TUMBY BAY - In her 2020 book, ‘The Motion of the Body Through Space,’ the contrarian writer and novelist, Lionel Shriver, has one of her characters observe “that men in their teens and twenties are the most dangerous creatures on earth”.
“They’re competing for mates, and trying to establish dominance in the male pecking order.
“The world over, these are the terrorists, the gang members, the perpetrators of most non-state murders.”
Shriver is a exploring a socio-cultural anomaly and doesn’t mention how this proclivity of young men to be dangerously violent has also been militarised to advantage by countless leaders and politicians since time immemorial.
Neither does she mention how those young men, once they have found mates and established their place in the pecking order, will guard that status till their dying day.
The observation by Shriver’s character, if nothing else, reminds us that human beings are at base simply animals.
The differences between us and tigers and wolves is not as great as we might suppose.
Where we tend to differ is in the sophisticated refinements of those base instincts.
We encourage and celebrate our wild sides, most notably in our entertainment and sporting endeavours.
A perusal of film and television will reveal an excess of testosterone-fuelled and violent play-acting rendered with vivid and alarming realism.
This is particularly so in the material that emanates from the USA, where it seems every problem can be solved with a gun and a blaze of bullets.
I can recall sitting beside a battered projector in Kiunga in the 1960s feeding a film spool depicting the violent interactions between a mob of cowboys and Indians and seeing the fascinated faces of villagers watching the images on a bedsheet strung up between two coconut palms.
The next day I recall the young village boys running around with wooden guns pretending to shoot each other.
Free-to-air television began in Papua New Guinea in 1987 and quickly became popular.
The first station, EMTV, was originally owned by Australia’s Nine Network, which sourced most of its content from the USA and provided it to PNG.
Statistics are hard to come by in PNG so it is difficult to blame the upsurge in law and order problems and crimes of violence on such external influences with any accuracy.
Anecdotal evidence however suggests a strong correlation between the introduction of television and the upsurge of crime, particularly amongst young men.
The introduction of the internet and videos are likely to have exacerbated the trend to violent crime significantly.
A perusal of films currently available for purchase on DVD in Papua New Guinea shows a significant predominance of both Asian and American fare, as does the material now available through streaming services. Pornography is also easily accessed through the internet - and is.
There are myriad reports now available that correlate the availability of violent movies and pornography with the abuse of women.
This is particularly striking among poorly educated people, of which PNG has an abundance.
It seems that Lionel Shriver’s observations about the animal instincts of humans ring loud with truth.