Born to Rage
||07 October 2012 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): "Are you aggressive? Do you battle to contain your aggression? What makes you lose your temper?"
Jeremy: "Well, road rage for one."
Nikki Botha (Animal rights activist): "Selfishness."
Noelene: "If people question my integrity."
We all have our triggers...
Demarte: "When I see that something is not fair it really makes me angry."
Odette: "When things just aren't going right."
Jeremy: "And then all of a sudden something small happens and then I'll just snap."
Aggression is a normal occasional human reaction, but for some rage is an everyday thing.
Nikki: "****! This a****** is right up my **** ****. **** mother *****!"
Animal rights activist, Nikki Botha, is a self-confessed aggressor.
Nikki: "I do have a temper; I am a bit jaded. And I hate humanity in general."
She says she has been a hot-head all her life.
Nikki: "People used to call me fireball as a kid. And that would send me into a rage all over again. But I only became aware of... just generally, I suppose... being an angry person - with reason of course - as an adult."
Her outbursts, she claims, are always justified.
Nikki: "When I see injustice and selfishness, and people not regarding each other and the environment... and that makes me angry."
Especially in the traffic...
Nikki: "Taxi, screw you. What people don't realise, and this really, really p***** me off, a car is not just an expensive thing that you pay for use... it is a deadly weapon. You kill people with it!"
Nikki: "It's a turning lane you dimwit... and a red robot to boot!"
While road-rage is something most people experience at some point, experts make a distinction when it comes to rage-a-holics.
Hazel Kurian (Counselling psychologist): "An aggressor, the difference there is that this is something that happens almost every day in traffic. It doesn't just stop at a few words to yourself in your car."
According to psychologist Hazel Kurian, what makes aggressors different from the rest of us is the extremity of their reactions.
Hazel: "The aggressor is someone who will act inappropriately. It is when their actions cause detrimental results - either for themselves, or to other people."
Nikki has tornado-like fury.
Nikki: "Hello tree."
Derek: "And you're not shy about hopping out and confronting the motorist?"
Nikki: "No! Somebody needs to tell them."
Hazel: "It is sometimes not always as overt or in your face as that. It can be having a proper meltdown. It is not a healthy reaction; it is not healthy or beneficial to be so angry all the time."
Costa Ioannou: "There's a knot in my stomach that I can't... my breathing changes... I shake. It's a problem because it'll take me for the whole day to recover."
Costa Ioannou says there was a time in his life when he was prone to rage.
Costa: "I feel like I haven't lost control in many, many years. When I do get very upset, it is very internal. That's what it becomes."
According to his girlfriend of two years, Costa has some odd triggers.
Panayiota Livanios: "Chewing and swallowing - those are the smallest things."
Derek: "Chewing and swallowing?"
Derek: "So you're not allowed to chew?"
Panayiota: "Not loud."
Costa: "You want to stop and tell them that's not how you do it. Like you were taught from a child: don't chew with your mouth open... It drives me crazy."
So do inconsiderate smokers.
Costa: "In a weird way it is malicious... they know you are a non-smoker, but they'll smoke around you. That makes me angry."
He says he seldom loses his temper, but when he does it turns to rage.
Derek: "So do you feel that you become another person?"
Costa: "100%... I'll be pushed, pushed; I'll try get out of it, try get out of it, and then I remember nothing. Then it is over; I blank completely."
In trying to understand aggression, there are no simple answers - it is driven by a complex mix of factors.
Hazel: "It is our own decisions that we have control over. So we can control the way we act, the way we behave, as well as how we choose to feel about things or how we choose to think about things. It's the environment that we're in. So whether it's the people that we are surrounded by... our society, but also then our experiences in those societies."
Demarte Pena: "Most of my uncles were soldiers; my father was a soldier. My grandfather was rebel leader."
Demarte Pena grew up tough - a child of Angola's civil war.
Demarte: "And there was war constantly so as a child that can be a bit traumatic."
Orphaned as a boy, trauma played out in Demarte's young life as aggression and delinquency.
Demarte: "I was very naughty and I used to do a lot of things... used to get into a lot of fights with my friends. I didn't think I was being wrong as such... just being a tough kid."
As an adult he says that he has learnt to control his temper.
Derek: "You say that you're mostly calm. But at these times when you do lose it, or you lost it in the past, what actually happens?"
Demarte: "You know, you just feel like, okay, now, you know, no matter what, it is on. You've stepped on that line."
Derek: "You can't hold yourself back?"
Demarte: "Ja, you just want to go."
Derek: "Even if you know there are consequences?"
Demarte: "No, you don't think about the consequences then."
In their efforts to decipher the aggression code, scientists now suggest that some people may be "born to rage".
Controversial new studies indicate that inside a rage-a-holic's DNA, a so-called "warrior gene" may be pulling the strings.
Noelene Kinsley (Genetic counsellor): "The warrior gene is a gene that produces an enzyme that is in the brain that regulates how the brain functions and how... ultimately how we respond to, let's say, anger, fear or frustration."
Genetic counsellor Noelene Kinsley unpacks the science.
Noelene: "What they've found is, that if there's a certain fault or mutation in that gene, that some people who carry that, they have less of this enzyme and it causes them to be a little bit more aggressive than most."
Studies show that one in three Caucasian men carry the mutant gene. But that doesn't mean that a third of the Western male population is violent.
Noelene: "A small defining, a predisposition. So it says, 'If you have this lower level of this gene product then the chances of you being aggressive under certain circumstances is greater than if not.' But it's a delicate play between environment and genes. So you don't want to just throw everything else out just because you've found that you've had the gene mutation. It is all mixed together."
Hazel: "I'd go so far as to say that aggression is almost a human condition; it is not something that we can really escape. And it really depends on our experiences, whether it's environment, whether it is our genetics. And I think very often the lines again are quite blurred and I think it's a little bit of everything."
Noelene: "What has been really demonstrated through studying this gene is the impact of nature and nurture together. The classic example is, someone who carries this gene mutation, but they've had a good childhood with no trauma, has actually resulted in them not responding inappropriately when there's a trigger. Whereas those that have, have sometimes responded inappropriately."
Derek: "What annoys you? What really makes your blood boil?"
Demarte: "When people underestimate me. That really gets me going and that gets me really angry."
Derek: "So that's a trigger?"
Demarte: "Ja, like, 'Ag, look at him, he's not good enough.' 'You'll never do it.' That gets [to] me... 'I'll show you!'"
The odd shows of aggression aside, Demarte says he's generally chilled.
Demarte: "(In ice cold water) What it takes."
So, could he have the warrior gene?
Demarte: "(In ice cold water) ...not cold."
Demarte: "I don't think so, actually. I think that maybe that certain behaviour is because of how I grew up and where I grew up... not necessarily because I have the warrior gene."
Determined to find out whether rage is encoded in her genes, Nikki agreed to DNA testing...
Derek: "She told me to shut up."
...and boarded a flight to Johannesburg.
We used the opportunity to test whether she really is quick to rage.
Woman 1 (Hire car assistant): "I'm sorry about that. My system just..."
Management at the car hire company were in on the plot. For the purposes of this experiment, they agreed to make Nikki's experience as frustrating as possible.
Nikki: "It doesn't make such a huge difference if you are 'Mr' or 'Mrs'."
Woman 1: "It does make a difference because, if the reservation was made under this name and you check it out for a 'Mrs', then the travel agent won't pay up."
Clearly irritated, she keeps her cool, but only just.
Nikki: "I want it on the record - I do not want any unsolicited messages. Nothing!."
Nikki: "(at car) Now, is that locked, or is that open?"
An unfamiliar car, though, brings out her darker side.
Nikki: "Ah for **** sakes."
Nikki: "It is tiring. I don't like feeling angry; it's not a nice way to go through life."
While aggression is a very real part of Nikki's life, it is not likely she carries the warrior gene - simply because she is a woman.
Noelene: "And the reason for that is, women have two X chromosomes and men have an X and Y chromosome. This gene sits on the X chromosome, so if it's present in the male, it is obvious to see."
In women, if the mutation sits on one X chromosome, the body compensates by turning it off. It doesn't function.
Keeping with the odds, we invited mostly men for DNA testing - the majority of them professional extreme fighters.
Derek: "In this country we only do diagnostic genetic testing... in other words, to identity a mutation which confirms a condition like haemophilia or cystic fibrosis. So we haven't got a lab to test for the warrior gene and we've had these kits flown in from the States."
After counselling participants, Noelene collected DNA samples from fighters Jeremy Smith, Ruan Potts and Bernarto Mikixi - a big man with a short fuse.
Bernarto Mikixi: "I pray God to end me because I'm angry. I can sit maybe two days."
He takes his rage to the ring.
Bernarto: "Before I was really scared that maybe if I'm angry for my wife, I'll become angry with everyone here."
Also in the mix: a successful business man - EFC Africa president, Cairo Howarth.
Cairo Howarth (EFC Africa president): "I'm pretty chilled; I don't think I have it. It will be interesting to see... something fun."
Not prone to violence, Cairo makes executive, in-the-moment decisions - something science says could make him a 'warrior'.
Noelene: "One of the latest papers that have come out has shown that if you carry the gene, and you're asked to make a decision promptly - so it's almost like an impulsive decision - that individuals that carry this particular gene make the correct decision and quickly. And they're assuming that it's an evolutionary advantage because, if you can make a quick decision to your advantage, you are going to be the fitter."
Derek: 'Convinced that this must be the case with me, I gave my DNA sample. And then the ladies... rage-full Nikki... our sometimes hot-headed producer.
Odette: "I'm completely reactionary. And, ja, very aggressive at the moment."
Noelene: "Based on triggers."
...even the even-tempered genetic counsellor took the test.
Noelene: "I would find it interesting, actually, if I was found to be shown to be carrying the warrior gene."
Demarte and Costa also signed up for the experiment.
Derek: Looking at a general classification from 0 to 10... 10 being really aggressive, where would you put yourself?"
Costa: "In that past my aggression was probably at about an 8. I've learnt to channel it."
His outlet: sport ... this one - mixed martial arts.
Costa: "Due to my training and due to my sport, I've been able to, or I've learnt to, put a lid on it."
Costa is a record-holding EFC fighter - a professional at the top of his game.
Demarte: "I think he is one of the most aggressive fighters in EFC. In training he is very calm, but when he gets angry it's not pretty."
Demarte Pena is himself a champion extreme fighter who also says the sport has calmed him down.
Demarte: "You know, when you get to the gym, when someone hits you hard you can hit them back. And that's just a way to calm you down. And now, as a fighter, I have that. You know, you don't have to take it out on someone on the road."
So we decided to test the theory in traffic.
Demarte: "Cars like that **** me off a little. They just go like (shows being cut off)."
Despite being cut off several times in one of the most chaotic traffic centres in Johannesburg, Demarte doesn't rise to the bait.
Demarte: "It's a true test of you being calm or not (laughs). But, okay, sharp."
Costa was also generally unfazed by the reckless drivers around him.
Costa: "He doesn't get it; he's just stupid."
Woman 2: "That was close though?"
Costa: "Ja, it was."
One of many close calls...
Costa: "Jeez, she's [pedestrian] going to get herself blipped for no reason."
With reason to believe that Costa and Demarte might just be unflappable, we set up a covert meeting with EFC boss Cairo. Hidden cameras in place, we bring in two tables of rowdy guests.
Among them inconsiderate smokers who for the next 45-odd minutes behave badly - clearly irritating our targets.
Costa: "It's horrible, though."
Demarte: "That scream is crazy... wow!"
Costa: "He's going to [punch them]. Everything you worked for today down the drain."
But that was the closest we got to a reaction.
Cairo: "One of the other tables is going to throw something at them."
Throwing everything we could at these champion fighters, we called in the one man in the City who knows how to push buttons: Darren "Whackhead" Simpson.
Darren 'Whackhead' Simpson: "Okey-dokes, you're good to go."
Costa's girlfriend is in on the prank - pretending that a work colleague is giving her a hard time.
[On phone] Panayiota: "This oke's been driving me mad the whole freakin' day."
Darren: "Can you just get off the phone. Who are you talking to now? Are you still on the phone?"
[On phone] Costa: "Give him the thing... I'm going to speak to him."
With Costa on the line, "Whackhead" throws every low blow he can.
Darren: "The problem is that this **** sits on the phone all day."
[On phone] Costa: "Okay, come on, listen, there's no problem now. Don't start swearing, please."
Darren: "Hey, big boy, take the mouth guard out of your mouth; I can't hear you."
[On phone] Costa: "Why are you being so insulting? You don't even know me."
Darren: "I've seen you. You're that skraalie [small] oke, hey?"
[On phone] Costa: "Yes, ja, very small... 84kg."
Darren: "84kg of pure baklava, hey?"
[On phone] Costa: "100%."
Darren: "Greek warrior."
[On phone] Costa: "Listen, please, I'll speak to you later."
After hurling insults for 20minutes, "Whackhead" finally admits defeat .
Darren: "Hey Costa, what's happening here? My name is 'Whackhead' Simpson from 94.7. And we have tried to push your buttons for the Carte Blanche expose."
[On phone] Costa: "You're **** joking. Admit, I've been good."
Darren: "Dude, you have excelled, bro'; absolutely excelled. You are the most chilled oke I've ever spoken to, you know that."
[On phone] Costa: "I'm **** shaking; I'm **** furious. Hello? I hope I'm not swearing too much, I've been trying to stop swearing."
Derek: "So, the big question. Do you feel that you have the warrior gene?"
Costa: "I feel I do. It would explain a lot either way."
Derek: "It is five months since we sent the DNA samples to America and the results are out at last. Some of them are shocking... well, at least surprising."
The first five people tested - champion professional fighters: Ruan Potts, Demarte Pena Jeremy Smith, Costa Ioannou and, arguably one of the most aggressive fighters in the ring, Bernarto Mikixi.
We asked the boss for his predictions.
Cairo: "To guess out of all of those who has the gene... I have no idea."
Derek: "No idea?"
Cairo: "They're all very relaxed. I mean, sometimes before a fight they get quite uptight, but generally they are really cool guys."
Well, "really cool" is right, as the majority of the title holders tested negative for the warrior gene.
[On screen] Jeremy Smith - normal variant
[On screen] Bernarto Mikixi - normal variant
[On screen] Ruan Potts - normal variant
Derek: "Between Costa and Demarte?"
Cairo: "If I had to guess between the two I'd say Costa. I think Demarte is the most relaxed guy on the planet. I've never seen him lose his cool ever before, whereas Costa I've seen him get quite edgy when it comes to pre-fight when it gets tense."
Derek: "Well, we're going to find out in a short while. But, here, I've got an envelope for you."
Cairo: "It says, 'Normal variant.' So I'm assuming that means no. I'm safe on the other side of the cage."
Also safe on this side of the cage is our producer - who has an entirely different reason for being agro [heavily pregnant].
But am I a warrior?
Derek: "Well, I think I know the result. Being so patient, loving, forgiving, understanding... here we go. And there it is: normal."
Well, in most cases.
Anxious for their results are Costa and Demarte. We told them during interviews that only one tested positive.
Derek: "One out of two has the warrior gene. Which will it be?"
Demarte: "(laughs) Are you for real? Wow!"
Costa: "So I'm just mad."
Demarte: "My next opponent should know that he's fighting a real warrior then (laughs)."
Derek: "So there's your result."
Noelene Kinglsey counselled the fighters about their results - focusing on more than just the aggressive aspect of the genetic predisposition.
Noelene: "There's also been associations with people that can make good decisions, good risk options, and they come out tops. And as far as... I think, in terms of their lives, they have. If the association is correct then it has been to their advantage."
Noelene has also arranged counselling for Cape Town-based Nikki. The fiery activist did not test positive for the mutant gene.
Noelene: "Nikki was quite interested to know that there was a reason for her level of aggression, that almost this test would be that answer. And, I think for her it is really just trying to find out what the source is, or counsel.
Finally, Noelene's result... And that is the surprise package - the mild-mannered counsellor carries the warrior gene.
Noelene: "I must say my response was quite interesting because I did it for fun. But it did make me stop and think. And it made me think: where is the aggression?"
She says that heightened levels of aggression do run in the family.
Noelene: "So I had fun doing this test and then I thought: well, actually, now I'm given the results and what does that mean to my family? How are they viewed, and how am I viewed now as a counsellor with the warrior gene?"
For anyone who tests positive, Noelene warns against over-simplifying the science.
Noelene: "So many other factors are involved that it would be inappropriate to say, 'Well, this is it, tick it off a list, there's nothing I can do.' It is not an excuse to continue being aggressive if you are an aggressive person and found to carry the warrior gene. It is just a predisposition."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.