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Vigilance for Violence

As regards the vigilance for violence throughout the world, as observed in social media, 24/7 news cycles, movies, television, the whole realm of infotainment, and so forth, many get the impression the world is a dangerous place. Yes, it is and that depends on a number of factor. For population groups around the planet, violence is a daily occurrence. While the potential for danger exists, with frequent reminders of horrific incidents, the general emotional reactivity to the actual level of incidents is likely an exaggeration. This depends on the criteria used to develop a conclusion. Past references from antiquity to the present, demonstrates according to some researchers, a downward trend in human violence, particularly where murder is concerned. No doubt, there are enclaves throughout the planet where violence is very real.

In the U.S., for example, a major study from a crime research center concluded that nearly 70% of the murders occurred in 5% of the counties. Within those counties, the violence took place in concentrated areas. While some areas may show an increase in homicidal behavior, in the vast majority of communities murder is either non-extent or extremely low. Each year, the FBI via the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), as reported by police agencies throughout the U.S. Crime categories show increases or decreases reports national crime information. Initially, a discussion of violence ought to define what the meaning of the term.

In addition, given a narrow or broad definition, a determination of data to be used considers that which ensures valid evidentiary criteria. Regardless, investigative inquiry should safeguard the methodology to preclude misuse of information for the sake of political agenda. With the word “violence”, for instance, the Uniform Crime Reports system (UCR), as published by the FBI, refers to four offences: murder, forcible rape (sexual battery in some state criminal codes), robbery and aggravated assault. This generally refers to criminal acts that involve force or the threat of force.

But, what about other acts violence, such warfare, terrorism, and a variety of actions that result in physical and mental harm to another. A broader definition could include intentional acts that deprive others of essential necessities for personal survival. Most often, in the U.S. when discussing “violent crime”, many tend to think about the previously mentioned “street crimes”. To fully appreciate the violence potential, a wider view of such acts is considered for an all-inclusive nature. Violence worldwide is an everyday infliction that crosses every social group.

Additionally, crossing the boundaries of nation states, violence for one reason or another, represents the willful actions of humans. Intentional, premeditated and purposeful, the thrill of the kill is very real. As such, humans are exceptionally capable of killing in diverse ways, physically and psychologically. To say the word “violence”, a conjuration occurs depending on many individual and collective perceptions. The very mention of such a thing suggests aggression, hostility, brutality, sadism, carnage and so forth. All manner of debauchery is possible.

In the U.S. for many people, the reach of external violence, or the typical street crimes, is limited, except for the range of depictions in television and the movies. Most often, that is where many get their perspectives on violent behaviors. Frequently, the vast “infotainment” industry “sells” violence in superficial and simplistic ways. In consideration of where one lives and experiences life, adds to the imaginative processes of misinterpretation.

For those of socio-economic means above the median income range, personal exposure to criminality may be non-existent. In an annual crime poll by a major survey group, in 2007, about 3 out of 10 people indicated some level of victimization, or knew someone victimized by a criminal event. Accordingly, roughly 5% indicated involvement in a violent crime within the previous year. Of these incidents, the most frequently reported crimes included those involving property, as in thefts, vandalism, burglary and so forth. At a national center that collects data on crime trends, studying a 20-year period, from 1993 to 2012, the violent crime rate decreased.

In contrast, a brief look at murder data for 2016 available from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, show an 8% increase over the previous year. From that data, an estimated 17,250 murders were reported. During 2016, census information reports about 322,762,018 persons legally residing in the U.S. Added to that, an additional approximation of 11,000,000 illegal persons were residing in the U.S. in 2016. That brings the numbers of persons guessed to have been living in the U.S. during that time to be about 333,762,018. Using the standard government statistical reference point of ratio to 100,000 persons, which indicates 5.1 murders per 100,000.

Naturally, cautionary notations are raised whenever statistical data comes into play. A healthy sense of skepticism must be applied. Overall, comparing the average murder rate to the total population, both legal and illegal residents, and not counting yearly international tourism, suggests the murder rate is less than 1% of the total number of people. In a similar way, the number of murders in a particular year are less than 1% of the total number of violent crimes. Comparing violent crime to non-violent crime, many more property crimes occur than violent crimes.

If one factors also the scope of so-called white-collar crime, then the exponential nature expands. Considering the range of cybercrime, organized crime, terrorism and corporate criminality, street crimes pale in comparison. Of conspiracies and related transactional criminalities on the dark web, the complex nature of criminal behavior becomes quite extensive. With every aspect of human inclination to illicit activities, the potential and actual infliction of violence remains present. At one end of the discussion, it could mean a very basic sense of physical force intended to damage inanimate materiality, or injure or kill another person. Such expression may also refer to those actions designed to cause depravation to another, a group or a community.

Other people in various ways can harm people. Again, by way of persistent redundancy, whether by physical or psychic trauma, malevolence can terrorize by different means, directly or indirectly, as victims react individually. Plenty of violence is seen every day. By expression in one form or another, actual or vicarious, is readily available. From fact to fiction, 24/7 infotainment delivers gruesome and horrific forms of violence, as well as psycho-expressions of terror. News, movies, television, reading and writing, violent things happen regularly.

To apply the word violence to the human race, it is suggested that a number of aspects are implicated in various social interactions. As a means of harm, damage, and abuse, inflicting injury to another is willful, premeditated and intentional. Its purposeful attack upon others is from a selfish perspective designed to give the perpetrator something in return. From the classical school of criminology, violent behavior is the result of a rational process of thinking. There are no excuses, no matter what theoretical construct someone tries to invent to mitigate the aftermath. This of course relates to illicit and unlawful injurious behaviors.

According to one international organization, viciousness that injuries others is expanded to include the malevolent gainful aims of the misuse of power. As such, the speculative realm of psychological harms comes into further consideration. By speculative, this is meant to suggest that there are no absolutes in an effort to fully define or delineate the total ramifications of human motivation, as to ultimate causes and subsequent effects. Within the scheme of the nature of causal factors, there is a diverse range of philosophical assessment. Most likely, any discussion of human violence will invite the many speculations from the fields of criminology, sociology and psychology. As all perspectives are debatable, some schools of thought deem theirs less arguable than others. However, the assertion made here is that these are the spheres of pseudoscience and not real hardcore “X-rated” science like chemistry, biology or physics.

This of course immediately sets the stage for all kinds of anxiety, gnashing of teeth and renting of clothing. Some academicians get very sensitive when challenged about much of anything. In some cases, the possibility of “violence” by those who disagree with any allegation of “pseudoscience” can be quite severe. In many realms throughout the unhallowed fields of “social studies” in academia, many researchers want to be seen as doing “science”, with the pretense for the “noble” cause of expanding “scientific knowledge”. Occasionally, this seems comical. Meanwhile, some will propose all manner of diagnostic cover stories.

In some cases, adherents to one “social studies” viewpoint or another has claimed the status of a scientist. The egotistical ramifications can be quite entertaining. In particular, where academic textbooks are concerned, as in criminal justice courses, many struggle with an apparent identify crisis as they strive to be viewed as “scientists”. Unfortunately, unless they are studying astronomy, nuclear physics, or zoology, they are not scientists in the traditional sense or actuality of the practitioner driven reference point. They are primarily researchers. Taking a quick peek of several institutions of proclaimed higher learning, as to many areas of “social studies”, reveals many have never ventured further than classroom regarding real world experiences.

As non-practitioners in areas such as psychology or criminology, many perform the dutiful tasks of self-preservation in regurgitating anecdotal conjectures. By doing so, they rely on the research sufficiency of someone else. Previously over time, the same redundancy, already reported decades earlier, is repeated. Every so-called “new study” is a study done in much same manner with similar results as the one before it. This adds nothing new, except for aiding and abetting the completion of another study or dissertation proposal. The cycle continues and in the investigation of violence, victimology and aspects of criminology very little changes throughout the history of human debauchery and destructiveness.

The problem of simplistic and pretentious “evidence” allegedly revealed by the latest study is that it results in an opinion, which is open to rebuttal. Refutation and rebuke counters by similar means and methodology. Additionally, the “expert” viewpoints emanating from human behavior studies purports a “scientific” posture of which the underlying foundation is built upon research bias. Such prejudicial conjecture is influenced by the faulty assumption that human behavior, as well as human thinking, can be reduced to a quantifiable equation as though an organically constituted structure. Where a forensic chemist would subject a substance in a crime lab to microscopic analysis, a “social scientists” attempt the same with human emotions.

Depending on the political agenda, emotional reactivity often preempts an objective focus on the facts in evidence to analyze a particular issue. Public discourse and private debate are heavily antagonized by subjective bias, ideological jargon, informational ignorance, as well as frequent outcries of oversimplification. As such, human thinking is the result of organically complex and intricately interwoven via extraordinary chemical and electrical processes. Additionally, thoughts defy comprehensive analytic dissection, although some philosophical schools of thought, or “social studies”, assert mystic claims of “scientific” quantification.

Vigilance for violence presupposes an awareness and watchfulness in terms of ensuring countermeasures that serve to reduce the opportunities for harmful inflictions. Violence toward others is a very human form perpetration given the wants, desires and inclinations of the perpetrators. It is intentional, premeditated and reflects lucid decision-making. Other viewpoints will disagree. Regardless, violence toward other people reflects selfish purposes of the perpetrator. Whether an assumption is made about “childhood” precursors, or lack of social opportunities, or a “crime gene”, is mostly irrelevant to never ending saga of human predatory behavior.

Violence will happen in spite of the best efforts of social policy, law enforcement deployment, or legislative prohibitions. Even though a major government database records fluctuations over time, recent trends show a general 1% – 4% decline in the overall U.S. violence rate. When guns are involved for example, some people and organizations seize the occasions to further their political agenda, or ideological perspective. What the actual data shows is ignored in favor of egregious fallacies of inferential reactivity to ensure the promotion of a particular view. Notoriety, celebrity promotion, re-election, emotional distress, etc., enter the fray quickly. Regardless of the facts in evidence, many will easily conclude the most simplistic assertions.

As a result, given the human inclination toward deception, the contemporary perception of violent acts potentially assumes a disproportionate scale with regard to the totality of human malevolence. One tragic multi-murdering event can easily be interpreted as a “virus” spreading through the country like some kind of human contagion. In actuality, the scope of physical harm could likely be an overestimation of the reality. The challenge of assessing the degree of violent behaviors among humans is analyzing the data within a larger context. Historical references and modern proclivities toward mental and physical harm might offer a different worldview. Assessed in a more diverse context, what might be perceived by emotional reactivity of the moment is more than likely less of problem when considered in a more rational and broader schematic.

The problem arises in any discussion of a particular aspect of violence is that biased perceptions presuppose a certain outcome. In that, an explanation as to the central nature of human violence hinges precariously on the fragile edge of rational analysis. Of particular interest is embellishment and enrichment of the issue in question. All manner of inference becomes notoriously distorted at any juncture outside the absolute certainty of proof by authentication of the evidence. For example, especially true in the study of “serial killers”, is the specious claim by a killer that one thing or another happened during his or her childhood development.

Specious of otherwise hallow, false, baseless, etc. due to the insufficiency of corroborating evidence. Given the mystique, lore and legend around killers in general, any speculation is possible. Yet, what does the evidence show? Lacking proof, in all probability, the assertion is without merit and only services to promote the mythology of the particular case. In addition, when compared to data derived from a number research sources, the proclivity to violence, and particularly murder going back to ancient periods, is very much a human inclination.

Nonetheless, a case for homicidal rate decreases can be made for certain periods of time. By contrast, that depends on the definition applied to the term “homicide”. Relevant to that point, the issue of proportionality comes into question relative to a global analysis. By calculating a ratio of incidents to population, one period of history may appear larger than other points in time. While humans remain very adept at harming others, statistical measures fluctuate. Considering a range of murderous behavior, from A to Z, or assassination to terrorism, the body may demonstrate a trend toward a greater propensity for violence with an expanded definition.

In one study retold in a national nature publication, a propensity for violence is claimed to be an evolutionary product of earlier primate species. As such as the story goes, “human-on-human” killing is many times greater than that of other species. However, regardless of the theory, there are no easy answers. From the safe havens of academia, to the gritty streets of police work, many a “social philosopher” has tried to explain criminal behavior.

To answer the eternal “why” question depends on the particular school of thought, absent to date any hardcore scientific evidentiary validation, still results in speculation. Of course there will be some, enthralled by the field of “neuroscience”, “evolutionary biology”, and so on, who will differ as to the solvability factors involved in human motivations. Perhaps a little too openly and cavalierly, some expound upon so-called advances in studying the human “mind”. As the “mind” is a metaphor for what the brain does, such a notion is pretentious at best.

This aspect of philosophical conjecture is always intriguing. As though some primordial impetus seduces perhaps well-meaning researchers toward a “Frankensteinish” creation, assertions of “neuroscience of psychology” seem bent of inventing a “crime gene”. Whatever the seduction, excuses for human violence and predatory behavior will be a never-ending saga. Nonetheless, vigilance, or attentiveness, watchfulness or awareness, remains a wiser anticipation for the investigative intricacy of human nature and its proclivity toward violent behavior.

Specious notions as to causation often stumble into the foggy realms of oversimplification, hasty generalization and prejudicial thinking. Caution is always warranted in relation to criminality and the subsequent interpretation of opinion, statistics, reporting criteria, ideologies and various schools of thought. As such, every time a violent incident occurs there is an emotional state of reactivity. Reason is typically suspended in favor of feelings. Whatever the rationale for a deeper personal meaning, aside from the tragedy for the victim and family, many willingly default to an illogical basis for a simplistic and trouble free answer.

Rational analysis may not be possible in the immediate aftermath of a horrendous incident. Yet, in the world of infotainment, with 24/7 “news” cycles, reporting personalities need quick, easy and superficial soundbites that pacify viewers. As people confront the harsh reality of a tragic perpetration of criminal behavior, exaggerations of cause and effect suffice. The facts may be cast aside for the satiation of immediate gratification due to a misperception that the horror has reached “epidemic” proportions. The misuse of metaphorical incantations to conjure or otherwise provoke reactivity should be carefully assessed by calmer perspective on human behavior.

Yet, in the realism of contemporary experience, there is no “epidemic”, “contagion”, or “crisis”, because infotainment keeps repeating phrases like, the “worst shooting” in U.S. history. To the contrary, one incident or several incidents in close proximity to occurrence, does not constitute an uprising, rampant acts of violence, rampage or endemic characteristic of a certain age group, ethnicity or socio-economic status. A much broader view contrasted with proportionality is relevant by inclusion with the facts that validate a linkage between cause and effect.

In the world of classical criminology, human nature remains on ceaseless trek to ensure the vigilance for violence in every aspect. As a purposeful act, intentional and premeditated, human propensity for violent behavior remains an ongoing study. The deliberate infliction of pain and suffering upon others is a complex behavioral psychic infrastructure that defies precise definition. Vigilance for violence requires reasonable and uninhibited analysis.