Lifted word for word from Social Psychology by David G. Myers, 2010, which is the required textbook in U.P. Diliman.
The near consensus among social psychologists is that – contrary to what Freud, Lorenz, and their followers supposed – viewing or participating in violence fails to produce catharsis (Geen & Quanty, 1977). Actually, notes researcher Brad Bushman (2002), “Venting to reduce anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire.” For example, Robert Arms and his associates report that Canadian and American spectators of football, wrestling, and hockey games exhibit more hostility after viewing the event than before (Arms & others, 1979; Goldman & Arms, 1971; Russell, 1983). Not even war seems to purge aggressive feelings. After a war, a nation’s murder rate has tended to jump (Archer & Gartner, 1976).
In laboratory tests of catharsis, Brad Bushman (2002) invited angered participants to hit a punching bag while either rumination about the person who angered them or thinking about becoming physically fit. A third group did not hit the punching bag. When given the a chance to administer loud blasts of noise to a person who angered them, people in the punching bag plus rumination condition felt angrier and were more aggressive. Moreover, doing nothing at all more effectively reduced aggression than did “blowing off steam” by hitting the bag.
In some real-life experiments, too, aggressing has led to heightened aggression. Ebbe Ebbessen and his co-researchers (1975) interviewed 100 engineers and technicians shortly after they were angered by layoff notices. Some were asked the questions that gave them an opportunity to express hostility against their employer or supervisors – for example, “What instances can you think of where the company has not been fair with you?” Afterward they answered a questionnaire assessing attitudes toward the company and the supervisors. Did the previous opportunity to “vent” and “drain off” their hostility reduce it? To the contrary, their hostility increased. Expressing hostility bred more hostility.
Retaliation may, in the short run, reduce tension and even provide pleasure (Ramirez & others, 2005). But in the long run it fuels more negative feelings. When people who have been provoked hit a punching bag, even when they believe it will be cathartic, the effect is the opposite – leading them to exhibit more cruelty, report Bushman and his colleagues (1999, 2000, 2001). It’s like the old joke,” reflected Bushman (1999). “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you become a very angry person? The answer is the same. Practice, practice, practice.”
For the last few days I have been turning this problem over and over again in my head. I’ve also spoken to frat men friends and my personal council of elders, or the people around me who I look up to as mentors, tossing ideas related to this around.
The question in my mind is, “What can one do to attempt to take down this violent beast?” This process led me to the thought of perhaps taking the fight off the streets into an organized venue, where combatants can engage using the rules of some sport with clear boundaries. The thought was that by elevating the fight to the ring you are guaranteeing that while fights will still occur, deaths will not. Here, pugilists can fight against each other with a referee in charge - weaponless and bound by internationally accepted rules. From there though I started to do research to see if this idea was backed up by science, and in the process I found the textbook I used in the Social Psychology class which was required reading for me last semester.
A few sentences into my reading these lines jumped out at me, giving me the answer to the complex questions which have left me sleepless for the last two days:
Expressing hostility breeds more hostility. Retaliation may, in the short run, reduce tension and even provide pleasure. But in the long run it fuels more negative feelings. Venting to reduce anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire.
As I read these I knew in my inner cathedral that the divine was telling me that no amount of organized and supposedly “fair” competition between two groups that hate each other, will make that hate dissipate. In fact, that would only make things worse. I think that thought in itself was a trick, a deception, telling me to encourage the “lesser evil” when in fact there is no such thing, as evil is evil, no matter what docile costume it has on. Martial artists in the UFC and boxers in matches worldwide normally smile, hug and sometimes even kiss their opponents right after the final bell has been sounded. I do not see this love for the sport, and the honing of one’s fighting prowess in a disciplined manner in the frat wars of today. Thus, in my opinion, sanctioned fighting between frats will still not result in any kind of peace.
As the textbook clearly points out, the frat war and arguably even the initiation, seems to fulfill a need though - a need that most human beings would like to believe doesn’t even exist in us. This is the sick pleasure that comes from hurting another human being. This is also what the Marquis de Sade has become an expert in, finding the pain inflicted on another pleasurable.
Now can we - civilized, educated, elite and powerful men accept that the true reason we paddle and punch and hit our neighbors (regardless of whether they are brods or rivals) is not for tradition or honor but actually for blood. I would imagine that this thought would be repulsing to a frat man or a military guy who would swear on a stack of bibles and say, “No, that certainly is not me. I am an Atenista or an Isko ng Bayan or a Lasalista, or a PMAer. Mayaman ako, hindi ako taga-Bilibid gang lang. Ako ay may pinag-aralan. I would never hurt another human, especially a future brod, unless I am absolutely certain there is some much higher purpose being served, like honor and tradition and developing a common bond. And I am positive beyond a shadow of a doubt this blood brotherhood can only be developed in this specific way. There is no other way to get people to connect with each other as brods except through repeating the process that has been passed down to us through many generations.” And in response I would say, “You know what bro, think about it really, really, really hard. And don’t ask your brods because they will surely be able to give you some logical rationalization to justify your collective actions. Think about it when you are alone at home before you sleep. And before you think about it pray earnestly for guidance, asking the good spirit to allow you to hear the slightest whisper of your soul. Now ask yourselves quietly, “When I paddled that guy, or spat insults in his face, or pounced on that rival frat man, or kicked that neophyte or plebe, masarap ba ang pakiramdam ko? When I hurt another human being did I feel that evil demon inside me growing and snickering, or is this really all about justice, honor and tradition? Did I derive some secret, primal pleasure from this experience? Kaya ko ba hinanahap-hanap ang ganito, kaya ko ba siya binabalik-balikan?”
The more you hurt another, you will get to the point that you will eventually hate them, and then maybe transfer that hate to either that person or some other target. If you hit and hit and hit someone you get more and more enraged till the beast inside all of us is released. Logically, you also get the same effect with any positive emotion such as empathy, forgiveness, kindness and love. The more you love people around you, the more this emotion grows and grows, till cheesy as it sounds, all you see is love. That is why couples who adopt can shower their kids with a lifetime of unconditional love even if they aren't the biological parents.
Hazing, violence, frat wars and the like are obviously complex problems which need deep thought and answers that go beyond the simplistic. These issues are as complicated as overpopulation, corruption, the wide gap between the rich and the poor, and other similar social ills. Some people see these huge problems of the world and think that since they are as big as Everest, we should just leave them be. I totally disagree. If they are in your sight everyday, looming over you like a giant mountain, attempting to climb this becomes not only a quest, but a responsibility. This is all our problem - frat men, military men and normal citizens alike.
Every single problem, regardless of its size, has a solution. I am convinced of that. Otherwise, why were we even given hearts and brains? But the solution needs to be well thought out, and I certainly cannot do it alone. And this isn’t a frat man versus non frat man war either. Many of the most wonderful, decent human beings I know belong to these organizations. My best man at my wedding was the head of his very illustrious frat, one the oldest in
Asia I am told. These
men are not bad people and so many of these brods, especially the older ones
that have outgrown the primitive cycle of demanding tit for tat, want the
violence to end too but are also stumped as to how.
I think that before effective solutions can be reached the right questions first have to be asked. So what are these questions anyway?