People often argue about the cause of violence in our world. Some people blame guns, others blame a lack of law enforcement powers, and some even blame capitalism. I think one of the biggest causes of violence in our world is the relatively low cost of performing violence, at least in most developed nations. A situation in Canada exemplifies this:
After Briar MacLean stepped up to defend his classmate against a knife-wielding bully, his mother, Leah O’Donnell, was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics.” Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.
Briar MacLean was sitting in class during a study period Tuesday, the teacher was on the other side of the room and, as Grade 7 bullies are wont to do, one kid started harassing another.
“I was in between two desks and he was poking and prodding the guy,” Briar, 13, said at the kitchen table of his Calgary home Friday.
“He put him in a headlock, and I saw that.”
He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.”
The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away.
Would you be surprised to hear that Mr. MacLean was awarded for his efforts that may have saved the life of a fellow student? Sadly, in our modern society, we are surprised by such things because that’s not usually the case. In fact that wasn’t the case here either:
“I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said.
That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.
Mike Ridewood for National Post
“They phoned me and said, ‘Briar was involved in an incident today,’” she said. “That he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.”
Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.
“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”
The most messed up thing about this situation isn’t the fact that a kid did the right thing and stopped a violent thug before he was able to harm somebody, it isn’t even the fact that his good deed was punished, it’s the fact that his good deed being punished isn’t surprising.
As I said, one of the biggest causes of violence in our society is likely the low cost of performing violent act. The cost is artificially low because when somebody does step in to defend a fellow human being they are punished.
When the principal said heroics aren’t condoned she sent a very clear message: violence will be tolerated. A student coming across a violent act is less inclined to involve themselves if they know their involvement will lead to their punishment. Knowing this, violent students will be more likely to commit acts of violence because they know the chances of somebody intervening, at least until their act is completed, is lower. I’ve noted that the state lowers the cost of committing violent acts by putting road blocks between individuals and the ability to defend themselves. Punishing good deeds discourages good deeds and a society lacking good deeds is almost certain to crumble under the weight of violence and thievery.