Domestic Violence Indicates Need to Rewire Society

The epidemic of domestic violence tells the story of a Western culture in decline. Don’t expect it to get any better until we rewire society to value human relations above everything else.

While headlines are dominated by political conflicts within and between nations, a lethal enemy is harming Western societies under the radar. In the US, it is taking the lives of nearly 3 women every day and hurting almost 20 people every minute. In Europe, 1 in 3 women has been a victim since the age of 15.

Joseph Ohayon

Director of the award-winning documentary film Crossroads, Joseph is best known for his relentless quest to help others see the big picture.

 

The epidemic of domestic violence tells the story of a Western culture in decline. Don’t expect it to get any better until we rewire society to value human relations above everything else.

While headlines are dominated by political conflicts within and between nations, a lethal enemy is harming Western societies under the radar. In the US, it is taking the lives of nearly 3 women every day and hurting almost 20 people every minute. In Europe, 1 in 3 women has been a victim since the age of 15.

Domestic violence is an insidious disease that has reached epidemic proportions, becoming the most widespread violation of human rights in the Western world.

And women are not the only victims. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports a wide array of physical, emotional and sexual exploitation of elderly people. And as with violence against women, the attackers are usually those closest to the victims, such as their caregivers, children and spouses.

Last week, the UN marked the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, shortly after the EU signed the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating domestic violence. But what good are these declarations and treaties when it comes to changing the daily reality? And what do we point to as the root cause? 

Shifting the Focus from the Individual to the Environment

Media theorist Marshal McLuhan once said that the last thing a fish would notice in its environment is the water. Likewise, if we focus merely on individual cases or criminals guilty of domestic violence, we lose focus of the polluted water in which they occur.

When domestic violence becomes a defining feature of our culture, we should look for the cause in the culture itself. We have to identify the common denominators that breed violence within our homes, against those we are supposed to care for the most.

 The Step-By-Step Breakdown of Western Culture

Our culture has changed the very notion of “home.” It is no longer the intimate space that brings families together at the end of the day. We are all influenced by the outside world even when we are physically together in the same house. Hollywood, television, and social media have infiltrated our homes, our minds and our relationships, shaping and molding our norms, values and behaviors.

In the 1950s only 10% of American homes had a television. Today it is 99%. And with television programs displaying 812 violent acts per hour, the typical American views more than 200,000 acts of violence, including 16,000 murders, by the time they are 18. Take a moment to digest that. Now think about the all-pervasive presence of the internet in our lives, is it really surprising that today’s kids are exposed to pornographic content by the average age of 11? And what they find is not even reminiscent of the top-shelf magazines their parents took a peek in when they were teenagers.

But the most threatening aspect has to do with our psychology, and more specifically, our sensitivity threshold. While our newsfeeds are continuously filled with disturbing headlines, we are growing increasingly indifferent to them. We take for granted the daily appearance of extremely violent incidents, whether at homes or on the streets, and they become a “normal” part of everyday life. If it’s not someone committing suicide live on Facebook, it is not even certain to reach our awareness.

In parallel, Hollywood producers, marketers and other entertainers are taking their content to greater extremes. More violent. More sexual. More intense. They treat us like addicts who crave a bigger fix each time, since the interest behind most media today is simple: The more we click, the more we view, the more profit someone makes at the top of the chain. Thus, we are witnessing a vicious, sociological snowball effect: The content becomes more violent and extreme, individuals are becoming more indifferent, and our culture and values become reduced and debased to new lows each time.

Western culture is in a grave decline, teeming with tension and rampant egoism, and addicted to instant gratification. In such a climate, humans become easily agitated, and violence ensues. We live in a culture that does not provide the balancing effect necessary to help us rise above our egoistic impulses.

When conflicts occur, the ego paralyzes common sense. And if people cannot maintain their inner balance, it’s simply a matter of time for an extreme scenario to unfold. It will be those with weaker psyches, those who have been plagued the most by violent patterns, to be the first to erupt. And typically, they will erupt where they have the least constraints – at home and with the people they have access to and power over.

As a society we have been collectively sweeping issues like domestic violence under the carpet, but we are coming to a point where we no longer have the luxury of ignoring where all this extreme behavior stems from.

Reinventing Human Culture

First, we must internalize what social sciences have long established, that we are all products of social engineering and highly susceptible to our social environment. In this respect, the attackers are just as much victims of the violent atmosphere that permeates our culture. Therefore, jailing violent individuals, increasing regulations and worsening penalties will only quarantine infected carriers while the virus is still spreading out in the open.

As with any virus, vaccination is needed. We have to initiate an overall social vaccination process where we re-infuse our culture with the importance of healthy social relations. We have to use any cultural expression available to demonstrate how to positively relate to one another, be it family, friends or society at large.

But this isn’t about simply preaching moral values. The Western ego has evolved beyond that point. It has mutated to a form that requires more advanced treatment. Today’s people have to tangibly see and feel how the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our personal lives as well as the integrity of our societies. Thus, the quality of human relations has to become the new ethos of our culture.

Undoubtedly, this is a deep psychological and sociological transformation that seems very far from where we are today. And it will require taking a deep look at where we are now and where we are headed in order to save humanity from itself.

However, once we decide to change course and re-orient our culture towards healthy social relations, all the means will be in place. Actors, celebrities, marketers and advertisers can all work to show us that violence is unacceptable, and that the true heroes of our culture are those who can rise above their ego.

In addition, we should introduce circle-style workshops in our workplaces, schools, kindergartens, retirement homes, on our TVs and in the virtual world. These safe and positive deliberation environments are the most efficient setting in which people can cultivate mutual understanding, feel supported by each other, and rekindle the lost sense of their common humanity.

And most importantly, as we begin to foster healthy social relations, we will discover an untapped natural resource of human flourishing. As social scientists have shown repeatedly, tapping into our natural wiring for positive connections will make us wiser, stronger, healthier and happier. This natural fountain that stems from positive human relations is the healing force that can balance our egos and enable us to keep violence out of our homes, keep our families together, and make our societies a whole lot safer.

 

Western culture is in a grave decline, teeming with tension and rampant egoism, and addicted to instant gratification. In such a climate, humans become easily agitated, and violence ensues. We live in a culture that does not provide the balancing effect necessary to help us rise above our egoistic impulses.

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