It's All in the Genes

Mrs. Poobah is a rabid hockey fan, so she weathered last year's NHL lockout with more than a little pain. The long drought ended last night when we attended a rare hockey double-header - an exhibition game between the new prospects for the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings - followed by a pre-season game between the "grownup" Sharks and Kings.

Both were cleanly played, with nary a fight in either. Pretty tame as hockey games sometimes go, but it did get us thinking. What is it about hockey that's so appealing?

It's fast. It combines the finesse of figure skating with the brute power of football. It's a team sport where individual play is equally necessary. And, it's violent. Never underestimate the violence.

This is one of the few games where the players are armed. You don't see football players flailing away at each other with sharp sticks. You don't see baseball players hurling themselves full-force at their opponents. And, we can't think of another sport where every team has an "enforcer" whose job is to teach the other team respect for yours by vicious, well-placed body checks. It's all very Roman.

But what is it about the violence that is so appealing, especially for someone as dignified and pacific as Mrs. Poobah? After all, she isn't alone in this. Who doesn't crane to see a car wreck? Isn't that why action movies are frequently blockbuster hits?

We believe that humans have a deeply ingrained, DNA-imprinted desire to destroy things. Many people declare they are pacifists who abhor such violence, but most of them still get pissed and would gladly slug someone applying makeup or reading the newspaper at a traffic light. Many people engage in truly useful constructive activities like Habitat for Humanity or refurbishing the local rec center, yet those same people probably wouldn't pass up an opportunity to push the plunger at a building implosion.

People just want to see things explode. There is something as deeply satisfying about that as there is with constructing things. Our early ancestors needed to commit violence against unlucky antelopes to survive. It's that simple.

We aren't surprised about this love of destruction. It's part of the necessary wax and wane of life. Some things must go in order to make room for new things. We relate to it not because it's some base instinct that we must always try to rise above. We relate to it because it is a normal and natural part of every organism on the planet. That's why sometimes wars are a necessary evil, despite what some would have you believe. The secret is in choosing wars deliberately and fighting them intelligently. If not, we end up destroying not only what needs to be destroyed, but also ourselves.

We continue to select wars poorly and fight them stupidly and in the process we keep inventing new and improved ways to destroy things. If Tide detergent could create as much technology for cleaning clothes as we expend on devising ways to blow things up, we'd have the cleanest clothes in the universe. But then, aren't clean clothes a lot less interesting than watching something explode?

Yeah, we didn't think so.

Tech Tags:

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, September 19, 2005

AddThis Social Bookmark Button