To read Pt. 2: PPTS Pt.2: Structures of Conflict
If conflict is a social structure, then violence must be an essential cog in the structure of conflict mechanism. As mentioned before, we engage in conflict because we are seeking to preserve our existence. Violence is a way of ensuring our survival. We identify those threatening identities in our life and desire to eliminate them from our spaces that provide us with life. The easiest and most efficient option at that point is to use our bodies or our language to eliminate that threatening being. This idea is best shown in Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey in the opening scene with the apes. The purpose of using the apes in this scene is to portray how humans have acted since the beginning of time. In this scene, there are two rival ape groups that inhabit a single space that contains a lake big enough for only one of the groups. This dilemma threatens the wellbeing of one of those groups. As a result, an ape from one of the groups discovers an animal bone that he can use to inflict harm upon his enemies. This is exactly what he does in which this specific ape and his group of fellow apes use bones to kill a member of the rival ape group, causing the rest of the rival apes to flee. This main ape group used weapons and violence to solve their problem.
Violence is an idea that most people hold and value. Similar to how a structure of conflict is created, a structure of violence can also be generated. A structure of violence justifies and legitimizes violence. A structure of violence makes it seem as if violence is normal or okay. The structure makes it seem like there is nothing irregular about it. We, at times, perceive violence to be dastardly. Other times, we celebrate it (i.e. when Osama Bin Laden was killed). Regardless of how we feel when we observe violence, most of us understand violence to be normal. Examples of the normality of violence include the innumerable amount of violent video games and movies. I absolutely love watching violent movies. My adoration of these films just shows how the concept of violence has so easily integrated itself into my cognitive development.
If there is a structure of violence and conflict, then I am forced to believe that the events that happened in Paris, Kenya, Lebanon and Burundi are not random. In fact, they are all interrelated. The gore that happened in Paris is cousins with the gore that happened in Kenya, Lebanon and every other mass killing. If there is a structure of violence, then that structure ensures the occurrence of the slaying of these individuals.
Violence is a shift-shaping demon. Francois Holland, the president of France, spoke after the attacks in Paris on Friday night and said that France will facilitate a “Ruthless response to the terrorist attacks.” On Sunday morning, France sent fighter jets to bomb Raqqa, Syria. We scream “Incinerate those bastards,” feeling a sense of justice as we do. But, consider the countless number of men writhing in flames that were spurred on from those fighter jets. Violence is present in all situations, it just looks different.
I feel hopeless at times. This is because I believe that we are creatures of conflict and that we do live under structures of conflict and violence. We can react to these disasters with strength and solidarity. We can pray and think. We can create monuments. We can send letters and money and change the filter on our profile pictures. But, what about being proactive? Is that even possible? Because no matter how much we preach the conclusion of violence, we can never eradicate it.
I am curious to how one can address structures of violence. The only solution that has been provided so far is to operate within the structure. What I mean is that we attempt to end violence by using violence. We go to war against Hitler or the Taliban because exercising force is the only sensible method of ending violence in that specific context. And maybe it was a good decision to pull Allied tanks up onto Nazi soil and defeat them. I am not seeking to provide an alternative solution. Many presidents have exercised peaceful actions when they have chosen to administer sanctions on their enemies previous to going to war against them. I am simply stating my curiosity as I question if violence is the best way to handle conflict and solve a problem. It seems that violence might be an effective problem solving method for the moment, but it is not sustainable for eternity. For if we continue to think that violence is the best way to handle problems, then that mentality will only reinforce that structure of violence that doesn’t just manifest in the battlegrounds of Syria, but also in our classrooms in Newtown, CT.