instead, he is a VC, which conjures no picture at all.
Notice that where the term "gook" generates a picture, the terms VC or indigenous personnel dont. Thas because the right lobe thinks in pictures and the left lobe thinks in abstract words which do not generate pictures.
To illustrate this, I am going to tell your left lobe and then your right lobe why lying is wrong. First, Ill tell your logical left lobe. "Lying is wrong because the primary purpose of speech is to communicate information so that human knowledge can advance. Lying misses the mark or sins, because it communicates misinformation and undermines the advancement of human knowledge." Can you see how the left lobe thinks in terms of goals and purposes and why it considers anything that "misses the target" to be a wrong or a sin?
Now Ill tell you right lobe why lying is wrong. "Lying is wrong because there once was a little boy who lived in a mountain village who was given the job of watching the sheep. The townspeople told him that if a wolf should come he should cry out 'Wolf! Wolf!" and they would come to save him. They little boy got lonely and cried out "Wolf!" Wolf! I think you know the rest of the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." He lied once too often and the townspeople didnt believe him when he cried "Wolf!" and the wolf ate him up.
Now which of these explanation would you use to tell children why lying is wrong. The first explanation uses abstract words that cant be pictured. For example, "The reason that lying is wrong is because the primary purpose of speech..." Have you got any pictures yet? Now the second one is full of "picture words." "There once was a little boy who lived in a mountain village... Children, and right lobed people, think in a picture that is why they like cartoons and comics. Thus, we could conclude that the right lobe is drawn to concrete words that generate pictures while the left lobe is drawn to abstract words that cant be pictured. For example, cow, which can be pictured, is a concrete word while faith, an abstract word that has no legs, or eyes, cant be pictured. Therefore, if you want to communicate with the right lobe, you better use a picture or a word that generates a picture. Thus, the right lobe, when it kills, uses words that generate a disgusting or animalistic image of the enemy while the left lobe use abstract terms like "indigenous personnel" or "VC" which, being abstract, generate no picture.
Abortion is a good example of this. The word abortion itself is an abstract word that means to "stop something in progress." Thus, we abort space shots. When we use or misuse it to mean the "stopping of the life of a baby in the womb" it becomes a euphemism that covers up the mental images which would occur if we said "killing a baby." Those who support abortion are constantly creating abstract euphemisms to hide the reality of what it is. Thus we hear that it is the "surgical removal of fetal tissue", or the "termination of a pregnancy."
The word "fetus" itself is another abstract word that is used by the left lobe to prevent the right lobe from having an unpleasant reaction that would follow if we used the word "baby." Originally, fetus was a Latin word which meant "little person" and, if we understood that, then we would have an emotional reaction to killing it. But, since most of us dont know Latin, when it is used in English, it becomes an abstract word that has come to be used to identify a "stage of development" in the development of living creatures. Thus, there are fetal goats, fetal cows, and human beings at the fetal stage of development. In a sense, there is no such thing as a "fetus" since it is not the name of an existing being but, rather, a stage of development. It is in the same category as neonate, a term used to describe new born babies and the word "adolescence" which is used to designate another stage of development.
However, since there are people dedicate to the goal of "abortion on demand", they have successfully changed our language and perception through their influence in the media and other cultural outlets. They have taken a stage of development- fetus - and have convinced us to use it as though it were an existential being and have taken an existential being -human being- and turned it into a stage of development. Thus, according to them we are fetuses who develop into human beings instead of human beings who go through a fetal stage of development. That is why we should all refuse to use the word fetus when referring to the child in the womb. He is not a fetus. He is a human being at the fetal stage of development.
The abortionist is a "cold blooded" left lobe killer who hides what he really does behind abstract "gobble-de-gook" because if he ever let himself or us use the concrete, picture generating words, neither he nor we could stand to think about it. It is to his advantage and the advantage of those who support abortion to keep it an abstraction and that is why the AMA has told doctors to avoid showing ultra-sound pictures to women who might be contemplating abortion. They know that for most women once they see a picture of their baby, they become personally attached to it and all the logical, pragmatic argument in favor of the abortion lose their power to override the right lobes emotional attachment to the child. The heart needs no reason and once it kicks in the debate is over.
Before ending let me highlight some of the characteristics which we now know about the right and left lobes of our brain.
The right lobe is more closely connected to our animal nature, while the left lobe is the one that for the most part sets us apart from them.
The right lobe, being unable to speak, communicates through nonverbal methods while the left lobe communicates through abstract language.
The right lobe is more emotional and uses facial expressions, body postures, and other methods to show us how it feels. Because of its dependence on feelings as a motivating force, it tends to make judgments bases on the hedonistic principle of whatever gives me pleasure is good and whatever gives me pain is bad." Truth for it is whatever it feels.
The left lobe is less emotional and uses language to tell us what it knows. Because it is more goal directed it tends to make judgments based on the pragmatic principle of whatever helps me to attain my end is good and whatever prevents me is bad." Truth for it is what it knows.
Because the right lobe needs an emotional basis for action, it is a "hot blooded killer" that needs to generate hatred towards the enemy be dehumanizing him. Its approach is personal.
Because the left lobe is more motivated by goals, it is a "cold blooded killer" that doesnt even have to know its victim. Its approach is impersonal.
Well, I see that my time is up. Next time I will continue to develop this theme.