Violence: Stop it at the Top
The common use of violence in the United States provides an excellent illustration of how our problems will continue indefinitely if we don't understand how hierarchies work.
What do hierarchies have to do with violence? PLENTY! For centuries, we have used violence to force others to stay in hierarchical roles.
Some of the most common tools are bullying, hate crimes, domestic violence, lynching, militarism, murder, sexual assault, and war.
We can use what we know about CLUES to investigate and solve this widespread violence problem.
First: We find characteristic attitudes and behaviors of hierarchies – CLUES.
Second: We locate examples of how these hierarchical rules and roles are playing out.
Third: We create change by developing alternatives that are different from or opposite to what we observe.
Whatever is characteristic of the top is assumed to represent the entire hierarchy.
We say we have a violent society, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Realistically, men, the gender on top of our hierarchies, are committing most of the violence.
When we turn on the news on television, look on the internet, or read our newspapers, the people who are rioting, murdering, committing terrorism, perpetrating violent sexual crimes against adults and children, killing their schoolmates, overturning police cars, stalking, toting guns, running in gangs and participating in juvenile crimes, carrying weapons to school, bullying, planting bombs, riding on tanks, sniper shooting, donning Ku Klux Klan robes, destroying countries because of “ethnic cleansing, ” committing police brutality, starting arson fires, playing with war toys, murdering mothers and/or children they kidnapped, and violently destroying the environment are almost always men or boys.
We program the people at the top to maintain the hierarchy.
It’s no accident that boys and men commit violence. They are trained from birth to use violence. With the exception of sports equipment, toys that are marketed exclusively to boys usually involve some sort of violence — killing, destruction, mutilation, murder, and annihilation. Parents buy their sons toy weapons, and encourage, even expect them, to play video games that involve killing electronic people.
These same parents would be horrified if their sons used violence or committed murder in real life, yet they think it’s normal for boys to commit play murder and violence with their toys. Some people wonder if boys will have a normal manhood if they have no interest in violent toys.
We give different toy products to our girls. With a line of toys that has separate versions for girls and boys, the girls’ merchandise is peaceful and the boys’ merchandise is violent. The girls’ toys are about every- day life — school, friends, restaurants, pets, playgrounds, swimming pools, and home.
Problems don’t get solved, because we pass responsibility toward people in lower groups who did not generate the problem and divert attention away from the top who have the resources or power to change the situation.
Even though rape is virtually 100% caused by men, almost all of the talk in rape-prevention workshops concerns females — how they can defend themselves and lower their chances of being raped. Police departments tell cities they are dealing with the rape problem by giving training sessions to women and girls. Groups offer self-defense classes for females, while the society does not demand that men and boys be taught to stop their violent, degrading sexual language and actions against women and girls.
In reality, we are only addressing the symptoms and not the cause of the rapes in our country. The only way to solve the rape problem is for males – who create the problem – to stop raping females. Males are rarely mentioned as part of the solution.
We’re stuck in the same routine with domestic violence. Most of the money for domestic violence prevention goes to the women’s shelters. We have few prevention programs aimed at men, even though men commit most of the domestic violence. We talk about “battered women’s syndrome,” but who has heard of a “battering men’s syndrome?” Domestic violence will not stop until men stop being violent and men in the community stop accepting other men’s violence.
CLUE #4 The top is not held accountable.
If we were to analyze who have been the people carrying guns to schools and shooting people, we would realize that almost all of them have been white boys. However, we have habitually discussed school violence as a society matter, not as a white boys’ problem.
If African American or Latino boys were the ones shooting people in schools, especially schools with white kids, there would have been all kinds of media stories about the problems with African American or Latino children. The newscasts would be full of experts telling African Americans or Latina/os what they needed to do to fix their families and communities.
Since shootings involved white boys — the segment of our population that is on top of our race hierarchies — newscasters did not notice that a specific racial group was involved. Little, if any, discussion focused on specific problems in white families and communities.
Now that we've concluded our investigations, we'll reverse the rules and roles to generate some solutions that remove the hierarchical barriers we found.
Since males are incarcerated at a rate of over 15 times higher than females, a newspaper names our violence problem as male violence, not just "violence."
An influential internet group diversifies its traditional focus on politics and makes a connection between violent toys for boys and the proliferation of the use of military to build worldwide wealth and corporate hierarchies.
Men start programs to support, mentor, and create healthy programs for boys. Using the models of women in the 1970’s and 1980’s, they create seminars and mentoring programs that increase opportunities, healthy relationships, and success for young men.
Communities, including police departments, set up domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs where males talk to males. They justify the costs by explaining that when they teach males to stop thinking/being violent, it will save taxpayer money from decreased services for victims and also decreased court, incarceration, and rehabilitation costs for males.
A television station presents a story about the problems of white families and factors that create violence among white boys.
The government funds research that focuses on what facets of the white culture cause white boys to be violent at school.