Random violence comes from violent society

ALTHOUGH I agree with all of the views expressed in the editorial (The Standard, January 5) about the unfortunate death of David Cassai, I want to comment on the final six words, “random violence is never worth it”. To me, this comment indicates the confusion adolescents must experience at a stage of life so crucial to their identity as they try to make sense of society. 

The fact is that some violence is not only acceptable but is encouraged by society. Violence is a major factor in our entertainment and many of our heroes gained hero status through violence. 

Sometimes it seems the good guys only win because they are more violent than the bad guys, so violence is OK as long as we approve the target.

What could cause kids to use violence so easily? To many adolescents, “we” is the peer group and so that makes certain violent acts acceptable and necessary if it forms part of their identity. The young man mentioned in the editorial was reported elsewhere as saying, “this is what we do”. If true, a statement about who we are makes it an identity thing. 

Violence plays a major part in our identity too. It is often said that Australia forged its identity through the violence at Gallipoli but the difference is the bravery involved there. 

I believe the main cause of random violence is that we live in an adversarial society, which means that a big part of our identity, or sense of who we are, comes from comparing our attributes and achievements against those of other people, in two ways. 

One is by competing with others to gain knowledge, power, expertise or wealth, so we feel somehow better, or more important, than others. But that often requires incredibly hard work and dedication. 

Some people find it much easier to gain that sense of superiority or status through domination, which usually means using some form of force or violence to put others down.

People using either of these methods find that they are better than some and not as good as others. So, even those who are the best at one thing can sometimes be tempted to use the ‘put down’ method. Therefore, the adversarial base for an identity divides people and is a breeding ground for violence.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to the adversarial base. We also gain part of our identity by how we use our individual differences to help each other achieve goals. 

Instead of comparing ourselves against each other, we share our knowledge, skills and wealth. People with this outlook gain their sense of importance to each other rather than against each other and, therefore, the co-operative base unites people and could eliminate violence. Two examples of this also appeared in the same edition: the stories on Izzy Clarke on page seven and the firefighters on page one. Maybe the answer is to put more effort into making people like Izzy and emergency service volunteers role models for kids.

Bob Myers, Brierly Street, Warrnambool

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