Quite a title for a theatre blog, yes, but a new book by Randolph Roth of the same title posits a fascinating link between homicide rates and faith in government. Sifting through four centuries of history, his research points to one consistent connection: when individuals trust their government, homicide rates fall. When they don't, they rise; and Roth links this relationship to America's persistently high homicide rates. To quote:
"The predisposition to murder is rooted in feelings and beliefs people have toward government and their fellow citizens...It is these factors, which may seem impossibly remote from murder, that hold the key to understanding why the United States is so homicidal today."Read the whole article here. What emerges is that the predisposition to murder may be linked to a narrative of social distrust. While the methodologies described in the article seem perilously open to interpretation, there is a potential takeaway for theatre makers. Those narratives of social distrust should be wrestled with in our work, increasing our mutual capacity for imaginative empathy, and creating the possibility for civic compassion.
This doesn't mean that theatre is responsible for, or capable of, lowering murder rates; nor that theatre should indulge in feel-good message plays. Quite the opposite: imaginative empathy only matters when the devil of violence is given its full due; and the necessity of civic compassion only becomes clear when opposed against its opposite. But as this blog continues to explore the conceptual case for theatre as an integral part of democracy, this seemed a good article to highlight.