On the Use of Violence

photo-1525079289649-fad98007f4ee (1).jpg
I awoke, the other evening, to a crashing noise and the sound of my dog barking in my empty house. Nude (don't judge me, its hot here), I got out of bed, retrieved my Sig Sauer pistol, and went to investigate. The weapon's night sights glowed in the dim rooms as I, "nudely," I navigated through them. There was nothing to be found, besides the panting, playful dog and the mop, which had been leaning against a corner but was lying on the floor. He had, apparently, knocked it over and startled himself into a brief fit of yapping. This was good. I did not want to need to cause someone harm so I was relieved. I put on pants and sat down to enjoy a cigarette before returning my weapon to its home and crawling back into bed.

Despite my willingness to arm myself and fend off a, fortunately, nonexistent intruder, I do not generally advocate for the use violence. I am no pacifist, of course. I recognize that we all possess a capacity for violence and strongly believe that all creatures have an innate right to defend themselves or the others around them, should they come under some serious threat. However, beyond such instances, it seems as though it is often used as a tool for the powerful to abuse and coarse the weak, or as a means for the malevolent to prey upon the innocent.


I understand that there are purists on this issue (with whom would I disagree) that may take issue with the the claim that we can all be driven to the point of enacting violence on another being or who may view defensive violence as unethical. They free to do so and I respect their opinion. However, I would point their attention to the near universality of the life's capacity for violence. Most creatures will make an attempt to "fight back" when they are attacked. A zebra may kick at a lion, a dog may kill a snake that wonders too close to its territory, and even a kitten will claw at a startling touch. To me, that capacity seems like something that runs deeper than our conscious mind and exists because it aids in our survival. I believe most people would accept that there is, at least, some truth in that position but there are still those who would argue that tapping into our violent capacity is wrong even in one's own defense. In most cases, I would agree that violence is wrong but I tend to try to shy away from absolutism. It is, in my mind, okay to draw a line in the sand as long as it is appropriately placed. If one says "when you attack my body or my family and property, I will harm you" it seems perfectly reasonable to me. Our lives and the lives of those around us have value and they are irreplaceable. Is it not right to protect things that are so precious with all available means? If, on the other hand, the person says " when you attack my beliefs, I will harm you" they are, essentially, a terrorist from my perspective.


While I may view some acts of violence as justifiable, I do not deny that most violence is malevolent, abusive, and often used by the powerful to control the population. Muggers and murderers hurt a lot of people but the greatest perpetrators of violence in the world are the systems of authority or those who seek to become authorities themselves. Organized crime, functions like a pseudo-government in many regions and is enabled by its willingness to use extreme acts of violence in order to maintain it's control over the people who live under it's rule. Terrorists and political extremists threaten and employ acts of violence to suppress the opposition to their attempts to exert control over a society. Even the most "enlightened" of governments does not hesitate to use violent action to enforce its laws, whether those laws are just or not. The government (arguably) burned cultist children alive in Texas over the supposed gun law violations of their parents. Police officers (definitely) threw a stun grenade into the bed of a toddler, leaving it disfigured for life to arrest a man who didn't even live in the home. World powers go to war with weaker countries (killing thousands upon thousands for questionable or criminal motives) that often only serve to enrich and empower the already rich and powerful. In these sorts of cases, violence, is absolutely and unquestionably negative.


Like so many issues, the threat and use of violence is not black and white. I cannot help but to be disturbed by its ubiquitous presence in our lives but I also understand that there is a time and a place where it may be appropriate. For what it is worth, I think that we should stand against violent action for non-defensive purposes and that we, ourselves, should only employ it as a last resort and only when it is necessary.


All the images in this post are sourced from the free image website, unsplash.com.


I am reminded of the history teacher from starship troopers written by Robert Heinlein.

Violence is the golden standard which all other treasures are measured.

Full quote...

"My mother said violence never solves anything." "So?" Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that."
Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), p. 25; exchange between him and a student
" … I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea — a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue and thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never settles anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms."
He sighed. "Another year, another class — and for me another failure. One can lead a child to knowledge but one cannot make him think."

History teachers are awesome.

To listen to the audio version of this article click on the play image.

Brought to you by @tts. If you find it useful please consider upvoting this reply.