Let’s Make Football Violent Again

“Make football violent again,” was a hat the safety for the Minnesota Vikings, Andrew Sendejo, wore in an NFL training camp. The instinctive reaction we might have to such a call is that Sendejo is trying to be provocative, for no one who knows anything about violence would condone it in anyway. We might also say that, as a professional football player, Sendejo is setting a poor example for the youth who look up to him. Our society should be moving in the exact opposite direction, others might say, especially when it comes to young men. 

An argument that condones violence in any way will never make its way to a broadcasting booth of any kind, unless it is to condemn it, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit, when it comes to football at least. If the argument did make it on air, in some form, we have to imagine that the broadcasters would say, “I don’t condone violence, but …” to distance themselves from Sendejo’s argument, but there is a but argument that is worthy of some consideration. The but argument focuses on the unpleasant fact that some young men have violent impulses, and they need an outlet, or a ‘somewhat’ controlled and monitored environment, to indulge that primal impulse for violence. Most audiences don’t want to hear anything about that. They prefer a more rational discussion that focuses on ways to make would young men less violent in a way that might help make our world less violent. No rational discussion by a professional in any field would focus on the need for an outlet for violent activity.

The well-intentioned opponents of the game now know that football is too entrenched for them to make any strides with regard to banning football from the high school level on up. Yet, they are making strides at banning tackle football in youth groups, and they are using the banner of ‘player safety’ to lessen the impact of some of the more violent hits in the game from the high school level on up. Proponents of the traditional game know that some measures are required to make the game safer, as athletes become stronger and faster, but as these measures to remove violence from the game progress, proponents warn, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’

We’ve all heard horrific tales of the wide array of what can happen on a football field, and we’re all sympathetic to the players and their families affected by it. Among these stories, are those that involve brain injuries, including concussions and repeated severe concussions that could lead to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). We’ve heard that various forms of CTE have ruined lives. We’ve heard neurologists state that scientific studies of the harm football causes young people is now irrefutable. We’ve had neighbors tell us that these studies scare them so much, they won’t let their children play the game. The NFL has heard all of this too, and they’ve made substantial rule changes to try to lessen the violent impact of the game, in the hopes of influencing college football, and high school football officials to follow suit.

The ‘be careful what you wish for’ crowd has heard all of these arguments too, and they’re sensitive to them. No one wants to see a young life affected to the degree we’ve witnessed in far too many instances, but when esteemed neurologists list sports’ alternatives for concerned parents, proponents suggest that they fail to recognize the need young boys have to hit one another in a violent manner. Those other sports might satisfy the need young people have for competitive athletic activity, team play, and various other character-building exercises that build self-esteem, but they don’t satisfy the primal impulses young men have to commit violent acts on one another.

Those of us, who played an inordinate amount of unnecessarily violent, pickup games of tackle football, know that football was our favorite way to satiate that primal need for violence. We didn’t know anything about these beneficial qualities, and we didn’t know the possible harm we were doing to ourselves when we played these games, but we saw our non-football playing friends go out for the evening just to “crack some skulls.” We thought they were joking, or engaging in some false bravado, but they had all this pent-up rage, and this general sense of animosity and anger that they couldn’t explain. They needed to unleash in an impulsive, irrational manner. They wanted to hurt someone, and they always got hurt in the process, but they wore their bruises and open cuts as symbols of valor. They failed to adequately explain what a rush it was to the rest of us, because they probably couldn’t understand it well enough to explain it. The only thing they knew was that they gained respect from their peers for their violent tendencies, and it did wonders for their self-esteem. They also enjoyed an element of team spirit in some cases. Those fight nights gained them what the rest of us attained playing football.    

“No one is saying that if we ban football or make it less violent, it will automatically lead to more violent young men, but if you think it will make them less violent, be careful what you wish for,” proponents say to parents who will not allow their children to play football. When our grade school banned football on the playground, we played kill the man with the ball. Our school administrators caught on, and they banned that. Soon after that, we played kill the man with the pine cone. If we dilute football to the point of hopscotch, proponents say, boys will find a way to hit each other, tackle each other, or some way to inflict pain on one another, because we cannot legislate the impulsive, primal nature out of boys and young men. Most parents, who raise their children in safe, happy climates cannot understand why they have violent tendencies, and we might not remember why we did, but football proponents suggest that the sport satisfies something in us that no other non-contact sport can.

Even though this impulsive need for an outlet to indulge violent tendencies has existed throughout human history, we have to imagine that B.C. humans didn’t want to discuss it in polite company either. The games the cavemen and the ancient Romans played were more violent, of course, and modern man might think he stands above that which occurred back then, and we might have a more advanced brain than those who sit below us in the animal kingdom, but the primal need for an outlet still exists in some. This conversation is so unpleasant and uncomfortable that the major broadcasts networks will never cover it on one of their pregame broadcasts, and I don’t think we’ll ever hear this as a topic on one of the all too numerous sports radio programs, because it feeds into the portrayal of young men as primal beasts. Yet, we all know this unpleasant side of young men exists, and if we don’t provide them a monitored, somewhat controlled method of channeling their impulses and needs, it might result in other unintended consequences our society doesn’t want to consider.

Sons of Anarchy, and the war of words on violence in the media

What would cause a forty-seven year old man to become so enraged that he regresses back to his high school days, and his favorite high school swears, by calling another grown man “a f***ing douchebag”?  What would cause a seemingly brilliant mind —a mind that created six seasons of a highly rated television show— to become so desperate in an argument against a critical opponent he calls them “an idiot that is idiotic, unintelligent, not bright, and an angry white guy with an exclusionary plan, using fear and (G)od to spread a gospel of ignorance?”  What would then cause other men —men purported to be respected in the mainstream— to read such a letter and regard it as “widely respected”?

Founder of the Parents Television Council (PTC), and current Media Research Center (MRC) member, Brent Bozell, and Sons of Anarchy creator, and primary screenwriter, Kurt Sutter engaged in a war of words regarding the violent nature of that show’s September 10, 2013 season premiere for its sixth season. 

BZFBrent Bozell claimed, in a Fox Nation piece, that the show’s premiere was gratuitous with it’s depiction of violence.  Some of the scenes, that Bozell catalogued from the show include, a Columbine-style “School shooting, ‘milking a fictional Catholic school shooting for commercial gain,’ as well as two rapes, and a man drowning in a bathtub of urine.”{1} Sons of Anarchy creator, primary screenwriter, and showrunner, Kurt Sutter, claimed that he didn’t include any of those particular violent scenes for shock value, and Bozell responded to that, and a war of words was born.

Most of the back and forth that occurred between these two doesn’t interest me.  I’m not overly concerned with Bozell’s greater, moralistic fears for society, or the role of Michelle Obama in this matter… or any other matter.  I also don’t think Sutter’s “widely distributed, widely read, and widely praised” letter was effective, but the reason I deem this exchange newsworthy is Brent Bozell’s attempt to dissect the motivations for making violent TV shows today, by using Sons of Anarchy as a focal point for that argument.

Sutter wants people to believe that the larger plot point was how the biker gang, in this series, is going to (slowly, over many episodes) reap the consequences of their gun-running.  But we know what the “bigger objective of the episode” is: “Ka-ching.”  You load as much sensationalistic sludge in your debut episode to build some ratings momentum.  The “narrative arc” that follows may try to make some sense of that avalanche, but it doesn’t justify it.” 

The fact that the narrative arc may not ever justify the inclusion of violence is true, but for many of us that just doesn’t matter.  Most of us don’t care what happens in the aftermath of such scenes.  We don’t care if there is a greater moral message, or if the character learns from his depravity, we just want the scenes.  We want to rubberneck on that interstate accident to see that guy’s leg sticking out of the car, every night, in primetime, and in the comfort of our living room. We want to see a Mr. White cut off a policeman’s ear, as happened in the brilliant Reservoir Dogs, to speak into it.  He cut off the cops ear and said stuff into it.  Suh-weet!!!  What happened to Mr. White in the end?  Did he learn from his malfeasance?  I honestly don’t remember, because I don’t care.  We want to see blood fly, and we want to see the perpetrators of the violent act walk away like it’s just another manic Monday.  This, as Mr. Christopher states in the quote below, is what is called “torture-porn”.  Writers know all about torture-porn, as do screenwriters, and everybody that’s into this type of fiction, but it doesn’t advance their agenda to talk about it in this manner, so we don’t.  We call it art, we defend it as art, and we expect our audience to define it as art regardless how far down the pole we slide.

 (Sons of Anarchy) began as a well-produced, white-washed examination of morally ambiguous bikers,” writes Tommy Christopher for Mediaite, “But it has devolved into melodramatic torture-porn.”{2}

As Mr. Christopher alludes, most creators/show runners have one, maybe two, and possibly three seasons of a television show, in mind even before the production of the first season begins.  They have it all logged in what is called a show’s bible.  That bible contains tight scripts, motives for actions, reactions, characters, characterizations, beginnings and endings, and anything and everything showrunners can think of to pitch to the networks then make what they hope to be a great show.  If they are lucky, and that term may be considered relative over time, and their show gets renewed a couple times, the showrunner begins to realize that the material in his bible is finite.

Most showrunners don’t plan on making a season six when they begin.  They can’t.  They have to take it day by day, and season by season.  It’s the nature of the business.  If a showrunner is lucky enough to have a season six, one cannot blame them for feeling some desperation, and some pressure, be it external, or internal, to create a sixth season that is as great as his first or second.  The first couple of seasons of tight scripts that the showrunner pined over for years, and in some cases a decade, are gone, and they’re left with months to produce cutting edge material that keeps them atop the hip, cutting edge, cut-throat world of TV.

One has to guess that in place of those tight narratives, Sutter chose to supplant them with torture-porn, and murder-porn, scenes that kept his show cutting-edge and popular.  One has to guess that there was great deal of pressure on Sutter to make this season’s premiere the greatest ever made, just as there is immense pressure on every writer to do it, and possibly overdo it every time out, until “it” hopefully becomes unforgettable.  If Sutter were not under such pressure from the network, and their advertisers, one would think that Sutter would have been able to shrug off Bozell’s charges better, and say that the man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Sutter’s juvenile attack on Bozell, suggest that Bozell must have nailed Sutter’s motivations so well that Sutter had no defense for it.

The You-So-Stupid defense

“I would imagine these (PTC and MRC members) are not evil people,” Sutter says, in an attempt to be sardonic.  “But they are just not very intuitive or intelligent individuals.  It’s such a small and simple view of process.  The fact that people want to be monitoring what my children watch is terrifying.  There is no awareness of what is the bigger objective of that episode is, the bigger point of the narrative.”{3}

It’s not complicated, I would counter and Mr. Sutter knows it, and that’s what makes him so sensitive to Bozell’s charges.  Sutter wanted to have provocative, cutting-edge, timely, and popular scenes.  He got eight million viewers.  Do you know how many showrunners would kill for eight million viewers?  You did it Mr. Sutter.  Quit trying to make it seem more complicated than it is.  You won!?

Bozell countered Sutter’s charge:

“(Sutter and his team) are getting paid millions to offend as aggressively as they can possibly imagine.  They have nothing to discuss but their own “intelligent and intuitive” work and how outrageously hip they are.”

OUCH!  Placing myself in Sutter’s shoes —as a creative writer that writes scenes that are violent, based on the numerous violent scenes that I have enjoyed in fiction, movies, and TV— I have to say that Bozell’s insightful condemnations would wreck me.  I like to think that I’m a creative, intuitive, and intelligent writer, but when someone takes away my ammunition as thoroughly as Bozell did in two sentences, I would probably start making mean faces and throwing spitballs too.

The Censorship Defense

“Whenever that stuff crosses the line into censorship, it’s just scary … I’m not a social guru, I’m not a guy with an agenda politically, socially or morally.  I’m a f***ing storyteller.”

Most artists misuse the word censorship when someone criticizes their work.  It’s their desperate attempt to thwart criticism, for in the truest definition of the word, Bozell is not capable of censoring Sutter.  Bozell does not work for a government agency, he does not work for Sons of Anarchy in any manner, or for the network that airs it, and he does not have any direct pull with their advertisers.  He is simply acting as a critic, in the manner Brent Bozell has always offered criticism.  Anyone that pays attention to Brent Bozell knows who he is, and how and what he critiques.  If you don’t like him, don’t read him.  When Robin Williams denigrated religious preachers, was he censoring Jerry Falwell, or was he a righteous dude?  In this game, it all depends on which side of the stadium you’re sitting on.

The Start-A-Debate Defense

At one point, Mr. Sutter claimed that he just wanted to “start a debate” on the topics covered in the show.  He obviously picked that “start a debate” card out of the politician’s excuse hat that contains the cards “start a dialogue,” and “start a conversation”.  The problem with using such a line is that some of the times an actual debate breaks out, and you might encounter someone that takes the other side of that debate.  It appears that the debate that Mr. Sutter wanted to start was one that he was entirely unprepared for, and he was left with nothing more than personal attacks and swears.

The aspect of this debate that is utterly confounding is that anyone that reads Bozell’s actual blog on this topic, will probably have to re-read it about five times to figure out how this relatively benign criticism sent Sutter on such a tear.  You’ll wonder how such a relatively benign criticism could cause a forty-seven year old man to lose his mind and write a letter that calls another grown man a “Pathetic, f****ing douchebag.”  I’m not sure what school of thought Mr. Sutter currently calls home, but having nothing left but juvenile names and petty accusations says more to me about Mr. Sutter than it does Mr. Bozell.

In his letter, Sutter writes that Bozell is an “idiot” and his organizations are “idiotic”.  He claims that Bozell is about nothing more than his agenda, that is “desperately trying to create a lobby”, and that Bozell and “his hate club are flaccid and impotent”.  Sutter writes that Bozell is: “Not very bright, (that Bozell’s) message is archaic, and loving parents can innately sense that the PTC has no heart and no real interest in the betterment of children.  You reek of McCarthyism and holy water.  And right-minded folks can smell you coming a mile away.”  He writes that Bozell is “just an angry white guy with an exclusionary plan, using fear and god to spread a gospel of ignorance.”  Sutter then concludes his letter with: “I bet your kids hate you.” {4}

In a piece for the Washington Free Beacon, Sonny Bunch claims that this Sutter letter was: “Widely distributed, widely read, and widely praised.”{5}  I know that it’s written to denounce a conservative, and I’m sure that those on the receiving end of these distributions hate conservatives, but I’ve tried to read this “widely praised” letter with objectivity, and I can’t understand how anyone would consider it a “gotcha” moment for Mr. Sutter to celebrate.  It reads like a letter a teenage boy would send to a girl that just dumped him, and it makes the reader want to take Sutter aside and say, “There are other fish in the sea.”  Adolescent rage are the only words that come to mind when I read Sutter include “idiot” and “idiotic” in the same sentence.  When he criticizes Bozell’s attempts to lobby professionally, it sounds like the raging, teenage boy is trying to find the perfect punctuation to the letter, along the lines of, “and I hope that you don’t make the pom pom team either.”

I don’t understand why Sutter didn’t just let it go.  I don’t understand why Sutter didn’t just say, ‘Bozell is a religious, conservative, and he’s not my demographic, and the only people that read his column are religious conservatives.’  I don’t understand why he would want to give Mr. Bozell’s opinions more airtime.

At this point in the overall debate of artistic content, so many provocative artists have defended themselves in so many ways, that all of Mr. Sutter’s defenses now sound like clichés.  Sutter could’ve tried the “reflecting a culture” response that rappers give, but even that has become a cliché at this point.   He could’ve tried turning the responsibility back on the parents, with the cliché: “Hey, it’s their job to watch what their kids are watching not mine.”  The only response that is not cliché, and the one I would use if I had eight million viewers, is, “People watched it.  Scoreboard!  I provide a product in the same manner Budweiser provides a product, or Coke, or Hostess.  It may not be good for you, or the culture, as Bozell puts it, but that is a decision each household has to make.  That is what the free market is all about.”  The only thing that would prevent me from doing an “Eight million viewers” touchdown dance would be if I had some sort of insecurity about the material I created that attracted eight million viewers.

Bozell wrote: “The (FX) network and the “creative team of Sons of Anarchy” are getting paid millions to offend as aggressively as they can possibly imagine.”

This line, more than any other, probably provoked Sutter, because it called to mind all the pressure Sutter felt to do it, and overdo it, with more shock, and more violence than he had included before.  I’m sure he felt personal, and professional pressure to equal, and possibly top, the progression that began with Goodfellas, moved to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, to The Sopranos, and finally to Breaking Bad, and that he hoped to carve Sons of Anarchy a niche somewhere in that lineup.  Judging by Sutter’s vitriolic response, I’m guessing Sutter feels he fell short, and Bozell’s commentary only intensified that feeling.

When Sutter tells you it’s not about the shock, I can tell you –as a writer of violent crime fiction– that it’s all about the shock.  To paraphrase Bret Easton Ellis, I try to write something that will shock my friends, and my friends are pretty jaded.  All the movies and shows listed above have jaded us, and we are always on the lookout for our own progression in that line.  We love to shock, we live to shock, and we probably wouldn’t be writing today if it weren’t for those inspirations shocking our sensibilities into this direction.

I would not be interested in writing a story about a quirky family in New Hampshire that happens to live in, and own, a Hotel.  All the power to John Irving, one of the greatest living writers, but that ain’t me.  I would love to achieve the fame, and sales, of The Bridges of Madison County, and Tuesdays with Morrie, but I’ll never write stories like those.  I need a little violence in my stories, to be intrigued.  I need a lot of violence to be interested, and I need this violence to reflect a culture that has the perpetrators walking away from these extremely violent scenes like it’s just another manic Monday.  I am not a violent person, but I think those movies listed above were monumental, and influential.  All of them bordered on being gratuitously violent, in a manner that shook my foundation and my fundamentals, and after viewing them, I decided that I wanted to write the progression, and I’m sure that it was Sutter’s goal too.

The problem with being this open and honest about your intentions, or your agenda, is that you’re allowing others to see your intentions, and your agenda, and that somehow minimizes your intentions, and your agenda in a manner that makes them too apparent.  If an author has a violent scene that is cool, very few of them will say that they just wanted to write a violent scene that was cool.  They’ll tell you that the character, and the plot, are driven by a myriad of complications that will become clear when the narrative arc reaches its climax.  Yet, if you watch these shows, and movies, as often as I do, and you read ‘the complications to come’ interviews from their author, you find that more often than not, it was all about the shock and awe of writing violent scenes that were cool.  You can’t say that though.  Saying things like that makes you feel too much like a carnival barker trying to get patrons to take a look at the bearded lady, and the problem with that is that there might be some critic that comes along and says it’s just another bearded lady, and you’re just another carnival barker.





Is our lust for violence leading us to Hunger Games?

punchedThe “Hunger Games” story is based on a theme similar to those in the “Escape from New York” and “Running Man” stories that suggest that man will eventually regress back to our primal state where we will once again enjoy the pinnacle of violence in gladiator-style games.  Those that make such claims state that our insatiable lust for violence is exhibited by the fact that we don’t so much enjoy the hockey of the NHL anymore, as much as we enjoy the fights that occasionally break out; the crashes in NASCAR, as opposed to the race; and the hits in the NFL and boxing, as opposed to their strategies.  Some have claimed that the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) occurred as a result of too much strategy in boxing and not enough violence.  They state that those traditionally popular sporting events no longer feed our insatiable lust for violence, and that we have progressed to the point where we only enjoy the violent incidents that occur in these sports, and that this is one of the reasons that ESPN has succeeded on such a large scale.  If it’s true that our insatiable lust for violence is progressing, is our society on a trajectory to gladiator-style “Hunger Games”?

An indicator of this progression, some say, was the short-lived, Sunday Night Football pre-game segment called “Jacked Up!” “Jacked Up!” was an ESPN segment that focused on the most powerful, bone crushing NFL hits of the week, that had the commentators punctuating each hit with the words “Jacked Up!”

Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman once commented on the “Jacked Up!” segment, writing that ESPN commentators were: “Equivalent to citizens of 17th or 18th Century England enjoying a nice outing at a public hanging. And when the trap is released and the poor guy is hung, they’d all yell, “Jacked Up!”{2}

Some would say that it’s vital to correct the course we’re on by canceling segments like “Jacked Up!” that celebrate brutal hits, that we start placing rules on all hits in football, and that a school district in the “Live Free or Die” state New Hampshire legislates against dodge ball, “because of bullying concerns.”{1} It’s vital that we do these things, they say, so that we can correct the current course we’re on and make moves towards making our society a kinder and gentler one.

The theme of the “Hunger Games” story is that to prevent war, we must provide society some degree of violence.  The theme is that we (the society in the movie) need to satiate the need for violence, so that we may prevent the ultimate form of violence: war. It’s an apt theme to some degree:

“Young people, especially young men, need an outlet for their violent tendencies,” a former teacher of mine once said. “And football is the best outlet I’ve ever seen…Better than wrestling, boxing, or any other contact sport available to young men.”

As legislation and rules attempt to move us to a kinder, gentler society, are we “progressing” away from primal activities such as football?  Are “images of major, bone crunching NFL hits going the way of smoking in airplanes?” as one Rolling Stone writer suggested.  Are the measures we use to ban events that seed bullying, like Dodge ball, going to successfully change the trajectory of our culture so that we stave off an “Escape from New York”, “Hunger Games” style future, or are we incidentally creating one?

Anyone that has been bullied knows that there are some unfortunate supplements it offers a person. Will some bullying result in the lowered self-esteem of the victim, yes it will.  Will it cause some to harm themselves in ways that our society should not condone, yes it will.  Will it introduce some kids to the idea that the world can be an awful, mean place at times, yes it will. But will it prepare them for the awful, mean things adults will do to them in life when they become adults, yes it will. The unfortunate side effect to being bullied is that it usually doesn’t have the same devastating emotional impact the second time around.

If Tom Jones picks on you in second grade, and you survive his mental torture intact, chances are when Pat Thomas bullies you in the third grade the emotional devastation won’t be as severe as that of Tom Jones’, and when you enter the workplace and your boss tells you that you aren’t worth a hill of beans, you’ll have the temerity to bite back on that and become a better employee in the aftermath. When your spouse tells you you’re worthless, or your fellow employees single you out for their torture, you can defeat them with the notion that they’re not as bad as that which Tom Jones inflicted upon you in the second grade. That was humiliating and devastating, but it made you stronger emotionally. It gave you precedent.

There are always going to be some, however, that don’t survive, or become better and stronger, and social commentators always single these people out with the idea that these attempts to change the trajectory of our culture will all be worth it if we can prevent one child from ever having to learn what a frown is.  If you disagree, to any extent, you are called a social Darwinist. Others, social Darwinists if you will, claim that school, and childhood in general, is preparation for adulthood.  You gain a shell in childhood that can serve you throughout your life, you gain an exoskeleton, and a cerebral toughness in this process of socialization. Some incidentally mix these issues when they proclaim that home schooling deprives its subjects of the socialization that traditionally schooled children experience.  Yet, some of these same people will go to unusual lengths to rid schools of any activities “that could seed” bullying.

“You can’t criticize young people,” a friend of mine told me when talking about the current lot of employees working under him. “They’re so soft and tender that they fall apart at the slightest criticism. They’re shocked that anyone would dare call them out on their performance. It’s like they’ve never been criticized before. It doesn’t matter how venial the criticism is. They fall apart emotionally. We got criticized as young employees, and we mentally told our boss to go jump in the lake and became stronger in the aftermath to prove that we he said about us wasn’t true. I have to be very careful to surround any criticisms I have of these kids with compliments, so I don’t lose them. Is this a recent phenomenon, or am I glamorizing my own toughness as a young person?”

The current course we’re on, that which bans helmet to helmet hits, bans dodge ball, makes all contact sports illegal, and instructs every teacher to avoid any kind of criticism has created a society of young people that currently leads the world in self-esteem, yet ends up scoring very low in Math and Science testing.  Believing that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to is, of course, vital, but what happens to a person that progresses through life with an unmatched belief in their ability with no one telling them that they’re doing it wrong?  Why would they alter their course?  How would they learn from their mistakes, if no one tells them they’re making mistakes?  Are they going to sit around and wait for the world to come to them, and when no one recognizes their genius in the real world what do they do with that anger?

It may never happen that lawyers, legislators, and do gooders make football out and out illegal, but it will almost assuredly be a game we don’t recognize in ten years. The hits that currently occur in the game may go the way of “smoking in airplanes” but is that a good thing? Is it good to make illegal those aspects of life that plant the seeds of bullying, or are we only taking away the outlets for male aggression, and what are the unintended consequences to having all that young, male aggression bottled up and frustrated? Are we progressing toward that primal, “Hunger Game”, gladiator society that worships violence, or a listless, lost generation that sits around waiting for things to happen for them, because they don’t know how to make it happen for themselves, because they’ve never been told that they’re doing it wrong? Are we making a less violent society by taking away those events that generate aggression, or are we only causing more violence by taking away outlets?

A UFC fighter once said, “Some people look at what I do as violent, but I look at it in a different way.  You can call this twisted logic if you want, but I think that I’m teaching my opponent that getting hit is not as bad as he might have thought.  He may lose a few teeth when I hit him, and he may even get knocked out, but something happens to a person when they survive that hit. They get rejuvenated by surviving that which they feared most.  It gives them a new lease on life.”

It is a twisted sort of logic, as the UFC fighter suggested, to say that getting hit, bullied, and criticized can provide a person benefits, but it can’t be denied that most will get tougher in the aftermath.  Some will sink further into the corner, but most will feel rejuvenated by the idea that if they survived that they can survive anything.  Do gooders seek to take all these negative reinforcements away to protect children from experiencing  the same pain and disappointments they experienced in life.

Do gooders don’t get their name by purposely setting out to damage children however.  When they do what they do to end bullying in all schools, it’s an admirable thing that will elicit rounds of applause for nobody is pro-bullying, but it’s what they end up doing to achieve this goal that ends up garnering them a reputation for doing “good things” with no eye to the future or the unintended consequences of their actions.

For a couple generations now movie makers have been predicting a societal trajectory to gladiator games, based upon our current lust for violence, but if we successfully 180 that trajectory will the subjects of all of these anti-bullying measures eventually land in a utopian land of peace and harmony, or will they live in a state of perpetual fear of getting hit, criticized, or bullied where they don’t gain the unfortunate supplements of knowledge that those acts of negative reinforcement can teach us?

{1} http://guyspeed.com/new-hampshire-bans-dodgeball-because-of-bullying-concerns/ {2}http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/writers/dr_z/10/08/drz.mailbag/index.html