Horizon – How Violent Are You? Review: You Want Some

May 12, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

HOW VIOLENT ARE YOU? Tuesday 12th May, BBC2, 9.00pm ALERT ME

At some point in our lives we’ve probably all experienced senseless, uncontrollable rage.

For me it usually occurs when Jeremy Kyle is on the TV or when I’m stuck behind a particularly slow moving OAP, but most of the time I manage to keep a fairly good reign on it.

Sure, I may shout a few things at Kyle’s smug balloon of a head that could possibly, slightly incite violence, but it’s only my nearest and dearest that can actually hear it. And they more often than not wholeheartedly agree.

In this Horizon special, politician turned TV personality Michael Portillo undergoes scientific testing, travels to Bolivia and speaks with formerly aggro blokes in search of answers to the question; “What drives people to commit acts of violence?? A quick answer would obviously be, ‘politicians, like you, furnishing mansions with gold taps at the tax-payers expense,’ but then the show would have been much shorter and less informative.

Portillo isn’t a man comfortable with violence or aggression but knowing that it is hardwired into each of us, like Crazy Frog’s Axle F, he aims to find out where he sits on the spectrum of violence.

First stop is Bolivia to meet the Tinku people. The Tinku’s festival of fighting kicks off (literally) every year with a spectacular show of bravado and awkward, mistimed punches where groups of older men gather in the village to watch younger men with bum fluff kick the crap out of each other. Tinku children are encouraged to have their first fight at what seems to be like a jubilee party on the Shadwell Estate. Somewhat reluctantly Portillo dons the gloves for a spot of mano a mano fisticuffs against a suspiciously frail looking opponent. The fight plays out like a Johnny Vegas sex scene: several minutes of heavy breathing and desperate grappling. Portillo eventually emerges the victor and admits that he felt quite good about getting the other guy on the floor.

Now for the science part: Scientists have discovered that far from being in control of our innate violent impulses we are in fact much more susceptible to, and very capable of, inflicting severe pain on others. And to prove it we are shown a very disturbing experiment involving electricity which encourages ordinary members of the public to inflict pain on one another.

For anyone with a passing interest in human behaviour and psychology How Violent Are You? is a fascinating watch. Portillo, for all his years as a politician, is likeable and rises to the challenges of sleep deprivation and working in a high pressure environment with admirable good humour. The show ends rather unsettlingly on the assertion that violence is in every one of us and is accompanied by some ominous music as the camera pans across groups of drinkers out on the streets at night.

Still, safer take my chances in the Saturday night free for all than stay in with Jeremy Kyle.


Jack McKay