Violence Works

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Violence works, Rory Miller notes, and accepting that it works places you on the middle ground between the violence groupies and the dark-side pacifists:

I read something recently, a short essay. It was very sincere and it was well-reasoned and it touched a lot of people. About how violence was toxic, how dark things not addressed would boil out, how people with that darkness in them who toyed at things like martial arts would eventually become something dark. How no one who deals with that can remain untouched and how violence can never solve anything, only creating needs for more violence in the long run…

It struck me very much as a reaction not to violence — there was nothing in the essay to indicate that the author had ever had any direct contact with what I would consider violence or evil — but as a reaction to the concept of violence. A reaction to thoughts about violence. A logical response to quiet the fears through insight. Another reaction to fear as opposed to danger.

The other side of the argument — the violence groupies and virtual tough guys and “ultimate deadly street fighting systems” — are just as toxic, just as based on imagination.

For both sides it is about fear and control — if you fear violence, you can try to convince everyone it is a Bad Idea™ and they will all move to the light and you will be safe… or you can decide to become, or imagine yourself to be, a master of violence yourself. Then you control the thing you are afraid of.

It doesn’t work like that. Violence between humans exists because it works. It has been reliably used to get money for drugs for generations. Ending slavery (relatively, the institution still exists) was a bloody business. When someone is breaking into your house with intent to rape and kill and you have retreated to the last room in the basement, violence (countervailing force, to be PC) is the only thing that will solve that problem.

Violence works. The rarer it is in a society, the more powerful it becomes because fewer people are prepared to do what it takes to prevent it. Bullies get the reward of control. Protests, even when called “peace protests” are intimidation, and look at that one carefully. Little weasels wrecking a downtown area have not swayed a single person to their point of view so the reward comes from elsewhere and that reward is likely the satisfaction of scaring other people, feeling powerful.

Once a human gets used to using violence as a tool, once they learn how easy and safe it can be the only thing that will stop them are fear or force. Physically stopping them (force) or the clear ability to stop them (fear).

Back to these two points of view- the violence groupies and the dark-side pacifists. You don’t see a lot of either of these points of view in professionals. They rarely say “Violence never solved anything” because most have clearly, personally, solved stuff with violence. Sometimes the problem solved was their own survival, which is kind of hard to devalue. They do (often) wonder if the problems they are solving will stay solved; if the plans were really thought out; or if the perceived problem was worth the real cost.

The trope that ‘you will turn evil if you are exposed to enough violence’ doesn’t play very well. I have heard it from a few professionals — mostly from people who felt themselves drifting that way and recovered — but I don’t actually see a lot of it. Most of the people who got in trouble over their uses of force were asses long before they ever put on a badge.

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