Violence. The question of whether it ever really solves anything is, of course, nothing new. The value of violence has been fiercely debated, largely without resolution, since time immemorial.
But though violence has never gone entirely out of style, conventional wisdom over the last several decades has held that it is an unacceptable option. Ever since the anti-war and civil-rights movements of the Vietnam Era, the nation's cultural cognoscenti has regarded the human tendency toward violence as a cowardly, barbaric impulse, shunned by members of civilized society in favor of more diplomatic and compromise-based problem-solving techniques.
Yet, according to recent studies, all that has begun to change.
Increasingly, Americans are turning to violence—the use of brute, animal aggression against an opposing force—as a viable means of conflict resolution. From the inner city to the suburbs, from the boardroom to the bedroom, violence is making a stunning comeback. And, surveys indicate, more and more Americans are agreeing that it's about time.
"Whoever said that violence never solved anything obviously never met my wife Edith," says Nick Petrakis of Chicago. "For months, her constant nagging about my drinking, the bills, the drapes—you name it—drove me up the freaking wall. I tried marriage counseling, church, even so-called 'quality time,' but nothing worked. Then, one day, I finally hauled off and whaled her right in the solar plexus as hard as I could."
"And you know what?" he adds with a grin. "I haven't heard a peep out of her goddamn fat trap since."
The Petrakis case is far from unique, and it points to one of the main reasons behind violence's resurgent popularity: pragmatism.
"Sure, all of those 'talking it out' solutions look good on paper, but in real life, who has the time?" Harvard University sociology professor Dr. Hugh Brentley says. "Reasoned, calm conflict-mediation can exact a terrible toll on the patience of those involved. On the other hand, swift, violent action—such as the kind Alexander the Great employed in severing the fabled Gordian knot with one swipe of his sword—cuts right to the heart of a problem."
This direct, results-oriented approach is being put into practice every day across America. Children mercilessly beat one another on the playground, achieving instant social standing amongst their peers. In the political sphere, long-range bombing has proven an effective means of resolving marital-infidelity disputes. And the drug lords of the nation's blighted ghettos have long championed the merciless machine-gunning of competitors as an expedient solution to the seemingly insoluble dilemmas of urban poverty and racial discrimination.
Critics of violence say that such short-term approaches only leave other, greater problems in their wake. But as violence advocates are quick to point out, a great majority of these problems can easily be fixed with more violence. For example, the skyrocketing crime rate can be addressed through either the death penalty or vigilante justice, both of which are effective alternatives to expensive, complex social-reform programs that stress prevention over cure.
"We must also remember," psychologist and longtime violence advocate Jane Gelfand notes, "that emotional violence can, in many cases, be just as effective as actual bodily harm. Breaking a child psychologically, through generous, sustained helpings of verbal abuse, is a far more effective way of handling disobedience and misbehavior than a thousand hours of tedious positive reinforcement."
"Not that simple hitting or kicking should be ruled out, of course," Gelfand adds.
But whether hurling chairs at one another on daytime television or stabbing strangers to death in parking ramps for some quick cash, millions of Americans are giving violence a second look as a viable solution to the challenges with which life presents them. And, as savagery and brutality continue to capture the hearts and minds of the American people, one thing is certain: Violence, in all its forms, is no longer confined to the realm of escapist Hollywood dramas or video-game space-invader shoot-'em-ups. Whether we cower in fear behind the walls of gated communities or actively prowl the alleyways looking for rape victims, violence is a major part of our shared American experience, and it isn't going away any time soon.
Violence, it would appear, is something we can all rely on.