Monday, March 3, 2014

on violence

Tackling violence as a problem that affects human beings or societies, can never, in my opinion, shed light on the problem. The reason for that is that violence is not a problem/sickness/illness that touches human individuals/societies, it is in our inherent nature.
just like any other innocent human being

In fact, our great ancestors, the first vertebrates (450-500 M years ago), were part of the violence game. It all started when an ingenious evolutionary step was taken by our ancestors, instead of wandering around at the bottom of the ocean looking for food, some species developed where they wander around the bottom of the ocean looking for other animals that are collecting non living food, then eat them, much easier! This is way more practical than the old ways, since for the first time in our planet's history, at least the first time we know off, where a species depended on another for life, where both species are animals.

Other than the fact that violence is deeply embedded in our nature, it has a practical purpose, it speeds up development sometimes. When the first predators came into existence, this caused the first preys to develop faster, and evolution equipped them with countless breathtaking methods to avoid predators. This effected the predators, who had to develop faster, causing preys to develop faster, causing predators to.. you see where this is going... It goes on till modern day human beings.

Before going into the discussion of the human violence problem, we might want to mention two things: 1. We usually perceive violence in a biased way, for example, name three predators and write them down on a piece of paper (we'll get back to that in a bit). 2. Violence in nature is strictly related to resources, and it could sometimes be as violent as humans, check the cuckoo or the komodo dragon for example.

Then comes us:

We think we are better than all of these animals, we seem to have developed a system that rejects violence, at least most types of it.

We seem to have inherited the false idea that we are much better/ethical creatures than other animals. We think that our lives as humans are less violent than those creatures of the jungle since we do not permit lots of blood to be spilled around us, we do not like its sight, and we punish people who spill blood around us. However, we seem to have forgotten:

1. All violence is about recourses: Same way domestic violence exists in our societies, some species of chimps would also beat off their mates or their female companions to establish domination over the group. It is not as simple as a question of violence, it is a question of domination that will guarantee a "birth giving machine" and thus guarantee more recourses.

2. There are plenty of types of violence that we do not nail it as is. for example, and still building on the premise that violence is, by nature, about recourses, then isn't slavery part of it? if yes, then what about poverty in the world? in each and every society, is not this poverty, a milder form of slavery, where the strong feeds on the recourses collected by the poor while the poor consider themselves lucky to merely stay alive? is that not very similar to the examples from the cambrian explosion mentioned above?

3. Since we got this false impression that we are better than animals, we seem to have started a long journey to cover up our origins as animals. We cover up our feces, we eat with "manners" and we also practice violence with user friendly interface. There is honorable violence and there is the cheater, there is a declaration of war, where two peoples or two individuals agree of cutting each other apart, there is the violence for entertainment, violence for dominating the weak, violence for sex, and so on.. We do all that daily, we even imply violence daily, but we do not seem to notice that. Maybe our societies need to take a closer look at animals and see how far we really came, not that much.

4. Our perception of violence is not accurate, open the paper you wrote up there about the three predators, were any of them a sheep? a cat? a puppy? These are all predators in the most classical and broad sense, but we often forget that because we have been raised to think of sheep as cute, puppies as adorable and so on... but in reality, all of these animals are also predators, sheep eat out plants to live, cats insects, dogs i don't know what... but we seem to want to see blood to think of something as a predator. Are not the poor/ the slaves, or people trafficked around the world for prostitution, are they not preys? but we do not think of them the same way we think of the people killed in gaza or somewhere where we see the blood.

5. If we were to question the innate and core definition of the state, across the long history of human civilizations, would it not be unchallenged that states are based on violence. Never-mind the discourse presented by the state to market a certain war or to entice people's feelings against   or for something. But think about it, when you commit a murder its a murder, when the state does its capital punishment. When you beat people up or kill a bunch its called man slaughter, when the stat does its called war. Same for theft (the recourse battle). Not so long ago, this difference in our understanding violence when it comes to individuals v.s. states included a different understanding of rape too, where if you were a rapist you get killed by the state, while the armies of the state were allowed to ravage the recourses and the peoples of other states.

6. We do not see violence as violence. We need to know the prey. We deal differently if a human was killed than if a sheep was killed. Not only that, we also behave differently if someone who looks like us was killed compared to when someone else does. We are more biased than we think here. (think about the difference in media coverage and people's reactions to different killing incidents, one the US where a teenager white girl gets killed, v.s. 5 indians getting killed in some other media report)


Our main problem with violence is not that we really do not want it, or that we try somehow to limit it, it is that we have a very specific understanding of violence, which happens to be inconsistent with nature, short from being universal, and somehow limited and based on the false fallen premise that humans are made of something else, that humans are broader/bigger than the rest of nature. That we are the work of god. We believed that, and then we wrote long texts explaining what violence is, how should we punish it, and so on... always forgetting that our cities, our factories, or civilizations all together were based on competition for recourses, leading to the eventual use of violence, but humans seem to have figured it out, where some violence is ok, and some other types are not.

Now to the question of violence in society, the every day violence that we seem to hate around us. Why? because its in our nature. in fact, one has to conduct the study in Europe to understand why violence there in societies seems to be less. 

Well, surprise, it isn't, there are few examples of success in the world regarding limitation of violence, Scandinavian countries. When one thinks about it, its simple, resources have been distributed to minimize violence. Only type of violence left afterwards is the psycho serial killer kind of thing, which we can always blame on something else. But generally speaking, most violence around us works as mentioned above.
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