It can be difficult to conceptualize violence and all of its different correlated concepts in society to build a realistic picture, but this is necessary. If you asked me to provide a solution to violence in our community, I would point to the Human Prosperity and Equality and Justice Committees; I would point to every committee of ELSB because it is all intimately connected.
To illustrate how deep cultures of violence or non-violence can go, I ask you one question:
Is it possible that dining etiquette has a real, and perhaps causal, correlation with violent murder and assault?
This question is explored in the book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, and the rest of this note is a paraphrase of an important section. Forgive the lack of citations throughout; the information is cited well within the analyzed text.
In traditional Medieval European society, table etiquette would be considered by today's standards verging on uncivilized. Large forks and jagged knives used for food preparation likewise appeared on the table. There was no specified way with which to hold these potential weapons, or any enforced method to consume your food. Food would be eaten with your hands directly, the fingers diligently cleaned with gusto by the tongue.
As feudalism shifts into a period of consolidation to higher powers such as kings and emperors, large political hierarchies return to enforce rule on the previously and relatively ungoverned holdfasts and Duchies.
It becomes important for Kings to entertain noble guests for the purpose of establishing alliances and fealty. The transpositional concern for lesser nobles is to impress their kings, queens and other lords at court. The King's Court is a place of dining and political maneuvering, and it's important how one is perceived in this arena. This is how we get the word courtesy. Cue dining etiquette.
Erasmus, the great humanist scholar, published a guide of etiquette for nobles. Among the rules in this guide included things such as Refrain from using the knife the push your food onto the fork. Use it only for cutting. Many of these rules are cumbersome and take discipline to enforce on yourself or others.
Over the next few hundred years, the discipline of etiquette began to take over European culture even to the middle and lower classes as it became important for their own pomp and posh civility. Today, Western European is the most peaceful place in the world, along with Canada, at a homicide rate of approximately 1 in 100,000 deaths, or even less.
Well, it isn't entirely due to eating habits that the world is more peaceful than it used to be. There are numerous connectors such as democracy, economic interdependence, and intergovernmental organizations, that bolster a humanist and rational inclination towards peace. A part, not a symptom or result, but a necessary part of all of this, is etiquette.
If you can train society to use a knife for only precise ends even when it would be beautifully convenient to break those rules, you can then also train society to have the moral discipline to restrain their weapons while in the streets.
That's just the European story. In East Asia, they use chopsticks, the ultimate exercise of discipline and restraint. And the trends of violence follow.
Despite their people having generally much lower incomes and comfortability (which are the usual predictors of violence), China actually shows much lower rates of homicide than even American. As of 2011, America ranked in at 10 in 100,000 deaths as violent, while China came in at 5 in 100,000 deaths.
Though poverty is a major player in causes of personal violence, it apparently does not explain all.
Civilization, it turns out, has been a grand inhibition of dark instincts and a bringing-out of the better angels of our nature. Thus, our world is much safer than it used to be, and you might start thanking your overly strict parents, and their parents, for the change.
Public Safety works to connect students and community members to resources and educate them on issues of public concern to increase awareness.
Co-Director: Eli Cooper
Co-Director: Madison Fogle
The Engage Lead Serve Board's mission is to enhance the education of students by providing structured experiential and developmental opportunities that encourage community engagement, model good leadership, and allow active service.
Engage Lead Serve Board
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University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292
Telephone: (502) 852-4333