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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Violence, Identity and the future of mankind

I am writing this post with an impulsive stroke of conscience. News have started coming that Israel is undertaking a ground invasion of Gaza. No matter how the events unfold further, but one thing is for sure, there will be alot bloodshed and carnage. 

But why is there bloodshed and carnage? Honestly, just think for a moment, what is wrong with the world? I think no one will object to use violence as a proxy for something going real wrong, and the fact that humanity keeps experiencing horrible episodes of violence again and again, new laws, sanctions keep coming up , reconciliation commissions are set up to address the historical wrong, but why  does the violence never stop? Is  there something inherently violent about human nature? 

If not, then there is no need to worry about violence for we all are bloody brute by nature. But contrary to it, i believe, most of the humanity is appalled at images of carnage, maimed bodies, at least if not of the people they hate, but of those they do not. If by instinct, to one degree of another our conscience is troubled to see violence, if we are not inherently violent, then what instigate violence? 

I do not intend to embark to develop a theory of violence, neither do i believe myself to be capable of doing it, but to understand what instigate violence, one can start from this one basic question. And i put it this way, 

 Why Sam will be willing to killing Jack or agree to him being killed by someone?  

This could only be true if Sam believes that Jack does not possess same rights, among which the most fundamental is the right to live, as he does. He is someone who is not as same as he is, else the rights would have been same for both, and can be subjected to the acts which he himself can not be. Sam believes himself to be different, he is different somehow, perhaps, we call it different in Identity. His identity enfolds all that he believes he is entitle to and someone who does not carry the same identity, by the same principle, does not possess the same entitlements. 

Identity, and especially, rigid identities makes violence possible. Every society enjoining to itself a particular identity by default exclude some people from its domain and consign them to the category of the "Other." I do not mean to say that this process instantly trigger violence, but it does produces the possibilities of violence which any instrumental factor can influence and translate the possibility into actual episode of violence. 

For most of its life, human specie have not been divided into discreet set of identities. Maximum of approximately, 40,000 years back, some evidence of first racially divided human specie emerges in the form racial division into Mongoloid, Caucasian and Negroid. However, this division was due to the external factor such as geography and dietary habits which could not be same across the places early humans inhabited. This is what i call "objective phase" of division which has only to do with such natural facts as different colors of skin, facial features and height. The "subjective phase" of division came very late in history where human of particular characteristic consciously started feeling themselves to be racially superior than the other. 

This subjective phase started with the material condition conducive for the subjective construction of such identities. For most of its life, man has lived like hunter-gatherer. It was essentially a communistic way of life where everyone lived together, with no private property whatsoever, and subsisted on gaming. Man would go out hunting, eat the animal and be content with it. The greatest of revolution came, and which had a direct bearing on people dividing themselves into discrete identities, came with agricultural revolution and introduction of settled life. 

Somewhere between 10000- 8000 BC first traces of agriculture emerge. It was to bring fundamental changes in the way people live, understand themselves and their association with the other people. Introduction of agriculture goes hand in hand with settled life due to the demands agriculture put on human efforts. With the consequent surplus in food emerging, because agriculture is more productive than hunter gathering in terms of providing food, a new patterns in human activities and life emerged. 

Due to the surplus food, men now had  extra time to think the things other than how to obtain the food. In this extra time, revolutionary change in human thoughts emerged. Surplus food unleashed new pattern in social organizations. Those who could possess more food may consequently make other people dependent on them for subsistence. This led to social hierarchy and political differentiation in the society. In order to justify the changing social conditions, man had to come up with different ideas to provide justification for such actions and patterns and keep order. 

First organized conflict in human history emerged between these newly settled communities and the nomads, those who refused to be settled. Those who got settled, and embarked on producing civilization, consider themselves superior to the ones who did not settled, a legacy which persist even to the modern time. As the societies grew, population expanded, and social organization got more complex, social hierarchy started more sharpening and more pronounced. Those with a higher access to resources declared themselves the elite and worthy of having more say how the society should be governed than the rest- they became effective rulers of the society. The most depressing consequences of it was the dismantling of the egalitarian culture which had been the hallmark of ancient man. 

Last 6000-7000 thousands have been the period of settled life. The forces that surplus food  unleashed led to social differentiation and emergence of experts in different fields. Man was finally able to pay more attention for the reasoning into different ideas as well as other material activities such as different trades and crafts. 

However, this fundamental division between those who govern and the rest who are governed had ever lasting implications for humanity. One may ask a very basic question here- Could we ever expect those at the higher end of social hierarchy to relinquish their control? If not, then how could they keep justifying their status, so that no disorder emerge, people remain docile and unquestioning  and accept their authority? This is where the elite started institutionalizing the divisions between humanity on the basis of case, creed, races and all those factors. People were made to believe that they have some special place in this order of universe, a special destiny to pursue, and in order for successful pursuit of such a destiny, they must accept the authority over them. Authority and identity go hand in hand. For if people believe in a certain identity, then that particular identity is fundamentally defined by certain hierarchy which defines the social and political structure of such an identity in action. 
It is this belief in one's special place in the world, a possession of special identity that makes violence possible. For if such a division exist, it could only be, when people are made to believe that they are different, they are different because they are superior, and due to that, the right, the destiny, and the verdict of the unseen is different for them than for the other. 

Man has achieved a lot. If on material domain, man history can be dubbed as a battle with the nature for supremacy, in terms of ideas, its simply the history of consciousness, a history which has not followed one particular trajectory, rather a history carefully crafted by those who rule, those who benefit for such destiny, and in active opposition to each other. A particular identity is always defined against other identities.  

Think about it, why Israel is relentless in its attack on Palestinians, why Serbs were ruthless in their attacks on Bosnians, Why would Hutus called Tutsi cockroaches and kill them,  Why were the Nazis genocidal towards the Jews, Why people like Columbus and Herman Cortes were so brutal towards native american, Why the empires of bygone age like Rome, Athens, Persian, the murderers of the "Others" and why the masses, most of the time, rallied behind ideas which justified those mass killings and genocides, cherished them. Its because they were made to believe that they are different. 

Violence can never be eradicated until humanity perceives itself  as one, a humanity which at least entitles everyone to the same rights, regardless of religion, color of skin, or any such features. Violence can never be eradicated until the economic relations are fundamentally altered and the class division is dismantled.  For if there is an elite, which thrives by exploiting the masses,  it will always use its power of education,  propaganda  and all possible means, to convince people in such a division of humanity, in order to keep masses from revolutionizing against such social relations, 

Humanity today stands at crossroad. The war today is not fought in the battlefields. War is everywhere, it has sneaked into our very homes. Majority of those killed are not the weapons who are armed or who order the bloodshed, rather its the non-combatants. War is not fought today with mere swords or machetes, its the war of sophisticated weaponry whose might can flatten the cities with just one stroke. I heard a lot voices clamoring for Armageddon, what bigger Armageddon we still have to wait to convince ourselves in the futility of violence? 

War is not between people. Its the humanity which is at war against itself. Unless humanity comes to believe in its true nature, and dismantle all those socially constructed realities that favors one tiny class over the masses, its just violence and violence that lie ahead, a violence, with all the modern means of executing, would not be indefinite, rather will soon, if not stopped, bring the ends of humanity as we know it.   

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