Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Are you violent sir, madam? Mmmm?
Whatever you think of Michael Portillo's Tory politics you couldn't label him a violent man. He seems relatively charming, softly spoken and fairly self-assured but in the show 'Horizon' he's looking deep into himself (and probably all of us) to examine human violence and looking particularly at the questions: do we learn to be violent or is it instinctive? Or what drives people to beat the crap out of each other? (That's my line, not Mr. Portillo's).
An interesting programme in this series examines the South American idea of a tinku: a celebration of violence whereby locals congregate and literally pick fights with each other, even encouraging small children to emulate this sort of stand-off. Portillo is there to see if anyone can act violently or even enjoy it. Somebody, say who's had a posh upbringing, never been in a fight in his life and abhors violence. Yup, you've guessed it: Portillo faced his very own tinku.
A video of a tinku (not Portillo's)
Another thing the show looks at is the pleasure we get when we fight. Dopamine occurs when we experience pleasure through sex, exercise, drugs and indeed violence. Some people are addicted to violence it seems like others are to booze.
Interestingly some studies show that being taught to share before the age of three years old (upto when children can't really control their tempers) helps shape their pre-frontal cortex where violence control mechanisms are built for use in later life.
Doctors have seen that patients who have undergone trauma to the pre-frontal cortex can become more violent. the damage to the brain injures the control mechanisms which are in place and this is why post-trauma patients can become violent.
There are other ways that our control mechanisms can be broken down too: through alcohol and drug use, sleep deprivation, extreme external pressure as well as something we can't change: ageing...