Friday, May 8, 2015

The Un-answer

In the time it's taken for the weather to change from a bracing energetic chill here in Perth, to a treacherous and inertia-inducing cold, another seductive benumbing seems to have crept up on the world's unsuspecting masses, lured by the vigours of the 24-hour news and social media cycle, and the merits of an argument that has been laboured over ever since the advent of the communal fire at the heart of the proto-society: that of the positive effects of Violence.
The various names that the civil unrest in Baltimore has been called; ranging from the pro-establishment, riots, to the heroic, uprising, itself is a signal that the debate on violence has not run its course over millennia of invasion, war, city-sacking, and raping and pillaging, given expression through the ever-mutating propaganda machine that has recurrently reared its head throughout the recorded history of the world to justify the righteous fight against forces of darkness and injustice. We live in a world that has routinely seen parents bury children, looters savage priceless heirlooms, terrorists devastate societies so many times over since we began thinking of ourselves as beings with agency, that we cannot but shrug when violence arrives pre-packaged in the shiny wrapping of a vision of brave oppressed peoples rising up against their erstwhile oppressors in a heartfelt explosion of rage and helplessness that brings the world to a horrified standstill, in contemplation of these bleak works of man...
It has to stop.
It beggars belief that there is a certain credence being granted to the theory that were it not for the unrest in Baltimore the police officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray would never have been charged with a crime. This line of reasoning follows from the same tortured logic that underlies the belief that the world is better off since the two world wars of the last century, and the response to the tragedy that was 9/11 in this one.
Violence cannot be justified, and not just the violence that follows from the works of man. When a person dies unnaturally from any cause, whether immediately known or ultimately unknown, it is due cause for grief and investigation, and possible mitigation of similar circumstances that could cause the death of another. We cannot and should not accept that the violence we visit on ourselves or that is visited on us from without is immutable, ever. What has to change is the systems and processes we put in place to mitigate the eruptions of violence in the world today, not our responses to it.
The debate in the immediate aftermath of the unrest in Baltimore centred on whether the rioting and the looting that led to the imposition of a curfew in that city could ever be justified. I took in this debate between protesters and news reporters with a fervency verging on disbelief, amid an atmosphere of absolute surreality in which police officers spoke calmly and respectfully to white protesters as they milled around in mostly white neighbourhoods holding placards denouncing racism, while, at the same time, worked to aggressively impose the curfew in mostly black neighbourhoods in the same city with violent arrests - for an event that was brought on primarily because of their own organization's actions.
This is not a surreal world. Everyone feels pain, frustration, and the pangs of impotency. Everyone wants freedom, a sense of manifest agency, and love. We must work towards a world where achievement cannot be tied to whether or not someone was brave enough to commit an act of violence to combat another act of violence. There's something fundamentally wrong with an argument such as that.

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