Violence and Politics
July 16, 2014
I have a friend with whom I debate politics and often he makes the argument that radical political change is undesirable because such change is often accompanied by violence. And, of course, as a decent individual, he wants to avoid those situations that breed violence.
So, OK, that is a legitimate concern, and perhaps one that I should take more seriously than I do. But here is another concern, in the form of a question: How much violence is necessary to preserve the status quo?
See, it is not only radical change that often requires violence in order to be accomplished. The status quo could and, I would say, definitely does require violence as well. And this might be truer the more unstable the status quo is, the more tenuous it is.
What might this mean, in practical terms? Well, it could mean, as Teddy Roosevelt use to argue, that a little war every now and again is a good thing. But it could also mean a more subtle kind of violence, say the kind of violence that puts large numbers of human beings “behind bars,” that relegates these human beings to places where violence is endemic. Or it could mean the kind of violence that is perpetrated on those who are unable to make a decent living, either because they lack the opportunity or they lack the needed skills to do so.
And we should not forget the usefulness of violence that is perpetrated on the nation, either from foreign or from domestic enemies. After all, such violence is useful, very useful, in helping to create, on the basis of fear, a unity among the people that might otherwise be lacking. All one need do to see this is to recall the aftermaths of 9/11 or of the Boston marathon bombings.
It would be interesting to try to delineate how the current status quo depends on violence, different kinds of violence, to perpetuate itself. We might be surprised to find that the alleged “peaceful” character of the current status quo is far less than we often assume it is. And, if so, then the question of the desirability of radical political change would assume a different aspect.