Violence Protects the State

Stephanie N. Van Hook, Executive Director of Metta Center for Nonviolence in Petaluma, California, has written a commentary in Znet on How Violence Protects the State.  Here is an excerpt:

Violence in opposition to the State relieves the State and the citizenry of any guilt for a brutal response to all protesters—and it refocuses from the nominal issue to the issue of violence by protesters. Thus any violence by protesters serves the state well (just ask anyone employed by the government who has hired an agent provocateur). It is a weapon of mass distraction. Stop worrying about the uptick in home foreclosures, the dead being shipped back from Afghanistan, and the new increases in the Pentagon’s proposed budget—look at the violent window-breakers from Occupy who threaten us all!

Nonviolence is not just protest, it is not simply occupying space and it is not just about adversarial confrontations; it’s about our humanity

In short, in order to delegitimize a violent system, we have to delegitimize violence. This change requires us to adopt a principle about human beings and human dignity: we will not use violence against others because we want to create a vibrant culture, a merciful culture, a generous culture because we as human beings have the potential to nurture these qualities within ourselves and each other. We will not degrade human dignity because it is not worthy of ourselves as people; let this be the motivation for our long-term struggle. The power of the violent State system would stand much less chance against a movement committed to this nonviolent, compassionate spirit of unity.”

The debate between violence and nonviolence is age-old.  Though, nonviolence has sort of come of age in the modern period, particularly with history proving nonviolence’s effectiveness in domestic regime change.  The current relevance of this topic is related largely to the occupy movement captures a lot of popular unrest with our own domestic regime.  With great injustices, anger is a natural and healthy response.  Unfortunately, violence is not a natural and healthy response to anger.  We need to channel the energy of our anger and rage against injustice into ways of living that will actually result in a new and better way of living together as humanity.  I believe that nonviolence represents that way of living.  If you want something different from violence we are going to have to do something different and violence.  Violence begets violence.  Love begets love.  Respect begets respect.  You get the picture.  It seems that lectures on means and ends have become a common theme in my life and in my blogs recently.  I love the logic of the means producing the ends.  I just wish this approach got more respect. I guess that when it comes to violence, it is very hard to overcome old habits and venture into territory that presents a lots of personal uncertainty and risk (by disarming).  While controlling others through propaganda, terror and violence, seems to be able to go a long way, controlling others ultimately short-circuits our ability to live in peace and harmony with one another.  I believe it is worth a lot of risk to make living in peace and harmony possible.  Let’s not allow the state to divide us through violence, either its own, or through provoking violence in us.

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