Is violence fundamentally part of human nature?

Is violence fundamentally part of human nature? What triggers it? Why can some people talk themselves out of anger and others attack with their fists or words, shoot to kill, maim, or declare war? Is evolution--education, progress--making some humans more peaceful?  Or do we just have better tools to control ourselves--think counting one through ten, thinking happy thoughts, repeating Ohm...

The Spaghetti Subway fight of a few days ago and a brawl I bumped into yesterday has made me think of violence in a more profound way.  

I was walking to get my fancy flax seed quinoa bread at Whole Foods in my fancy downtown neighborhood of Manhattan yesterday when I bumped into a fight between two men outside the famed hot dog City spot, Chelsea's Papaya. A man was punching the lights out of another man. It was brutal, one man on the floor was gushing blood out his mouth, I think he'd lost a tooth. I had been blissfully listening to Prince's "Purple Rain," when I came across this frightful sight. I screamed. The crowd that had gathered was just looking--and I was reminded of the stories I've read about the brutal gladiator fights. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the gruesome spectacle. I kept screaming, what are you doing, stop it, stop it.. stop it... I'm not quite sure if that was what made man number one stop swinging,  but he did. 

I don't know why these two men were going at it--did one cut the other in line for a hot dog, did another guy make an unwanted pass at him (this is Chelsea, after all and the homophobes are everywhere.)  But just like that, man number one, a beefy dude who'd clearly f**ked up the other more scrawny male, stepped away from his victim on the floor and into the shop and ordered his two hot dogs for a dollar, the Recession Special. The other wobbled up 7th Ave, dizzy and bleeding.

What could have triggered this madness in the middle of a beautiful sunny Spring morning. And whatever it was, was it that serious? My anthropological mind was not about to go digging.  I was left shuddering and wondering about violence.

And I thought, have I become a wimpo? I mean everywhere around there is violence--Darfur, Congo, Puerto Rico, Iraqu, Afghanistan War, Middle East, name the county--but, these are all images and stories I read and see in media, steps removed. It's not inside my home or family, and I work to keep it far away. Violence was part of my childhood neighborhood, home, and after seeing lots of it, I made a conscious decision that I did not want it in my life. Yes, I've had hiccups here and there, ie, I pushed a woman on the subway who was suffocating my 6-year old, but on the whole, violence of any kind, physical, verbal, spiritual is a no no. Only sweetness is allowed. Even negative people have been exfoliated from my surroundings.

It may seem naive but this violence free life makes me happy. I can't control the world, and random violence, but I certainly can control me and infuse my life and children with the same kind of spirit. So the morning sight, in front of me, not on TV or iPad, ruined my stomach, it made me feel pained for both the one who was beat up and the one doing the beating. Why couldn't they talk it out? Why resort to punching each other out?

I shared the incident with the cashiers at Whole Foods and they were like duh, "we in New York City girl, where you from?" The world is ripe with crazy. And they pointed to the recent spaghetti fight on the subway days earlier.

A pull quote from the experts of a story that is worth reading.

My personal opinion," says University of Utah biologist David Carrier, "is that Western Society as a whole is in mass denial about the magnitude of the problem that violence represents for the future. We are peace-loving and want to believe that the violence and aggressions of the past will not return, but the recent history and current events illustrate how easy it is for  humans to respond with interpersonal and intergroup violence."