People often say that sex is the biggest driving factor in life, but I disagree. There are a lot of motivating forces and feelings in the world; many of them trace back to sex, but I think more of them trace back to violence in its various forms. Or more generally, violence-like behavior; conflict, mostly among people, but some will accept animal conflict or fictional conflict as a temporary fix.
To provide some anecdotal evidence in support of my opinion, I ask you to think about what people's reactions are to certain revelations. Let's say you tell a friendly coworker that you've just started dating someone new. After a statement of congratulations, follow-up questions will likely follow the path of asking ordinary human details, such as what he or she does for a living, how you met, what he or she looks like, where they work, etc. Unless you work in a place that is most frequently described as a "barracks," the first exploratory question will not be about sex.
Now tell your coworker that you've started taking Kung Fu classes, and watch their eyes light up and ask you what harm you are capable of inflicting. Even if the previous question did elicit a question about sex, it would likely have been about sexual conquest. About your battle to get sex from someone. In all the years I've been into martial arts, no one has ever asked me what amount of mastery I have achieved over my self. Not only is that why I do it, it's also why the majority of the founders of martial arts styles and schools dedicated their lives to it. They just want to know how many people I can kill with my pinky finger.
Bullying is something I've been dealing with for a very long time. Even in my 30s, I have to find a way to deal with workplace bullying from time to time. I used to answer aggression with aggression; if someone pushed me, I needed to push back harder as an example of why I was not to be pushed. I've spent many years training that out of my behavioral repertoire, though, and my position now is that I do not want to cause harm to anyone, if at all possible. It isn't embarrassing to me to walk away from a fight. Life is less anxious and angry this way, and I feel happier and healthier. Unfortunately, bullies tend to mistake kindness for weakness, and when you are at work you cannot easily walk away without sacrificing your career. Once again I find myself a target for people whose personality is an intersection between insecurity and aggression.
So now I try to deal with situations like that in more constructive ways. What shocks me is the reaction that bystanders and managers have to my compassionate approach. They actually get upset with me, accuse me of being an equal participant in someone's obvious one-sided hostility, and insist that I'm participating in a "personality conflict." Many people do not know how to deal with a situation unless there's a war going on. They either spray lead or dive for cover. But for a conflict to exist, it must have two opposing sides; otherwise it is unanswered hostility.
"Everyone I know here would describe me as friendly and helpful. Dozens of people would say that. So tell me which part of my personality is in conflict with this bully -- the friendly part, or the helpful part -- and I will try to remedy it."
To that there was no response, nor can there be. It forces the "I don't care who started it" people to step back and admit that the fight they came to cheer on is in fact not taking place.
It also made me realize that the reason why schools and offices don't take bullying seriously or take any steps to combat it is: They just want to see us fight. They want the bullying to end in what they imagine to be a clean yet expressive fist fight in which no one is seriously hurt, the issues are settled definitively, and the combatants shake hands and become friends. This isn't just my internal theory -- it's what the principal and vice-principal of my middle school told me was the outcome they expected from me when, as a kid, I started to fight back against bullies. To them, bullying was foreplay -- a necessary prelude to the main event -- and they were frustrated and resentful that a bullied child would not easily respond with violence. The most bizarre fact of my entire middle school experience is that I got more hate and humiliation from adults for being bullied than I did when I beat a pint of blood out a bully's face.
As an adult, violence is no longer an option for me. Even as a kid, I eventually overstepped my bounds. The clean, definitive John Wayne movie fistfight that the teachers were salivating for never really happened. When you hit someone, they get hurt. They get concussions and cuts. Sometimes they break bones or lose teeth. Clothes get torn and eyeglasses get broken. And for the rest of your life you have two paths to take in terms of how you feel about what you did: You can attach your brutality to a Good Reason and then whip that out as your excuse every time your conscience tries to punish you for it, or you can accept that you did something horrible and have your ambient level of happiness drop by a few degrees while you desperately seek atonement.
Everything in popular culture, as far back in the modern era as I can see, revolves around the glorification of interpersonal conflict. Reality show participants are chosen based on how poorly they will interact, UFC is the sport craze of the decade, sitcom TV shows put a laugh track over insults and derision and sarcasm to convince us that hurting people is funny, and celebrity gossip centers entirely around the instigation and promotion of fights among the famous. Try to find a movie poster without a weapon in it, or some indication of hostility or violence. There are entire genres of music dedicated to the glorification of harm. Political commentary shows have gone from nerdy political science debates to multimillionaire media personalities screaming threats and lies at the camera in a neverending quest to enrage their viewers. The obsession with interpersonal conflict has completely engulfed our collective unconscious, and I think it will stay that way until there's another Great War to teach us that people getting shot is pure horror, not glorious fantasy.
I often feel like many of the people I know are just waiting around for a Good Reason to be brutal, cruel, and hostile. The truth is that there is never an actual good reason, but mine is a minority opinion. I sit there and listen to what some guy "would have done if that had happened" to him, knowing full well that his violence fantasy would have manifested only in anxiety-tainted anger and overwhelming fear of losing a confrontation. I wish I could help, but how on earth do you explain to someone who thrives on rage and revenge that the real battle is inside?