“Born to Rage”? Henry Rollins, Buddhist Monks, and Violence

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This documentary explores the links between genetics, environment, and violence, featuring Ex-punk rocker Henry Rollins, MMA fighters, former gang members, bikers with violent histories, and three Buddhist monks. All of them gave their stories of violence, both against them and by them, and were tested for what is known as the “warrior gene” (a mutation that leads to poor re-uptake of seratonin in the brain, turning a normally pleasant hormone into something quite different).

Part of the moral discussion at hand is that those with this gene are somehow more predisposed to violence. Their “free will” can even be impared in certain situations. The research was even used in a murder case to argue that due to the gene, the murder could not have premeditated the killing.

The Buddhist response, featured in the show, is that despite the gene, we all still have choices in life. We may not be able choose just how we feel (vedana), but we always have a choice -if only we are aware- of our craving or thirsting. So if someone offends us (or rather, someone acts in a way that triggers our feeling offended), we may ‘automatically’ want them to suffer in return or to appologize. We then cling to some scenario, perhaps playing it out over and over in our minds, and if/when it doesn’t turn out as we imagine, unless we can calm down, violence may erupt.

Or we may draw our awareness to our feeling itself; moving forward with a clear mind free of craving and clinging, recognizing that all beings suffer and all things are subject to change…

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  • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

    I watched the whole documentary. Yea for four day weekends! It was very interesting to study anger and violence from a purely biological view.
    I found that the ones who had the warrior gene and went on to live peaceful (and Buddhist!) lives became convinced of an unpopular, yet universal truth. Violence solves nada. Choices were then made to control or be controlled by anger.
    One of the problems in American society is that anger is the go-to answer for everything instead of calm, rational discourse. It’s implied that if someone isn’t angry, then they don’t care at all. This is simply not the case.
    The thing is, if you respond with anger over every account of injustice and oppression in today’s news, you will be angry all the time. That will be your life. It isn’t the middle way. And quite frankly, I just can’t muster it up.