Reflections on Violence

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We have grown incredibly fond of these wars.  They are not so much wars of the body as they are wars of the mind.  In one’s mind, you say to yourself, “That idea is more important than this, this one is more important than that, we shall measure them as so, and this is what I shall call them.”  You could say that it’s a part of human nature – whatever that means to you – to want to categorize things.  Put them in boxes.  And, as is customary, as humans we bury some of those boxes in the ground, so that we cannot see what we have done.  It is well understood that many people, and no-one is exempt from this, will from time to time – some more often than others – bury in our own private memory holes, things we know deeply to be true, but which we loathe or even are terrified to admit openly, for concern or fear for where that may lead.  The following are some reflections on violence, coercion, as well as some of our relationships and obligations in carrying out honorable living as best we can in a world greatly plagued by these issues.

We have buried and unburied ideologies.  We have put away our ability to place our own teeth and hands squarely into the vulnerable meaty parts of our own holy ideas and tear them to shreds, break them apart, or pull them carefully back together in ways that make sense.  Occasionally when we do manage to grasp the threads and coagulated residues of the ideas that we realize we should revisit, we forget that there is the opportunity to remove the ideologies we had previously created.

On the one hand there are profound difficulties with addressing meaningfully anything relating to violence.  Most people are born directly into harsh and arguably violent environments.  The very air you breathe carries whispers of violent struggle ~ it is being broken apart as you breathe it.  A life had to be ended for you to eat your food.  You cannot escape it.  It is all around you.  On the other hand, the very things that are observably violent also have unquestionably peaceful aspects.  You breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide for plants.  The food you eat is eventually broken apart and released to the environment and becomes food for trees and many beings.  Such is the paradox of existence.  We tend to see light and dark, violence and peace.  We also must acknowledge they exist together and that these concepts do not exist in a binary framework.  It should go without saying, but it is worth mentioning here:  The discussion of conflict as characterized merely as a difference in condition (between “peace” and “violence”) is an unfortunate oversimplification of the world in which we exist.  It is like referring to gender as a binary, music as something which is only ternary, or identity as something which has limits.  None of the three characterizations would be correct.  Perhaps better would be to say that issues relating to how we interact and communicate with each other, including those that involve either use of force or what we generally understand to be peaceful interactions, are intermixed, and overlap a lot.  The more coercion is involved, the more use of force ~ by anyone, individual or organization of any kind ~ the less people are able to voluntarily address and redefine their circumstances and help others do the same.

At the root of this is choice, free will, and the actual ability to make a decision.  If you don’t think that you actually have something called choice or at least the ability to exercise decision-making, if you think that things are just done for us or fated or we are all part of some predestined plan, or if you think that free will can’t possibly exist because of the weight of history or your own philosophical or existential ruminations on the subject, I don’t know that I can convince you otherwise.  And why would I?  Except to add that I hope you might challenge your own thinking before it becomes yet another ideology.  I do hope in reading this you are one of those who still considers “that your own individual actions can make a difference, and that your choices play a part in what we are doing now, that will in turn influence what we leave for those who come after us.

    It is easy to accuse someone of having harmed another human and demand they receive punishment if you are very different than them or you dispute their point of view, or if you believe they have harmed someone you love.  Easy indeed, to develop prejudices against another, or to suggest that no-one should ever kill.  These are examples of points of view that are simple to develop and accept but difficult to let go.  If you wish to play into the agenda of truly violent organizations, simply suggest that individuals’ inherent right to self-defense should be limited and “regulated” by larger forces (“governments,” more properly referred to as corporation-states) which are carrying out their own violent and organized agenda on a worldwide scale.    It’s easy to accuse people’s families or members of society and cast blame about largely for many of the things that we hear about happening in the world these days.  We would do well to remember that there are still direct actions that can get results, even ones that involve significant levels of force within the framework of defense.  But there are new weapons now, not so much to support the ideologies of the old wars, but rather to do away with our reliance upon them and to begin the process of meaningfully diminishing the military-industrial complex and the national security state itself.

Curiously, it seems to be a fad these days to appeal to someone else to do what could better be solved by oneself or with efforts of various communities which may already be involved in addressing the issues.  Collaborative community gatherings are practical, and are more likely to help resolve growing conflicts or emerging issues than anything any corporation-state can do.  However, what’s practical and what’s popular are two different things.  If something happened you didn’t like, a popular course seems to be, appeal to someone else to take care of it for you.  If that doesn’t work, it’s become a fairly popular course for people to then appeal to someone who, in local, state, or federal government, has “powers.”  If they won’t do it, or you don’t like what they are doing or what they’ve done, well they must belong in jail then, or under threat of court action, because that’s how it’s done in the United States of America.   And what corporation-state will do your bidding to enforce your will on the rest of the world? Well, there are plenty, and you pay them quite a lot to do it.

For all the things you want to see happen in society, if you are demanding that someone else represent you, if you are demanding voting or a “congress” solve your problem, if you are suggesting that by passage of some law (in the context which people have traditionally understood that term) then some wrong can be righted, or if someone should be subjected to some law in order to make things right, there is one thing that your ideas (or what they require to function) have in common with anyone around the world who’s ever ended someone’s life.  That one thing is force – by most anyone’s definition, a “violent” use of physical force is required to carry out the system of law which itself forms a certain ideology.

 

In the present-day United States, this has devolved to a particular style in which, rather than true efforts to create a culture of caring, most governmental approaches have involved targeting oppressed groups (including people who are categorized by modern society as disabled or who have a need for greater levels of attention and care) through elaborate forms of fascism.  Innovators, those who speak out, anyone who has ever experienced mental anguish, are all special targets.  Even children are targeted and jailed.  The rest are (also) subjected to mass surveillance, with some periodically weeded out to be put on display by some particular prosecution or another, as though that would “learn us” so that we’d then think it would be all right to trust “government”  and do what they say.  Because, after all, who wants to stand and be judged for what you believe?

 

I could be wrong, but having seen plenty in different parts of the world, to name a few, the United States of America, Ireland, Guatemala, El Salvador (including the manifestations of ‘civil’ war), and various other places, it strikes me that there is a similarity no matter where you are:  people over time have loved to get a taste of what it means to have something called “independence,” but then they quickly replace whatever entity they have kicked to the curb with another authoritarian regime, which they quickly use to vote away whatever concept of freedom they had.  Naturally, such cyclical replacement of one regime with another could not happen without constant application of organized armies which are generated through modern taxation (which is better referred to in this day and age as straight up coercion and extortion), or in the case where those armies are overthrown by some more decentralized group operating more along the lines of guerrilla warfare (or via other unconventional tactics), it is frequently the case that the group using unconventional tactics, once a “victory” is attained, falls prey to the temptation to turn itself into a political party, or a government. Usually, greed then takes hold and the worse part of people’s nature is expressed via various individuals and associations who, regardless of their political, religious, or other ideological views, utilize a profit motive without much regard to community or society to get themselves what they want.  Gene Sharp warns as much in one of his works, “From Dictatorship to Democracy,”  a thoughtful (and free) publication that is available in numerous languages, which has a lot of useful recommendations on how to overturn (or at least meaningfully challenge) power structures and societal structures that are resistant to change.  In a previous post encouraging action, we have noted how – well prior to the existence of the internet – just a few people, calling themselves The White Rose, organized effectively to create campaigns that, even though they did not directly cause the fall of Nazi Germany, contributed substantially to its demise simply by raising awareness about what was happening.  There is no reason why we cannot use similar techniques applied to the modern age, such as those utilized by Reset The Net.  Taking this process further, to stop the most obvious and best-funded violence – involving an unrestrained flow of resources from every individual in society constantly sent to every government in the world – it would be helpful to have people re-examine the framework of the internet and their conceptions of money. In this brief commentary, I suggest:

“(P)erhaps we are just getting a better understanding of what it means to be free. What is this “freedom?” Part of it must mean that we should care for each other in ways that make sense to us, that are not forced upon us by any law or centralized system, and this will also mean that we must take great care to listen to each other, carefully and deeply, as we move forward. For without the ability to care for each other and our world, we are lost. Indeed, without caring and empathy as a basis for what we do next, we will be as lost as the warring factions that have so long asserted that there can be no other way (even as we find a path to build another world, nonetheless.)”

This obviously involves much more than just something like adding encryption to your site or using decentralized systems of currencies as we begin to take on (individually and collectively) a process of caring more (together) for the systems we use than we previously ever could.  It’s a whole personal and attitudinal shift, and for many will involve a lot of time and personal reflection to accomplish in a way that makes sense.

It’s not just ResetTheNet – it’s ResetYourSelf.

In a previous blog post here, which was developed in a collaborative process with various authors on Taksim evolution and other subjects, it was noted that:

“If you become attached to the ship and love the ship, when you arrive at the shore of enlightenment will you disembark? Similarly political ideologies are all equally empty. People are imbued with the essence of justice, can recognize it, and have a root knowledge that transcends reason of what a just society will look like, even though it has yet to manifest itself on this earth. We build political ideologies and analysis in order to take us to this just society, but all too often fall in love with these ideologies, and treat them as if they are the just society. This misidentification of the vehicle for the destination leads to authoritarianism and the opposite of the just society. The most important part of the post globalization popular revolts is the identification, development, and expression of the people’s intention to live in a just society. The many vehicles or ideologies presented are of limited and waning importance. Whichever boat some one takes is not important, that all people arrive is.”

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One Comment

  1. […] the only tool that the corporation-state finds in its arsenal are overt threats (coercion) or an excess of force – in which its agents jail or kill those who do not comply with its commands.  In other […]

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