Social Disruption and Historical Perspectives

I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. 

In recent years especially, a few of those who protest sometimes resort to blocking highways or even to violence. Blocking roads is a more common strategy than violence, but, especially, when we see displays of violence (or destruction of property) that is evidence of deep, systemic problems.

While people in a given historical moment are quick to judge such actions “surprising,” “unheard of,” “inappropriate,” “in need of swift and harsh punishment” (unless such “enthusiasm” is in response to a sporting event), History generally tends to prove much nicer to such protestors. 

Consider the Stono Rebellion or Nat Truner’s Rebellion or the hundreds of other such rebellions where oppressed peoples killed and destroyed the property of others…It’s the historical distance that enables more people to understand that violence was the only ways these people could speak.

If you want to avoid violence, truly respect people as humans and listen to them.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

(Added 1/21/17, 2:48 PM – violence in a protest always generates (more) media attention.) 



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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3 replies

  1. Your message, Dr. Pegoda, is truly important today. It really got me thinking, so again, I apologize for the long comment.

    We can think of the negative emotions (which are wired in the brain very differently than the positive ones) as a result of a graded response to bad circumstances, and are represented in the brain in a “graded” fashion, e.g. on a continuum from slight effects to huge effects. Each emotion is triggered by a bad experience. The continuum of negative emotions goes from anxiety/frustration to sadness/depression and finally reaches rage. Each stage in the progression represents unsolved problems which multiply and accumulate, finally triggering the next state. Emotion is an expression of internal state, not only to others to communicate that a person needs help, but to oneself, that something internally is not right. Emotion is an important guideline to tell oneself to get out of the situation quickly that is causing that emotion. However, there are many circumstances that entrap the victim so that they cannot leave the situation, thus leading to rage.

    Violence by rioters is a clear expression of rage. So it stands to reason that when bad conditions for the perpetrators continues unabated, that rage will be expressed. This is true even for infants who are totally helpless in the face of neglect, maltreatment, abuse or even when they have to watch someone else who is experiencing these conditions. These are all characteristics that contribute to high ACE scores (adverse childhood experiences), which has gotten a huge amount of traction in the medical world around 20 years after the initial studies raised HUGE red flags.

    Can you imagine baby rage? It does exist and some parents have seen it in their own kids. We should think more about it. We need to go beyond the question, “why are they so violent?” to “what led to this?” and following it to what happens to that child in adulthood. How is it expressed at each age in life? Throw-away kids become throw-away adults, who often create more throw-away kids, and we need to step in with help for both.

    What really bothers me most is the true-story murder shows, like 48 hours, and other documentaries where the producers never address how a person was treated in childhood to end up a serial or cold-blooded murderer. How can we possibly prevent such crimes if we never figure out what leads a person to become such a criminal? For most of the criminals featured in these shows, their childhood is either known or can be investigated, since many people who knew them during childhood are alive today. We knew that Ted Bundy (the serial killer who killed in several non-contiguous states) had a horrendous childhood, and was clearly both a throw-away child and throw-away adult. But that childhood may be described in a single sentence on most TV documentaries, or not at all.

    Lock ’em up and throw away the key has never reduced the violence or prevented crime. But reduction in poverty has worked in the past. High crime neighborhoods are usually high poverty neighborhoods. Although most people living in poverty are white, of all ethnic groups, African Americans have the highest number of their group living in poverty. So many of the statements about black criminals may be misplacing color for socioeconomic status.

    When you think of hatred towards people in certain groups, the most prominent of the victims are people of color, women, elderly, disabled, or poor. The hatred is even additive, since membership in each group seems to guarantee that hatred toward people in each group multiplies with the number of groups in which they have membership. The last group, poverty, seems to be the most hated, especially when you look across history and cultures. Who knows? Slavery might have evolved mainly because certain technologically advanced cultures stole the resources that other cultures used, creating greater poverty in the victim culture (e.g. African and Inca groups). Hatred toward the poor then led to even more exploitation of the victim group.

    I have watched this as I got older and realized how people get shoved into peripheral groups by life events, when the victim is no different as a person than they were before the new membership. The shock is greatest for those with inherited privilege. At least if you were born an ethnic minority, or female, or poor, you have an “advantage” of growing up with that membership and surviving in spite of it. But, every disadvantage is cumulative. You can’t say that it won’t trigger rage because you are “used to it.” It may mean that rage is triggered earlier in life. The only recourse to rage is blocking any sensing or acknowledgement of disadvantage, which leads to an amazing lack of empathy towards fellow sufferers.

    Everyone’s brain is different. And it is not due to genetics. Those first 3 years of life are so important that all events, major AND minor have HUGE effects on brain development, and thus, on ALL subsequent life experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all of these thoughts and perspectives. I really do think it’s important to account for a person’s childhood.

      I always get frustrated when people act like they or others have full control over their actions. 98% or so of our thought is unconscious, beyond reach, beyond any real understanding. Biology plays an important role and environment plays a vital role, too.

      I think part of why people ignore all of the factors that clearly create who we are (and aren’t) and perpetuate a “lock the person away” instead of working toward real changes relates in part to what I blogged about the other day – that capitalism needs such “bureaucracy” (and inhumanity) for jobs. Plus, people are generally so stubborn, selfish, unable to see other points of view, and don’t understand the role of nature/nurture.

      We might see rage like never before more and more!

      Thanks for your thoughts, Dr. Hyde!


  2. That is so true, sorry long sentences, someone who is making logical sense, about how they are being lied and cheated of agency, by the oppressor whose narrative of themselves as “heroic,” can not be anything but angry when there is not reconciliation but constant mark-free torture by force or policy or bribes to disorient until they will do anything to make it stop?

    The arts of a period reflect what is going on, the canary in the coal mine, may distract or shut down or cause riots, and if you look at the art of our period it is filled with images of ‘duty to die’, ‘superheroes’, ‘gentrified individuals’, ‘end of days’, and ‘walking dead’.

    Historically, rulers used religion to get power so this may end up being a Trump Beacon’s Rebellion by fundamentalist christians, rulers also kept power by controlling of resources as with the corporate owners, and by dividing or attacking resistance such as intersectional groups #LGBT #POC #Poor #PWD, even supporters like Viola Gregg Liuzzo.

    Models are, include but not limited to, Trump as a Narcissist with supporting roles attacking the scapegoats, Trump as the dominator not using the ‘Partnership Way’ but co-opting partner language, Trump supporting any group including white women in places of power to oppress other less powerful women as discussed in Backlash, so many other ways of modeling current situation while questioning issues of distracting resistance, false assumptions, and victim-blaming.

    It is Bad News that we are in a time for riots due to less power sharing, but Good News is the US ideas have been successfully used in Scandinavian countries, one is providing Basic Benefits for people, second is Prison System that does not dehumanize but focuses on giving agency, third is providing Education for people, and there are others that need to be applied across the US on a local level.


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