What is the nature of violence? More specifically, what is the benefit of violence as a concept within a set of beliefs (whether that be political, philosophical, theological, etc). It is increasingly becoming my opinion that violence is ultimately a bad reaction to something troubling. Violence itself should result in shock and, in many ways, disbelief.The first world war was once called the war to end all wars. Political and military figures alike argued that the atrocities of that war was enough to discourage any future war. Ironically, the second world war began brewing just over a decade later. The second world war was considered even worse than the first. However, wars were not ended or discouraged; they continued to occur, perhaps even in greater force.
Violence only intensified and turned into an ideological dream. Not only was war the always occurring violence elsewhere, but it also turned inward. World leaders began declaring war on any concept they disliked: drugs, poverty, domestic violence, communism, terror (not just terrorism but terror itself)…and that’s just in the USA! In fact, war has become such a commonplace concept that we have become desensitised to its meaning. We now consume it in our media–in news, film, television, even music. It has become such that in war there is a ‘good’ side and a ‘bad’ side with good generally winning and being the ‘fan favourite’. The boundary between history and fiction are blurred such that we can accept the ‘good guys’ doing horribly ‘bad’ things (e.g. torture) if it is for the ‘greater good’ (e.g. the series 24). In other words, we have been taught to embrace a relative morality when it suits our own purposes. The real irony here is that the people who most readily accept that ideology are the same ones who call for an absolute morality!
A song written in the early 1990s sums up this story nicely. While it is directly about the Troubles in Ireland, the second verse from The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ touches on my answer to this fashion nicely:
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken
It’s the same old theme since 1916
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
Ideology today is only in our heads. The worse part of it is that we’ve accepted it as reality and enjoy it as well. Perhaps Orwell’s most chilling point about Oceania (from 1984) was that not only did the people need to accept Big Brother but that they had to enjoy it as well. The best way to undermine this ideology is not a revolution for that only reinforces the love of violence. Instead, it is to believe it completely, to take it at its word, to watch the most gruesome atrocities and enjoy it. Only when we discover that such violence is not just an unwelcome outsider but something near to our own hearts can we learn to acknowledge the atrocities and violence for what they are: our own reflections.