The Story of Two Wolves: Our Inner Fight
“The Two Wolves” is a Native American story about a grandfather who tells his grandson that everyone has two wolves fighting inside of them. The first is the wolf of compassion, love, understanding, and generosity. The other is the wolf of cruelty, hate, fear, and selfishness. When the grandson asked which wolf wins his grandfather replied “the one you feed.”
One of my core beliefs is that violence is never the solution to a problem. I am challenged on this belief more often than any other belief I hold. Often by people who share many of my other beliefs.
Mind you, I’m not trying to convince anyone else, I’m just over here minding my own business and holding this belief. But people really don’t like it. People pose a variety of hypothetical scenarios to me that all end with me being given the choice between committing violence or having something terrible happen to someone I love. They ask “would you use violence then?” I try not to engage in these conversations because they don’t involve anyone trying to understand anyone else’s perspective better; they are just people trying to trap me into agreeing to violence.
I suspect that one of the reasons people find this belief so difficult to accept is that because Western culture is full of violence. It monopolizes our news, movies, music, television, social media, and games. But unless you are looking for it (or in my case looking to avoid it) you likely won’t notice how pervasive it is. Try going a week without watching anything that has even one violent scene in it—it will be an eye opening experience. Violence is such a part of the fabric of our society that the claim that it isn’t useful makes people uncomfortable.
In an attempt to starve the cruel and violent wolf inside of me, I minimize the amount of violence I allow in my entertainment. The notion that I would be entertained and get pleasure out of watching another human being be harmed does not sit well with me. Imagining the pain of other people is not fun for me and in fact makes me acutely uncomfortable, distressed even. So I avoid it. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, Criminal Minds, or most other TV dramas. I gravitate toward romantic comedies or classic black and white movies which tend to have less violence (although often horrible messages about gender). The only video game I play is Tetris. I’m not extreme about it—I watch some violence (Marvel movies, Charmed) but it is a lot like my eating habits. I mostly eat fruits, vegetables, and proteins but sometimes I’m in the mood for ice cream. And I’ll eat it even though I know it gives me a tummy ache. Sometimes I watch things with violence even though it gives me a heartache.
I try to apply this two-wolves theory to all aspects of my entertainment and I recommend that you at least consider doing the same. For example, if you are reading this blog you are likely a feminist (and if you’re not a feminist I’d be interested in the comments to hear why not). We know that we are all pumped full of gender norms and expectations from a young age. But that didn’t stop when we became adults or recognized ourselves as feminists. And while being aware of it is a bit of a protective factor, that doesn’t mean that we can’t still be influenced by the entertainment and media we consume. So as much as I like aspects of Madmen, for example, I don’t watch it. I’m not trying to feed the wolf who says that women are subservient sex toys and that cheating is okay. I watch movies like Hidden Figures because I want my feminist wolf to be well fed and my gender norms wolf to starve.
Article by Claire E. Ryder
Director of Refugee and Immigration Affairs
Women's March PA