Priming the Youth for WarI was reading an essay regarding the pressures boys experience to conform to certain societal expectations. In the essay, a concerned mother discusses the harsh realities...
I was reading an essay regarding the pressures boys experience to conform to certain societal expectations. In the essay, a concerned mother discusses the harsh realities of her son's sixth grade social scene, where only two groups exist - the jocks and the computer nerds. The girls had a particular interest in the former, and often times condescended the latter. Since computer games were forbidden in their house, the eleven-year-old struggles to assume the identity of the other superficial category of being a jock. The author's most compelling, yet extreme argument, in my opinion, comes when she infers the connection of picking up a bat to handling a gun. Here, she argues that if one's life purpose can be easily concealed through the pressure to conform, then just how difficult is it to pick up a gun, metaphoric or literal, as a means of personal power and self-definition?
My question is this, can one make the argument that violent activities, such as sports and video games, prepares one, especially at a young age, to pick up a tool of competition, and, if necessary, compete, dominate and kill, if not actually then virtually, financially, athletically?
While I think sports, video games, etc. are not intended to instill military values, I do think that many aspects of our society, including these activities, normalize warfare in particular and violence in general. I don't think this is conscious, but it seems pretty clear to me that we are a martial society. We declare wars on poverty, drugs, terror, etc. The national anthem of the US is a narrative of a battle. Since our founding, many have associated guns with freedom. Professional sporting events often feature military units presenting colors, or military jet flyovers. This is not a value judgement, but it seems to me to be a pretty pervasive (if not necessarily unique) aspect of our culture, and I think our games, both video and athletic, are expressions of this.
There has been a lot of interest in the connection between violent video games and violent behavior in young people. Col. Dave Grossman does a lot of seminars on this very topic, and his audience is usually people in law enforcement. His purpose is improve officer readiness, but he always brings up the fact that we are training young people to kill with these games. I don't see that competitive sports have that kind of negative affect on people. Competition, hard work, and physical activity have more pros than cons.
I'm not so sure that athletics prepares a person for the military--and for the necessity of killing--but it certainly helps a person adapt to other competive aspects of the business world. I played a great deal of sports as a youth, especially baseball, softball and football, and a bat was often in my hands. But I never considered a career in the military, and I am a peaceful, non-violent person, so I really don't consider the "jock" lifestyle a prelude to violent activities.
I also agree that there is a large distinction between sports and military combat. I do have to say though, my son is really into history and war and loves all aspects of it (video games, history channel, and historical novels and texts). Outside of that, I simply think it has to do with interest alone. For some, their interest in military life is financial. For others, their interest lies in the art of war. I do not think that a direct relation can be made.
I'd need to read the essay before commenting in any detail, but the argument as you describe it seems a stretch. Many people play sports without ever becoming violent in harmful ways, and sometimes people who never played sports become violent. Can you let us know the name of the author and the title of the essay? It would be interesting to read what the author says. As you describe the essay's arguments, I can't say that I'm persuaded.
Many psychologicists now believe that a young person needs to have a 'predisposition' or profound need to have violence as an outlet for previous psychological or emotional disturbance. Put rather basically, this means that the odd competitive sport or video game will not give a 'normal' or well-adjusted teen any problems, but may be an addicitive outlet or cause - for hurt damaged children who then go on to harm others/themselves.
I think there is a big leap to make between competiting in a variety of sports and identifying yourself as a jock and then becoming a soldier and killing others. Let us remember that many jocks do not join the military. However, I do think we can draw a parallel between teaching kids the basics of Darwinian competition from an early age and the battle to reach the top in the social world that they will enter as an adult.
I don't see it myself, but that might be from my own experience. I was really into sports from childhood until my knees gave out a couple years ago. I used to (as a kid) obsess about the Civil War and (unrelatedly) try to build the defenses of Corregidor with my Lincoln Logs. (No video games yet back then.) It didn't make me violent or hypercompetitive. So I just don't see any causal connections myself.
Rather than a connection between sports and video games and the military, the connecting fiber seems to lie in a male's temperament as extremely aggressive. For, often aggressive types do enjoy sports and violent games and experiences. but it is a logical fallacy to conclude that the majority of athletes possess an innate potential to become killers.