April 11, 2008


17th century cannon, courtesy of wikipedia.

Lately the theme at Goat Rope has been the need for people who want a less violent world to learn what we can about violence, war and killing. Another way of putting might be to say that choosing to remain ignorant about such things because we don't like them is pretty much the Platonic Form of the Bad Idea.

One thing that seems pretty clear is that most ordinary people have deep resistance to killing other people, especially at close range. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing, suggests that only about two percent of soldiers take "naturally" to combat without the violence spilling over into their civilian lives. The number of genuine sociopaths who kill without remorse or restraint is even smaller.

One thing that makes killing easier is distance, broadly conceived. Artillery crews, snipers, airborne bombers and sailors engaged in naval warfare seemed to have less battlefield trauma and less resistance to firing than infantry fighters at a closer range who can see, hear and sometimes touch their adversaries.

In our age of high tech mass killing from miles away, this kind of killing has become commonplace, which means that killing is easier.

As Grossman points out, killing from a distance is anonymous. Further, when done as part of a socially sanctioned group in which each person only carries out a small defined task, this seems to convey a kind of group absolution on those who do the killing but never see it.

There are other ways that distance makes killing and violence easier, but that will have to keep until next time.

STILL TRAVELING. Usually during the week, this blog has links and comments about current events. That feature will resume Monday.


No comments: