How Much Violence Is Being Committed In Your Name?
My neighborhood is a tranquil place—the sort of area where you watch images of war and oppression from far away. Those columns of black smoke, the men riding by with their Kalashnikovs at at the ready, seem to come from another world. And, as always in such situations, such unfamiliar people are easily made to feel as if they are Not Like Us. We, after all, get into political shouting matches and root for opposing teams. They shoot and bomb each other. What is wrong with such people? But the differences between a peaceful street in, say, Belgium and a war-torn street in Iraq are deceptive. We live in a single world of organized mayhem. It's just that those of us who live in comfortable local circumstances are separated from all the actual and potential brutality that is required to maintain our quiet oases.
How to express this, and analyze it? Perhaps we could use data to put all the world's collective violence—the work of armies, police forces, bandits, guerrilla bands, terrorists and other any other organization that wields lethal force—on a single scale. A single metric might be the amount that any population spends, per person, on committing violence in the name of that population. I'll take myself as an example. I live in New York City. So, let's take the annual budget of the police force here. In 2014 its budget (pdf) was $4.75 billion. Of course, most of that money was spent on non-violent activities, like detective work, traffic enforcement, school safety, refurbishing dowdy buildings and so on and on. Let's assume for the sake of argument that only 10 percent of the budget actually supports violence—acts in which the police beat, choke, taze, shoot or otherwise hurt people (or seriously threaten to do so). If that's correct, that's $460 million, divided by 8 million people, or a little less than $60 a year per person.
In addition, according to this report (pdf) New York state spent another $5 billion in 2013-2014 on public safety—state troopers, prison guards, the national guard, anti-terrorism investigators, and so on. This spending covered disaster preparedness and relief, and of course much of the work of these units of government does not involve hurting others (the state's public-safety budget also includes all it does to help veterans). So again let's assume 90 percent of the money does not buy bullets or tasers or pay for time spent inflicting harm on others. That leaves $500 million, divided by 19.65 million New York State residents, or $25 per person spent for violent acts or the credible threat of violent acts.
Now we come to the big, ahem, guns. The United States defense budget for the coming fiscal year is $495.6 billion. Divided by a population of 317 million, that's roughly $1,500 per person. But, again, defense spending encompasses disaster relief, basic scientific research, medical care, pensions—all manner of activities that do not involve firing bullets into people or dropping bombs on them. Let's take, again, my quite rough guess that only 10 percent of spending supports organized lethality. That's $150 per person on the Federal level.
According to this very rough guess, them, as I walk down my peaceful Brooklyn street, watching the children play without a care, various levels of government that represent me are spending about $240 a year—or $20 a month—on me alone, to pay for violent acts. To buy and maintain drones and missiles, fighter jets and battleships, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, rifles and service revolvers, bullets, tasers, pepper spray, tasers and other tools of organized lethality. And, of course, for the pay and maintenance of the people who use them. For my family of three, this collective commitment to violence costs $60 a month.
Now, this calculation is a thought experiment. An analysis based on really careful parsing of government spending might come out lower, or higher, by a lot. Moreover, I haven't allowed for the fact that within the nation police don't protect all 317 million Americans equally. The police in any given area are spending their time protecting some people against others. That this line of protection is heavily racialized is increasingly obvious. How to work that fact into the estimates is not clear to me.
But more accurate figures, whatever they might come to, would still represent a very large amount of annual spending for the purpose of either threatening or inflicting injury on people all over the world, from Raqqa to Rikers. I don't write this to argue that all of those people are innocent victims, or that we should never do violence. But we should face up to the world we really live in, and the things that are done in it, in our name. We should not be like the young student in Tolstoy's After the Dance, content with life and full of romantic notions, because he doesn't see the brutality all around him. The angry man in the Mad Max truck on the evening news is no alien. In a bloody, angry world, we are all playing the same game.
Illustration: Scene from After the Dance, via Wikimedia.
Follow me on Twitter: @davidberreby
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.