Paws for a Moment

“Power and Control”

By Bonny Corbeil

In our last Paws column, the topic of the brutality and violence involved in dog fighting relating to the national Michael Vick story was featured. This important question was asked:

When we as human beings are involved in this kind of “power and control” as masters of dogs, forcing them to be violent and fight each other — often to the death — and consider it entertainment, what impact does it have on our own psyches, our minds and how we think and act?

The answer is simple. Violence begets violence. It is a fact supported by credible scientific evidence.

When we use physical force or violence as a means of defining ourselves, solving problems, teaching children how to behave, or attempting to control the world around us, we invite numerous social problems. We lose our moral compass; we forget the difference between right and wrong; we become out of control and ultimately powerless in time.

True power and control are found within each of us, in our own process of self-awareness and discovery in making decisions and good choices in life. What we choose to think, speak and say to better both ourselves and our world is the power that moves humanity forward.

The brutal history of slavery was based on the wrong use of power and control of one race over another. It was based on violent and oppressive behavior. It has left a deep residue of pain, suffering and distrust that we still struggle with today. We have a great responsibility to look at ourselves, to examine our behavior as a society and ask whether specific behaviors contribute to a healthier community for all — or not.

“Power and control” cases of child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence and animal abuse come from learned wrong thinking and acting. It results in violence. Like rape and domestic violence, dog fighting is based on power and control. It is learned and grows because someone becomes addicted to the excitement of power over others,  usually those smaller and easier to control.

The fact that this kind of brutal violent behavior is enjoyed and considered entertainment is deeply disturbing. This wrong thinking and acting behavior grows and sets that person on a long road of misery, often resulting in incarceration. Our jails are filled with people who experienced violence at an early age.

This kind of behavior may start off in children as small incidents like bullying younger or smaller children or teasing or hurting wild or domestic animals. It then grows rapidly into greater acts that threaten the well-being of others. The more one participates in violent behavior, the more that violent behavior increases. Participation in dog fights where animals are brutally pitted to the death contributes to violence in our community. Bringing children to watch is teaching them that brutality is acceptable and is planting seeds for emotional problems at an early age.

Along with the dog fighting issue, there have been many discussions about cockfighting in our islands.

I have attended a number of Legislative hearings through the years where cockfighting has been defended as a “cultural tradition.” Domestic violence was once considered acceptable in our islands and thankfully is no longer acceptable. Many of our wonderful cultural traditions attest to the greatness and spirit of the people of the Virgin Islands despite the many adversities faced. They should be proudly celebrated. Any behaviors that we have learned that do not honor us as loving human beings need to be examined closely and honestly.

We must now look at both dog fighting and cockfighting.

I have watched some of our young men use cockfighting as a right of passage at a stage in life where they are searching for their personal understanding of power and control. This is a critical time in their adolescent lives. When birds are pitted to fight each other, the lesson learned is that fighting is the way to find power and control. When dogs are pitted to fight against each other, that lesson is again reinforced.

Are we teaching our youth that the way to succeed in life is through violence? This is a critical issue that must be addressed. Is this the message that we want to send to our children? Does participating in cockfights or dog fights help them learn to find the inner resources to grow in a positive manner? I think not. Instead it reinforces those behaviors that impede their emotional growth. The Michael Vick story has given the world the opportunity to look at this subject of violence andhow it impacts us. I hope we are all paying close attention to the lesson being taught.

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