- Most Philosophical Student in America:
James Cook, Virginia.
Violence or Compassion: Which has a greater
impact on society?
Violence has always had the greatest impact on mankind. Human
existence is characterized by conflict, and violence is simply
the most extreme form of such. Violence terrifies us, it excites
us, it forces us to break from the norm. Without violence,
or the fear of such, there is no motivation for action. We
require struggle in order to develop as a species. It is as
the dialectic defined by Hegel. It is the conflict between
the thesis and the antithesis that makes society progress
to the synthesis. Had the first humans possessed all they
needed to be happy, they would have had no need to develop
agriculture. If people then had been empathetic, or compassionate,
and shared their surplus food with the less fortunate, then
there should have been no need for war, which ultimately led
society to where it is now. Violence is the strongest motivation
for change in a person. As Machiavelli said in The Prince,
"Upon this a question arises: whether
it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved?
It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because
it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer
to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be
He goes on to explain that people obey a beloved leader because
they feel obliged to. However, an obligation requires no bravery
to break. Fear requires courage to stand against, especially
the fear of violence. Anyone can break faith with someone,
but there are few who can overcome the primal terror of violence.
In modern society, someone held at gunpoint and commanded
to surrender their money will in all likelihood acquiesce,
but then another person asked by a filthy, ragged homeless
person will perhaps give a few dollars and nothing more. The
threatened man, though shaken considerably, will probably
not suffer too greatly for the loss of a couple hundred dollars.
The other man could do the same, but he feels little empathy
for a stranger. It is violence that truly makes a mark on
society. When a brutal murder is committed, it is shown that
night on national television. A surgeon who saves someone's
life may be recognized by their colleagues and the person's
family, but recognition is not given on the same scale. An
example is the D.C. sniper. The actions of two men terrified
an entire city and the neighboring counties. Almost everyone
was afraid they would be the next victim. So it was also with
Jack the Ripper. Serial killers are well-known to us, because
is it them that we fear, and it is their kind we want to avoid.
We know Osama Bin Laden and Al-Quaeda, and yet their counterparts
remain unmarked. A doctor might save a thousand lives in his
lifetime, but the world doesn't hear of it. It is expected
of him, it's his job. People are supposed to be kind and helpful
and to do "good" things, and consequently they make
little impact on anyone's life except those they come directly
in contact with. It is the violent people we know of, it is
they who alter the way we live.
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