Killology by LTC David Grossman

Human horror about one to one violence is very deep. Soldiers have to be taught how to kill and it’s something many can never learn. And so are themselves killed. For survivors, the psychological scars remain ingrained. And yet, through violent videos we are training children much as we train soldiers. Behavioural scientists are now very interested in what is being called, believe it or not, Killology.

At a conference in Canberra in 1999, Colonel David Grossman spoke about ‘Killology’, a term he coined to describe his work in behavioural science as it relates to human combat. Grossman has worked within the military establishment and with law enforcement groups and he’s written on the effects of violent video games on children. His book, ‘On Killing’ has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Colonel Grossman began by telling the conference that in every war this century, the US military has had more psychiatric casualties than physical casualties, and to understand why the psychiatric toll has been greater than the physical, we need to understand what is happening on the battlefield.

Napoleon said that on the battlefield, the moral is to the physical as three is to one. That is the psychological factors are three times more important than the physical factor. If you think you’re going to win a war by pounding somebody to death, you have missed the essence of it. You do not defeat the enemy, you defeat their minds. How do you do that? That’s what we need to understand. We need to understand the dynamics.

The attached article is a direct transcript of the author’s briefing on Radio National. Although typographical errors have been corrected, seeming grammatical aberrations have been left intact. This transcript provides an explicit insight into the psyche of the human mind when faced with the prospect of having to kill another human being.

For those of us who have been in the situation of having to do this, it has been a most harrowing experience and not one that is relished, however necessary it may be - and many emotional scars are part of the aftermath.

We in the Defence Forces have a particularly nasty business to conduct, and dealing with this through assisatnce from our peers and comrades, our families, our leaders and commanders, provides a depth of understanding to help us guide others - particulalry our children - to consider the options before embarking on any choice of action that will involve killing.

Published with kind permission of LTC David Grossman, through LTCOL Bob de Haas, RAInf, Officer Cadet School Portsea Alumni.

Further information: Killology Research Group Consultancy company of LTC David Grossman:

The National Centre for War-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder The National Centre was established to respond to the clinical challenge of PTSD in Australian veterans and Defence Force personnel.

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