THIS MEETUP HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED TO MONDAY 2/18 DUE TO EXPECTED WINTER WEATHER ON MONDAY 2/11.
Discussion: Violence in Modernity.
Discussion facilitator: Richard Pope
Teacher bio: http://peoplescolloquium.org/teacher-bios/
The specter of violence was raised during several recent lectures and discussions. Let us now address this specter directly.
When is violence permitted, justified, or necessary?
We’ve recently studied cases where non-violence has been a successful means of redressing grievances, such as during Gandhi’s anti-colonialist campaign, or during Martin Luther King Jr’s civil rights campaign. Certainly we can understand and appreciate this course of action – even admire it.
But what about the Algerian War of Independence or our own American Revolution, among countless other wars for liberation? These are bloody struggles whereby only through pure overpowering might is liberation achieved and the chains of oppression cast off.
What lessons do such struggles hold for us today?
To switch tracks, violence comes in many forms, or so goes one way of thinking; and not all violence is physical. This is to say, there is also psychological violence – such as bullying in the schoolyard where a vicious rumor is spread and believed, or when advertisers use every manner of propagandistic technique to manipulate consumers into purchasing their products. What about fake news to delude? Or fake science to push a political agenda? Generally speaking, what about those who push opinion as fact, who push preference as rule, and who just push you with their words?
When does it become acceptable, justified, and/or necessary for you to punch back? And if you can’t do so directly – for oftentimes oppressors, due to their structural advantage, are too distant and walled off for you to directly retaliate against – when does it become acceptable, justified, and/or necessary for you to just punch. Who cares what target you might hit, whether guilty or innocent? Such is a question that a terrorist might ask, as we learned during a recent lecture, and perhaps it’s also a question asked by a freedom fighter.
What do you believe?
Perhaps the greatest oppressor is modernity itself – or Moloch, as Allan Ginsberg so aptly names it in his poem Howl (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49303/howl) (second section). Modernity might be considered an oppressive force that many of us contribute to by purchasing consumer products, taking vacations, driving cars, using electricity, and even by engaging in the struggles for personal and collective freedom that many of us find so dear. All the while, modernity consumes the globe; Moloch burps gluttonously. With this in mind, ask: does violence for destruction’s sake take on a virtuous cast when aimed against modernity itself? This is what Tyler Durden (Fight Club) would have us believe, and also the radical environmentalists or the neo-Luddite such as Ted Kaczynski, who hold that destructive violence is the solution to the encompassing system of violence we all participate in.
Or perhaps the greatest oppressor is nothing other than the self – that which enslaves our pure spirits with cravings, stimulus-response programmings, neuro-chemical depression and anxiety, sleepiness leading to stupidity, addictions leading to self-consumption …
What line of reasoning does that open up in our upcoming discussion?
For a reading assignment, please consider Chapter 1 titled “On Violence” from Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of The Earth.” We’ll spend some time at the beginning of our discussion going over this chapter to understand its major points, before embarking upon the larger discussion of violence in modernity.
The Wretched of The Earth can be read here: