Violence: Is It The Answer?

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Vol 35 Issue 03

The Hendersons' Towels, Frankly, Are Not That Impressive

I was peeking out my bedroom window at the brand-new Lexus LS 400 in the Hendersons' driveway when my husband Gary walked in and announced that we were invited to guess whose house for cocktails that evening. That's right, Mark and Linda Henderson's.

Waitress Creeped Out By Overtipper

UTICA, NY—A $7 tip for a $1.59 breakfast special creeped out Ed's Diner waitress Juliet Drake Monday, leaving her feeling uneasy about the implications of the diner's unusual generosity. "God, I hope he wasn't putting the moves on me," Drake, 26, told fellow waitress Paulette Rudd. "If he comes back, get ready to switch sections with me." The unidentified overtipper, described as a heavy-set, fortyish, blue-collar type, has dined at Tom's an estimated 10 times in the past two weeks. The size of his previous tips are unknown at this time.

Laughter Now Exclusively Used To Mask Feelings

WASHINGTON, DC—According to a study released Tuesday by the National Institute of Emotional Studies, laughter, long employed as a cathartic response to absurd or humorous stimuli, is now used solely to conceal contempt and fear from fellow human beings. "The original purpose of laughter, to express joy and delight, began waning in the 1960s with the advent of TV laugh tracks, which replaced humans in the task of laughing at jokes," the report stated. "Today, 50 percent of all laughter is used as sarcastic mockery of failed attempts at humor, with the remaining 50 percent used to create the illusion of comfort in situations involving tension or deceit." The report follows a groundbreaking May 1998 study by the institute which found that crying may eventually evolve into a tool used solely for the manipulation of other people.

Junior-High-School Badminton Unit Inspires 948 'Shuttlecock' Jokes

REDDING, CA—A junior-high gym-class badminton unit resulted in 948 "shuttlecock"-based double entendres Monday, shattering the previous mark of 761. The 948 jokes, all but three delivered by boys, ranged from "Look, I'm whacking my shuttlecock" to "Check out the little red tips on those cocks." Top honors went to eighth-grader Brian Fitch, 14, who ran around the gym shouting, "Where's my cock? I can't find my cock—it was here a minute ago!" followed by a long string of marginally varied quips.

Pre-Millennium Tension

With less than a year to go before the dawn of a new millennium, doomsayers are predicting everything from a global computer collapse to Armageddon. What do you think about the growing Y2K anxiety?

The New Playstation

Later this year, Sony will unviel its Playstation 2, the much-anticipated follow-up to its popular home videogame system. What are some of the new system's features?
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Violence: Is It The Answer?

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.

A drug kingpin's problem is solved as his rival lies dead following a drive-by shooting.

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.

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