Why Are People So Tough?


I love animals and have decided to have more contact with horses, those majestic, gentle beasts.  It’s a privilege to be in their company.  Here I am horseback riding.  In my case it’s more like horseback walking, but, hey, I’m up, moving forward and surrounded by nature.  What could be better?

NEWS:  I’ll be giving an author talk/book signing for my memoir: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class this Sunday, July 27, 2014, 12:30pm, at Maria’s Italian Kitchen, 16608 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436.  Complimentary appetizers and soft drinks/coffee/tea will be served compliments of the restaurant.  They will also give a 10% discount to any diner who has a copy of my book at their table.  Click here on Maria’s Facebook page to read about my book talk:  https://www.facebook.com/events/715944768496077/  I hope to see you there.

Now, onto my blog:

Tough! Strong! Aggressive! Angry!  As a child in junior high school, it was a big deal who was the best at put-downs–verbal violence, kill or be killed.  Where do kids learn that–at home, in the community?  One thought:  sports are games of aggression, even seemingly innocuous ones like board games or chess matches, not only for the players but also for the spectators.  As we watch, we are whipped (a very aggressive verb) into a frenzy of excitement.  We want to see pain; blood is even better.  Athletes are our avatars.  They do what we can’t do for ourselves: vanquish, destroy, win.

A few weeks ago, I heard a radio report about the running of the bulls in Spain.  It’s a prelude to the bullfights, one of the cruelest of modern-day sports.  I attended a bullfight in Mexico about 40 years ago, not having any idea what I was actually going to see.  Observing the audience was as eye-opening as the bullfight event itself.  Whole families were in the stands from grandparents to toddlers to witness the spectacle.  They had picnic baskets to dine while being entertained by the ceremonious goring of the bull with spears to weaken it for the eventual kill by the matador.

This is just a variation of the ancient, public gladiator performances where someone’s death was the prize, I thought.

I recently read about the proliferation of elephant poaching to harvest their tusks for the lucrative world market in ivory.  There was a description in the article of a baby elephant that was taken to a village and tied to a post as a toy for the local children to torture.  What is this twisted behavior all about–teaching children how fun it is to torture a helpless animal and perhaps by extension another human being?  The old “nature vs. nurture” puzzle still puzzles:  Is cruelty inherent in human nature, or do we teach it?  If the latter is predominant, why?

People don’t have to thrust the bullfighter’s sword to be cruel.  They can do it very subtly.  They can snub others; they can post mean social media comments; they can one-up each other, and on and on.  We think we’re so civilized, sophisticated.  How does aggression and cruelty jibe with that?  Do we get better perks in life being contentious and brutal?  Are we happier?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Why Are People So Tough?

  1. Great post, Lee Gale. I agree, and I’m hopeful in that I see us addressing some blatant forms of aggression–like bullying. We no longer tolerate it. My suspicion is that agression has been a learned survival technique for millennia, and we’re just now at the point where we can let it go.

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