Monday, October 11, 2010

Reflections on Violence

Socialism won’t mean the end of all forms of violence – but nearly all

Violence takes many forms and has a long history. The surpassing of the class, money and profit system worldwide will see the end of most forms of violence.

The type of violence most destructive of people and property is of course war. International war between the armed forces of nation states is endemic in capitalism. It arises because of competition for markets, raw materials and trade routes, although other reasons may be given to gain popular support. Civil war – an unfortunate oxymoron – occurs when rival armed forces, employed by and representing the interests of rival groups of capitalists, struggle for power within nation states.

Supporters of capitalism believe that some types of violence are legal and others illegal. If you kill the enemy (people rather like yourself on the ‘other side’) you can be a hero. If you try to solve your money problems by committing robbery with violence you can be sent to prison. The difference between the reasonable use of force (not violence) and its unreasonable use (violence) is disputable and hence a source of income for the legal profession.

William Morris, in News from Nowhere, raises the question of homicide in socialism. “Hot blood will err sometimes. A man may strike another, and the stricken strike back again…” Morris believes that the encouragement of remorse, not punishment, is the answer. “If the ill-doer is not sick or mad (in which case he must be restrained till his sickness or madness is cured) it is clear that grief and humiliation must follow the ill-deed…”

Sport is another area is which violence can be a problem. Without going into the pros and cons of blood sports, we may foresee that, without buying and selling, there will be a big drop in sports involving deliberate, as opposed to accidental, violence. Boxing and forms of martial arts, though deplored by some, may still be engaged in by others.

There is a lot of violence, sometimes called ‘gratuitous’, in capitalist-provided entertainment – films, theatre, videos, commercials etc. defenders claim that most of the punters seem to like it. But how far does their appetite grow by what it feeds on? Capitalism is a violent society, so it isn’t surprising that its entertainment is only being ‘realistic’ in reflecting that violence.

Open the pages of any newspaper and you will see much more about murder and mayhem than you usually experience in everyday domestic, street and work life. Reporting and discussing episodes of violence is the meat and drink of both tabloids and broadsheets.

And then there is the violence of nature. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, droughts, plagues have long been part of life on earth. Capitalism doesn’t do as much as it could to alleviate these problems. The bottom line is too often given priority over human health and welfare.

Violent natural disasters won’t disappear in socialism. But much more will be done to reduce their harmful consequences. More resources will be put into predicting when and where disasters will occur, so that potential victims can be moved to safety or be prepared. People won’t be forced to live in disaster-prone areas by lack of alternatives. And those deprived of sustenance, shelter or clothing will get immediate help not dependent on money raised by charities or other sources.

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