I was looking up Grossman's On Killing for the statistics on how many soldiers in the U.S. Civil War actually fired at the opposing side (around 90% didn't fire at the enemy at all; it's a complex and interesting book).
One of the explanations for why is that there were two "filters" a person had to go through before able to do violence --
It is as though there were two filters that we have to go through to kill. The first filter is the forebrain. A hundred things can convince your forebrain to put a gun in your hand and go to a certain point: poverty, drugs, gangs, leaders, politics, and the social learning of violence in the media — which is magnified when you are from a broken home and searching for a role model.
But traditionally all these things have slammed into the resistance that a frightened, angry human being confronts in the midbrain. And except with sociopaths (who, by definition, do not have this resistance), the vast, vast majority of circumstances are not sufficient to overcome this midbrain safety net. But if you are conditioned to overcome these midbrain inhibitions, then you are a walking time bomb, a pseudosociopath, just waiting for the random factors of social interaction and forebrain rationalization to put you in the wrong place at the wrong time.
That whole concept is interesting -- conditioning can help a human overcome midbrain inhibitions, but then it makes a person into "a walking time bomb" and perhaps even a "pseudosociopath."
A lot of being successful as someone who is entrepreneurial means getting de-conditioned against normally frightening stimuli: cold calling, public speaking, striking out on one's own.
Grossman is of course talking about conditioning in terms of violence. But it's an interesting idea, the idea that conditioning to overcome midbrain inhibitions in general makes one's behavior less predictable -- a walking time bomb -- in general.
I don't buy that. I'm not making that argument. Grossman didn't say that. But it is interesting to consider.
I think you might want to examine the Grossman with a bit more care, and look deeper into both his arguments and his background.
I met the man and talked to him for a good bit of time when his book first came out. He impressed me as an essentially decent man who'd come up with this idea, and then gone out and gathered supporting evidence for it without really either considering opposing arguments, or examining contradictory evidence. His background isn't what I'd consider particularly pertinent to his claim to authority, either--He did teach at West Point, but I'm afraid that's really not that much of a big deal, in that lots and lots of officers are selected to do that.
Questions that should be asked about his evidence, considerable amounts of which come from a now well-discredited source, S.L.A. Marshall, include asking if there were other contemporary battlefields which showed similar evidence of "stacked loading" in unfired weapons, and whether or not WWII US soldiers in non-European theaters showed the same "reluctance to kill" that he's based his ideas on. The answers to both questions are in the negative, and when you query him on that, he looks confused and restates his ideas again, failing to address what you're questioning him on. He's a nice guy, but I think he's utterly wrong with much of his theorizing.
Had Grossman restricted himself to saying something like "Well-raised young men of Western cultural background have a reluctance to kill people who they perceive to be as fellow members of their social groups", he might have had something. As he did not, he's out of his ever-loving mind. You're not going to find a hell of a lot of evidence for any inborn "reluctance to kill" on the battlefields of the Northern Plains, where the Regular Army was tackling various Native American tribes in some fairly intense combat. Nor are you going to find a hell of a lot of corroboration in the Pacific Theater for what Marshall described as happening in Europe. Freeze like a bunny rabbit in your hole in Europe, and the nice Germans will be coming around to herd you into captivity in more-or-less genteel circumstances in a POW camp. Do the same in the Pacific, and the Japanese troops will bayonet you in the stomach and leave you to die horribly as they overrun your position. Not quite the same, eh?
Grossman also failed utterly to consider other contributing factors for his "evidence", such as the multiply-loaded rifle muskets: In those days, when you were training new soldiers on the loading drills, you did not use "live ammo": They went through the motions, and you did not cap the nipple before firing during drill. Having been trained that way, it was not unlikely that many inexperienced tyros would continue to do that in combat, going through the motions only. Then, there's the whole "brother against brother" thing, which no doubt played a role. Out on the plains, the long-service Regulars did not demonstrate the same issues, and that probably goes to two things: They'd been better trained, and had had more realistic pre-battle experiences, and they did not see the Indians as being "their own kind". Given the opportunity, they killed Indians, man, woman and child, with as much alacrity and joy as did the Mongols killed Muslims when they sacked Samarkand.
Which is another issue Grossman utterly fails to address: Where the hell is all the angst, the PTSD, the horror when the Mongols stacked skulls into pyramids? See any innate "reluctance to kill other human beings" there? Ask Grossman, and he just looks confused.
Grossman is a nice man, a decent human being who likes to believe other human beings are nice and decent, too. He's also utterly naive, and in deep denial about anything that contradicts his thesis. Do not, I repeat, do not put your faith in anything he has to say--Because it's going to get you killed the minute you try to apply it in the real world. Many human beings simply do not think the way he thinks they do, particularly outside of Western mainstream cultures.
I'm not a military historian nor a veteran, so I won't claim great knowledge here. But looking up criticism of Grossman, one finds a cogent-sounding listing of other research that supports his basic theme: http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo9/18-grossman-eng.asp
Now, that's a defense *by* Mr. Grossman and could easily be useless. But it sounds like he *does* have some other supporting evidence. To quote that link:"Marshall’s findings have been somewhat controversial. Faced with scholarly concern about a researcher’s methodology and conclusions, the scientific method involves replicating the research. In Marshall’s case, every available, parallel, scholarly study validates his basic findings. Ardant du Picq’s surveys of French officers in the 1860s and his observations on ancient battles (Battle Studies,1946), Keegan’s and Holmes’ numerous accounts of ineffectual firing throughout history (Soldiers,1985), Richard Holmes’ assessment of Argentine firing rates in the Falklands War (Acts of War,1985), Paddy Griffith’s data on the extraordinarily low killing rate among Napoleonic and American Civil War regiments (Battle Tactics of the American Civil War, 1989), the British Army’s laser re-enactments of historical battles, the FBI’s studies of non-firing rates among law enforcement officers in the 1950s and 1960s, and countless other individual and anecdotal observations, all confirm Marshall’s fundamental conclusion that man is not, by nature, a killer. Indeed, from a psychological perspective, the history of warfare can be viewed as a series of successively more effective tactical and mechanical mechanisms to enable or force combatants to overcome their resistance to killing."While that's all basically about people that share a rough ethnic or social or national background with each other (which I don't think undermines Sebastian's quoting of Grossman regardless), it does seem like the conclusion doesn't hinge on SLA Marshall.
His arguments don't hinge on Marshall, but he has carefully picked and chosen a lot of what he does use, and completely ignores anything that doesn't support his thesis.
If your theories can't explain the lack of similar evidence in different circumstances, as in the Northern Plains Indian wars that were contemporary with the Civil War campaigns, and the lack of similar responses to killing Japanese troops in the Pacific, then I'd submit that your theories are inadequate and your evidence cherry-picked.
Even contemporary events leave this issue in serious doubt: Do you see any "reluctance to kill" at work in the killing fields of Cambodia, or in what's going on in Northern Iraq/Syria at this very moment? No, you do not: The members of the Khmer Rouge and ISIS killed and are actively killing other human beings without a whit of concern, PTSD, or any form of "reluctance". Hell, they positively enjoy it, are quite proud of it, and post the videos of their kids holding severed heads on the internet for the world to see. Killing the infidel is their greatest good, their higher purpose, and their number one priority in life.
Care to explain how that squares with Mr. Grossman's fantasy view that all humans are innately opposed to killing their fellows, somehow? I can't muster even a beginning of an argument, to tell the truth.
Human beings are the nastiest, most unrestrained apex predator that this planet has ever seen. Subtract the controls imposed by cultural conditioning and that provided by being raised in a civilized nation, and we'll kill and rape with unrestrained glee, giving vent to our basest desires. Any other conclusion is, I am afraid, delusional to the point of being suicidal.
It's actually as simple as this: In the Civil War -- as in almost any war -- 90% of soldiers never saw front line combat. And many of those who do never have the chance to fire on an enemy. Probably no more than half at the battle of Gettysburg.
But the author is working from a false premise on bogus data. Where did he come up with his statistics?
It's pretty well-documented across multiple conflicts, including Civil War, WWI, WII, Korean War, and foreign conflicts. He gives multiple chapters to it, so it's not easily summarizable and it's not a clear cut case, but it's pretty convincing if read.
Perhaps the most telling thing about it is that the book has gotten widely popular and gone to a second revision, becoming recommended and required reading for many police and military branches, and there was no significant amount of critique or disagreement among people who saw combat, and many verified the basic idea. It's worth reading, it's got some interesting things in it.
In the Civil War and in many previous conflicts, it appears that very few of those in combat actually fired their guns. This isn't unique to the Civil War in any way. Ever wonder why Vietnam was so famous for PTSD? A lot of it is that this research had taken place, and they successfully trained them to actually kill people. That was new.
Midbrain is good at turning down apparently-dangerous things, like violence and social danger. But those are close siblings to all the other intellectual dangers of experiment, creativity, and sudden leaps. Is there really any surprise that the most explosively creative scientists and artists are so commonly socially odd or brusque? By nature or nurture they have learned to leap the hurdle of the midbrain that turns down the unusual and different.
The science has found that creativity is most opened in a context that has playfulness, curiosity, and willingness to take risks. Without the last, you just can't jump into the unknown.
While "time bomb" is a bit strong, it's worth considering the amount of sociopathic behavior one sees from executives. Overcoming normal human conditioning can be a great way to get things done that normal humans don't -- mass layoffs for the good of the company budget, breaking of certain laws when you probably won't get caught, social backstabbing of people you act good-natured toward and so on.And these same people are known to continue the trend, often in ways we like even less. I don't think it's a coincidence.In general, the mental barriers and social barriers that you have allow society to function in its current form. That form isn't beyond improvement, but I think we've done a pretty decent job over the last 6+ millennia of getting to where people can live together in mostly peace and civility, most of the time.You can opt out of the existing, distinctly imperfect structure -- the "social contract," to use one description of it. But then the onus is on you to replace it with something that works, which gets harder as you erase more and more of the existing slate."Don't shoot people" is way up there -- it's a major provision of the social contract, and changing it makes a huge difference. But changing smaller things makes you a smaller time bomb, of a sort. Learn to see clearly? Lose some tact, until and unless you can replace your old habits with new ones. Gain a lot of physical strength? Intimidate and hurt people until you learn a lot of new physical and social patterns of movement.
In 2006, I quit the vast majority of intoxicants. I don't drink, I don't use recreational drugs, I don't smoke tobacco, I don't drink soda, and I am working on quitting all sweets entirely, and largely succeeding. I am not one for fine dining, and not frequently one for other forms of hedonism.
I usually do not advertise this - I might write about it for people who wish to know what I do, but I do not bring it up in conversation unless it comes up. But occasionally it does come up, and a common reaction is someone saying, half-joking, "Then why bother living?"
I think I understand. Many people do jobs they dislike for causes they feel nothing about. This must wreak havoc on a man's spirit. Most people spend more of their waking time on their work than any other thing - I can only imagine what spending the bulk of my time on something I disliked would feel like. Or worse, not even something I disliked - but something I felt very neutral about.
If a man's occupation becomes a slow crushing of his spirit, then of course he would need high energy, and high impact to free him from it. He needs to fit all of his leisure into his remaining waking time - from 6PM at night to 10PM when he is home from work, on the two days of his weekend, and his vacation time each year. Of course, not even that time is all his own - he still has to commute, run errands, do admin, do necessary little things. The reality of the situation is far worse - most people don't live bad lives, they just move slowly and quietly through things they don't particularly care for.
Of course, if a man only had 5% of his waking time to himself, he would want to maximize this time in the easiest, most surefire way of producing pleasure and relaxation. Who could blame this man? I don't. If I was suffering through a soul-killing occupation and had very little time, I would want to make sure that the time I did have was very enjoyable.
Can you believe the strange figure above will develop into a fully functioning human in a few months? The strange looking figure above is an embryo. Embryonic development consist of many changes and developments. During the fourth week of pregnancy the embryonic brain is visible. Three swellings are also visible at this time. Theses swellings are the Forebrain, midbrain and the hindbrain. A week after the embryonic brain is visible, these three swellings then develop into five swellings: Telencephalon, Diencephalon, Mesencephalon, Metencephalon, and Myelencephalon. The forebrain develops into the Telencephalon and Diencephalon. The midbrain stays the same but is now called the Mesencephalon. Lastly the hindbrain develops into the Metencephalon and Myelencephalon.
In brain and behavior lab we discussed which of the previously studied structures of the brain are found in the correct division of the brain. The four lobes of the brian, frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal, in addition to the pyriform cortex olfactory bulb and cingulate cortex are apart of the forebrain. The midbrain consist of structures such as the mammillary body, third ventricle, thalamus, lateral ventricles, and hypothalamus. Lastly the hindbrain consist of the medulla, pons, cerebellum, cerebral aqueduct, cerebral peduncle, and the forth ventricle. This review part of the lab was very helpful in grouping the previously learned structures to the the 3 divisions of the brain.
Next we did coronal dissections on the brain. We cut three slices on one of our midsagital sheep brain piece. The sheep brain was fairly easy to cut through but once we got to the 3rd cut , through the superior colliculus and the cerebral aqueduct rostral to the pons, the brain began to fall apart. Though this lab wasn’t messy, the brain falling apart wasn’t a pleasant slight. The three dissections helped us see previously learned structures such as the corpus callosum, optic chiasim, ventricles, and so forth from a coronal point of view.
This hands on experience was very beneficial because it helped me notice that different structures of the brain look different from different point of views. Initially it was a bit difficult for me to locate different structures from the coronal point of view because I wasn’t use to looking at structures from this point of view. Despite this initial obstacle, this lab was very informative and successful!