My Hands For War

It was 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Along the brownish yellowish hill, covered with brush and dried bushes spread through desert-like conditions are run-down buildings. They looked as if a bomb had landed and incinerated all life, and all that remained were remnants of a civilization.  Men are attacking each other on two fronts, using what’s left of the buildings as cover. Some of the men have fallen, some are wounded. Some are hidden in the bushes as snipers, preparing to make a fateful shot. Heart beats are racing, adrenaline is pumping. I can’t think, but I am only sure of three things: 1. My gun has stalled. 2. I was just shot. 3. My side may be losing. It looked hopeless. This is what I get for starting this fight with my gun–my paintball gun.

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Playing paint ball with my fraternity was fun, but the heat was not. Sure, I complained about the heat until I realized that it gave me a small taste of the lives of soldiers stationed in the Middle East.  Unlike the soldiers halfway across the world, my danger wasn’t real. It was simulated. If I shot another man or if I had gotten shot, we wouldn’t have lost our limbs or our lives. We could just go home, shower off, and enjoy the comfort of the air conditioner. There are no real stakes with paint balling. No one really dies.

But I began thinking about the paint ball gun while holding it. Pressing the trigger and shooting at other people gave me a thrill–a cheap thrill. It gave us a sense of freedom as men. We were allowed to be aggressive without anyone holding us back. But why do men love guns or weapons? Why are we drawn to violence? It’s the story of men in almost every society all the way to ancient times.

A majority of violent video games are created for men, more specifically teenage boys. We have fun killing simulated people. Maybe that’s just the way we were made. Maybe we just love living out these fantasies of James Bond or Rambo. Or maybe because that’s how our culture is raising us. More than a hundred years ago, many men were still hunting for food. And now, only a few of us actually do. Those who don’t hunt buy food at the supermarket. We removed the thrill of the hunt–of the danger. Back then men were trained for readied aggression. The Wild Wild West, the pioneers, even back to the settlers taught their sons how to use a gun because it was a necessity to live. But using a gun today isn’t a useful or treasured skill. We’ve become a pacifist sort of generation.

Now, I’m not advocating for violence or guns or anything of that sort. I just think it’s interesting that men’s behavior of violence and aggression hasn’t changed much the last thousand years. We still train men to fight like the Spartans. We love UFC and boxing and anything that has the risk of death because we want to defy it. We men love blood and guts. We exert our masculinity through dominating another.

As violent as we men have the potential to be, there is one good thing that comes out of it. You may think I’m a male chauvinist pig for saying the following, but I do admire our need to protect. We have such a strong desire; it’s almost as if it’s our purpose for living–perhaps we are wired to protect and seek justice or retribution when we fail at protecting. We long to protect those that we love, that we are willing to lose our lives if it means that our loved ones survive.

That’s my masculine identity revealed–not that I love violence or that I am violent myself. I just simply wonder why violence and aggression translates well for men.

I love this very masculine Bible verse:

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1  (ESV)

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13 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Entertainment, Life

13 responses to “My Hands For War

  1. Steven Harris

    Perhaps modern society does not teach enough about the consequences of actions? In a world where we can squeeze those triggers so readily – on paintball guns, on handsets for games consoles, etc – and yet, as you say, people get up, and go home afterwards, we seem to be missing a vital part of the scenario. War equates to the notion of kill or be killed. When we can simulate killing and death endlessly in our daily lives it dampens our understanding of the reality of soldier’s lives.
    http://doctorbeatnik.wordpress.com/

    • Gio

      Thank you for stating that point. I think I’m part of what some psychologists call, “The Disney Generation.” My generation is raised in so much fantasy, that when we get to the real world, we’re shocked that it’s not perfect. We have video games that simulate real life so that we can play our fantasies. For example, I love playing the Wii, but sometimes I wonder why I play Wii tennis or bowling when I could be doing the actual thing somewhere. But that’ll have to be another post.

  2. Pingback: what running away means « ALWAYS. RUNNER.

  3. Dialville

    You have good understanding, insight, and perspective of what is right and necessary to protect freedom and what is instinctively “good” in men and women. I’m a parent of teens and appreciate what you’ve shared.

  4. Rahul Aggarwal

    Dear Gio,
    stumbled upon your this blog..really liked it..i had been feeling the same kind of emotions through the past couple of months..but could not have put it in a better way than this ! i will start following your posts now ! Ciao !

  5. thewholebenchilada

    I think it’s interesting how stereotypes are all based on truths. In today’s world of gender relations the zeitgeist is all about liberating yourself – girls can be assertive, men can be sensitive, etc. What we don’t realize is that these stereotypes aren’t just created by a culture, they really were useful once. Women are hard-wired to be mothers, and men are hard-wired to be warriors. Similarly, the way male culture singles out and picks on those who are effeminate is like a very watered-down version of survival of the fittest. That doesn’t mean it isn’t barbaric though. I think masculine and feminine instincts both have a good and bad side. I love that we live in a society where, due to people working together, it doesn’t have to be survival of the fittest; men can be more that fighters and women can be more than mothers. I know I’m not much of a fighter, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I also agree with you that there’s nothing wrong with liberating ourselves a little using video games and sports like paintball, as long as we understand that it’s pretend. The instinct to kill is hard-wired in us; it’s either kill computer-animated people or risk building up enough angst and frustration that we’ll want to kill real people.

  6. While aggression and violence are latent in all of us, perhaps the question is one of where those actions are considered acceptable and desirable – particularly as a means of fitting in and belonging to the group. As the role of men was traditionally to take the more aggressive road, and that is the case in groups of men who are still more drawn to the physical, it makes sense that the image of masculinity is interpreted as one that involves aggression and violence. However, there is a cultural factor at play here as well – the way a culture sees violence as a necessary part of its maintenance or propagation. Men in aggressive cultures will perhaps see violence as more acceptable than those from a peaceful culture (as well as sub-cultures).

    • thewholebenchilada

      You’re right, of course… part of it is inherently masculine, part of it is determined by culture and part of it just varies from person to person. I think it’s fascinating to wonder which parts are which, especially because it’s such a volatile topic.

  7. Albert Tilsey

    Training for war, or participating in battle simulations seem to be the most logical thing to do during these times. Seeing that war is like a trail of dominoes; unstoppable until you take a couple of dominoes out. Dropping the A-bomb won’t help much as it will only preclude another nation taking up its place. Maybe Mcchrystal should get his 40,000 so America can finally close the case.

    http://digitalempire.wordpress.com/

  8. Maybe we just love living out these fantasies of James Bond or Rambo.

    James Bond was only violent when provoked. When portrayed by Sean Connery, Agent 007 was never clumsy in his shooting or hitting or punching. He never suffered from disheveled hair either.

    Nevermind the politics behind Rambo, thematically speaking, he hurt people that deserved it.

    We love UFC and boxing and anything that has the risk of death because we want to defy it. We men love blood and guts. We exert our masculinity through dominating another.

    Wrestlers and boxers typically engage in sanctioned violence. Factoring in the respective rules, whatever happens in that ring is acceptable. Should that violence spill over and out the door, should those sweating and hulking male bodies do to other men similar of milder versions of what happens in the ring, then it’s not OK.

    As Allen Guttman remarks in his book From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports, “To grab a walker in the park about the waist and hurl him to the grass is to commit violence, but to perform a physically identical act in one’s role as linebacker is certainly not violent in quite the same sense of the word.”

    Sociologists, cultural anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, and perhaps even theologians continually contemplate why humans embrace their darkness so eagerly and so easily as participant or voyeur.

    I think….I believe that we would be unable to appreciate deeply our capacity for kindness and compassion if we didn’t recognize our capacity for reveling in other people’s pain.

  9. Paintball is fast becoming one of the world’s most exciting and popular sports. In fact, paintball has risen from being known as just a pastime or a hobby, to a favorite sport among men and women in over 40 countries.

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