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?