At an earlier time in my life during a counseling session after recounting some of my life experiences I was asked by the counselor why I had never killed anyone. It was a strange question that I felt deserved a strange answer. I told her that in fact I kill myself over and over again every day. It may have been a valid question she posed but I know from my own experience that violence is a choice.
To make an appropriate choice regarding violence I’ve had to invest enough passionate thought to equal and argue against the passion of rage that shields my fear; obviously it will always be a work in progress. Some may notice in the previous statement that I didn’t use the term “right choice” but instead “appropriate choice.” Violence in life whether you like it or not is unavoidable. The question will always remain as to whether it is appropriate, and determining that takes education, insight and self- understanding.
Violence is a behavior and an experience that each of us as individuals lives with. Collectively we either agree or disagree as to its appropriateness. This isn’t a rant to join the non-violence party; moreover you should as an individual get to know your terms of violence and how you express it. Each of us is violent, IMO.
As a child I was content playing with dinky toys in my backyard, building super cities in sand, alone. My sister approached and kicked my future dinky utopia, annihilating my dreams. She got pummeled as best as a five year old can, obviously not enough to make it into any meaningful statistics or studies but hey I was satisfied. Of course what followed was proxy violence. Daaaad Keith hit me! Thump, whack, waaaaaaa!!!! But hey I got custody of the dinky toys.
Violence is a process; it has a beginning and middle ground and a final aspect that is understood to be dangerous. It is believed by all that the dangerous aspects of violence are only dangerous to the victim and never to the perpetrator. It is less likely I believe that people have any interest in actually ending violence; rather we prefer an organized process to violence, or rules of engagement. Violence is fine if we can justify its appropriateness, apply it with prudence and restraint and never enjoy it.
These simple rules to me are true on both the micro and macro scale. The range in which we justify violence by these rules is applied from moderate corporal punishment against children to the invasion and annihilation of another country and culture. If these terms are met our violence is for sale and we are comfortable in the notion of our own benevolence (or “bene”= good, “volence” = violence).
For my part I’m much more cynical about violence. I see it applied as a method of maintaining the status-quo, maintaining power and a controlling influence, an aggressive self-interest. By these standards I see violence everywhere because these operators have the ability to incite violence. I don’t need to see blood to understand the expression of violence, the oppression it imposes and the fear it invokes.
I see it in the rapid dilation of the pupil, the stillness of body language and the silent response of incremental withdrawal. I know that most bruises are not black and blue just black and pasted in our psyche without any corresponding support to heal them. The contradiction they represent internally is the shortcut to fear. Without fear all the conditions to arrive at or avoid violence can’t be fulfilled.
Years ago I was admonished by a kindergarten teacher to punish my son for his behavior. During circle time in the class she would read the kids a story and when she looked up noticed my son was not there. Looking out the window she saw him playing outside by himself. No doubt she tore a strip off him at the time, but also required that I do the same: she required that I do violence to my son on her behalf.
Interestingly, had I accepted her narrative, I would have been left to believe that there was no good reason for my son’s behavior. What if there was a reason, how would a five year old represent his case? I refused her demand and simply asked “do you think he knew that he was not allowed?” Like a good defense lawyer I played the reasonable doubt card and looked to the next witness to better understand the case. I will explain the rule but I won’t punish him for exercising options he believed were available.
There were three things I immediately realized in this exchange:
1) Education is not about submission.
2) Punishment for a victimless crime is less effective than negotiating a collaborative outcome.
3) Moral hegemony is an arousal system for idiots of the collective.
I condense violence to a simple understanding: a requirement to submit. If I were more philosophical I would call it the “entropy of stability.” If you want to see where violence begins, look to the circumstances that contribute to instability or the efforts to destabilize. If you believe that violence is washed away by the Duluth Model of Domestic Violence or the family courts, or that feminism has ushered in an era of sensitive egalitarian empathy for equality, think again.
We tend to focus only on the physically aggressive outcomes of violence ignoring the subtle aspects of its beginning and middle ground. It is the beginning and middle ground, where the narrative is assembled, where violence and its proxy are fostered and assigned. It is the narrative that invokes moral arousal and is likely to define the extent of violence expressed.
The moment we base our violence and its requirements to submit on a single narrative, a single perspective, we are not more than objects, economic materials and inventory. No thanks, I’d rather close my eyes and float among the stars.
Some time ago I watched a documentary called “A Class Divided,” presented as an experiential example of bigotry and racism, another form of proxy violence. The roles of oppression were implemented and reversed based on the eye color of the students. The film is incredible, the lesson is profound. Jane Elliot is brilliant. However I saw something more in the film that I have yet to ever see mentioned:
The film is an interesting onion of insight; of course there is the obvious message that we affect each other with our beliefs. It is clearly represented in the film that benefit is bestowed to some withheld from others. Please, spend the fourteen minutes to view this clip:
What I would ask you to consider during your viewing is not just the color of eyes used as a metaphor to make the experience of racism interchangeable, but consider gender as the operator that bestows or removes benefit.
Notice also that very common human behaviors are defined with moral judgment and used to dehumanize. Once coupled with a designated difference, we have a power structure that breathes evil and hate. It is a process to dehumanize and a message that damages both sides of its meaning. The bigotry the rules of belief provide conjure a life of their own and they stand taller than the individuals required to submit.
It represents itself as a system of oppression whose purest form oppresses both the perpetrator and the victim with a unique set of values. Who among us can escape the color of our eyes, or our skin, or our sex, or our disability?
To hate in this predefined way is a practice that we should be able to resist. We know it’s wrong, but can we afford to be on the wrong side of good and evil within the power structures that govern our lives? Or do we simply choose the lesser punishment of fear? If you’re not with us you are against us?
What we are seeing here, should we choose to, is the very machine of our hatred and fear. A method to marginalize and dehumanize that engulfs our innocence, and threatens to conform us to its message with all the power of privilege that it can bestow. In this machine you cannot dissent: you will simply be chewed up as one of the “others.”
I have no doubt that the experiment engaged in by Jane Elliot is a strategic device and methodology used by feminists to dehumanize the male gender. It is the very essence of nurturing that feminists apply with such force.
In case you didn’t get it, that force I refer to is acceptance.