Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Rant on Degrees of Violence

We live in a violent society. When people become alienated they often do violent things. When the person is "one of our own," the violence is seen as a matter of individual responsibility. A man -- Joe Stack -- becomes troubled because the financial problems and flies an airplane into an Internal Revenue Service building. The response seems to be that he is mentally unbalanced or expressing justifiable indignation in an unacceptable way.

A young Pakistani immigrant suffers financial and family problems, turns to religion, and tries to explode a car bomb in crowded Times Square. The response focuses on the religious angle because his religion is not the dominant one in the country.

What if he had used a drone instead? Obviously, most of the victims have been innocent. Of course, we have no knowledge that our own drone attacks predominately kill "guilty parties"? And then again, if the drone attack had been successfully pointed at Wall Street, it would have undoubtedly kill people whose destructive activities have resulted in many destroyed lives. Would that be justified? Our own young people who operate the drones might be seen as some as heroes.

The analogy of Wall Street and the military may be unduly provocative. And yet, the banks resemble a victorious government demanding reparations from a defeated enemy -- in this case, the losers of the class war. Why should ordinary people have to pay for the destructive behavior of the rich and powerful?

I don't know if the people who recently burned the Greek bank were police provocateurs or militants angry with the government. In the former case, the objective was to harm the people who are presently being harmed by the financial crisis. In the latter case, they were behaving stupidly.

The man who flew the plane into the IRS building was upset about how much he was paying to support the government. I suspect that he, or the people who expressed sympathy for his cause, are less concerned about military expenditures than the social programs, comparable to what the Greek government is forced to cut.

Returning to the war theme, how much violence has been the product of people returning from the wars, serving the interests of Wall Street and the rest of big business. Timothy McVeigh was justifiably regarded as an outlier, but more common violence, such as individual homicides and suicides, seem to be far more common among people exposed to the violence of war.

How much more guilty are the supposedly respectable people who promote our wars abroad than the disturbed young man who attempted to kill a couple hundred people at most? Instead, his incompetent attempt at violence will be used to justify far greater violence abroad.

How can we put an end to such hypocrisy and the violence it entails?

Finally, what about the everyday violence experienced by people denied the opportunity for a decent chance in life? What about inadequate healthcare or education? Isn't that a form of violence? If a capitalist society rewards some people with multibillion-dollar annual incomes of the official unemployment rate is near 10%, is it time to see that capitalism itself is a form of violence?


john c. halasz said...

Actually, Joe Stack did have a legitimate tax beef. He was a self-employed specialist software engineer who worked as a temporary contractor on projects. A tax law change had forced corporations to route such project contracts through temp agencies, who took the lion's share of the gains, so, say, while billed out at $100/hr, the actual contractor would get $30/hr. That was the principle source of his back tax difficulties with the IRS.

run75441 said...


It is amazing how much attention violence has received when it is focused on Main Street and the upper class. Violence has always been present, its just that we have chosen to ignore it.

"James Gilligan takes it a step further in his study ('Reflections on A National Epidemic – Violence' Gilligan); quoting H.A. Bulhan’s reference to structural violence. 'For every 1% increase in unemployment in the United States, there was an increased mortality of 37,000 deaths per year (natural and violent) including ~2,000 more suicides and homicides than might otherwise occur.' Or explained in simpler terms, for every 1% increase in Unemployment, we can expect to see increases in the mortality rate by 2%, homicides and imprisonments by 6%, and infant mortality by 5%. Since WWII, the unemployment rate for blacks has been twice as high as that of whites. (Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression; H.A Bulhan; Mental Illness and the Economy, M.H Brenner). Hertz points to a decrease in income mobility and Bulhan points to higher crime, violence, and death rates due to unemployment. Both Hertz and Bulhan point out the impact for those of the lowest income brackets and black minorities even more so. The resultant increases in violence, homicides and imprisonments can be attributed more so to poverty relating imprisonments as a result of being tough on crime. Hypertension amongst those living in dangerous urbanized environments is also higher when compared to those of high income environments. Given the last 8 years of poor economy; is it any wonder that death rates are higher due to violence or natural causes, more people are going to prison, more of those going to prison are black minorities, and more are going and staying longer in prison due to stringent sentencing.

“The poor man’s conscience is clear . . . he does not feel guilty and has no reason to . . . yet, he is ashamed. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles unheeded. In the midst of a crowd; at a church; in the market . . . he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar. He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is not seen . . . To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable.” John Adams

Michael, is it any wonder what the outcome is when people see no hope?

Michael Perelman said...

Thank you both for your comments. The IRS law that screwed over Stack was crafted for IBM according to David Cay Johnston.

Martin Langeland said...

Another thread in the warp of this mess is the wonder the occupiers express that the occupied resent them.