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Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War

Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War

Robert J. Burrowes
May 24, 2013

Violence is simply an extreme form of attention-seeking behaviour.

The individual who uses violence does so because they are very frightened that one or more of their vital needs will not be met. In virtually all cases, the needs that the individual fears will not be met are emotional ones (including the needs for listening, understanding and love) and the violence is simply a dysfunctional attempt to have these needs met.

The individual who uses violence is never aware of these deep emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met which, admittedly, is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs. Moreover, because the emotional needs are 'hidden' from the individual, the individual (particularly one who lives in a materialist culture) often projects that the need they want met is, in fact, a material need.

This projection occurs because children who are crying, angry or frightened are often scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as a toy or food - to distract them. The distractive items become addictive drugs. This is why most violence is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources. The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need. And, because the material resource cannot 'work' to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs.

This is the reason why individuals such as Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, Warren Buffett and the world's other billionaires and millionaires seek material wealth, and are willing to do so by taking advantage of structures of exploitation held in place by the US military. They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids and each of them justly deserves the appellation 'poor little rich boy' (or girl).

If this was not the case, their conscience, their compassion, their empathy, their sympathy and, indeed, their love would compel them to disperse their wealth in ways that would alleviate world poverty (which starves to death 50,000 children in the Third World each day) and nurture restoration of the ancient, just and ecologically sustainable economy: local self-reliance. See 'The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth'.

Of course, it is not just the billionaires and millionaires of the corporate elite who have suffered this fate. Those intellectuals in universities and think tanks who accept payment to 'justify' the worldwide system of violence and exploitation, those politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary businesspeople who accept payment to manage it, those judges and lawyers who accept payment to act as its legal (but immoral) guardians, those media editors and journalists who accept payment to obscure the truth, as well as the many middle and working class people who perform other roles to defend it (such as those in the military, police and prison systems), are either emotionally void or just too frightened to resist violence. Of course, it takes courage to resist this violent world order. But underlying courage is a sense of responsibility towards one’s fellows and the future.

Governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism. Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of its emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

What can we do? We need to recognize that several generations of people who were extremely badly emotionally damaged created the world as it is and that their successors now maintain the political, economic and social structures that allow ruthless exploitation of the rest of us and the Earth itself. We also need to recognize that the Earth's ecological limits are now being breached. And if we are to successfully resist these emotionally damaged individuals, their structures of exploitation and their violence, then we need a comprehensive strategy for doing so. If you wish to participate in this strategy you are welcome to sign online 'The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World'.

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Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'Why Violence?'. His website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com.

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