There are very few concepts or propositions in our current iteration of society that are held with more contempt than the very notion of violence.
Violence is almost inherently a bad word. You dare not be violent toward your neighbor. You dare not be violent toward your family. And you absolutely dare not be violent toward the infinitely benevolent guardians and authors of law and order, that being law enforcement and/or politicians.
It makes sense, especially given that violence, in its most unrestrained form, can have the consequence of death. While there is definitely some debate regarding taking another human’s life, especially in regards to voluntary euthanasia or self-defense, there is little debate as to whether murder or the willful desire to harm someone else is wrong. And for good reason, in my opinion.
An interesting question comes into this equation, though. If violence is this unequivocally horrendous deed, in which the theft of someone’s life is one of the most morally reprehensible acts one can engage in, then why is it the backbone of our nation?
If a man determines that his neighbor is a threat to his livelihood in some sense or another, or has the potential to do so, legally it would be wrong for him to think about, plan, and execute his murder. It would also be wrong for him to organize and find a hitman to take out the neighbor on his behalf. The man would more than likely face a trial, be determined guilty, and end up in prison, serving whatever sentence that the judicial system sees fit for him. That seems to be fairly reasonable: a punishment befitting the crime.
But what happens when our nation decides that the developing values or cultural zeitgeist of another country has the potential to disrupt the moral and political foundations of which our country has built itself upon? Like our violent man in the previously given example, our country may decide that it’s time to step in and get involved. And our nation similarly does what the man does. It thinks about and executes a meticulous plan to eliminate this threat. In some cases, this may be through direct action such as military occupation or “boots on the ground,” and in other cases it may be through the allocation of funds and resources to rebel groups that essentially serve as proxies to our own military interests.
But unlike the example of the man who executes his neighbor, this is seen not as a crime, but a civic duty and a virtue. A demonstration of noble sacrifices in order to extol the outstanding morality of our nation. To fight for freedom and peace not through the use of diplomacy and understanding, but with shrapnel and steel. And the people who execute these ideals are not served with prison time, punishment, or demonization, but with medals, celebration, and cheers.
Now the argument is simple, right? Violence for the sake of violence is wrong, and violence is acceptable in utilitarian terms, in which a population decides that it’s for the greater good. But the determination of what the greater good is lies in the hands of politicians and powerful interests, who have their own biases and human desires for engaging in such conflicts. Perhaps it’s the acquisition of material wealth that inspires them so, or the desire to retain the current political and global standing that the nation has.
Unfortunately for us, the determination of morally righteous violence is sort of an arbitrary concept at this point in time. What’s good for us is really whatever is determined by multimillion-dollar ad campaigns, the proliferation and crafting of narratives by political and corporate interests, and what societal pressures push us to believe is good for us. With the right amount of propaganda and emotional appeal, any cause, no matter how morally bankrupt, can be adopted as a just cause by enough people to garner unequivocal support for said cause.
Our nation’s strategy is to destroy, exert control, and stir things up to weaken others, so that we may retain our power. But god forbid anyone within the nation decides to follow the values that our nation so openly and excessively practices. We preach very differently from what we practice.
The condemnation of violence is a reasonable thing, but I find it unreasonable that the state has virtually given itself a monopoly on exerting violence as it pleases, whilst entirely restricting that right amongst its people. It even allows itself to exert violence among its own people, through the use of law enforcement and the like. But again, god forbid a citizen defends themselves against an officer of the law acting unjustly.
To condemn violence and celebrate it simultaneously is insanity of the utmost degree. It is a strange dynamic that seems hypocritical at best and entirely malicious at worst.
Let us continue to preach peace and prosperity while murdering civilians abroad. Surely that must be the best way to spread our message of peace.