Saturday, March 17, 2012

On Killing On Sale

As part of Amazon's Big Deal, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's On Killing is on sale for only $2.99. I've been meaning to read Grossman's work for quite some time. His textbook was recommended to me by a serviceman as a good guide to the psychology of killing. Now, thanks to Amazon, I can finally afford the purchase.

According to the blurb, Grossman's basic premises are as follows:
  1. That humans possess the reluctance to kill their own kind
  2. That this reluctance can be systematically broken down by use of standard conditioning techniques
  3. That the reaction of "normal" (e.g., non-psychopathic) soliders to having killed in close combat can be best understood as a series of "stages" similar to the ubiquitous Kubler-Ross stages of reaction to life-threatening disease
I've heard that Grossman's theories are considered quite controversial in some circles, but frankly, that just makes me want to read his text even more. I studied psychobiology back in undergrad, and the lab I worked in focused on the effects that extreme levels of stress can have on long-term health. Grossman's work came up even back then. Now, two wars later, Grossman's work has grown in import. I work at a VA hospital as part of my training, and I've found that an understanding of the fundamentals of combat stress is critical to properly managing the health of the numerous veterans returning home from these extended and repetitive deployments. Combat seems to change a person. But I've never been in combat. I find it hard to relate. Hopefully, On Killing can shed some light on the topic.

Oh, and if you have criticisms of Grossman's work that you'd like to air, please feel free to do so in the comments section. I'm walking into this topic as a neophyte. I'd love to hear your alternative viewpoints or textbook recommendations. 


In addition to On Killing, Amazon's Big Deal has numerous other titles that you may find of interest. They range from nonfiction to fiction and from $0.99 to $3.99. Fill up your Kindle now. Summer will be here soon.

Two kindleboards author buds have books in the deal. LZR-1143 by Bryan James (4.3 stars) and The Jackpot by David Kazzie (4.5 stars) are getting quite a bit of love from their readers. Maybe their works are up your alley.

And if you haven't read Hugh Howey's Wool. You should probably do so.



Zach said...

Glad you posted this. I came across this book a while back, but had to turn it down becuase of the price. I think it was around $10 or $15 at the time. This is also very convenient, as my chosen writing topic for a teacher education class is on the effects that violent media has on children. This book should provide some good food for thought.

I just finished the first chapter, and I have to say that is is quite intriguing so far. I will say that the fact that he is a "virgin", as he puts it, does make me a bit skeptical though. Although I will agree with him that it would probably be difficult to stay objective while carrying the burden that the experience would bring.

gunkan said...

I admit I have two of Col. Grossman's books I haven't finished yet, but I've been to two of his seminars as active duty military. He brings up a lot of good data on combat psychology as well as stories gathered from combat veterans that provide good lessons to those who may one day enter combat. My personal favorites would be the LA SWAT "Battle Crap" and the police officer who accomplished a one-handed, off-hand reload with several bullets in her during a shoot-out with home invaders.

B. Justin Shier said...

So far, so good. Grossman get a tad grandiloquent at times, but I kinda dig it. He is talking about shooting people efficiently and whatnot. I'm willing to give his prose some space to breath.


Dustin said...

I picked up the book on your advice through Kindle and I have to say, if it weren't for your recommendation, I would never have made it past his "videogames are making our children violent and anyone who says otherwise is a paid corporate shill" rant in the beginning.

Once you get past that, and imagine him stepping off his soapbox, his information is spot on and entirely in line with conversations I've had with current era vets my own age. Thanks for the recommendation. I'd definitely call this required reading for anyone writing about the topic.

B. Justin Shier said...

Dustin, yea, he tends to say some controversial stuff. The media violence argument doesn't sit well with me. I've read the relevant research and am rather unimpressed. The lack of roving bands of 20-something gamers shotgunning people to death suggests to me that these assertions are somewhat overblown. In fact, murders have been on the decline for some time:

I did enjoy the rest of the book. At the very least, Grossman's perspective is worth a hearing.


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