A person’s behavior is determined not solely by the individual’s personality but also through that individual interaction with his or her environment. Despite the American dream of the self-made man, human agency is not reliant on the individual alone.
In Marc Pilisuk and Jennifer Achord Rountree believe the social environment, especially economically-driven incentives, has enormous impact on an individual’s choices and path through life. (The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War, 2015).
In their view, social institutions inflict violence on people in both direct and indirect ways. Institutional violence assaults us directly, for instance, in the “collateral damage” of contemporary wars, which are distinctive in that 90% of those killed are civilians. Another feature that characterizes today’s warfare is that is not necessarily fought between nation states, but is usually fought over natural resources.
Indirect forms of violence afflict us more insidiously. A pervasive form of indirect violence afflicts the the international community when transnational corporations exploit the natural resources of poor countries, leaving toxic waste behind and the local people stricken with poverty. The jobs we often here about created for these poor people by large companies are jobs in sweatshops that pay below subsistence level. Pilisuk and Rountree describe conditions of labor abuses in a toy factory in Vietnam making Disney character’s for McDonald’s Happy Meals: poor ventilation, forced overtime, young women’s exposure to chemical toxins that lead to hospitalization and earnings of 6-8 cents per hour (less than is needed to pay for the standard meal in this part of the world, a bowl of rice and vegetables). The same year the CEO from Disney earned $203 million. Indirect violence also occurs, for instance, when costly war preparations erect nuclear plants that compromise the heath of those living near by; increased cancer and birth defects arise around each of America’s 18 nuclear weapons facilities.