Humans are not a particularly aggressive species. Historically documented hunter-gatherers lie near the average for mammals. At least if one looks at the risk of being killed by someone of the same species. There is an evolutionary explanation for how it become this way. The original human society had no police or courts of law. What does one do then with a person who impulsively attacks others and refuses to listen? One allies with others to kill the person. Usually, the impulsively aggressive are killed before getting enough time to have kids. This way humanity has domesticated itself over the course of 300,000 years. On the other hand, we have become better on using violence premeditatedly. Which means we can reduce violence by giving people less reason for it.
Why were so many agrarian societies so plagued by violence? Much indicates that chiefdoms are the most violent types of societies. They have high enough population density for there to be frequent conflicts. At the same time the methods of conflict solving were relatively poorly developed. Under such conditions people become particularly prone to use violence. There is simply much to earn from it.
In agrarian state societies I think the explanation is a different one. People grew up under conditions preventing them from learning that much about each other. Either one was too economically exploited from a far to early age. Or one’s possible future subordinates were too frightened to dare being honest. In both cases people remained ignorant of their fellow beings’ different points of view. The self-control of children rose with age but not their insight into others. The result was people using violence because they did not know better.
Many myths about our inborn characteristics ultimately comes from abuse of power. The newest kinds of this type of myths arose at boarding schools. There the children become more or less isolated from the rest of society for years. At worst they were forced to spend more than half their upbringing there. Older pupils were given largely free hands to treat younger pupils as they wanted. Of cause, they did not have the right to kill them. However, what was in practice allowed risked destroying younger pupils’ lives. A statistically significant part of the pupils became traumatised by what they were subject to. Either because they were raped by individuals which had been given responsibility for them. Or because they were physically punished on a daily basis for things they could not help. Also, those which were not traumatised got a distorted view of society. They thought it only was the existence of the state which made society possible. The interactions between members of the society were believed to be characterised by violent competition. People believed the bigger and stronger to naturally beat down on the smaller and weaker just because they could. In fact, it was the lack of demand of responsibility making people behave like that.
In the 19th century people started to realise that there was a difference between “state” and “society”. Instead, it was part of nationalism which was believed to came naturally to everyone. These include internal groupthink and external hostility. There are several problems with these. Compulsive unity is useless for solving newly arisen problems. So the human tendency for groupthink sensibly varies individually. Now there are archaeological evidence of people trading much more than they waged war. I don’t think people attacked strangers unless they tried to take something. Resistance to stealing the resources of others were misunderstood as external hostility. It was part of several counties’ nationalism that one could take natural resources from poorer ethnic groups. (This is called colonialism.) No wonder various native peoples showed hostility.
The myths described above has been furthered by the last 30 years of development if the media. The growth of the Net and especially social media has increased competition on the news market. Older media organisations have reacted by reporting more about crime. What I mean is a larger fraction of crimes being reported by mass media. This has created a false image of crime continuing to rise. Some started to believe individuals willing to harm them to be everywhere. At worst the risk of oneself falling victim is badly overestimated. Just being in a certain place is believed to mean an impeding risk of being physically attacked. As if people there had made it a system to physically attack strangers. To me this is comparable to belief that the gypsies would kidnap children. They earn nothing form it!
Different types of crimes are committed for different reasons. This particularly applies to sex crimes. Different countries have different definitions of what constitute a sex crime. But a useful definition is to one-sidedly exploit someone else for own sexual pleasure. Unwelcome sexual advances can also be considered sex crimes. However, it then become harder to set a boundary. Anyway, most are caused by misconceptions on how others perceive oneself. The perpetrator as such wrongfully believes the victim to apprehend his or her action. Sex crimes may also be committed out of sexual frustration. This is the oldest motivation but there are many more today.
Crimes of violence is usually committed in the belief one would get something out of it. So the least violent societies are the ones giving their members least reason to make use of violence. In such societies most crimes of violence are committed by the stoned. Then they have too poor self-control to avoid violence. It happens that someone commits a single crime of violence out of sheer despair. Someone could be manipulated by others to commit a single crime of violence too. However, the person then has been manipulated by someone in his or her social environment.
Singe individuals kidnapping strangers is something really overestimated. A possible motivation is blackmailing. To get something out of this the victim’s family have to be able to provide a considerable ransom. Not many percent of the population have enough economic resources. So there is not much of a reason to kidnap for this purpose. Trafficking is more about fraud than the victims would be kidnapped. As such people are fooled by others that they would get a good job. Instead, they are forced into slave labour or prostituting themselves. It happens someone is kidnapped in the hope of the perpetrator later living with the victim. But these are single cases drawing a lot of attention in a country with millions of people. If the risk was so great to be kidnapped the victims would be in one’s circle of acquaintances. This way it would have been noticed.
Other crimes are foremostly committed for economic reasons. We don’t have loads of people committing all kinds of crimes a little now and then. Instead, we have a small group of individuals making a living from certain crimes. It can be fraud, blackmailing, drug dealing, robbery, burglary or theft. Such crimes one can earn money from if you view it short-term which the perpetrators do. In the long term it is rarely profitable. Career criminals tend to either get caught or be murdered by their competitors. The later ones there are loads of among those making a living from crime.
I don’t deny there are places which are especially suffering from crime. It is then a matter of smaller areas consisting parts of a city. Mostly they are areas where drug dealing is done openly. Even then it is just a small part of the area’s inhabitants having anything to do with drug dealing. The rest risk falling victim to this small minority. Their literally violent competition amounts to a danger to the public. However, people there usually to have a pretty realistic image of the risk of themselves falling victim. This in contrast with people in small towns which are just feed media reports.
Crime is not about random individuals acting out general human tendencies. Neither is it certain groups being prone to crime by nature. Instead, it is about individual situation together with ability to handle it. Everyone is in fact not capable of handling a situation which can be considered terrible. If there is a high risk of ending up in such one gets a high crime rate too. The strongest correlation with crime is large differences in economic resources. Something oftentimes underestimated by people already having all they need.
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