” … I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea — a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue and thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never settles anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms.“
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), p. 26, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (1959)
Unlike pretty much everyone else living, it seems, I believe in violence. Yup, you read that right. I don’t think violence is evil, wrong, immoral or whatever
I believe that violence is the ultimate method of resolving a dispute and that our current society’s willful denial of this fact to be perplexing. Every country on this planet has some form of armed forces, some kind of police. We all wage war, either for gains or to defend what is already ours. Every government uses force (read violence) to ensure people conform to their laws; if you don’t pay a fine, you get a court summons, fail to show up and police officers will arrive at your door to arrest you, resist the arrest and the officers will be forced to use violence (physically restraining you, using a taser or a firearm) to make you comply.
Violence is a part of this world, whether you like it or not. Animals hunt each other and kill each other in often extraordinarily brutal means, sometimes not even killing their prey before eating it. Insectivores decimate insect populations in ways that would remind us of a Godzilla monster movie if we were at that scale. Even herbivores tear and rip apart the plants, trees, and bushes they consume (and it seems that some plants can feel this as it happens to them).
Chimpanzees, our closest genetic relatives, wage war. Jane Goodall was so disturbed by the behaviors she observed she decided to keep them hidden from the public because she thought that the chimps had been corrupted by human contact and didn’t want to taint the world’s view of chimpanzees. Later readings of her fieldwork and notes by third-parties concluded that these chimps were just doing something that was natural to them. Hell, it even seems that one of the only ways for very large groups of chimps to form is war. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2keXVK8u9c&t=3932s).(https://qz.com/work/1302643/the-most-violent-chimp-war-of-all-time-was-about-the-same-stuff-humans-fight-over/) (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150811-do-animals-fight-wars)
Violence is a part of us and the world in which we live, and to deny that fact is to bury your head in the sand. Instead of running from this tragic fact, I think it best we all rethink its place in this world, that we all become aware of its potential for good and for bad, and that we all become prepared to use it when and if it becomes necessary.
Since the 2016 US election, there have been innumerable social media posts where people have been advocating for the use of violence upon those they disagree with, whether the poster is on the political left or right. What is incredibly frustrating about these “shitposts” is the fact that most people making them seem to be unaware of the reality of violence, its costs, and its repercussions. How many people alive today have ever gotten in a serious fight? How many people know what getting punched in the head feels like? Or what it feels to have the wind knocked out of you or even what it feels like when you punch someone? (Hint: it hurts.) Just being in your body’s “fight” mode can be a jarring experience: the feeling of adrenaline pumping through your body, heightening your reflexes and aggression, leaving you trembling and tight.
I believe that when someone uses violence against you, they have forfeited their “right” to not have violence used against them. I thoroughly dislike the idea that the only thing you can do as an individual when you become the victim of a crime is to patiently wait for the cops to arrive (which generally takes enough time for any smart criminal to be long gone when the police do finally show up). I despise the Canadian laws of self-defense where, say if someone was attempting to kill you, you cannot kill them in self-defense. But above all, I dislike when people threaten violence on another despite being craven and ignorant of what violence actually is.
Every martial art teaches about violence, and they all share one philosophy of violence: expect peace but prepare for war. Avoid fights when possible, but be ready for when conflict cannot be avoided. Wield a sword but keep it sheathed. Be a warrior but never go to war.
Why would they believe such ideas? Because violence entails more violence.
If you punch someone, they will most likely punch back. If you dominate someone purely through violence, they will plan your death behind your back, waiting patiently for the moment to put the knife in. If you escalate things all the way to murder, you will probably have to face a vindictive family member or friend. However, if you, a trained death machine arrive at an argument with another trained death machine, you both will think twice before swinging a fist. Why? Because you know that you have a chance to die if it comes to that. You understand that you can take his life just as easily as he can take yours. That even if you take his life, he will make you pay dearly. If he were to try and take yours, you’d make him suffer in consequence.
Switzerland, a country famous for its political neutrality and chocolate, was never invaded by the Germans during either of the world wars for one very simple reason: every one of its inhabitants was trained to use a rifle expertly while serving in their armed forces. To invade them would be suicide. This reasoning also explains the US’ lax gun control laws: the States were founded on the fear of tyrannical government and to stop it, an armed population is required. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFh2zxQwxZI&t=558s)
Violence is generally a poor resolver of conflict because it creates more potential for violence, yet it remains the penultimate way of doing so because it cannot be undone. Once violence is committed, it cannot be retracted. Once you stab someone, you can’t take out the knife and pretend you never stabbed them. You can deny having punched someone in the face but their black eye remains proof of your action. You and your victim must live with the consequences.
How, then, can you use violence responsibly?
The answer to that question is something I only know parts of: flee from conflict whenever possible, do not initiate the use of force unless you can properly justify its use, do not allow yourself to become the victim of someone else’s force, and defend those who cannot defend themselves.
I believe that by following those rules, you will be able to keep yourself well within the limits of moral and ethical philosophy. Don’t turn the other cheek because some brute will invariably knock you out and turn you into fleshy pulp. We may live in civilization but savages still remain among us. Failure to recognize this horrible fact will always have innocents pay the price of well-wishing dreamers and legislators.