The Confluence of Violence

I just finished reading Henry Rollins’ blog entry regarding the Steubenville rape trial (  In the comment section, someone asked what could be done about the segment of society who engages in rape and violence simply because they don’t care about the consequences of their actions on others.  Without splitting hairs on the definition of “sociopath”, my response is below.

It is the kernel of a thought that I’ve been mulling over for a few months in the context of the well-publicized gang rape and murder of a young woman in India and grad school research I was working on regarding the challenges for women and minorities in gaining promotion to executive level positions in the business world and higher education.  In the midst of that I was also exploring with a counselor some of the ways my own abuse as a teenager is still affecting my life and relationships.

There is much more to be written on this subject, but it’s time I at least got started.  My central thesis is that the various expressions of violence that we see in our society share a common spring from which they flow.  That spring is the exercise of power.  Power dominates our lives.  Relationships are constantly illustrated as contests of power between individuals.  Our ability to use power effectively has almost everything to do with our career success.  The use of power is used as an excuse for the abuse of power, as though dominance is so glorious a state that acheiving it at any cost is forgiven.

As a result, the abuse of power is a constant reality for nearly everyone, either as a power-wielder or as a victim.  The result of this permeating atmosphere of power-wielding has desensitized most of us to violence against our selves, our minds, and our spirits, leaving us feeling powerless when the violence becomes physical.  When we become desensitized to the violence inflicted on ourselves, it is to be expected that many people will also lose their sensitivity to the effect of any sort of violence against others.


(What follows are my original comments on the blog.  You can read them in context here:

I think that section of the population can be split into two: those who feel powerless in their daily lives and therefore resort to violence as a means of asserting their identity and those who feel superior in their daily lives and engage in violence because they do not consider the effect on the victim as notable.

Responding to those in the first instance requires us to consider why so many people feel powerless in so many areas of their lives. How can we better disperse power in our communities, flatten our social structures, and generally stop feeding the oligarchic wealth eating machine that is our current economic and finance system. When you live as someone dominated, the idea of freedom becomes linked to domination.

The war in Iraq is a testimony to the prevalence of this behavior in our culture. We were dominated, so we found someone else to dominate. We took back the Alpha position. Our society glorifies the Alpha and despises the Beta and the Omega. As long as we do, those who cannot get to the top, for whatever reason, are going to find someone weaker to assert dominance upon.

For those who have achieved Alpha status, such as the Revered Athlete, the message our culture broadcasts to them is quite simple: you matter more than everyone else. We back this up by creating terms such as “too big too fail”. All mistakes will be paid for by the masses, as long as you are big enough. All morally bankrupt behavior is excused for those who have an Alpha position.

Until we reject the use of power as the basis of our society, we’re going to have to deal with these kinds of actions. At some point we have to stop giving obeisance to the Alpha and realize that we have evolved over the past 10,000 years. The ownership of shiny things should no longer impress us, yet we continue to buy into the lie that a diamond is the basis of a lasting marriage. Physical strength should not automatically warrant a position of leadership, yet we grant massive amounts of social capital to professional or world-class athletes.


Until we reject a caveman social structure, we will have to accept the actions of cavemen.


My take on the Caps’ loss

I’m a big fan of the Washington Capitals, have been since high school when I stumbled onto a broadcast of a game on the radio.  Over the years I have watched them grow from being a non-factor in the league to finishing this year with the best record in the league.  Their team captain has played 5 seasons and won rookie of the year and two MVP trophies.  This year expectations were high, they were up 3-1 in their playoff series and lost the next three games thanks to some sloppy play on their part and some ridiculous play on the part of their opponents.  Below are my comments from the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks (

So I’ve been stewing over this for a while and I think I figured out why this loss bother me so much. All season long my favorite team has been flying in the face of hockey pundits who said they never had a chance to win playing the style that they do, at least not a cup. Guys who have never won a cup themselves seemed to take great joy in pointing out what’s wrong with my favorite team. Even the league officials seemed to have a problem with the Caps style of play (or at least our team captain). It seems like no one outside of DC wants to see our team be successful. No trophy earned in the regular season seemed to matter, and the more successful the Caps were, the more they seemed to want them to fail.

All I wanted was for all those guys to have to eat a Stanley Cup full of crow and instead they’re going to be crowing about this all off-season long. And all next year they’ll be downplaying every accomplishment, quenching every fire of fandom as well as they can. For what? So that we can have more boring hockey? So that players will simply hand the puck to the referee a la Barry Sanders after scoring a goal?

I say to hell with that. I don’t just like the Caps because they are my hometown franchise. I like them because they play the most exciting style of hockey I’ve ever seen. I like them because most of the time they play like men possessed. I like them because they usually leave it all on the ice. They make me like hockey more, period. If that’s not going to win us a cup, well, I think I honestly can live with that. If watching Ovie do his thing, watching Mike Green go coast to coast, watching Varly and JT spike my WTF meter, cheering for players that give and give and give to their fans, pull out their teeth on the bench to keep playing, take pucks to the face and still look good, and score, score, score all season long is not going to win us a cup I think it’s a fair trade for the privilege of not having to watch some grind it out, boring, yawn-inducing, “classic” hockey that makes Don Cherry happy.

Think of it this way: in order to beat the Caps, the Habs had to be absolutely miraculous. How many times do you get to see a goalie make 53 saves? I wasn’t happy with the result, but that was some amazing hockey. To win tonight their defenders had to block, what, 41 shots? That’s ridiculous, guys had to have been flying all over the ice. That is the kind of hockey I want to see. The Caps make every game they are in the kind of game I want to see more of. That’s why I’m a fan. So I’m going to check in on YouTube every now and then, watch replays of The Goal a few times, keep an eye on the Nats and look forward to another season brought to me by the most electric team in hockey.

Until next season, I still LOVE this team.