Monday, April 27, 2009

4 Not-violent violence

Violence is the first act of a free and conscious will. Violence is defensive in nature. It is the result of the spark of life exercising its will to live through an act of self-defense. Self-defense is necessary because life is born into a passively hostile environment. If that environment is hospitable to allow life, it is, nevertheless, also demanding. Hence the phenomenon that we know as survival of the fittest, re

If the defensive act fails and does not drive off the violator from my personal space, the next event is likely to be my flight.

However, following the first act of defense, the next step, while still defensive in nature, will metamorphose into aggressivity and unconscious violence. That is, life will seek to sustain itself through looking for food. The search for food will, in due course, lead to that food becoming another creature.

If it is not violence to pull from Earth a carrot or walk through the woods stuffing one’s mouth full of blueberries whenever a bush comes into view, how is catching a mouse and eating it violence? If it is, then the act of living a conscious life is in and of itself an act of violence, and we might prefer to become unconscious again. On the other hand, perhaps pulling up carrots and eating mice is not violence.

Let us assume that the defensive act mentioned above is not by an unconscious creature, but a conscious one, a human being. If the defense fails, does he-she (you or I) necessarily run? To run and try to escape may be an objective strategy, because then we will “live to fight another day”. Nevertheless, some will stand, fall, and suffer death. Is the latter not counter to the nature of life? Not necessarily. Because consciousness presumes the existence of other conscious individuals, the death of a conscious individual will not only go without witnesses, and at the same death will also not go without having yet further effect.

The witnesses testify as to X’s brave defense of himself and his group to a wider audience of conscious beings, some of who may ask, “Why did he do it? Was he an idiot?” Others may say, “What a waste of life.” Yet more others insist that “He was a brave man. We must revenge his death. Let us go and find the guilty one.” Whatever anyone who has been a witness to or has heard about X’s death says, unbeknownst to themselves, X has become a worthy subject of discussion. X has become the center of a community of people who are bonded by the event.

It is this bonding that results from X’s death that over a longer period of time creates a community that has specific consciousness of itself, and may even call itself by X’s name.

One may argue that the above event is not the way it happens. One may say that the killers left X’s body to rot where it lay, that soon vultures noticed the smell of its decomposition, and that after a week nothing but bones remained of it.

The simplest response to such an argument is that conscious creatures are unlikely to leave the body to rot. If one’s enemies may do so (assuming that they have no interest in my hams), one’s own (whoever they may be) will not. One’s own will not suffer the death of a friend without profound feelings. While we may allow that it may take a number of deaths to register on yet “wild” human beings, the ultimate result is that X will be provided with a grave that will simultaneously become the community’s monument and temple.

Once the site of X’s death is marked, consciousness begins to do its “work” on X’s memory as well. No longer a body, but a memory, X becomes a significant Signifier whether he would have liked it or not. X suffers a dissection of meaning that some may even wish to call cannibalism. Nevertheless, it is clear that what we do is a byproduct of our consciousness rather than out of desire to be violent either with regard to the body of X or to his history.

It is at this point that consciousness may make a leap, so to speak. If the death was “unnatural”, the result of an attack on an individual in a group, and if the coming together of a community as such is believed to be at that time “a good thing”, then death of a would be Signifier (he who creates the community) becomes a sought after thing.

Given that human beings are aware that death comes to everyone, might it not be true that X2 (son, cousin, or anyone following X)—feeling that death by old age is drawing near and having noted the honor with which X is remembered—makes a decision to volunteer to self-sacrifice him- or herself? Though dead, does not X2—just like X—become undead because of his-her value to the community?

To drive the point home: not any death is valuable. Only death in defense of or maintenance of a non-violent consciousness—whether of one’s own or that of the community—is valuable.

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