The vast majority of people who kill and commit acts of violence are men, but it would be wrong to assume that men are hardwired to harm others, says Gary Barker in this guest blog pegged to the UK release of our new anti-war novel, The Afghan Vampires Book Club.
More than 400,000 people are murdered each year globally and more than 50,000 are killed in armed conflict. Some 80 per cent of those killed are men. And more than 97 per cent of those who carry out homicides are men.
As we watch the latest killings of hostages under Isil, or the daily drug-related murders, or the faces on the front-line of any of the world’s conflicts, it’s easy to assume that men – and angry young men in particular – are natural-born killers. Or at least to think that boys are born with a natural propensity to kill that only takes a spark to ignite.
In my lifetime I’ve witnessed two of these killings. One was the killing of a young man by another young man in my high school cafeteria when I was 16, in Houston, Texas. The other was on the streets of Medellin, Colombia, during the height of its drug wars. In that case it was also two young men: a young male police officer killing a young man presumed to be involved in the drug trade.
Both in Texas and Colombia, I saw firsthand what it took to turn young men into killers. These young men were not born trigger-happy and with weapons in their hands. Lethal weapons were available and commonplace, as was the daily normalisation of and exposure to violence on the streets and in their homes. In the case of the police officer in Medellin – like the recent publicised cases of killings by police in the US or Brazil – we can presume the homicide was authorised, perhaps even encouraged, in the name of public security.
Contrary to what Fox News and faulty science would say, it takes a huge effort to turn boys and men into killers. From primatologists to evolutionary anthropologists, we know that neither women nor men are killers by nature.
Extreme trauma, humiliation, shaming, social isolation and intense indoctrination are nearly always part of the making of men who kill. Other researchers have shown how the effects of toxic childhoods and damaging relationships distort our human nature and turn us into killers. The anger that some young men feel in the face of poverty and discrimination may be natural or normal; using lethal violence is not.
All of this research affirms that killing is not natural nor biologically rooted, nor is it associated inherently with any given cultural, social or religious group. Yes, we are biologically capable of killing and can be induced or conditioned to do so. But we know that militaries, police forces and other armed groups around the world have to invest hugely in systems to teach and inculcate boys and men, and sometimes women, to kill. The reasons for killing among these three groups are often vastly different, of course, but the process of encouraging men to kill is similar.
Turning young men into lethal combatants, whether in standing militaries, insurgency groups, police forces or violent gangs, or as lone killers, is extremely time- and resource-intensive. It takes months if not years of constant breaking and rupturing of basic human connections; it often requires systematic cruelty and brutality; it requires intense indoctrination; it requires rupturing relationships or having family members or peers who encourage killing rather than discourage it; and it requires the systematic “othering” of the “enemy.” None of these things are hard-wired into us as human beings. Indeed, the research, from Darwin onwards, is overwhelming that we survived and thrived as a species because our biological and social propensity to live in connection and close cooperation with others is vastly stronger than any propensity to kill or harm each other.
We are good at teaching men to kill. And how we’re horrible at helping them recover from it.
Our war and security machinery – whether among our standing armies or insurgent or terrorist groups – is nothing less than a societal or group project to overcome our natural human resistance to violence. And the social costs over staggering. To give one example, there are more than 25 million war veterans in the US alone. This means 25 million highly trained veterans who are mostly taught to respond to threats with violence.
One in five US veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars came back with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In our recent anti-war novel, The Afghan Vampires Book Club, my co-author Michael Kaufman and I highlight just how good we have become at teaching and socialising men to kill. And how we’re horrible at helping them recover from it.
It may give us slim consolation that the young men (and women) turned into killers are being pushed against their true nature rather toward their true nature. But it is a place to start. To understand that there is nothing natural about killing – that killing is the deepest rupturing of our humanity – is to feel the outrage necessary to question where it comes from and how we can prevent it.
It’s time we spent much more time, energy, and resources helping boys and men tap into their natural and biological desire not to kill. It’s time that we look at every young man, in low income urban areas, or in the Middle East, or in the epicenters of drug violence, as human beings who were taught and conditioned to kill. Not as natural-born killers for whom the only response is repression and more killing.
This article was first published in The Telegraph (UK) on June 5, 2015. Gary Barker is my co-author of the anti-war novel The Afghan Vampires Book Club (World Editions), just released in the UK. He is also founder and international director of Promundo, an NGO that works in violence prevention and gender equality in Latin America, the US, and sub-Saharan Africa
Learning Experiences Against Sexual Assault from Taiwan September 7, 2016
By Zhang Rongli Editor: Yang Yang
Similar to any other country and region in the world, women and children in southeast China's Taiwan Province have long been beset by sexual violence.
According to data collected by local scholars, sexual assault cases in Taiwan have climbed from 776 in 1987 to 2116 in 2002, a three-fold increase in 15 years.
Moreover, under the strong pressure of public opinion, the murder of Peng Wanru a former female politician of the Democratic Progressive Party who was raped and killed in November 1996 in Kaohsiung forced the local legislative body to pass the Sexual Assault Prevention Act in January 1997. After several amendments, the law has become an important legal basis for such cases across the province.
As a special legislation to prevent sexual assaults, the law includes four characteristics.
Firstly, strengthening the main responsibility status of the government in the prevention of sexual assaults.
Meanwhile, local governments also set up prevention centers, equipped with social workers, police, medical staff and other professionals to carry out relevant work.
Next, taking preventative and control measures against sexual assault.
Given the fact that children are major victims in such cases, the law stipulates that prevention of sexual assault should be included in the national curriculum and students at primary and secondary schools across the province should accept at least four hours of relevant courses during each semester.
Thirdly, the core value orientation of the legislation is to protect the interests of victims.
For instance, the law regulates that local sexual assault prevention centers should provide 24-hour emergency assistance to the victim, enabling them to seek medical treatment and injury identification, as well as other services.
Furthermore, in order to avoid further damages to victims, the law also stipulates that such cases shall not be heard in public. At the same time, an accuser's interrogation can be executed out of court through voice or video devices so as to isolate the victim from the defendant or even the judge.
Last, taking necessary corrective action and ensuring strict control of sexual offenders.
Sexual offenders have to accept professional treatment if it is believed necessary by experts. Moreover, probation officers can be employed to take control of perpetrators who are on parole or probation.
In addition, sexual criminals' personal information should be registered at local public security organs regularly for seven years.
It is worth mentioning that organizations for the protection of women and children in Taiwan have been playing a key role in fighting against such crimes.
Taiwan's Sexual Assault Prevention Act, a law with a gender perspective, not only promotes gender equality across the province, but also plays an active role in the protection of local women and children's human rights.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Gender Study Network)
I'm writing this post on the first day of the exhibition installation here in Taipei - the only reason I have time to write is that we can't actually begin to install until 6pm because of museum regulations, so it's going to be an all-nighter! Leon Tsai who is the local co curator and I had a walk through of the 1st floor space yesterday and ran into our first (and hopefully last) conflict with the Museum.
One of the artists had made an artwork resembling a vulva which would surround the doors of the elevator in the ground floor exhibition space ......the Museum people really didn't want that, so the compromise was found and we will feature the artwork around the elevator doors on the 3rd floor instead - the compromise is not the worst option so we're all relieved. It is always instructive to look at what is or is not acceptable to our host partners and to figure creative ways to overcome obstacles!
The Museum itself is undergoing external repairs which give it a 'wrapped like a Christo' look which I think I may prefer to the actual exterior.
Some estimates concerning conflict related sexual violence: • Globally, sexual violence against women, men, adolescents and children has been reported in 51 countries that have experienced conflict within the last 25 years, giving a sense of how common it is a component or consequence of conflict (Bastick, Grimm, & and Kunz, 2006).
• Among a random sample of 205 women and girls in Liberia, nearly half (49%) reported experiencing at least one act of physical or sexual violence by a combatant (Swiss et al., 1998).
• In Sarajevo Canton, 80% of the 5,000 male inmates held at a concentration camp reported being raped, and more than 50,000 women were raped (UN Women, 2010).
• In the eastern DRC, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented: 1,100 per month (UN Women, 2011).
• In Colombia, 36% of internally displaced women in the country had been forced to have sex by men (Ministry for Social Protection, 2003).
• In Sierra Leone, among a random sample of internally displaced persons, 9% of female household heads and 8% of female household members reported war-related sexual assaults (Amowitz et al., 2002).
• One of the most rigorous studies of sexual violence in the eastern DRC shows the magnitude of this violence against both males and females. This careful study suggests that in an area with 5 million people, 1.3 million women and 0.76 million men are survivors of sexual violence, although this includes pre-, during- and post-conflict data
(Johnson et al., 2010, p. 561).
Thank you to Michael Kaufman for these statistics.
Michael Kaufman co-founder White Ribbon Campaign, Toronto, Canada, www.michaelkaufman.com
Chuan San's portrait of Zhang Xiantu the Comfort woman who died in December 2015 featured in our Hangzhou exhibition. Here's the link to a film about his experience.
The documentary film following the inspiration for and the building of the Intimate Transgressions Project made by Jane Clegg is now on Youtube!
The film of Intimate Transgressions: The Act of Doing - panel discussion at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center is now online and can be viewed at :
From left to right: Fion Gunn, Eleanor Heartney, Shirin Neshat, Luisa Valenzuela and Anita Glesta photo courtesy of WhiteBox
On Thursday 1 October The Act of Doing: Intimate Transgressions panel discussion was held at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center in the Brooklyn Museum, in conjunction with the Intimate Transgressions exhibition at WhiteBox.
Introduced by Marjorie Martay and moderated by Anita Glesta and Fion Gunn the panel featured Eleanor Heartney - art critic, Shirin Neshat - artist and writer Luisa Valenzuela. The panel discussion drew the largest audience which the Center has ever had for its regular Thursday events and the response was interested and enthusiastic.
The discussion was filmed and will be available for viewing on the Brooklyn Museum website and on Youtube shortly.
Below is an article written by Ifay Chang which sheds light on the situation of the Comfort Women in which he draws parallels between the European and Asian experiences of WW2 and its aftermath. Many in the West are unaware of the issues faced by their peers in the East,
Imagine someone you knew. A high school girl on her way to Tainan's Girls High School was captured by a uniformed Japanese military police and was sent to the battle front to serve the Japanese army as a sex slave, being raped day and night for 1095 days - nightmares carved in the girl's memory, painful and unbearable. This happened during WW II. She tried to commit suicide three times with cleaning agents but was unsuccessful. After the Japanese surrendered, she was sent back to Taiwan, but she was shamed and rejected by most of her own people. She finally built up her courage to demand justice from the Japanese government, demanding a sincere apology. But she received none. Now she is over 90 years old and is still fighting for her justice and dignity as a human being. You could watch her story in a video interview, but Xiao Tao 's story is just one of perhaps 200,000 'comfort women' whom the Japanese Army through the authority of the Japanese Government systematically forced into the cruelest and most inhumane sex slavery. This did not just happen to Asian women, as evidenced by a Dutch woman, Jan Ruff-O'Herne's testimony to a U.S. House of Representatives committee.
Yes! Atrocious crimes often were committed during wars, but justice ultimately should prevail. After a war was ended, the war criminals should have been punished and their government should have apologized and their fellow country men and women should have shown remorse
and accepted the guilt. The historical facts should have been passed down to their future generations so everyone would remember the shameful past and would never repeat it again. No! Not the Japanese government, it denies the atrocious war crimes had ever happened during WW II despite of volumes of photographic and video evidence. The Japanese authority denies 'comfort women', 'massacres', 'chemical and bacteria weapons experiments on human', 'live human for surgical experiments', and ruthless 'speed contests in slaughtering of innocent people'. The Japanese government denies them all. The Japanese officials only make veiled and half-hearted apology and they twisted the facts and whitewashed the history in their national textbooks. This is done not just to their war crimes in China, but also to the war crimes in Korea, Philippines, Singapore, and many other Asian nations.
Why?! You may ask. After the ending of WW II, Hitler committed suicide, the Nazi surrendered and the post-war German government accepted the guilty verdict and apologized to the countries the Nazi army invaded. The German authority builds memorial monuments for the victims (including the holocaust) on its homeland and pays tribute to war memorials everywhere showing sincere remorse. The post-war Japanese government, however, behaves entirely differently which angers all of the countries Japan invaded during WW II. The Japanese Prime Ministers, knowing the consequences of their words (lacking sincerity in accepting the war responsibility and making an apology) and deeds (worshipping the Japanese war criminals instead paying tribute to the war victims slaughtered by the Japanese Army), yet repeatedly made inaccurate, inflammatory and insincere remarks concerning the war history and war crimes. This year as the world is commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WW II, some efforts are also made to raise the public conscience about the ‘Comfort Women’ issue.
For example, a local news in California reports: “Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, the sister city of San Francisco, feuds with supervisors of San Francisco, in objecting the establishment of a memorial of comfort women”. Led by supervisors, Jane Kim and Eric Mar, the board passed resolutions to condemn Hashimoto's objection and to build a memorial similar to the one already erected in Glendale and Rohnert Park in California. In March this year, two comfort women statues were being erected in a South Korean city, Pusan. The project was jointly promoted by the South Korean Civic Group and the Association of Chinese Living in the U.S. The purpose of the memorial statues is to elicit genuine remorse from the Japanese authority. Unfortunately, so far only the remarks like Hashimoto's statements: "Comfort Women were necessary to maintain discipline in the Army" and "the Japanese Army was not the only army committed war crimes" were heard, which, of course, infuriate the war victims and the public, even some caring Japanese citizens.A couple of other events related to the comfort women are also noteworthy. Ms Kazuko Yokoi, a daughter of a WW II Japanese War Criminal, courageously and admirably performed in a one-woman show in New York City, this September (and earlier in Bay Area of San Francisco this year) about the experiences of comfort women. The show, named Hitoma (meaning Seeing Is Believing), sifts through the consequences and legacy of the Japanese sex slave program in WW II. Featuring the stories of Korean women and Chinese women, their children, Japanese men and testimonials of comfort women survivals, the show offers a different perspective, broken away from the consciousness of the Japanese public. Another Art Show, named 'Intimate Transgression' cosponsored by the Asian-Pacific Center in Flushing, NY, curates art pieces to portray and remember Comfort Women. It is so appropriate that these art shows are exhibited in a year that all over the world are commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of WW II in one form or another. We hope these art images and activities can awaken people's conscience to recognize that there was indeed 'Comfort Women', some still alive living in pain and shame. There are some Japanese like Kazuko Yokoi who are not ignorant or insensitive to the atrocious facts in the war history. But sadly, the Japanese authority still refuses to accept the truth and still consciously to fool the Japanese youth.
How can anyone justify Japan's official response to the Comfort Women issue? By reading through some historical reports about the Japanese Imperial Army, I could piece together the following scenario: When the Japanese had a piece of Shanghai (joining seven other Western nations) in 1932, there were too many rape cases in Shanghai involving Japanese soldiers. The Japanese commander then sent request to Nagasaki city to send prostitutes (Ianfu) to Shanghai which eventually evolved into a government coordinated effort to offer “comfort women” to raise the military moral. When Japan later obtained control of Korea, the program became a systematic process from "recruiting" (kidnapping and luring) to "military support operation" (installed at military bases even moving with the army with strict freedom control and medical examinations to reduce venereal disease). As the Japanese aggression progresses, so expanded the comfort women program. Hence hundreds of thousands of women like the above Taiwan girl were captured and sent to other countries as sex slaves to serve the Japanese army; the comfort women had no way to escape in a foreign land.
The Japanese army might have started the comfort women program with Japanese prostitutes, but that is no excuse for the Japanese authority to justify the inhumane program or to stubbornly deny the Comfort Women issue involving other Asian countries. With further studies, I venture to offer the following logic for explaining the Japanese authority’s behavior towards the ‘Comfort Women’ issue:
1. The post-war Japanese authority is essentially controlled by the descendants of the Japanese war criminals (Thanks to the generosity of the U.S. occupation command in Japan)
2. The militarism never went away in Japan despite of her peace constitution; restoring Japan's Imperial glory is still deep in the minds of powerful Japanese politicians such as Abe Shinzo and Toru Hashimoto.
3. Honoring the Imperial Army and its mission to conquer the weak nations justifies all efforts (including using comfort women) to support the Imperial Army. The desire to restore the honor of the Japanese Imperial Army mandates continued denying their past war crimes.
4. A belief of sending prostitutes to serve soldiers as a patriotic act is used to justify forcing innocent women to serve the Japanese army as sex slaves as “necessary” military support.
5. All the denials are rooted in the philosophy that the Imperial army’s honor and spirit must be restored in order for Japan to become ‘normal’ again. The Japanese authority hence decides that they will not allow anything to shame the Japanese army.
The above is just one scenario, perhaps, there are other interpretations. I urge people to have an open dialogue to help the Japanese authority to reconcile with the war crimes like the Germans have done. The world would have a brighter future.
Ifay Chang. Ph.D.
Producer/Host, Community Education - Scrammble Game Show, Weekly TV
Columnist, www.us-chinaforum.org - Dr.Wordman
Trustee, Somers Central School District,President, Somers Republican Club
New Book, 4-25-2015, US-China Relations, Mainstream and Organic Views
Twitter: firstname.lastname@example.org, DrWordman@scrammble.com
us-china forum.org issue #112.Ifay