Monday, March 16, 2009

TheTVObserver: Zooming In On Men

As I observed Zooming In On Men as they discussed “Male Violence”. I realized whilst watching the program that frustration drives men to be upset and some go even further. Most men do not handle frustration very well.

The topic for this episode was a much needed addition to talk-tv and I had hoped that the show would offer much more to the subject that what we had observed. We were disappointed at the fact that the show did not use its position as a male talk show to address this issue in such a manner that viewers get to understand the reasons behind such violence and the consequences thereof, without excluding the agony of victims, which are mostly children and women.

The “macho man” attitude of South African men is one of the main reasons they have been ranked among the most violent in the world.

South African men who were exposed to parental violence or suffered physical abuse as children were at the greatest risk (27.5%) of becoming abusers of intimate partners themselves (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

An MRC (South African Medical Research Council) study undertaken to examine the problem, which focused on young and middle-aged men, reviewed the scientific literature about male violence.

Some of the findings pulled from a variety of reports include:
  • South African murders claim the lives of nine male victims to every female victim (National Injury Mortality Surveillance System, 2005 data);
  • The rate at which men are murdered in South Africa is 6.4 times higher than in the rest of the world (WHO Report on Violence and Health); and
  • Young South African men commit acts of violence at a rate nine times higher than the world average (WHO Bulletin).
  • The “macho man” attitude of South African men has been identified as one of the reasons they commit violent, often senseless, crimes.

Professor Kopano Ratele, acting director of the MRC’s Crime, Violence and Injury programme, said: “Our men can’t walk away from a challenge. Parents need to teach their children it is okay to walk away from conflict, instead of fighting with their fists.”

In a recent article by Lauren Cohen of Sunday Times, it detailed a story of a customer who went on the rampage at a pharmacy (drug store) in Somerset West in a fit of rage over a queue to pay. Dis-Chem director Kevin Sterling said a man, later identified as carpet shop owner Mustafa Akar “started letting rip with his mouth” and allegedly hit a staff member over the head with a 5kg bucket of supplements.

Somerset West police said Akar appeared in court on Tuesday and was charged with common assault and malicious damage to property.

Frustration can make men do terrible things, just as we have seen on Scandal with Alex turning all abusive towards Shakira. The same has been depicted on All My Children by Jonathan Lavery (Ryan’s brother) when he abused and controlled Maggie in his villainous days.

The Personality
Some individuals over-control their emotions while others under-control them. Both these personality types are more prone to violence than the norm. Those who under-control are more likely to be frequently aggressive, while the over-controllers are more likely to be infrequently but extremely aggressive. The under-controlled person learns with practice to contain their aggression, while the over-controlled person, being unused to aggressive feelings and reactions, loses control once the aggressive outburst begins, often with severe consequences.

Immediate social group
The influence of the immediate social group is very important. This can be seen in the case of football hooligans, angry crowds or young men out at night drinking in groups, where the aggression may merely take the form of posturing or may turn to actual violence. An individual's behaviour in the group may owe more to the effect of the group pressure than to his own experience.

Alcohol and drugs
Fifty per cent of violent incidents occur in or near public houses and alcohol is often involved in acts of violence that occur in the home. There is a clear link between the abuse of alcohol and aggressive behaviour. The reason for this is that in some cases alcohol reduces the inhibitions that might normally prevent someone from acting aggressively.

The link between drugs and aggression, meanwhile, seems to be connected with the need to obtain drugs (or to obtain money for drugs), which can lead to violent crime.

Physiological changes
A disturbance in the body's chemistry or physiology - perhaps brought on by fatigue, hunger or lack of sleep - may alter a person's self-control. Medical conditions can sometimes play a role, eg a person taking medication for diabetes may develop low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) if they miss a meal and can become aggressive as a result.

Social circumstances
Much of the violence in present-day society is associated with social deprivation. Many offenders are either unemployed or employed in low-status, low-income jobs. Many come from areas of poverty and deprivation. Additionally, studies on young, violent men demonstrate a number of common background features. Violent youths tend to lack at least one loving, reliable, supportive adult figure. Many will have suffered physical or sexual abuse or some other trauma, and lack any philosophical or religious belief system to provide meaning and purpose. A child who suffers repeated trauma might grow up to be an adult who is impulsively angry and aggressive. It may be that the body produces stress hormones at an excessive rate in these circumstances, and so the individual is constantly in a state of 'hair-trigger' alert. There is evidence that crime, including violent crime, decreases in times of economic prosperity and increases in times of recession.

Zooming In On Men is a half-hour talk show that tackles issues related to men becoming better men. The show explores the challenges and questions they face in a post-Apartheid, post-millennium South Africa, and considers how they can better engage with their partners. The program airs on SABC3.

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