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.
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)