Monday, August 06, 2007


Some people respond only to confrontation - it reassures them that they were swayed by those who are worthy and strong. Still others respond only to violence; violence is the only meaningful method of discourse to them and all other forms of communication are merely preamble. When met with such people, violence is not only expedient and necessary for preserving greater peace - it is the only responsible course of action.
- Turbo

So I wanted to express some thoughts on the nature of violence. Violence is something that humans have been doing for a long time, and something that we've been refining and purifying for a nearly as long. Combat and physical conflict is the human behaviour with the longest unbroken lineage of historical data, we know a lot more about how people killed each other in the past than about family structure or social conventions. Violence is part of what it is to be alive; it is part of our heritage both socially as humans and genetically as animals.

Thusfar, one might conclude from this cursory introduction that I was a homicidal maniac on the level of a Harris, Klebold or Cho - someone who thinks that humans should express themselves through violence in a spectacular, horrifying way. On the contrary, because violence is something that some people are so resoundingly comfortable with, it is incumbent upon the remainder of us to familiarize ourselves with the methods to which such people resort, and to prepare ourselves to use violence in a responsible way. That's the key, the line that no one says, that I've never seen written down anywhere in the literature on conflict, from Sun Tzu to von Clausewitz to Bruce Lee to military generals in the US armed forces. Violence in a responsible way. That one clean punch that ended a fight before someone pulled a gun. Kicking a drunk friend in the balls to stop him from driving. Bombing a facility after a special forces ground team had reconnoitred the area for civilian personnel. Its the stuff that people just don't bother with, that would take to much time and effort and risk to undertake, the stuff that makes further suffering less likely. 'A facility was bombed in northern Iraq today. US special forces evacuated all the non-combatants from the area before levelling a known insurgents' headquarters.'

That is what stops war and violence in the acute, non-talking phase. Precision, accuracy, control. Some say it can't be done. I contend no one has ever tried. No one has ever bothered making a science, a study of stopping violence. Not through consultation or mediation or peacekeeping but through the judicious, responsible use of violence. Today everything is a study in excess. He comes with his fist, you bring a knife. He brings a knife, you bring a sword. He brings a sword, you bring a gun. He brings a gun, you bomb his house. A tendency towards excess that has led us to that ultimate expression of violent excess, the atom bomb. Kill everything. This tendency towards excess in violence comes from the same thing that causes excess in anything: not knowing enough about what you have and about the best way it can be used. Contrast this way of thinking to a physician's use of chemotherapeutics to kill cancer. Cancer kills everything indiscriminately, chemotherapy kills too, it just kills selectively. The answer isn't bomb the patient - cancer gone. Selective toxicity to destructive cells. Selective toxicity to violent people, violent situations...tbc


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