On the Meaning of Violence

I believe that it is of the utmost importance to expose the mainstream media’s deliberate obfuscation of the meaning of the word “violence” for what it is: a weapon of fear-mongering that keeps the working class divided. I propose the following rule of thumb: Whenever you see the word “violence” used in the media’s coverage of dissent movements be very, very suspicious. Violence means something very specific: the physical harming of the body of another human being. Thus, its primary meaning most certainly does NOT include such things as: destruction of property, theft and other petty crimes, civil disobedience (which is the antithesis of violence) and free speech. These things may at times be objectionable, but we don’t go around calling everything that we don’t like “violent” for a very good reason: doing so devalues the meaning of the word.

True, some of the above mentioned actions MAY subsequently be classified under the category of violence ONLY IF they can be directly tied to the doing of harm to an actual person’s physical body. In a society such as ours which ostensibly values freedom of expression (i.e., a NON-totalitarian society) before the claim that a given action (speech, etc) is violent can be called legitimate, the claimant MUST demonstrate the direct physical harm done by that action to a real, living, breathing person’s body. For instance, in this respect, I can rightly describe the upward redistribution of wealth to the richest 1% as VIOLENT because that action directly harms the bodies of poor people. Statistically, we KNOW that this action (the upward redistribution of wealth) causes people to go hungry, live without adequate shelter, etc. In other words, the upward redistribution of wealth is a form of violence because it KILLS people.

The actions of some liberation movements do indeed result in harm being done to real human beings. I don’t deny that this is a fact, albeit an unfortunate one. However, while liberation movements may at times engage in acts which may be properly called violent according to the definition enumerated above, nevertheless, such acts may be justifiable insofar as they meet the following conditions: 1, they alleviate more bodily harm than they cause, and 2, they are necessary (i.e., there are no other non-violent alternatives which would achieve a similar amount of harm-amelioration). In other words, when liberation movements engage in acts of violence, the harm caused by such actions must always and only be judged in proportion to the violence committed on a daily basis by the institutions of the status quo that they are resisting. It is simply ridiculous to hold the acts of liberation movements to an infinitely higher standard than that which we use to judge the institutions in which we routinely hold our public trust.


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