Your people, enemy
My people’s hated enemy
What are you, enemy
Though a created enemy
Terminate the, enemy
Eradicate the hated enemy
I am an enemy
My very greatest enemy
You try to tell me that you love life
Then find another way to kill life
Wanting, love life
Needing, kill life
Wanting, love life
Needing, kill life
There has been a lot of talk, lately, here and elsewhere about violence and it’s place (or lack thereof) in our lives. When is violence appropriate or not, is it ever appropriate? I wrote about ritualized violence previously, and re-reading that article today I find that I still agree with pretty much everything I wrote. But it does not cover the topic as thoroughly as I would now like.
Let me state for the record, I am not a practitioner of non-violence.
Nor am I a violent person. Very rarely in my life have I had any interaction with overt violence, whatsoever. I am sure I have killed millions of insects, driving down the road in my car, I’ve even killed a couple of deer the same way (I once lived in a county in Wisconsin with the highest deer population in the state. Living there for any time period and not hitting a deer would have been miraculous.) I eat meat. I have had a few occasions of getting caught up in “puff up tough guy” type situations. Generally those never have gone further than the bluff. And then there is that other thing, but we don’t need to talk about that.
In any case, I have been thinking about this a lot. One cannot read Jensen without thinking about it a lot. He challenges our self images, our holier than thou attitudes and most especially, our attitudes about violence both as victims and as perpetrators. I’m still not inclined to go out and blow up a dam. Not really my style, nor my part to play. I still believe that Rebellious Violence (…intentional application of violence to achieve a specific goal, just like Institutionalized Violence, but employed against the state rather than for it.) is generally very easy for the system to deal with. Or more specifically, that it is part of the system, a steam valve, a way for the system to release pressure without losing control. But I have to admit that Jensen does make a decent case for leveraged efforts (violent or not) and so this is something I will need to think on further.
But back to the issue of non-violence. It occurred to me as I began to write that this is always termed “practicing non-violence” and this seems telling to me. It is not a skill you learn, but rather an effort that one must “practice” forever. That, in and of itself, leads me to believe that this is an unnatural behavior pattern for humans. Hell, I would go so far as to say it is an unnatural behavior pattern for all life. Does that make it wrong? Right Wrong, Natural, un-Natural… these are all Bad Words and I hate discussions that center around them, but there is nothing much to be done about it.
Let’s try to re-frame this discussion. How is violence addressed in the world around us, outside of the civilized mindset and Institutionalized Violence and it’s ugly stepdaughters?
An old friend of mine, Ghost, introduced a framework on Ishcon which he termed the Hierarchy of Conflict Resolution and it goes like this:
- 1-If it’s your territory, defend
2-If it’s their territory, retreat
3-If the territory belongs to no one, contest
4-If there are no other options to that resource, contest
5-Begin all conflict resolution by attempting to come to a compromise
6-If this fails, employ aggressive behaviour designed to make the other party retreat
7-If this fails, apply force
8-If this fails, you may injure your opponent
9-If this fails, you may kill your opponent
10-If this fails, you may exterminate your opponent
The key to this tree of behavior is that at any stage, either participant may withdraw. And in most cases, outside of civilization, one or another combatant will withdraw unless the cause of the conflict is so desperate that withdrawing means almost certain death. Although it is written describing human group behaviors, the same tree can be applied to animal populations: two bull moose meet in a wood, a young wolf chooses to challenge the alpha, and so forth. And the ultimate key to these choices is what works. Or to put it in scientific terms, in a given situation, what is the evolutionarily Stable Strategy?
In civilization, there is no strategy tree. In civilization, the immediate response to challenge is annihilation. I think the practice of non-violence is a reaction to this fact. If the only options are extermination or withdrawal, there are some good arguments for withdrawal to be made. But outside of civilization, there are far more possibilities available. And even within civilization, if there is a conflict that is not directly engaging civ itself, other levels of conflict resolution can be engaged.
So what is the point of all this?
Once more, our civilized system has created a dichotomy. Annihilate or Concede, Violence or Non-Violence. Black versus white. But our real world contains all these wonderful colors of the rainbow, every shade of gray imaginable. I have never seen evil, nor good… my experience tells me that there is some of each in everything and everyone. Violence is just another piece of the dynamic puzzle that is life itself. So we can learn to manage violence or we can pretend that one day it can be eliminated entirely. I think that is a crock. Just like every other utopian ideal. It is an ideal designed to prevent us from dealing with the world the way it really is, in all of it’s luminous shades of gray.