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The Violence Question

The Violence Question

By Dennis Loo (5/19/14)

War is the continuation of politics by other [violent] means. -- Clausewitz

There may be no other political question quite as fraught with emotion and confused as the violence question. As with any other social or physical phenomenon, the surface appearance of things tells only the smaller part of the story.

The main error that people who oppose violence make when discussing violence is that they disengage the issue of violence from the underlying causes of violence. They treat violence as if it’s entirely separate and apart from anything else, as if it’s something from out of the blue with no place or reason for its existence. Violence is not something unto itself. Like anything else, violence is profoundly intertwined with other things and cannot be understood in isolation from those factors. If we are to thoroughly understand it and eventually do away with it as a major social problem, we have to strip away the emotional baggage that accompanies it and look squarely at it to see what its roots are and why it persists. Violence is a symptom, not a cause, of more fundamental underlying factors.

If you want to understand war – the ultimate exercise of violence – you have to understand politics. As the famous war strategist Carl von Clausewitz put it succinctly, war is the continuation of politics, by other, violent, means.

If you separate war from politics then you will not understand that war is politics continued into the stage of undisguised, massive violence. War is not some arbitrary or capricious phenomenon that is only used when some people lose their minds or self-control. It is qualitatively different than what happens when an individual loses their temper and resorts to violence.[1] War is something declared by governments and governments do not behave the way individuals do. War is an extremely conscious, thoroughly and comprehensively prepared for, and minutely maintained and sustained instrument of state policy. In the industrial age, war depends heavily not only on complex technological and logistical matters but requires the mass mobilization of public opinion, placing extraordinary strains both physical and psychological on those doing the fighting and the population in general, including the suffering due to war time disruption, mass casualties, destruction of infrastructure, economic strain, and the stress placed on soldiers ordered to kill others.

War is not something that if people would only “learn their lessons” from experience they would no longer engage in. War is the carrying out of political objectives by using openly massive violence when other forms of maneuvering and negotiations have failed or are not even resorted to. And just as there are unjust wars and just wars, violence is not something independent in nature from who is using it and why they are doing it. There is a huge difference, for example, between the violence of a rapist and the violence used by a woman who is fighting off a rapist.

This is a particularly salient example of the reason why violence cannot reasonably be discussed as if it were always and everywhere a bad thing. A woman’s right not to be raped is in direct contradiction to a rapist’s desire to rape a woman. You cannot stop a rapist in the act by appealing to his better conscience. You have to violently repel him. Fascists who are beating and killing those they hate such as black people or homosexuals or civil libertarians cannot be appealed to with logical arguments. In the movie Manhattan, Woody Allen tries to recruit others to meet a planned Nazi march with bats and bricks. In response to his appeal, someone at the cocktail party says that it would be better to meet the Nazis’ plans to march with a letter to The New York Times “because the pen is mightier than the sword.” Allen says in response to this: “You don’t understand. These are Nazis. Bats and bricks are what you need.”

***

Politics is not where our discussion of violence ends either. For politics itself is a concentrated expression of economics.

The state – aka the government - does not just tend to favor dominant economic interests (e.g., by being lobbied by big business interests and doing favors for them and for wealthy individuals). Capitalist corporations and capitalist states are bound inextricably up with one another. The state came into being in human history at the precise point when an economic surplus first appeared with the Agricultural Revolution. The first agrarian empires such as Ancient Egypt required a highly developed state apparatus. Any economic surplus would be distributed among the entire populace but for the existence of a group of men wielding and using weapons to keep the surplus in a relatively small number of hands.

“What’s the point of being rich, if you can’t keep others from taking it from you?” as the central character of the popular 1976 TV mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man put it in describing the role of the state, refuting his nephew’s disbelief at the idea that states engage in conscious plots to defend the wealthy.

If social resources are not being shared among the entire population, then some body that uses violence must exist to ensure that a disproportionate allocation of material resources remains so and is not divided among the populace by the public. During an electrical blackout or some other form of natural or human disaster, crowds of people declare a sale and relieve stores of their inventory. The only thing keeping people from carrying out this kind of grassroots redistribution of goods is the existence of the police and the military, the state’s coercive arms.

After Hurricane Katrina, individuals and gangs broke into stores in order to distribute life-saving water, food, and other necessities that the state was not providing. Mercenary soldiers from Blackwater attempted to prevent these grassroots relief efforts by shooting and killing some of them in order to protect the “sacredness” of private property against the emergency needs of the people to survive.

This is another aspect illustrating the fact that violence is not something that exists independently of other factors. As long as social classes exist that are defined by their differing access to and power over the means to life (the means of production), then states will continue to exist. The way to abolishing states and the way to abolishing violence must proceed then not by admonitions that violence is a bad idea and awful practice but by the progressive bridging of the differences between classes directed towards the eventual elimination of classes altogether.

Put succinctly, states exist because of the existence of classes and classes exist because social wealth and the means of making social resources – both material and non-material wealth/resources - are divided inequitably. States’ use of violence is wholly bound up with the fundamental clash between classes, a conflict that cannot be resolved peacefully because what benefits one class directly injures the other. In case that sounds too abstract, consider the following examples:

When workers attempt to organize for better working conditions, the state deploys police to monitor, disrupt, infiltrate, and repress workers’ ability to organize and promote their plans. If the capitalist class did not have the police to protect their interests, then the majority of people in society - who are not the capitalist class - could readily realign economic and political power because they are a) far larger than the very tiny number of capitalists, and b) workers could organize and win over the vast majority of the population to their side in the absence of the literal blows to their people by the police.

Capitalist profits are derived through the exploitation of human labor. As such, what fuels the capitalist class is diametrically opposed to what workers need: at least a decent income and social support in order to live, raise a family, be educated, live in a toxic free and stable environment, have medical insurance and care, be protected against unduly hazardous working conditions and premature and unnecessary death and suffering, and so on. The driving logic of capitalism is for the capitalist class to constantly try to find means to render the working class more insecure and more desperate so that wages and so on can be further reduced, a permanent class of under-employed and unemployed is maintained, leaving workers bereft of the means to live other than to work for much less than their labor is worth. Capitalists’ profits directly benefit from the dispossession and subjugation of the working class and their profits are increased through the immiseration of others. This is not something that can be dispensed with as an individual capitalist’s choice but something that capitalism must do if the system remains the capitalist system. This is why resolving the conflict between the capitalist class and working class is something that cannot be obtained through peaceful negotiations but ultimately determined in part by the use of force.

Consider what was done to Occupy Wall Street by the US government at the city, state, and federal level. Within the space of a two week period, city police, ordered by city mayors who meet directly with Obama’s Department of Homeland Security that coordinated and directed these police raids nationally, violently evicted the main Occupy encampments around the country. This was in spite of the fact that Occupy camps were explicitly non-violent and their only threat to the capitalist system was that basically they had handmade signs decrying the inequities and injustices of this system and would engage in peaceful political protest actions to do the same. Despite their non-violent peaceful methods and program, this system could not allow these encampments to continue because the camps were too graphic a reminder on a daily basis to others that this system logic and working nature was unjust and intolerable. In the fall of 2011 a few months before Occupy's violent evictions, GOP pollster Frank Luntz admitted during a session that he conducted for Republican governors that "I'm frightened to death" of the Occupy Movement. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."

Note what he didn't say; he didn't say that people voting for the Democrats or third party candidates scares him to death. Instead he's scared to death of the movement that is taking on capitalism, precisely because it was and is changing public opinion and shifting the balance of opinion against the capitalists and their parties the Democrats and Republicans and changing the overall political atmosphere.

When Occupy was a prominent feature in daily and weekly news, a majority of Americans in numerous polls indicated that they supported the goals of Occupy. Consider what it tells you about the fundamental predatory nature of and precarious hold on power that capitalism has that authorities felt compelled to sweep away Occupy and ensure that it does not reappear in the open and in a sustained way. Consider what that tells you about how vulnerable and fragile the capitalists’ hold is over public opinion that they cannot tolerate some ragtag looking campers of mostly middle class, working class, and homeless people sporting handwritten signs. They had to destroy the Occupy encampments because if they allowed them to continue they knew that its message would spread even further and make capitalism's dominance even more precarious.

Note what authorities did not do. They did not invite Occupy representatives to have a civil debate with those in power over what capitalism is and what it should do. They did not have a debate about whether capitalism was a good, environmentally sustainable, and just system. They maligned Occupy from the beginning, first by trying to ignore it and deride it, then trying to crush it with police violence, which backfired on them. When Occupy then grew like a mushroom and became part of the political landscape and everyday conversations, authorities tried to co-opt it and plotted to destroy it, sending undercover police agents into its ranks to spy upon and disrupt it. Finally, unable to stop it from continuing to grow, they violently and systematically dispersed the Occupy encampments and have put up fences and posted police to make sure that Occupy did not come back. If authorities are all-powerful and people are all inherently selfish and lovers-to-death of capitalism, then how come this relatively innocent and utterly peaceful movement could not be allowed to continue? If the American people are such dyed-in-the-wool philistines, then how come a majority of New Yorkers and a majority of Americans nationally told pollsters they supported Occupy's goals for a more equitable society? If dissent is impossible in this American Dreamland, then how come GOP pollster Frank Luntz confessed that he was "frightened to death" by Occupy?

Just as violence cannot sensibly be discussed and analyzed separate from politics, politics in turn cannot be properly grasped minus the underlying economic battle that politics concentrate. Violence and its highest expression, war, are products fundamentally of economic interests locked in battle. The reason why negotiations for peace are usually (though not always) a cover to maneuver for advantage prior to, during, or in the aftermath of warfare, is because the economic interests that are at stake are a zero sum game: what suits one adversary directly disadvantages the other. That is why they cannot reach a compromise about it, particularly when you are dealing with capitalist forces that necessarily must expand or die and can only do so at the expense of rival capitalists and the resistance of the workers and middle class people harmed by capitalists’ plans.

This is why the 20th Century saw the first two world wars: capitalism had grown to its imperialist/monopoly capitalist stage in numerous powerful capitalist nations. Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, these rich nations had already divided up the world among themselves with each having some portion of the world’s colonies under their control (e.g., various European countries controlled whole regions and continents such as the Middle East, Africa, South America, Asia). Further expansion into “cheap” labor markets and resources to plunder meant therefore that they had to wage war against rival imperialist nations who already held or similarly coveted these colonial warrens. This meant world war in the 20th Century, the first times in history for there to be world war, because these were imperialist rivals fighting literally over the whole globe. In the course of these wars tens of millions of people were slaughtered.

This is precisely the same thing that happens when rival mafia families go to war with each other over city turf. They have meetings in which they try to settle these disputes over who gets what parts of the city to exploit with drugs, prostitution, gambling, and so on, but these meetings between the rival mafia heads inevitably end up sooner or later in massive bloodshed. Except on the global level, imperialists dwarf the bloodletting that mafia wars produce. (When asked how he prepared for his role as the Godfather Marlon Brando answered: “It’s simple. The Godfather is a capitalist.”)

If negotiations have broken down, for example, because two countries cannot agree over a disputed territory or over how to allocate economic spoils, then they go to war with each other to settle the matter through force. It isn’t, in other words, for the sake of using violence to make money just by waging the war that countries go to war. War profiteering is not a primary reason for wars, even though some war materials’ makers do make big profits from wars. It’s because they cannot agree through non-violent means how resources of immense value - far in excess of what the merchants of war make for selling guns and ammunition - shall be distributed and the only remaining way to settle it is through brute force.

There is another dimension to this that needs to be highlighted: violence exists on a continuum. Violence is the far end of the continuum called compulsion or coercion. On the mildest end of this continuum is what parents do with their young children: they force their kids to go to bed by a certain time and they force them to eat their vegetables. We do not call this violence; we call it parenting. We could not be good parents without using compulsion at least some of the time and on a consistent basis as part of what good parents do constantly.

Similarly, the very nature of social life dictates that compulsion is a constant and inescapable feature of social life because at any given time a group cannot operate based on what different disagreeing individuals might want for the group but must operate based on a common plan. If we are to remain in groups at all, ranging in size from two individuals to as large as the whole planet’s population, then unanimity is almost always impossible. Even in couples, disagreement between the two individuals is a common condition. The disagreement is usually non-antagonistic in nature but it is a disagreement nonetheless that can only be settled through either compromise or with one person going along with what the other one wants as their joint activity.

The godfather of neoliberalism, Frederick Hayek, argued as the foundation for his notion of liberty that someone is free insofar as they are able to determine their own course of action without being subject to the will of others:

The question of how many courses of action are open to a person is, of course, very important. But it is a different question from that of how far in acting he can follow his own plans and intentions, to what extent the pattern of his conduct is of his own design, directed toward ends for which he has been persistently striving rather than toward necessities created by others in order to make him do what they want. Whether he is free or not does not depend on the range of choice but on whether he can expect to shape his course of action in accordance with his present intentions, or whether somebody else has power so to manipulate the conditions as to make him act according to that person’s will rather than his own.[2]

What is missing from Hayek’s theory is the fact that the primary necessities and obligations for human existence are not mainly a result of other persons’ will over individuals. Instead, most necessities for human existence are outgrowths of a) the exigencies of social life and b) the objective features of the environment relative to humans. If, for example, all human life except for one sole surviving individual were to be extinguished on earth, that sole survivor would still be subject to objective necessities even though no one else was around to exercise their “will” anymore over the lone survivor.

Social life’s exigencies compel us to co-operate with each other. This is so not only because we depend upon each other in a multitude of ways, for example, being nurtured and learning how to be a human being as we are being raised, learning language(s) and how to do things, and being taught how to get along with others (e.g., learning to say thank you and please and sharing with others), but because if we don’t co-operate with each other as our primary form of interaction, then group life and survival itself would be impossible.

We face necessities because, to put this succinctly, we do not now—and never have—lived in the Garden of Eden. Food, water, shelter and reproduction are some of the necessities that are met by and through social groups. Try, for example, reproducing without someone else of the opposite sex. Gravity is another example of a necessity that exists regardless of anyone’s desires. If I declare that I refuse to recognize gravity, does this mean that I can now fly? Suppose I declare that my plans do not include my ever having to work for anything and that I do not recognize work as a necessity. I may have a right to do so, at least according to Monsieur Hayek, and doing so shows how much “liberty” I have, but should I?

Hayek pits individuals against groups, but individuals and groups are actually interrelated and interpenetrating expressions of the same dynamic process. We might even say that individuals and groups have an organic relationship to each other. Individuals, to begin with, can only exist because of groups. Not only is this true in the literal sense of an individual’s birth via a group of two, a female and a male, it is also true throughout the life processes of all individuals. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 36)

Those who have been told for most or all of their life that humans are naturally greedy, selfish, and competitive have a hard time seeing this. Yet the evidence is clear that humans are social creatures if you get past neoliberal propaganda. Even competition requires as its foundation that there be co-operation first and foremost or else competition could not occur because there would be no ground rules and no agreement to compete under those rules. If people didn’t co-operate in competition then they would dispute to the nth degree who won and no one would honor the winners because to honor winners you have to agree on the rules of the competition and defer to the winners.

Another foolish and dangerous erroneous idea of the neoliberals is the notion that objective reality does not exist and, in the case of postmodernists/relativists, that all “truths” of various individual perspectives are equally true.

If you are interested in the best ideas and plans prevailing in any given situation, then you are a) committed to group action, and b) committed to the idea that there is such a thing as truth. Why is this so? To begin with, if you do not care whether the best ideas and plans prevail and only care about what you as an individual do, then you aren’t interested in what the group does. Secondly, if you want the best ideas and plans to win out, then you also believe that an objective reality exists by which one can measure whether something is right, or approximately right, or at least on the right path. If you do not believe in these things, then all opinions and plans are equal because there is no independent criterion by which to measure whether one idea or plan is better than another. (GDS, p. 40)

In situations where objective reality has been spurned in the name of the relativist principle that there is no such thing as truth independent of group or individual interest, you inevitably get the phenomenon of things like “ethnic cleansing” when opposing groups are equally convinced that they are absolutely right and their adversaries are absolutely wrong. Some people wonder why there is such an escalation in the violent rhetoric of certain clashing political perspectives (e.g., between the Republicans and the Democrats and between the Christian versus Muslim fundamentalists) and the corresponding violent acts spawned by the violent and virulent rhetoric, but relatively few see the sources of this in the radical rejection of objective reality. Life really comes down to understanding the interpenetration between freedom and necessity that is a more general case of the interpenetration between persuasion and coercion.

Coercion and freedom from coercion are coexisting opposites: no freedoms exist without some level of compulsion attached to them. Hayek’s stance makes as much sense as this: “I would like to jump into the air so as to be free of gravity without the nuisance of having to deal with the restraint of the ground.” You cannot jump into the air, however, without having the resistance of the ground to push against. Jumping into the air has no meaning and isn’t possible without the constraint of gravity. Necessity and freedom, in other words, make up antipodes of the same inescapable process. It is a process that will never cease. Necessities impose themselves on us regardless of whether we want to recognize them and regardless of who alerts us to their existence. The depiction of necessity as something that people arbitrarily impose on others does not conform to actuality.

Necessity and freedom are inseparable from each other just as sound and silence are opposite and necessary elements of the same process. Sound without silence is impossible, and vice versa. Light only has meaning in relation to darkness, and vice versa. Try to imagine what sound would be like if there were no silences in between the sounds. You cannot, because such a condition would be impossible. The letters you are reading on this page only exist and only make sense because of the white spaces in between the letters. If there were no white spaces then the page would be entirely black and impossible to read. Up has no meaning unless there is correspondingly a down. In has no meaning unless there is a corresponding out. The individual and the group are inseparable from each other since they are different aspects and expressions of the same dynamic or dialectic.

Coercion will never disappear in the sense that power over others will never entirely disappear as long as there are social groups. Social groups exist because there are a multitude of mutual expectations and obligations within the groups. …

Coercion in the sense of a government can and will someday disappear, but only after social classes are gone and there is no longer any division of labor and resources resulting in some being excluded from what others have in abundance. But even after government passes away, everyone will still be subject to the will of others. It is impossible, for one thing, to have unanimity, and where there is disagreement, some people’s opinions and preferences must perforce be subordinated to the opinion that holds the day, if people are to remain in groups at all.

Compare this to Hayek:

[Freedom] meant always the possibility of a person’s acting according to his own decisions and plans, in contrast to the position of one who was irrevocably subject to the will of another, who by arbitrary decision could coerce him to act or not act in specific ways.[3] (GDS, pp. 40-41)

State violence in particular arose simultaneously with the origin of states themselves. It did so because states specifically arose to deal with the emergence of an economic surplus. Prior to the development of an economic surplus there was no need for states to exist as bodies of specially armed men to enforce the unequal distribution of social resources since there was just enough to go around for everyone. Once a surplus was available, the only way to keep that surplus from being equally or roughly equally distributed to everyone is to have a body of armed men under state authority to prevent such a distribution of society’s goods. Private property, in other words, also arose along with the appearance of states.

This is why force is the midwife of change, as Marx put it. No change can occur, nor can the status quo be maintained, without the use of some level of force. Those who fear or condemn the use of revolutionary force in the course of a revolution overlook the fact that the status quo can only continue through the extensive and exceedingly brutal use of endemic state violence. Over nine million children in the world die every year from readily preventable causes such as lack of access to clean water (they die of diarrhea, etc.). That’s 25,000 unnecessary children’s deaths every single day!

If the police and military were to lay down their arms tomorrow, the redistribution of social resources would be dizzying in its rapidity. Those who rule now and who monopolize so much of the society’s collective resources know this all too well, which is why they do not hesitate to employ and can only continue in power by employing enormous amounts of state violence.

Their continuing ability to do this, however, is premised on their continuing to hold a monopoly over the legitimate means of violence, which is why they devote so many resources to manipulating public opinion to make their use of violence appear to be legitimate and necessary. The operative word in that phrase from Max Weber is “legitimate.” When larger and larger ranks of the people come to see through the capitalist state’s mystification of its rule to its real essence, when more and more people can see through both the lies and the true nature of the state’s use of force, the state’s ability to keep the capitalist class in power and the capitalist system in power is in profound jeopardy.

Which brings us back to the beginning: violence is the continuation of politics by other means. It needs to be understood in that way, as bound up with and as a continuation of politics, and not as something separate and apart from politics. Those who use violence can only continue to get their way if their true political objectives are obscured and their use of violence is met with acquiescence. That is why the main weapon in taking on those who use violence to get their political and economic objectives accomplished is to politically expose them so that the people who suffer from this can act appropriately against this.

Uncovering the real nature of political struggle comes down to this: distinguishing between the vision and real consequences of those who want to monopolize the socially derived (through human collective labor and creativity) and socially maintained resources for themselves alone and who treat those social resources and environmental resources as their private property versus those who regard the social derived resources as a public resource to be shared and safeguarded in the public interest.

One or the other side must prevail in this battle because they have mutually exclusive objectives. That is why the settling of that fundamental clash cannot take place through amicable negotiations and can only be settled in the final analysis through force with the victory of one side or the other in the course of a revolutionary crisis that involves an insurrection by millions of people in the midst of a major convulsive crisis of the system. Prior to, during, and in the aftermath of such a struggle, the main form of political struggle is in the realm of persuasion and the use of ideas, but at some point in the course of such a revolutionary crisis that political struggle will have to include the use of force against the state.

As put by the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA):

In a country like the U.S., the revolutionary overthrow of this system can only be achieved once there is a major, qualitative change in the nature of the objective situation, such that society as a whole is in the grip of a profound crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself, and along with that there is the emergence of a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and millions, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. In this struggle for revolutionary change, the revolutionary people and those who lead them will be confronted by the violent repressive force of the machinery of the state which embodies and enforces the existing system of exploitation and oppression; and in order for the revolutionary struggle to succeed, it will need to meet and defeat that violent repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order.

If you reject the idea of violence where necessary and appropriate on principle, then you are refusing to recognize the fact that the status quo is bound up with excruciating levels of endemic, second by second, hour-by-hour, and daily violence that grinds people up constantly and includes the literal destruction of the planet through the ordinary workings of the capitalist system and its logic.



[1] Even when people “lose their temper” and do things that they later on in a calmer state of mind they express regret for doing, when they “lost their temper” they were acting out and acting upon attitudes that they hold that are the root cause of their acting out in anger. If they did not have those attitudes then they could not act out violently based upon those attitudes.

[2] Frederick Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1960] 1978, p. 13.

[3] Hayek, p. 12.

Comments   

 
0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-05-21 04:44
What I gathered from this article is that the use of violence is necessary in most circumstances. Also, war is not its own entity, separate from politics and concentrated on violence, but rather an addition to politics as a whole. I hadn't really thought of violence like this before. I had always had it characterized in its own little category; thus totally segregated and detached from politics! In regards to the example of the Hurricane Katrina victims, this reminded me of Social Disorganization , proposed by Shaw and McKay. The theory states, "Disorganized communities cause crime because informal social controls break down and criminal cultures emerge." Because the gov't wasn't assisting in providing necessities, the victims of this natural disaster took it upon themselves to survive, and did this through means of theft and violence.
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0 # bobbybmartinez 2014-06-10 20:01
@sadiez

Violence is not necessary in a state of equality, but rather it is necessary to keep this state we live in. Our structures and system shout inequality from the rooftops. A revolution is necessary to fight against violent actions towards minority groups.
Acts of violence are NOT necessary in society, but it is woven in the ideals of the structure we live in and that we accept as ours. We need to change the system to affect the people in the system and their actions.
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0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-05-21 16:58
What I gathered from this article is that compulsion is necessary in most circumstances. Also, war is not its own entity, separate from politics and concentrated on violence, but rather an addition to politics as a whole. I hadn't really thought of violence like this before. I had always had it characterized in its own little category; thus totally segregated and detached from politics! In regards to the example of the Hurricane Katrina victims, this reminded me of Social Disorganization , proposed by Shaw and McKay. The theory states, "Disorganized communities cause crime because informal social controls break down and criminal cultures emerge." Because the gov't wasn't assisting in providing necessities, the victims of this natural disaster took it upon themselves to survive, and did this through means of theft and violence.
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0 # BBalty 2014-05-21 18:16
Is the US government using violence on its citizens? I ask this because you mentioned that Violence is used as an extension of politics and not separate from it. The government has lied and forced their authority over us by violating are right to privacy and supposedly being able to kill over the "metadata" they collect. Is this considered violence?
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-21 18:26
Quoting BBalty:
Is the US government using violence on its citizens?

The spying itself isn't violence but the actions they're taking based on the spying are violent. The more general answer to your question is that the gov't constantly uses huge amounts of violence both domestically and internationally . Police homicides of minorities, for ex., is a daily feature of policing. As a result of the US invasion of Iraq around 1 million have died violent deaths and more than 60,000 US soldiers have died since the invasion by means of suicide.
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0 # katgrl 2014-05-22 18:50
I have learned that without violence the government would not have a way to keep their perceived power. Without some type of violence or suppression the government could not keep society under control because people would not fear what the government could possibly do to them. Guantanamo Bay detention center is an example of how the government is continuously using violence. People are beaten and tortured for crimes they did not commit and are forcibly stripped of their innocence. I think spying is harmful in the sense that what they find from spying leads to violent encounters and actions. There are endless examples of how the government executes violence in order to maintain power and without power they basically would never get what they want.
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0 # Giovanna Serrano 2014-05-23 01:28
This reminded me of what we discussed in class today about keeping minorities incarcerated. Because the owners of the mean of productions want minorities to be subjugated in order for there to be less revolt and uprising from them. Violence as well is another tact that the government uses in order to get to the people to do what they want. Like you say Guantanamo is the perfect example of what force looks like from the government. You mentioned spying which is also in my belief the worst thing we can let our government do to its own people.
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0 # giovanna serrano 2014-05-30 03:18
One thing that I find interesting is how our government uses violence in order to keep "order". Because government is run by a few people in power and there are more of us without power, I think they know us the people if we realize what is being done, we can rise and will be a great deal of threat to our government.
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-25 18:33
Spying is not only harmful but it is intrusive. That is definitely violence against its own people. Its just a way for them to keep us in line, because without the scare tactic of violence, how else will we be kept in line?
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0 # SOC 123 2014-06-10 19:16
Good point. There is a quote that says, "If men were angels we wouldn't need a government." Using violence is a good tactic in a sense because no one wants to feel pain.
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0 # jnc 2014-05-25 18:37
I believe for this to all be true as well. The government seems to think that violence is the only way to show their strength. They believe that by them pointing out and locking up the minorities and targeting only certain people on the streets to put behind bars that they are doing their "job". Well essentially they are just frustrating the American people who are all against this violence and terror among the innocent. The more the government uses their forceful violence the more anxious the American people become in revolting against the pain that the government has brought upon them.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-11 19:55
i do agree with you. the government does uses violence as a sign of power. the problem is they are only targeting minorities like you mention. in my other soc class we talk about how most of the men in prison are due to minor things, they were cough with drugs, or smoking. the problem is the minority communities are the ones being targeted, they have a stereotype and they go after them. we all know white people use/sell/ drugs too, they are just not being targeted. like you mention if the revolution happens the minorities will rise and be a great help, we together will not be the minority but the majority and make a change for the better good of society.
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0 # SOC 123 2014-06-10 19:13
I see what you are saying. I do think violence is correlated with power. At some point everyone wants to feel that they have power and so does the government.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-22 00:58
Another example of the violence: the mass incarceration of millions of mostly minorities in jails and prisons, 25% of the world behind bars are being held in US facilities, even though we're only 5% of the world's population! The stop and frisk program. The open season on minorities exemplified by the Trayvon Martin murder...
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-05-24 20:45
Government uses violence to control those individuals that seem like a “threat” to society, which in reality it comes down to being a threat to them instead of the public. Violence is a strategy to get people’s attention whether it is a good or bad cause. It’s a way to keep the government/syst em in power and with that power they can determine what changes they can do or enforce on its people. Those individuals who hold power enable the working class to rise.
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0 # vices 2014-05-25 09:52
Humans are dependent on other humans in order to survive. In order for humans to be born, an individual man and woman must work together to produce an offspring. This can be tied into the survival of mankind. If humans do not work together to put an end to this self-destructiv e system, the future generation of kids will grow up with the same oppressive forces that most citizens feel today. People cannot deny this, and even if they did, it doesn't mean that it will go away on its own. Similar to the example with gravity, just because an individual decides to not acknowledge the existence of gravity; it would not result in them being able to fly away. If anything, in order to fly, you must fully understand how gravity works. Now translating it into terms of the system, before individuals can rise up above a system, they must first understand the system that they are opposing. Everyone cooperates with each other to a certain extent, they just need to adopt the same goals.
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-25 18:31
When it is not so clear cut, people do not see what is in front of them. Being stripped away from our laws like women's right with abortion, not having equal pay, and all the crime against them caused by men is a form of violence. Keeping people in very low income communities with poor education is violence. The incarceration rates are violence. People are to blame the media as a part to blame for us not knowing the complete truth. This is all an outcome of OUR system. The system that many people are conforming to living in because of not knowing their way out.
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0 # aplopez 2014-06-09 06:54
I agree with your statement. People are just so oblivious. I think people should understand what rights they have! They need to. One example that i understood in my PLS course was about police brutality. When a police officer pulls you over and asks you if they can search your car, you have the right to say NO! Many people believe or should I say, they feel "obligated" to say yes because of the sense of authority. I say its falls in the category of violence too.
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0 # SOC 123 2014-06-10 19:20
Also people don't know their rights. When people don't know their rights its easy to manipulate them. Ethos has to do with it, if you see someone in a uniform its most likely you do as they say.
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0 # Lomonaco 2014-05-25 21:13
The government is a cruel organization. At the start of WWII the government opened the Japanese internment camps for the protection of the United States citizens. Some of the people in the camps were citizens. I am sure they did not feel protected. They were stripped of their lives. They had 2 days to get their affairs in order and were only allowed to bring a few items. They were basically put in prison for being of Japanese descent. It’s ironic that there were Japanese that fought in the war. Furthermore, there was at least one group that was honored for their service. The government is scared. Maybe it all ties into the saying when someone is accusing someone of something it is because they themselves are the guilty one.
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0 # Agris 2014-06-08 23:36
I once heard a saying for dating that went along the longs that the significant other who is constantly accusing the other person of cheating in the relationship is usually the one doing the actual cheating. I feel this applies to what you are saying. The government is more likely to have fear and create "protection services" because they themselves are engaging in not so friendly actions.
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0 # Marisol Parra 2014-05-25 23:31
The government is a system that lies to society, in Dr. Loo class lecture he gave an example of minorities held in our jails and prisons. Jails uses a system of coercion against many inmates mainly minorities and poor whites. Violence committed by our government gives them the authority to feel empowered to commit such crimes against society. Many have agreed that government commits such violence so we can feel inferior which we shouldn’t have to feel.
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0 # Jessica Ulloa 2014-05-26 00:26
Exactly. How is the stop and frisk program an okay thing to have? Some police officers use racial profiling to determine who might be breaking the law. How is this ok? Racism, sexism, these systems are not okay. When crimes are committed by another person that is not a minority, it seems to be pardoned or ignored and does not make such a big deal as when it is committed by a minority. There are many crimes that are committed, such as the white collar crimes, that are not looked at as being as bad, or shall i say, are not focused on as much in the media. These crimes such as bad mortgage loans, Insurance fraud, Dr performing unnecessary surgeries, are not mentioned very much in the media. These crimes do as much harm as the crimes that are brought up in the media. What i don't understand is the fact that there is this separation in the crimes. A crime is a crime and they should be both treated the same regardless of the person committing them.
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0 # thatdude 2014-05-26 02:52
Quoting Jessica Ulloa:
A crime is a crime and they should be both treated the same regardless of the person committing them.

Agreed! Thinking about the unfair punishments that minorities face from our discriminatory criminal justice system is absurd because they are being targeted off the bat by law enforcement. It reminds me of the example Dr. Loo gave us about the mandatory minimum sentencing for crack cocaine being exponentially higher than that for pure cocaine. Crack cocaine is mainly used by minorities and those in charge of the system know that. White privilege influences our society greatly and it has been this way for so long that there are many individuals that think that this concept absolutely doesn't exist, and ironically it happens to be people that are white. I never realized I had white privilege until I took my first sociology class in college, but now that I'm cognizant of it I see it everywhere. Our CJS is just corrupt, simple as that.
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0 # tiamari 2014-05-29 21:16
I agree. Crimes are looked differently based on who the offender is. If the offender is a minority then there is harsher punishment. Much of what is reported is disproportionat e. Corporate crime is hardly reported in the news.
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0 # Agris 2014-05-30 00:33
This reminds me of what we talked about in class today in regards to the Davis/Nunn case. How Dr. Loo said that one of the commentators stated that if the decision were taken seriously, it was saying that Nunn should have shot and killed all the boys and then would not have been charged with anything. It is aggravating to hear that he was not charged with the death of Davis, however he was charged with attempted murder of the other individuals. If he was a black man and teenage white boys this would not be the outcome of the trial.
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0 # SecretSeaBridges 2014-05-26 00:50
The government uses violence and spying on us because to them we are all terrorists! How can we all conform to a system when our own government doesn't even trust us? The government does use scare tactics to not only oppress us but to also keep us in line under their "governing".
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0 # Shannon Barkley 2014-06-09 02:39
Quoting SecretSeaBridges:
How can we all conform to a system when our own government doesn't even trust us?.
This is a very interesting question and one to the point. With the government not trusting us and gathering our metadata, then we essentially can not trust them. They lead us to believe that they are looking out for us, but in reality they are not they are trying to do what is best for them not the country as a whole. They want us to trust them but it they are using "scare tactics" to make us conform then how beneficial is that?
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0 # Sinnerman 2014-06-06 13:35
It is always good to remember that war isn't a pointless act of violence, for too often people forget that war is a very deliberate political tactic. It can be very easy to be swept along in the thinking of war as merely senseless violence resulting from human nature, but that isn't the case and I highly doubt it was ever was. War is the use of violence to force the other party to go along with the victor's desires.
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0 # Sinnerman 2014-06-06 14:45
The Occupy movement contained a lot of ideas that without a doubt should have had politicians worried. Any form of anti-capitalism movement is gonna draw their attention even if it is only briefly, but one that got as large as Occupy could have been the beginning of the end for everything they knew. The attempts to suppress the movement weren't really all that surprising, but what is surprising is how much they are trying to prevent it from coming back. Weird that so much focus would be placed on preventing them from regathering in a country where we are supposed to be able to peacefully protest, but sadly too many people don't think about that.
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0 # Sinnerman 2014-06-06 20:09
I have always had a hard time believing that humans are naturally greedy, competitive, and selfish, but even so I never thought humans were naturally good. I preferred to think of us as naturally self-serving, but I guess that is basically selfish just a little less negative sounding. The idea that er are naturally social creatures and our self-centered attitude is a result of our societal attitude is a more interesting theory too look into.
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0 # Karla Garcia 2014-06-08 00:14
so pretty much the violence is an outlet for politics when negotiations don't go the way that they want them to. also the fact that soldiers shot gangsters that were trying to get supplies because they state wasn't giving those in need the supplies need to survive. also that violence between the classes is because what benefits on class hurts the other. that is something that i don't understand why does something that benefits one has to hurt the other? and why is violence the only way to solve problems between classes.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-08 00:31
The reason why force is ultimately the only way to solve the conflict between classes is because what benefits one class directly hurts the other. Thus, it cannot be resolved peacefully since the side getting hurt isn't going to allow it to happen, esp. when they are aware that this is what is going on. The fundamental reason for this division in society is because the key organizing principle of capitalism, what makes it capitalism as opposed to some other system, is that the means to life (the means of production) are owned and controlled privately, thus putting them in the driver's seat overall. For this conflict to end would require that the MOP be shared socially rather than monopolized privately.
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0 # mdAngel 2014-06-08 19:59
I agree that crimes are looked differently based on who committed it. Being in a money driven country, money talks. Celebrities for instance, probably, most likely spend lesser punishment than normal civilians. That i do not agree on. You live by the sword you die by the sword, for everyone.
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0 # Agris 2014-06-08 23:32
I agree celebrities do seem to get less harsher punishments when they evade the law. When one is actually imprisoned it is shocking to see it happened, even though they are probably serving in a less aggressive prison as most of us would be placed in.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-11 20:06
that's always the case, you have the money you have the power. all the rich people who commit the same crime as a poor/minority will get off the hook with just paying some fine and hours of community service. on the other hand, a Latino/black men/women will go to prison no matter what. they see minority as criminals, its like we are born with that brand on our body.
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0 # Shannon Barkley 2014-06-09 02:19
This article really made me think. I did not fully understand the different ways violence is being used and in the different manners. With the "pen being mightier than the sword" is a great way to allude to an act of violence but in not a 'violent' or physical way. It is intriguing that there are different means to going to war and how it is a type of violent politics. It may be seen as this way because the people acting in the war are generally politicians, but they are doing it to make a statement and the statement is in regards to political issues. Such as going to war for the oil. this is happening just to have control and be able to make a bigger profit than anyone else can.
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0 # mitchell denerson 2014-06-09 05:08
Violence is how our government is going to maintain its control. They preach nonviolence and try to keep the actual violence they commit as secret as possible or try to justify it when called out. They need to instill fear in people to some degree to maintain that power. However torturing innocent people like they do in Guantanamo is unexplainable. Why do they continue to keep those who they have no reason left to keep, and to torture them as well, its just hard to wrap your head around. Like the Wacko tragedy, the government wasn't getting what they wanted so they used violence to solve the problem, then tried to hide the truth from the people to justify what they did and just live with it. Its very sad. But violence is a part of human nature and will never end. It seems as though when our Gov. is desperate, violence is the answer.
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0 # karen cornejo 2014-06-09 06:32
Violence is needed to keep order and power. That is why we see it and that is why the government uses it. Violence has to be used to make things happen. If one party is losing against another they are not going to simply back down. They are going to fight until they win or until they make their point that they will not lose. Without violence things would unfortunately be more chaotic.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-11 20:12
i don't think that's the case. we don't necessarily need violence to control the people. the government is using violence because they are unfair towards minorities, and they are fighting back. no one likes to be treated unfairly and when you do, well you have to do anything to change that. if everything would be fine and everyone would be treated equal there would be no need for violence.
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0 # Susan Torres 2014-06-11 19:45
Violence is always the main focus of today's media and now with this article it has made me view in a different way. Before I viewed as media focusing on violence in order to attract the audience but now I see it in a way of keeping the population in their place. This will avoid the majority to not resort to any type of violence. Why? because it is BAD. It does not solve anything. This is what we are constantly told. But like the article says those in power know that with violence they can get overthrown and this redistribution of wealth and resources would be accomplished. It scares me to think how much in control they are and knowing just how easily they can get overthrown and yet nothing happens.
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0 # FAVELA001 2014-06-12 03:50
Follow a simple guideline the uglier you are the worse off you are. One example that I can express in this is how this learned behavior at a young age is responsible for this. Disney is the first fully forward moral universe that most of us are exposed to. Beauty and the beast, and snow white. A world ruled by the most attractive or the fairest in the land. The evil queen checks her beauty ranking in the mirror like politicians checking the polls in an election year, and when Snow White comes into the land she must take out the new pretty girl because the only thing that matters in this universe is being the prettiest. Furthermore when the evil queen goes to take out snow white to resume her power she disguises herself as being the ugliest hag an individual could be because attractive people cannot commit murder. It is essentially the way Elliot Rodger took this to heart. He became upset that he could not ellicit attraction from girls, and the only thing important to him was....
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0 # FAVELA001 2014-06-12 03:50
to attract girls. His inability to do so expressed his true power in society which essentially was nonexistent. To make up for this lack of power, he exerted violence which in his mind equaled power.
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0 # Belinda 2014-06-11 23:26
I agree with the statement that our government uses violence as a means to an end to show their power and strength. Although we generally see the negative outcome of a war, i believe in a more functionalist perspective that in our history times, it was necessary. That's not to say that I agree with ALL wars. I just feel like i can understand the reason that it was necessary. As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards the Alpha male of the group because at the end of the day, as social beings, we look towards others for protection and self-preservati on. Although it would be wonderful to live in a society where the kind and gentle win most battles, we know that this is not the case. This is why with great power comes great responsibility. If the U.S didn't step forth and aid in the wars in other countries or become victorious in their own personal battles, we would be vulnerable to much more attacks.I feel that there will always be violence for the general good and for the bad.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 23:37
These wars since 9/11 have been premised on lies. US policies towards other countries, including Obama's use of drones and the USG's use of torture are making the problem of terrorism worse as they kill, maim and torture innocent people.
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0 # FAVELA001 2014-06-12 03:47
For the first time since 9/11 people have been more concerned with the government’s surveillance of people than it has been on world events. Again the US’ need to use military to exert its power in the world is a clear example of Masculine Dominance, just as a male body builder loves to show off his biceps, the United States likes to show off its guns. The truth of the matter is men love war, although many of them will not admit it simply because war is meant to be ugly and filled with death. Without a doubt veterans sit in their houses around America and know that nothing in their life will ever equal the day that they parachuted out on D-Day, or won the war in Japan. They recognize war for what it truly is, but simultaneously love some of the dynamics of war; i.e. the commodary, knowing that the vast majority of people will never see or experience the same things that they did.
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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12