Journal Entry – Sun Nov 8

My microwave oven is about to pass away. I think I will replace it with a convection/microwave/air fryer thingamajig. I already started looking for the perfect one.

I’ve resolved myself to sleeping 3-4 hrs a day. I think it is taking more energy for me to fight it, than to give into my Prozac Zzzzzz! (the worse part, I don’t even feel rested. When I wake up, I’m just as tired as I was. I wish I knew exactly what was going on in my brain.) Remember those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials? They should have a “this is your brain on prescription drugs (opioids vs benzos vs cinogens vs whatever else.)”

My brain probably looks better on cannabis or acid vs Prozac. From now on, everytime she comes out of my skull, through my right ear, to play dress up while under the influence of various substances, I’ll take pictures and post for comparison! (actually, she’ll have to take selfies. I won’t be able to function.)

I’m really lovin’ my homemade lotion. Dee and Matt like it too. André doesn’t have an opinion yet.

🎶The stars at night are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap) deep in the heart of Texas 🎶 – It always amazes me how random verses will pop into my head for no reason at all. I can’t figure out why, and most times, I don’t even remember where the song came from.

Would you rather be feared or respected? Do you know which one promotes loyalty?

A couple years back, it could even be four years now, Dee made oatmeal. We had a can of carnation milk in the fridge, and she asked me if it’s still good. I had no idea, so I told her to taste it. For me, taste means to pour a little into your hand and put some on your tongue. She drank some instead. I wish you could have seen the look on her face before she took off to the bathroom. 

I was dying. When she returned, I was still laughing. Now, anytime she asks me if something is still good and I say taste it, I get this suspicious look. (this time, it was store-bought pizza dough). That look never fails to take me back to that day, and I will break out laughing all over again. She’ll look at me, smile and say. “Here we go again.” I’ll take a break long enough to give her a hug and a kiss then continue laughing while she stands there, shaking her head.

Oh man … you must have children, if only to laugh at them!

That reminds me of Goodfellas (1990). I think they were in the basement of a restaurant and Tommy DeVito asks Henry Hill, “… I’m funny how? Funny like a clown? I amuse you? … How the fuck am I funny?” I don’t know how long that scene went on for but it was hilarious.

Lecture 13: Homo necans: Why Do We Kill

Before I start, this lecture doesn’t delve into the philosophical depths of the ethics of killing. We are just scratching the surface, so you may have questions that I don’t have the knowledge to answer. As you know from previous lectures, psychopaths do not understand the difference between moral and conventional rules. But not everyone that kills is a psychopath. Here we are talking about “normal” people. Crimes of passion, self defense and war, for example, complicate the understanding of why we kill and isn’t addressed here directly, although I try to make connections.   

Have you ever thought about killing someone? 

I never thought about killing my mother outright in my teens, but I did wish she would die more times than I can count. Especially after a beating. 🎶 “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back …” 🎶 I also wished she’d get hit by a truck – almost anything to get rid of her. But I can safely say, in my 46 years, I’ve never thought about killing someone long enough for it to disturb me when I snap back to reality. I am certain my children have wished death upon me.

Moving on …

Psychologist Adrian Raine thinks there are biological indicators to explain violent behaviour, including murder. Research done on adopted children who have parents that have been convicted of a violent crime raises the likelihood of criminal violence in the adoptee. Gender also factors in. Biologically born males are much more likely to commit violent crimes than biologically born females. Damage to the frontal lobe can change our ability to control impulses. Also, drinking, smoking or improper nutrition while pregnant can have an adverse effect on fetal development, causing these children to become violent later in life. 

… A low resting heart rate is a strong predictor of aggressive behaviour in children and adolescents. Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin also correlate with impulsive and violent behaviour.

As far as Raine is concerned, the biological factors associated with violent crime makes it a public health issue – We have to ensure children and pregnant women receive proper care. “Just as we think it is worth our time to cure cancer and other diseases, it should also be worth our time to cure violent crime.”

Psychologist Paul Bloom disagrees with Raine’s comparison of cancer to violent crime. We cannot cleanly exercise violence as it is a fundamental part of human nature. 

… it [getting rid of violence] would put us at a disadvantage in reining “in our worst instincts,” because the threat of violence and actual violence in the form of punishment serve to deter a whole range of harmful behaviors, from perjury to theft to murder.

In his book, The Murderer Next Door, psychology professor David Buss agrees with Bloom in that “murder is a product of the evolutionary pressures our species confronted and adapted to.” Buss thinks the homicide patterns in men and women can be explained by emphasizing the different adaptive problems murder evolved to solve. Men makeup 87% of all killers and 75% percent of victims. Women are more likely to commit infanticide than men. Men evolved homicidal mechanisms associated with warfare and other adult-on-adult violence. Whereas women evolved homicidal mechanisms that helped them solve problems like investing precious parental resources in children who were unlikely to survive.

Although a single emotion, like jealousy, can cause someone to kill a rival, kill their spouse or commit suicide (or all three in that order). Buss thinks most of us refrain from this behaviour because having an internal understanding of the costs associated with murder allows for self-reflection and emotional regulation, causing us to push against our motivation to murder. Also, external pressures like the legal system, institutional punishment and cultural norms act as deterrents.

Homo necans – a Latin phrase for “killing human,” was coined by classicist Walter Burkert. Burkert’s exploration of the nature of sacrificial violence in religion and its roots in hunting is based on his evolutionary hypothesis that ritual sacrifice originated in our early attempts to resolve the tension between our social and predatory natures. 

In acts of sacrifice … humans domesticated and ritualized the violence and aggression of the hunt so that our destructive and violent tendencies could express themselves “harmlessly” in society.

Situationism: The internal/biological factors that contribute to violent behaviour matters less than external factors. Philip Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment (you can watch, The Experiment (2010) or The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015). I saw both. Liked the first one more.) I’ll give you a brief synopsis …

In 1971 in a converted basement on the Standford University campus, 18 participants were randomly assigned as guards (9) or inmates (9). They worked in three eight-hour shifts. Inmates stayed in groups of three, and there was a solitary cell for anyone who didn’t follow the rules. 

Even though assignments were random, hours into the experiment, the guards began to exert control over the prisoners. By the second day, the prisoners rebelled by removing their numbers and barricading inside their cells. As the days went on, the situation deteriorated further. The experiment was terminated after six days (it was supposed to last 14) because the guards’ abusive behaviour continued to escalate, while the inmates broke down emotionally, grew despondent, anxious and became increasingly confused about their identities. 

The Stanford Prison Experiment is one study of many. Zimbardo thinks that the most salient factor in explaining violent behaviour is the situation we find ourselves in. Suggesting that any of us could commit murder, given the right circumstances. (I agree to a point) Consider, for example, soldiers in Nazi Germany and German police, who weren’t soldiers, ordered to commit unspeakable atrocities against civilians. Many perpetrators of the Holocaust were “murderers on the job,” but loving parents at home. (compartmentalize much?)

“Ordinary people did the unthinkable, but only because they were in unthinkable circumstances.” Although one can find oneself in an impossible situation, I’m calling BULL FUCKIN’ SHIT on that statement! We’re talking about genocide, not a crime of passion or self-defence. It’s a cop out! And thankfully, someone agrees with me …

The philosopher Lawrence Blum points out that everyone did not behave badly in Nazi-occupied territories. Many resisted authority and rescued others even when they put themselves at risk. Most of these individuals had stable dispositions and felt empathy an compassion for others. Even in the Stanford Experiment, some participants responded better to the situation than others.

The Buddhist Example of a Bodhisattva: Can good people have a stable disposition that allows them to act morally across any situation?  (the short answer is no)

Bodhisattva = Buddha-to-be (Sanskrit for Enlightenment being. Or could come from Bodihsakta – Being oriented toward enlightenment) 

During a particular lifetime, a bodhisattva generates the aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. The bodhisattva forgoes nirvana until he or she has helped everyone escape the cycle of death and rebirth by eliminating suffering. You’d think that person wouldn’t murder anyone but …

The 4th-century Buddhist philosopher Asanga published The Stages of the Bodhisattva, where he considers the circumstances under which a bodhisattva might actually break specific moral rules or precepts, including the prohibition against killing: 

The bodhisattva may behold a robber or thief engaged in committing a great many deeds of immediate retribution, being about to murder many hundreds of magnificent living beings … for the sake of a few material goods. Seeing it, he forms this thought in his mind: “If I take the life of this sentient being, I myself may be reborn as one of the creatures of hell. Better that I be reborn a creature of hell than that this living being, having committed a deed of immediate retribution, should go straight to hell.” With such an attitude the bodhisattva ascertains that the thought is virtuous …[and] with only a thought of mercy for the consequence, he takes the life of that living being. There is no fault, but a spread of much merit.

According to Asanga, in this case, the bodhisattva should kill this person because, as the Buddhist scholar Charles Goodman points out, “By killing him, the bodhisattva rescues the robber from a fate much worse than mere death.” (what’s worse than death? Maybe some kind of eternal suffering, but that depends on what happens after we die. Maybe it is that the thief is already suffering because he is a thief.)

(Source: The Great Courses – Understanding the Dark Side of Human Nature)

You should watch Schindler’s List (1993), and The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) – The last one was very sad. I cried and cried. 

Feature Photo Credit: @bernardoarce via Twenty20

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