One of the stranger things you notice is how violence in a society is what produces peace. Lately we are seeing scenes in shopping centers, where shoppers are battling it out physically for sale items. That is actually due to a failure of the amygdala to adapt to a more violent environment. Those amygdalae lack constraint pathways, which would perceive angering stimuli but were conditioned to keep amygdala activation in check in the face of such angering stimuli.
It reminded me of this video I saw recently, where a bully picks on a kid, and when the kid doesn’t respond, the bully gets ever more aggressive. That is an amygdala not being taught, “Don’t do that.” (It is also an example of a narcissist, bothered increasingly by his target’s lack of emotional expression. The bully is not just cruel – that is a narcissist legitimately getting angrier due to his target’s lack of response stimulating his amygdala.)
Contrast that video with this one. Here, the bully initially is getting the same conditioning. Get angry, pick on a kid, blow off steam, feel better. If that continued, you would have cognitively trained a bully who would derive pleasure from hurting others.
However that doesn’t continue. Instead, the bullied kid picks up the bully and body slams him on the ground, traumatizing him, and even injuring his ankle.
The bully now has an amygdala pathway linking bullying with the sudden experience of pain and agony. In the future, as his amygdala becomes activated with angst, he will immediately, without conscious thought, see two paths before him. The first pathway will be to release the angst by making another child suffer. As he considers that, his amygdala will remind him of that awful impact with the ground, the shock, the confused assessment of damage afterward, the fear, the helplessness, and the embarrassment. His amygdala will say to him, “Do not do that.” He will choose the second pathway, which will be to bottle up his amygdala angst.
He will not be happy. His amygdala will still grate. If he can develop the ability to quash his anger internally, he will be on the path to growing up to be a normal decent human being. If he is a true narcissist, he will not develop that ability, and he will remain miserable. But the world around him will be a little nicer, and innocent people will be free to enjoy their lives absent his violent oppression.
That is how society gets civilized. Had Michael Brown had that experience, repeated often enough, he might even have ended up a productive citizen, rather than as a dead body in the street. Instead, his amygdala never learned to say, “Do not do that,” so when a police officer angered him, attack was the only option he knew, and his amygdala saw no reason to “not do that.”
The shopping scenes are the same. Right now we don’t have real K-selection. In a real K-selected world, people would be accustomed to occasionally dealing violence upon others out of necessity, and they would quickly acclimate to a world where everyone was capable of visiting violence upon them. In such a world, if you grab someone’s Xbox and try to take it away, you will probably get hurt. Even though an Xbox is not necessary for survival, people will have grown conditioned in other areas of life to respond aggressively, competitively, and even violently when challenged in a rude and obnoxious manner. That foundational conditioning will carry over into every other area of life.
Of course today, the free availability of resources means it is rarely worth it to fight for anything. If you don’t get the item in front of you, there will be another. As a result, we live in the world of the bully. Fighting is rarely worth it for the decent folk, we have grown conditioned to avoid it, and thus the bullies have free reign, because we refuse to punish them for their obnoxiousness, and we cede to their every threat. I see it everywhere, even as idiot protestors walk down the street demanding I bemoan the killing of a savage who I wish I could have had the pleasure of putting down myself. Instead, I set my jaw with an expression of contempt and ignore them.
Mark my words, sooner or later, as the K-shift begins, somewhere, some idiot is going to try and grab somebody else’s sale item. Somewhere a temper shortened by resource shortage will blow, and the events that follow will be so traumatic and horrifying that all of those involved, even the mere witnesses, will tiptoe carefully through the door on subsequent Black Fridays, desperately hoping to accomplish their shopping without drawing the attention (or ire) of anyone else.
When that day comes, it may even herald an extended period of widespread bloodshed, terrifying violence, and sheer mayhem, but what will come after will be a world of polite and decent people, each respectful of one another – some because they enjoy being respectful and kind, others because they fear the consequences of not being so. What will come after will be amygdala development. I look forward to its arrival.