I admit my headline seems sensational and hyperbolic, but I mean the question quite seriously. Not because I am a violent person or have a desire to commit violence myself, and not because I believe humanity is inherently violent by nature. But, I ask it because everywhere I look I see those with power using violence against those who have no power. So, is it the answer?
I see cities funding and authorizing sweeps of homeless camps and passing laws making it illegal to sleep or even sit in public areas. I see cops killing unarmed citizens, mainly black and brown ones, and rarely are those cops held accountable for taking an innocent life. Even if they are punished, they are never held to the same standard as regular citizens who commit the same crimes. The whole damn system is transparently unfair and all of us know it. How is that not using state violence as an answer? I see school shootings plaguing the country, but who do you think teaches children to be violent? They are learning it from us, and their environment. How is that not proof that our society does indeed treat violence as the answer?
Look at our government, it is bathed in the blood of innocents. And yet, the representatives of this government fill the social media landscape with appeals to our “civility,” while they spend their days managing and appropriate money to fund systemic violence across the globe. The hypocrisy is blatant, if only you peer deep enough to see the thing for what it truly is.
This grand hypocrisy did not begin with Trump but make no mistake it is continuing as planned under him. Just a few days ago he downplayed the US response to the murder of WaPo journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate because the perpetrators are going to buy a ton of American made weapons.
“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that is being poured into our country,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “I know they are talking about different kinds of sanctions, but [the Saudis] are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States.” – By Matthew Zeitlin, Slate.com
This fundamental contradiction about violence in our society is not the only one. Everyone makes a great show of wagging their finger at the use of naughty words while deftly turning a blind eye upon evil deeds. Everyone says that preying upon other people is bad but everything in our society incentivizes us to do just that, prey upon each other. What do you think climbing the corporate ladder is all about? No one gets to go up a rung unless somebody else falls down a rung or two.
Everyone says that lying is wrong, but it is the liars who get ahead while the truth tellers are demonized and ridiculed. There is no getting ahead without someone else falling behind, this is the nature of the profit-driven capitalist system we live in. And, it’s built upon the very violence which we keep claiming is never the answer. So many hypocrisies we are mired in.
The contradiction is then amplified by the mainstream media, who paradoxically is “guided by the beauty of our weapons,” while also claiming defensively that they “are not the enemy of the people.” Is lying us into an illegal war not using the power of the press to convince the whole country that violence is the answer? Does serving the interests of the military industrial complex, Big Pharma, and Wall Street rather than fulfilling your duty to ensure the public makes informed decisions not make you our enemy?
There is an obvious reason why it lands so well when Trump prattles on about “fake news,” it’s because most of that “news” is in fact lies or half-truths and spin tied up with a propaganda bow. It is infotainment at best, and it is funded by and therefore serves corporate interests, kind of like Trump and his priority of the Saudi arms deal serves those same interests.
So, it’s almost laughable to hear media pundits say, “We don’t condone violence, it’s never the answer” while covering violence done by the citizenry. They condone violence every single day when they run Boeing and Lockheed Martin ads in-between commentary praising George W Bush, from people like Bill Kristol. The media class didn’t even consider Trump a proper President until he illegally dropped bombs on a country we are not at war with and were not invited to occupy.
This same supposed fourth estate refused to cover Occupy and the peaceful protests at Standing Rock thereby condoning state violence with their silence. They not only helped the political class lie us into an illegal war under Bush, but they refused to properly cover and critique Obama taking us into 5 more new wars. How many innocents’ lives have been sacrificed upon the altar of American Imperialism while the mainstream media cheered them on? And, how is that not them treating violence as the answer? Click To Tweet
It seems to me that everything around us sends the very clear message that violence IS THE ANSWER, and yet, it is glazed over with unending rhetoric about how violence isn’t the answer. The result is normalizing, and excusing violence committed by the powerful in society while regular citizens are held to a higher standard.
There is a direct correlation between the violence committed by our government and the violent acts committed by our fellow citizens, and citizens across the globe. Until we can have an honest discussion about that then things are going to get worse, much worse. The idea that we can be a nation who acts as an imperial colonizer across the globe, destroying anyone who gets in the way of our profit motives, while simultaneously expecting the citizens of the world (ours included) to remain civil about it, is untenable and unrealistic.
It is not natural to live in a society that makes you lie to yourself and others about reality. It is not morally right to force cognitive dissonance upon people because it is profitable for some corporation to do so. This contradiction between what we say and what we do is a source of sickness in our society and it is unbearable to an increasing number of people.
Accepting the truth can result in either self-destruction or violent revolt. Suicide & drug overdose rates represent the prior and mass shootings or public violence are an indicator of the latter… both are on the rise in this country and only an acknowledgment of our own destructive ways will set us on the path to confronting the source of our woe, what Chris Hedges calls our American Anomie;
“The French sociologist Emile Durkheim in his classic book “On Suicide” examined the disintegration of social bonds that drive individuals and societies to personal and collective acts of self-destruction. He found that when social bonds are strong, individuals achieve a healthy balance between individual initiative and communal solidarity, which he called a “life-sustaining equilibrium.” These individuals and communities have the lowest rates of suicide. The individuals and societies most susceptible to self-destruction, he wrote, are those for whom these bonds, this equilibrium, have been shattered.
Societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self… The shattering of these bonds plunges individuals into deep psychological distress that leads ultimately to acts of self-annihilation. Durkheim called this state of hopelessness and despair anomie, which he defined as ‘ruleless-ness.’
Ruleless-ness means the norms that govern a society and create a sense of organic solidarity no longer function…” – Chris Hedges
Succumbing to anomie is not our only option. We must rebuild our bonds instead, and the only way to do that is to demand consistency from the people with power. Not only that, but we must be willing to sacrifice everything to remove them from power if they refuse to represent our will and our interests. We must be prepared to end this whole shit show and build something entirely new if that is the only way to bring about change. We must be militant, and uncompromising in pursuit of accountability for power.
We can begin by demanding that any politician or mainstream media pundit who tells us that violence is not the answer, immediately call for the US to close Guantanamo Bay, withdraw us from the 8 wars we are in, and call for the closing all our international military bases. If they mean what they say, then they need to immediately call for the US to sever our allyship with Saudi Arabia and Israel and then sanction the shit out of those violent nations. They need to end to the drug war and end solitary confinement in prisons. They need to ensure that laws are applied fairly so that EVERY cop who kills an unarmed citizen pays the appropriate price for that crime, and every Wall Street speculator has the same accountability as the Main Street mortgage holder.
If violence is not the answer then these supposedly peace-loving people must be willing to critique capitalism and take immediate actions to banish profit motives from the healthcare and retirement systems. They must pursue with the moral authority it merits, the redistribution of hoarded wealth to end unnecessary poverty and hunger.
If violence is NOT the answer, then they need to fucking prove it. American policies and laws must reflect that belief before those words have any meaning when applied to the citizens of this country or any country for that matter. If they cannot prove it, then there is nothing stopping the citizenry from responding in kind.
Seriously, if these people do not immediately stop the US from being an active participant in using violence to maintain the status quo then they are showing us with their actions they do believe violence is the answer. They just don’t think violence should be used to keep THEM in line. They want it to remain a tool of the powerful only. But, if that’s the case, then maybe we should use it against them. Maybe, that’s exactly how tyranny is overthrown, and oppression is ended.
I don’t really know the answer, but I do know that none of us will be served by allowing these hypocrisies to go unchallenged. We need to have honest and open discussions about what it means to live in a violent society and yet believe that violence is never the answer. We need more than anything to examine our own hypocrisies as a society and then get down to the business of eliminating them.
Maybe then, we will be able to honestly and with moral virtue answer the question of whether violence is the answer in our society, or not. I hope that our answer is no, that we prove that the opposite is true…that in the end, we prove that the answer has always been love.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu