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We Need to End the Violence that Pervades our Society

It was once thought in Sociology that violence was decreasing in modern times, however, with a closer look it appears that is not the case at all. Has our society advanced technologically without advancing morally? When we look at the violence that is rampant all around us, this appears to be highly possible.

Before we can understand how to understand how to end violence in society, we first have to understand how it occurs. Violence isn't just the purview of a few deranged individuals on the fringes of society, it is often commonplace in homes across the world.

We can understand violence in a couple of different ways:

  1. Interpersonal violence (crime)

  2. Interstate violence (war)

Both of these types of violence have different types of causes, although some of the underlying factors are the same. There is a hate and mistrust of others who are perceived to be different, resource inequalities, and a lust for power, to name a few.

According to Harley Therapy,

The most common motivations for violence can be viewed as inappropriate attempts to handle emotions. Often, violence is the medium used by an individual to openly express their feelings such as anger, frustration, or sadness. Other times, violence can be considered as a form of manipulation for individuals to try and get what they want or need. Aggressive behaviour can also be used as a form of retaliation; a means by which one uses to even the score. Finally, violent behaviour is sometimes caused because people grow up seeing violence openly displayed. Violence then becomes learned as an “appropriate” way to behave.

In order to be able to reduce violence in society, we first need to be able to acknowledge that violence, in all its forms, is morally wrong. Advancing our social, moral development is key to preventing current and future violence. The problem with this is, most moral development takes place at a young age. If someone has already grown up seeing violence normalized, it is hard to change their attitudes in adulthood.

Although violence is common in society, there is no reason why it has to continue to be this way. Throughout history, certain practices of the past have been discontinued as we realized that they were morally wrong.

According to the WHO,

Violence is not an inherent part of the human condition. It can be predicted and prevented. In recent decades, data-driven and evidence-based approaches have produced knowledge and strategies that can prevent violence. These include interventions at individual, close relationship, community and societal levels.

Once we understand that violence doesn't have to occur, we can change our attitudes towards violence, and learn to be more kind and compassionate towards others in our society.

Preventing Violence

In order to prevent violence in our society, we need to look at attitudes towards violence, and learn to solve our problems in more calm and peaceful ways. This can be done with children through bullying prevention problems, and teaching them to talk through their problems instead of resorting to violence.

When it comes to adults, preventing violence is somewhat more difficult, as they have already entrenched attitudes, however it is not impossible. By teaching people that problems can more easily be solved through non-violent means, it can help to reduce violence overall.

According to the CDC, we can combat violence in society on four different levels: Individual, Relationship, Communal and Society. The CDC outlines prevention on these four different levels:

Individual The first level identifies biological and personal history factors that increase the likelihood of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence. Some of these factors are age, education, income, substance use, or history of abuse. Prevention strategies at this level promote attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that prevent violence. Specific approaches may include conflict resolution and life skills training, social-emotional learning, and safe dating and healthy relationship skill programs.
Relationship The second level examines close relationships that may increase the risk of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator. A person’s closest social circle-peers, partners and family members-influences their behavior and contribute to their experience. Prevention strategies at this level may include parenting or family-focused prevention programs and mentoring and peer programs designed to strengthen parent-child communication, promote positive peer norms, problem-solving skills and promote healthy relationships.
Community The third level explores the settings, such as schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods, in which social relationships occur and seeks to identify the characteristics of these settings that are associated with becoming victims or perpetrators of violence. Prevention strategies at this level focus on improving the physical and social environment in these settings (e.g., by creating safe places where people live, learn, work, and play) and by addressing other conditions that give rise to violence in communities (e.g., neighborhood poverty, residential segregation, and instability, high density of alcohol outlets).
Societal The fourth level looks at the broad societal factors that help create a climate in which violence is encouraged or inhibited. These factors include social and cultural norms that support violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. Other large societal factors include the health, economic, educational, and social policies that help to maintain economic or social inequalities between groups in society. Prevention strategies at this level include efforts to promote societal norms that protect against violence as well as efforts to strengthen household financial security, education and employment opportunities, and other policies that affect the structural determinants of health.

We can work together to promote violence prevention on all of these levels throughout our society. The more we raise awareness of violence prevention issues in society, the more we can dismantle the violent attitudes in society that have been learned as maladaptive coping strategies, and methods of getting what we want.

People may resort to violence in getting what they want as a last resort if they feel like all other avenues of getting what they want are not working. Teaching people problem solving skills, and providing greater social support networks, can assist with this issue.

In order to assist in reducing violence in society, there has been a development of community-based violence intervention (CVI) programs. These have been shown to be effective in many major cities with promising results. Some of the elements of these CVI programs, according to the Center for American Progress, include:

  • Hospital-based violence intervention programs are programs in which experts and community members connect with victims in trauma centers and emergency rooms so that they can engage survivors of violence immediately and prevent retaliation.

  • Violence interrupters or street outreach programs are led by interventionists who live in the community and can build trusted relationships with participants due to their lived experience. The programs focus on building relationships, supporting survivors of violence, and implementing justice solutions that bring together those who have perpetrated and been victimized by gun violence to help fix the harms stemming from violent crime. These programs offer immediate crisis responses and also long-term support.

  • Group violence intervention involves partnerships between trusted law enforcement, community stakeholders, and service providers. These programs identify those individuals most connected to cycles of violence and rely on law enforcement and credible community messengers to act as a deterrent to future involvement in group violence. The key component of this model is building trust and accountability between law enforcement and the communities they serve while providing support to individuals who are most at risk of violent crime.

  • Community-driven crime prevention through environmental design programs are programs in which communities reduce crime and violence by using architecture and urban planning to create or restore public spaces where the community can gather and feel a sense of safety. Restoration of vacant lots and investing in a community’s physical environment has been proven to reduce crime and gun violence. When communities look safe, people feel safe.

Building safer communities is beneficial for everyone. When people don't have to worry about being the victim of a violent crime, then they can experience less fear and anxiety, and don't have to feel constantly alert for danger. This can help a community come together, without having to fear others within the community. It can also help with individual mental health.

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the need for safety is the most basic needs that we have as human beings. By reducing the instances of violent crime within our society, we can help to meet the basic needs of many people. This is an important goal towards creating a better society for everyone.

Teaching Non-Violence

In addition to violence prevention programs, we can also teach non-violence within our society. This is something that can be taught in schools, and also to adults in community settings.

We have historical examples of non-violent protest in Martin Luther King and Gandhi, who both worked to institute social changes through non-violent means. By teaching about these historical figures, as well as their philosophy, we can help to create a society where violence is no longer seen as a solution to even the most troubling of problems.

October 2, 2023 is the International Day of Non-Violence, which honors the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. The United Nations states that,

According to General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/271 of 15 June 2007, which established the commemoration, the International Day is an occasion to "disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness". The resolution reaffirms "the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence" and the desire "to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence".

Across our world, the goal of promoting non-violence is key to creating a more peaceful, just and equitable society for all people. In order to achieve this goal, we can all do our part to ensure that violence is no longer considered to be a viable solution to any problem society faces in future generations.

According to UNESCO,

Mahatma Gandhi is indisputably India’s gift to the world; the pursuit of peace through the practice of truth (satyagraha), nonviolence (ahinsa), compassion and kindness is his gift to humanity. Though the centrality of education, like nonviolence, is almost conclusive, the type of education that is necessary for peace is what has never been addressed in any serious manner. There is a need for education not as the usual intellectual exercise of regurgitation but a journey through self – of building peace first with the self, before the society.

Kindness matters. It is the foundation of our future as humanity. By teaching non-violence, and becoming the most kind versions of ourselves, we can learn from great teachers of the past who have shown that social change doesn't have to come from violent means.

Creating a kinder and more compassionate world should be a priority for each one of us. Sharing kindness is something that we can all do in our daily lives. The more we treat each other with kindness, educate our children that violence is never the answer, and work towards violence prevention, we can create a better world for everyone.

Ending the suffering that so many people endure as the victims of countless violent crimes can help to make the world a better place, and help individuals by preventing the amazing toll that being a victim of crime takes on their health and wellbeing.


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