Your iPhone exists because people work in degraded conditions to make it. Same for all the clothes I’m wearing. Same for a lot of the food I eat. I have gas for the car I drive because of violence perpetrated by armies and rulers (including those of my own country) to secure the necessary oil, no matter where it’s found or under whose land. The cheap products we’re all able to buy in the big box stores that litter our landscape are the result of dangerous working conditions and poor pay and lack of health care and long hours that directly harm workers and their families. Generally speaking, most of us choose to ignore most of this violence, despite our direct or indirect involvement in it and the ease with which it is possible to discover the facts. Moreover, the idea that violence is never the correct path belies a history filled with instances when it was the only sane path. It’s true that smarter decisions in history might have prevented the rise of Hitler or the rise of nations or whatever, but once World War II was happening and the Holocaust was being perpetrated, there was no moral choice but to use force to stop those crimes from happening. Similarly, would we suggest to a domestic abuse victim that she not, if the opportunity presents itself, use force to save herself or her children from an abuser? Of course not. The idea that everyone can be engaged with is, in my recent experience, primarily put forth by people upon whom violence is not visited. The same people who are, like me, complicit in the system I outlined at the beginning. We need to be more careful about our language, and about an uninformed commitment to “nonviolence” at the cost of liberation. Finally, as I mentioned over the weekend, “nonviolence,” in the way MLK or Gandhi used it, generally meant provoking an overwhelming show of violence by the other side in the hope that the sickened populace would force the state to act. To call this the absence of violence is dangerous. There is a real world out there, and we can’t change it without first being honest about what’s happening.
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