Can violence ever be justified?

7 Apr

Violence is usually seen as the attempt to harm one’s physical or mental self. The use of violence has always been a central issue in political philosophy. As early as the fifteenth century, Machiavelli advocated the use of violence as the “lesser evil”, considering that a non-violent monarch could be easily overthrown by his more brutal and less hesitant opponents. For Machiavelli, “the ends justify the means”, and such a precept was inherited by some philosophers of the Enlightenment, who saw primitive humans in an endless state of violence. This state of “war of the one against the others”, called “state of nature” by Locke, was characterized by a total mayhem of ferocity and savagery. Hobbes, in his prominent “Leviathan” claimed that, in order to end this monstrous barbarity, people will bargain and point to a leader in which absolute authority will be placed. This ruler,or as he called it “the Mortal God”, will have infinite power, including the ability to use violence against whoever threatens the society ans its individuals.

Indeed, this is what happened. Monarchs established their decisive authority over all the citizens, standing armies and police to manage the use of force, and socialized the legitimacy of coercion as a way to avoid anarchy. But is it really necessary? Is explaining the use of violence as a means of maintaining order suitable and reasonable?

A glimpse into history will prove that this is not necessarily true. The twentieth century, with its two World Wars, showed that heads of states were as capable of foolish acts as any other human being. The millions of people who died brutally were actually victims of a system that justifies violence by the chaos it produces.

Not only must violence never be used as a tool in the hands of states, but also violence has to be erased from the people’s behaviour, given the disastrous effects it implies on both individuals and societies.

“The ends never justify the means”, this is what the twentieth century tried to teach us. Unfortunately, the new millenium is witnessing the same misfortune. For the sake of introducing democracy, a famous but so much appreciated US president found it both convenient and pleasant to attack a so-called dangerous country. The insecurity and instability the militarian intervention has induced should make politicians speak their minds twice before pushing the offensive button.

Even if we assume the “necessity” of violence as a tool in the hands of well-trained agents of order, a question arises:  Who guards the guardians? Who can ensure us that those agents will not overuse their power? Corruption, among many other causes, may suggest that, actually, no one keeps an eye on those law-keepers.

Violence has destructive consequences on human societies. As Hannarh Arendt puts it in ‘On violence’,

“Violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world.”

Indeed, violence reproduces violence. One reacts to the outsider’s aggression through more brutal acts, until one breaks or the aggressor is erased. This has been essentially the case in genocides and wars, where attacks were motivated by the will to kill, destroy and delete the other from existence. Also, wards have been the scene of ideological shifts. Fascism and Nazism were both born in a defeated Germany and a ravaged Italy. Violence endlessly recreates itself, and no one can really stop its repercussions after the first bullet is fired.

Finally, violence induces tremendous re-moulding of individuals’ perceptions and lives. Are not we becoming less sensible to others? Turning on the television at lunch time, which amazingly coincides with the news, brings up reports about murders, rapes, aggressions, wars and genocides. Thus habitude has developed in all of us a complete insensibility to those who lost their lives. Do we still conceive a person’s life the same way? I doubt it. But what I can assure  with certainty is that the image of a dying person does not induce compassionate feelings anymore. A human’s life is priceless, and it is certainly the abundant exposure to violence that led us to forget this sacred statement.

If a peaceful state of complete serenity and non-violence would be reached,-and today is far from that situation-, it will certainly mean that heaven have finally been found on Earth, a place where violence would not be the livelihood of media, but rather conceived as humans’ greatest sin.

This will certainly be the last time I will write something that long, it is getting annoying and I appreciate the efforts of those who could actually make it to read this piece of rubbish. Thanks again! So yeah I promise I won’t  do it anymore.

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