Stephen Kahn

Learning to kill

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm

As the father of a lesbian, I was moved
to read about how a Norwegian lesbian married couple rowed into
gunfire several times to save a number of lives from the massacre at
the Utoya island youth camp.

As the father of a lesbian, I was
horrified to read about the rape/attack on two lesbians (one of whom
died) in Seattle.

In thinking about Norway’s passage from
a (probably) violent Viking past to a (mostly) peaceful and even
noble present, I wondered, how did Norwegian culture make this
Here are some thoughts on the matter from the Boston
(how accurate and perceptive I don’t know), that start as
follows (click to read the rest of the article).

“IT SEEMS so unfair that Norway
should become a target of terrorism. Once the scourge of Europe, when
Vikings pillaged their way across the continent, Norway is the
world’s number one exporter of peace and reconciliation. Wherever
there is a conflict you may find a Norwegian up to his elbows trying
to solve it.”

One way to regard the Norwegian
calamity is to regard it as a natural disaster, as if an earthquake
had struck the island, or a volcano had erupted.

As inhabitants of a peaceful country,
no one at the Utoya island camp in Norway had any reason to carry any
weapons or to worry about a disaster , probably less reason for fear
than people at the Indiana state fair in Indianapolis needed to worry
when the tent flaps over the grandstand began to flap in the wind..
Dreadful stuff happens. Sometimes bystanders are able to react in a
way that saves lives; sometimes they can’t. All the finger-pointing
in the world doesn’t bring back a lost life, though sometimes lessons
learned prevent future debacles.

If by chance someone had been able to
kill Anders Behring Breivik (perhaps a spiritual heir to Vidkun
Quisling) with a bullet, there would be reason to be sad, but little
reason for guilt or regret.

Most human beings are peaceful.
Military leaders know that they have to “break down” an inherent
reluctance to hurt and kill when they train soldiers and police.

As one article on the topic comments in

The reality is that the brains of human beings — unless
they fall within the demographic sliver we call psychopaths — are
hardwired not to kill other humans. Like rattlesnakes that fatally
bite other species but fight fellow rattlers by wrestling them,
humans overwhelmingly recoil from homicide. That’s usually a good
thing, because it prevents society from disintegrating into
bloodthirsty anarchy.

But it poses an occupational hazard to some — particularly
soldiers, police officers, spies and victims of savage crimes. All of
them may face situations in which hesitating to kill is the surest
way to get killed.

That’s why military training camps, police academies and
even some self-defense pros are constantly searching for more
effective methods of suppressing the human revulsion to taking human
life — virtually rewiring the brain to react first in certain
situations with an automatic response to kill.

Target practice on hollowed cabbages filled with ketchup to
mimic the way a bullet rips open a human head. Marching to chants of
“kill, kill, kill.” Video game simulations that reward
points for every successful “shot.” These are among
hundreds of techniques that experts say can recondition the human


  1. Wait, where is the cheerful in this despair? This article is very deep, philosophical and relevant. Perhaps you need to post something frivilous about chickens to balance it out.

  2. Perhaps I will, Waxing. The hens and the pullets are trying to learn to live together in peace. They have arrived to the point where they share the same side of the chicken duplex and get through the night. However, the pullets are not yet allowed to sleep on the same perch; they have to sit on the nesting boxes as “second-class citizens.”

    But they are closer to world (well, hen world) peace. By the way, if you are bored some time and looking for an amusing video to pass some time, check out a film called Chicken Run.

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