Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 133 of 365: We Are Not a Peaceful Species

Another UFC event has wrapped up, which can only mean one thing: we'll soon see at least one article floating around the internet, berating MMA, calling for a ban, pointing to it like a little kid tattling to the teacher in the schoolyard.

"Miss Anderson -- MMA just made society a more violent place!"

And, while it's easy to point out the hypocrisy of treating boxing like a gentleman's sport, to be watched with a cigar and a whiskey, while treating MMA like an illegal dogfighting ring, my focus is purely on the mindset that we need to ban things like professional fighting because they are making us violent people. Because the only thing more flawed than singling out MMA is using the argument that a violent sport makes us violent.

Why? Because it's operating under the assumption that we are a naturally peaceful species that gets whipped up into violent frenzies due to evil outside forces. And maybe we once were. But our ancestors soon killed them off when resources got scarce.

We are not a peaceful species. Not too long ago, a water main break occurred in my hometown, forcing the city to switch to its reserves. The water still flowed through our taps, and the likelihood that it was at all contaminated was incredibly small. And even if it were, 3 minutes of boiling and any microbial was dead. And if you took your chances and guessed wrong, the worst you would get was an upset stomach. And still, people flocked to the supermarkets, crowding around the bottle water aisle, fighting over the last case of Poland Spring. People were getting punched out over spring water -- simply because there was a slight chance that the water that was still coming through our pipes might make you have to go to the bathroom.

The tiniest little blip in our structured, civilized way of living and people start swinging fists. And we don't even need a disruption in our day-to-day lives: the number of people assaulted, wounded, arrest -- even killed -- on Black Friday this year was downright unfathomable. Forget hoarding the bottle water: people were pulling knives because they wanted a good deal on an Elmo doll.

To reiterate for the folks at home: we are not a peaceful species.

We are around today because our ancestors were aggressive, territorial, jealous, and never fully satisfied. Crack open a history book to see what happens when one society stumbles upon another society that just happens to be a little less aggressive, or a little more trusting, or a little less able to kill indiscriminately. We all have this in us, and it doesn't take much for it to come out. If you're reading this and shaking your head, check your emotions next time you're stuck in rush hour traffic for hours on end and some douchecanoe nearly bangs into your car as they cut you off.

We are not a peaceful species. To deny it is to deny a huge part of who we are at our most basic level. Violent sports will not make us violent if those tendencies were already there in the first place.

So, now that we've established that we are not peaceful, let's bring it back to MMA. Let's bring it back to boxing, to hockey, to football, to any sport where physical contact and force and a touch of violence meet. Let's look at these sports that require skill and strategy. Let's look at these sports where there are strict rules in place, overseen by referees and judges and a whole damn panel of experts. Let's look at these instances where it doesn't take too keen of an eye to see the art in "martial arts".

And let's look a little further into these professional fighters. Let's look at how they high-five and touch gloves before they start swinging those fists. Let's look at how, when the last round is over, they are shaking each others' hands and giving hugs. Take a second to appreciate that pattern of respect, violence, admiration. Because that right there encompasses the beautiful dynamic of what it means to be a human in 15 short minutes.

We are aggressive, territorial, violent creatures with a huge capacity to love and respect and admire. We are flawed, greedy creatures who want to do right in this world, whatever that "right" might be to them. It is the coolest, most interesting part of the human condition and we ignore it so intensely, swearing up and down that we are all civilized now. That those honking their horn or kicking their feet are the different ones.

Watching and participating in violent sports is no more linked to our violence as a species as Hungry Hungry Hippos is linked to the obesity epidemic. And who knows: maybe if we accept that we all have that side of us, resting dormant in our climate-controlled homes and comparatively abundant supply of resources, maybe we can gain a better understanding of what makes us tick. Maybe we'll stop pretending we are something we are not, and instead find a way to coexist without immediately descending into said swinging fists when our easy way of life is disrupted.

Nah, you're right. Better to ban MMA.

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