counterviolence

Take forgiveness. Two levels here. One level: forgiveness means you shouldn’t develop feelings of revenge. Because revenge harms the other person, therefore it is a form of violence. With violence, there is usually counterviolence. This generates even more violence—the problem never goes away. So that is one level.

Another level: forgiveness means you should try not to develop feelings of anger toward your enemy. Anger doesn’t solve the problem. Anger only brings uncomfortable feelings to yourself. Anger destroys your own peace of mind. Your happy mood never comes, not while anger remains. I think that’s the main reason why we should forgive. With calm mind, more peaceful mind, more healthy body. An agitated mind spoils our health, very harmful for body. This is my feeling.
—  The Dalai Lama and Victor Chan, The Wisdom of Forgiveness
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“Hierarchy of Violence: A system of oppression in which those with power, existing above those without, enact and enforce a monopoly of violence upon those lower on the hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is normal and is accepted as the order of things. When violence is attempted by those lower on the hierarchy upon those higher, it is met with swift and brutal repression.

December 15th, after the killings of Officers Liu and Ramos of the NYPD, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted “When police officers are murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. This heinous attack was an attack on our entire city.” On July 18th, the day after Eric Garner, a longtime New Yorker and father of six, was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the mayor of of the Big Apple had only this to say: “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Eric Garner.”

In his condolences there was no mention of a “heinous attack” against the actual people of New York City. There was no mention of the “tearing at the foundation of our society” either. Still further, in the case for the police officers, de Blasio went as far as to use the word “murdered” long before a shred of evidence was provided. Yet in the face ofvideo footage (that pesky thing called evidence) of Eric Garner’s actual murder at the literal hands of an NYPD officer, de Blasio showed no “outrage”, only platitudinous sentiment.

Such reactions are typical, but there is nothing shocking about them when we understand that our society operates on a clearly defined, yet often unarticulated, hierarchy of violence, and that the function of politicians and police is to normalize and enforce that violence. Thus, as an institution, police act as state-sanctioned gangs charged with the task of upholding the violent, racist hierarchy of white supremacist capitalism and, whenever possible, furthering a monopoly of power where all violence from/by those higher on the hierarchy upon those lower can be normalized into business as usual.

Any deviation from this business as usual, any resistance — the threat of force displayed in massive protests after Garner’s death, or any displacement of state power whatsoever — by those lower on the hierarchy upon those higher is met with brutal repression. This is why cops are always present at protests. It is NOT to “Keep the peace.” We have seen their “peace” — tear gas, rubber and wooden bullets, mace, riot gear, sound cannons, and thousands of brutal cops leaving dead bodies. They are not there for peace, but rather to maintain at all times the explicit reminder of America’s power hierarchy through the brutalization of black and brown bodies above all others.

This is why de Blasio offered worthless platitudes to Eric Garner’s family instead of outrage or solidarity. To him, as heinous as choking an unarmed black person to death is, it was business as usual.”

 Gangs of the State: Police & the Hierarchy of Violence | AmericaWakieWakie & PraxisAndCapital

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We, as anarchists, are not interested in watered down demonstrations, false declarations of war, or ritualistic spectacles. We are not interested in, and believe there to be no such thing as, common ground for dialogue with the rulers and exploiters of the world. Likewise, we have no interest in political maneuvers and schemes. We are indeed an “ungovernable force”, content with nothing less than a total social revolution with the aim of creating a new society based on the principles of mutual aid, workers’ self-management, decentralization, direct democracy, freedom, and communism.

If you don’t want violence, stop killing us. Stop flooding communities with guns and drugs. Stop stealing our land, our culture, our families and friends. Stop stealing our money. Stop stopping us. Stop denying our existence, our experience, our story. Stop bombing people and things. Stop giving municipalities military weapons. Stop criminalizing black people, brown people, native people, homeless people, poor people. Stop thinking your fear necessitates our death.

If you don’t want violence, stop being violent. What’s so hard about that?

Oh. That’s right. The state.

—  Shamako Noble

Bin Laden’s message was quite clear: The attacks were carried out in response to blatant and ongoing U.S. violations of the laws of war, together with almost every aspect of international public and humanitarian law. The matter, as he pointed out, is of no mere academic concern: over the past decade well upwards of a half million Iraqi children and at least a million of their adult counterparts have died as the result of pal-pably criminal U.S. actions against their country. United Nations officials have resigned in protest, denouncing what one of them, Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, was widely quoted in the press describing as America’s “policy of deliberate genocide” against the people of Iraq…

Reaction among average Americans to revelations of the horror perpetrated in their name has been to all intents and purposes nonexistent. Since it can hardly be argued that the public was “uninformed” about the genocide in Iraq, its lack of response can only be seen as devolving upon a condition of collective ignorance—that is, of having information but ignoring it because it is considered inconsequential — as profound as it must be intolerable to those whose children lie murdered en masse. How, under these conditions, are the victims to claim the attention necessary to impress upon their tormentors the fact that they, too, count for something, that they are of consequence, that in effect they will no longer accept the lot of being slaughtered, conveniently out of sight and mind or with impunity?

…There is but one route out of this particular box. It traces the trajectory of an obligation inherent in the citizens of each country to do whatever is necessary to ensure that their government complies with the requirements of international law. Enunciated as part of the postwar Nuremberg Doctrine with the Germans in mind, the principle applies no less to Americans. Yet it is precisely this civic/human responsibility upon which Americans have defaulted so conspicuously in the aggregate of their willful ignorance concerning the ghastly toll exacted from Iraq.

The question reverts thus to whether, under the conditions at hand, there might have been some “more appropriate means” by which the victims of U.S. aggression might have conveyed the consequences of their agony. Posing it may best be left to the moral cretins who, having done so much to foment the situation in the first place, now revile and seek to exterminate the messengers, demanding “defense” against the truth of their statement. For the rest of us, the method of communication employed was what it was, a mere pinprick when measured against the carnage America so routinely inflicts on others, more akin to a wake-up call than anything else.

In retrospect it will be seen that September 11, 2001, marked the point at which the U.S. was put on notice that business-as-usual would no longer prevail: if Americans wish ever again to be secure from the ravages of terrorism, their top priority must at long last become that of preventing their own government from instigating and participating in it; if, in substance, they desire safety for their own children, they will first have to “stop killing other peoples babies.”

The condemnation of liberation movements for resorting to violence or armed struggle is almost invariably superficial, hypocritical, judgmental, and unfair and tends strongly to represent another example of the generalized phenomenon of “blaming the victim.” The violence of the situation, the per-existing oppression suffered by those who eventually strike back, is conveniently ignored. The violence of the oppressed is a form of defensive counter-violence to the violence of conquest and oppression. In no armed national liberation movement I know of in history has this not been the case.
The desire for a nonviolent and cooperative world is the healthiest of all psychological manifestations. This is the overarching principle of liberation and revolution. Undoubtedly, it seems the highest order of contradiction that, in order to achieve nonviolence, we must first break with it in overcoming its root causes. Therein lies our only hope.

It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose.

If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point”, we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious.

…[T]he death of [John F.] Kennedy was the result of a long line of violent acts, the culmination of hate and suspicion and doubt in this country. You see… this country has allowed white people to kill and brutalize those they don’t like. The assassination of Kennedy is a result of that way of life and thinking. The chickens came home to roost; that’s all there is to it. America – at the death of the President – just reaped what it had been sowing.
— 

Malcolm X

Reiterating what I have said before, the so called terrorism we are fighting, in reality, is the counterviolence created by the terrorism we commit. Sometimes, albeit rare, that counterviolence visits close to home.

“This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible” by Charles E. Cobb Jr. | Amazon

Visiting Martin Luther King Jr. at the peak of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, journalist William Worthy almost sat on a loaded pistol. “Just for selfdefense,” King assured him. It was not the only weapon King kept for such a purpose; one of his advisors remembered the reverend’s Montgomery, Alabama home as “an arsenal.”

Like King, many ostensibly “nonviolent” civil rights activists embraced their constitutional right to selfprotection—yet this crucial dimension of the Afro-American freedom struggle has been long ignored by history. In This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed, civil rights scholar Charles E. Cobb Jr. describes the vital role that armed self-defense played in the survival and liberation of black communities in America during the Southern Freedom Movement of the 1960s. In the Deep South, blacks often safeguarded themselves and their loved ones from white supremacist violence by bearing—and, when necessary, using—firearms. In much the same way, Cobb shows, nonviolent civil rights workers received critical support from black gun owners in the regions where they worked.

Whether patrolling their neighborhoods, garrisoning their homes, or firing back at attackers, these courageous men and women and the weapons they carried were crucial to the movement’s success. Giving voice to the World War II veterans, rural activists, volunteer security guards, and self-defense groups who took up arms to defend their lives and liberties, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed lays bare the paradoxical relationship between the nonviolent civil rights struggle and the Second Amendment. Drawing on his firsthand experiences in the civil rights movement and interviews with fellow participants, Cobb provides a controversial examination of the crucial place of firearms in the fight for American freedom.

On the whole we have a severely underdeveloped conceptual understanding of violence. Failure to differentiate between oppressive violence, passive and active force, and resistance is common. They all get lumped together and treated as equal. This is a great disservice to the oppressed and our oppressors know it. They purposefully conflate oppressive violence with resistance in an effort (quite effectively) to decouple the oppressed’s natural right to self defense from the conditions which incubate militancy.

In part this decoupling is possible because we cannot always see the slow moving violence of the oppressor that’s right in front of us. It has been so thoroughly normalized that it takes on the camouflage of everyday reality.

Take homelessness as an example:

Aside from the fact that we can literally see it everyday, somebody, somewhere advocated for, funded, and made laws whose direct consequences proliferate poverty under the conditions of capitalism. This is perfectly legal, and since legality is the measure by which we have come to derive the moral value of what rules govern our lives, few see the inhumanity of institutionalized poverty and homelessness BECAUSE it is legal. It must be made obvious then that mass murder does not always require bullets – many do it efficiently with pens.

Certainly this isn’t new. From the constitution, with its “peculiar” dealing with slavery onward, injustices in America have been institutionalized.

We have to understand that this is where the violence is initiated. Reactions to it, forcibly defending ourselves from it by taking homes or food for our survival, no matter legality, by any means necessary, is the reinstatement OF morality in a system that is bankrupt of it. We cannot conveniently start the conversation at the point of self defense or resistance and call that the initiation of violence. Such is playing the oppressor’s game. It gives them the power to control the narrative and define our fight.