Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A prayer against violence

I will break my sabbatical because there is much on my mind, and hopefully much on yours, too.

A likely innocent man may be killed by the state today, or tomorrow, or the day after. How does that make you feel?

It is very easy for us to resort to violence to act against violence. It is easy because we do not have to think. If we somehow claim that we are being "just" in our violence, all that remains then is to find the best way, the most effective way to be violent. The violence itself is never questioned. And so we end up with guns dotting our streets, bombs demolishing other parts of the world, and the arrogance to think that we are the supreme gift of the world. The mindlessness with which people cheer violence, as evinced by a recent Tea Party debate, and the calmness with which we accept violence as a form of entertainment on movie and television screens says much about this perverted culture. We can condone the killing of the innocent, by basically saying, "Whatever." All of this in the name of a system of benefits to some, at the expense of others. I cannot get away from this, or stress enough how this mindset pervades every choice we make.

This violence does not stop there. It doesn't end with the physical killing of someone, or some place. It diffuses into our being and our psyche, to surface when we are exasperated, or when we feel that revenge is needed. And so we see it fit to act violently against people and nature; we degrade and debase people's environments, and we degrade and debase the lives of the people dependent on those environments.

It is clear that here, violence isn't the erratic behaviour of a few; it is deeply ingrained in everything we as a collective do, from the way we war, from the way we make money off of war, from the way we divide people, from the way we oppress them and silence them. Violence that is this culturally ingrained isn't stopped by denying previous criminals firearm licenses, or by locking them up in jail. Violence is dealt with by freeing ourselves from the culture that creates and condones it. It should not be acceptable to show someone being blown up on television. If the skin of humans cannot be shown without offending some people, which is understandable, how can we condone the depiction of acts that denigrate and debase our humanity? Or is that what humanity is?

I saw a National Rifle Association bumper sticker a few years ago on North Campus that read:

I can see their point to an extent. But it is impossible to deny that a culture of guns is necessarily one of violence. Nothing about guns, a technology influenced by social norms and construction, is peaceful, nothing from where the metal came from to the processing of the metals to the intention of a gun. A gun serves as a deterrent by instilling fear in someone, and we all know what fear leads to. When we look at and make objects themselves with capacity to harm, we are compelled to pull a trigger or push a button that will blow someone or some place up. As long as these objects and thoughts and intentions exist, they present themselves as options in debate, they present themselves as options in action.

Violence is a deep manifestation of our insecurities. Because violence is overtly forceful, it gives us a sense of domination, and of power. We can bulldoze lands, blow the tops off of mountains, frack rocks for natural gas, or electrocute someone for a crime with no remorse. All of these actions in no way preserve the sanctity of life (which many death penalty loving people love to talk about), or speak highly of us as ethical and moral agents. Violence for peace makes no sense. Peace, on the other hand, is decidedly peaceful. There can be no violence in peace. Peace may be forceful, steadfast, determined, resolute, and intentional, but in no way can it be violent.


  1. Hi Darshan,

    Although I'm not commenting specifically about this post, I also found these recent events unsettling. I wanted to just drop a blog-comment-line because I recently found your blog through an email from UofM. I think we may have actually met there at school a few years back. I remember Prof. Princen well, you mention him in one of your posts. Anyways, I was just checking out a few of your entries and found them quite interesting and I'm glad you have done this 'almost-zero-trash' initiative. I think about this stuff all the time, get annoyed because I'm currently at the EPA and people still buy everything in styrofoam, and generally just think we waste a lot. So thanks, I try, and now am motivated to try harder, not to produce waste in my day-to-day as well.

    Thanks, Leah Tai

  2. Leah,

    I apologise for not having responded sooner to your comment. It is great to hear from you; of course I remember you. :)

    Which EPA are you working at? AA? DC?