Archive for May, 2010


The Rise of Violence

I’ve been reading a number of books lately on writing. Currently I’m reading Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D. Aside from being an amazing book and a mini-guide to psychology, it has a number of interesting facts. This one struck me hard.

Innately, people do not like to kill. … In World War II, for instance, only 15-25 percent of combat infantry soldiers were willing to fire their guns. By the time soldiers went to Korea, 50 percent were willing to shoot. In Vietnam, the figure was up to 90 percent.

I find this staggering. Maybe there is some sort of correlation between violence depicted in our American media (exposure and desensitization) and the rise of various forms of violent crime.

Regardless of that topic, though, it got me thinking about how someone from 60 or 70 years ago, teleported through time to our present, would find the world. Aside from the technological, scientific and medical changes that would make our world so very different, the levels of violence must be astonishingly high. If less than a quarter of people in a war are unwilling to fire their guns, imagine what it was like in a time of peace? No wonder the Mafia’s use of weapons was so shocking back in the 20s and 30s. We would seem almost callous in our disregard for the violence we see almost daily on the news.

How the world changes. And how different will it be in the future? Perhaps, instead of a statistic that says less than a quarter of the population was willing to shoot their gun in a time of war, we’ll have a statistic that says less than a quarter of our population actually killed another person in a time of war. And our descendants might look on that statistic and think, “How quaint.”

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