Western Society and Violence

So reading Sapolsky’s scientific article, “The frontal cortex and the criminal justice system” (2004), I couldn’t help but to be fascinated with his discussion of Americans and Western civilization pertaining to the criminal justice system and violence. He states: “I write as and American, which means that the criminal justice system that I am most familiar with has some rather unique features to it. This includes a society with some extremely high rates of violence, of incarceration and of recidivisim, a propensity virtually unmatched in the Judeo-Christian world for executing criminals (coupled with frequent cases of conviction of the wrong person in capital cases), and well-documented patterns in which the likelihood of conviction and the severity of punishment differ systematically as a function of the ethnicity and socio-economic status of perpetrators and/or victims.

This was so interesting to me to think of the implications of why Western society is plagued by so many acts of violence and violent crimes. Though the NPR link that Melissa promised is coming, I found another great few things to comment on.

I found a great article called “Psychological and Anthropological Perspectives on Fairness, Fundamentalism, and Terrorism

Though this article focuses a lot on the roots of terrorism, it also discusses the reasons for acts of violence, namely socio-economic status, which ties directly into Sapolsky’s paper. This can be generalized to gang violence in America, an ongoing problem in many large cities.

I also found a great book called “A History of Violence” by Stephen Pinker.

In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.”

What do you think are some possible explanations for these shifts in violence? How does Western society succumb to these violent problems? What are some possible solutions to these problems, if you see any?

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