Violence Ever Justified?
By Tom McGuire
Is a violent act ever justified? What if the violence committed prevents
greater crimes from occurring? (Quite subjective.) What if the violence
perpetrated brings about change, a paradigm shift? (Quite unlikely.)
But if so, is violence justified then?
It would be easy to say yes. But what is violence, really, in all its
ugly manifestations? Is it limited to a physical act of abuse toward
a fellow human or animal? Does it emanate from voice tones, our usage
of unpalatable metaphors in speech? It would be easy to point to the
natural world’s abundant violent tendencies and outbursts, and
proclaim therein a role model of behavior—a template for our actions,
since we are also part of the natural world. But violence is ultimately
a ruinous act, a shattering of hope, a killing of possibility that feeds
negatively upon itself until death or destruction—not necessarily
something we wish to build a karmic foundation upon.
Human beings will rationalize anything, including violence. In the
pursuit of hedonistic selfishness, for example, we have “enviros”
driving SUVs (violence toward Earth) and Buddhists eating meat (violence
toward animals). Similarly so with violent acts committed for the ultimate
“good” of humanity—bloody insurgencies, gruesome territorial
wars, firebombing Earth-unfriendly property—the idea seemingly
being that, hey, if the violence is committed in the spirit of something
you strongly believe in or can conveniently rationalize away, then
is somehow less wrong and morally more acceptable.
One of the great things about being modern humans is that we can make
choices that defy our evolutionary heritage. We are not chimpanzees
engaged in crude territorial disputes and violent armed conflict for
alpha-bragging rights; nor are we vicious warmongering army ants—we
are human beings who can choose to act with compassion, mercy, kindness
and love, in every act and in every moment. Forget “situational
ethics” and “contextual politics”—think with
My vegan lifestyle and ahimsa ethics simply do not allow supporting
or advocating violent acts in any way, shape or form, for any purpose.
The principle of least harm must be the guiding light, otherwise, “an
eye for an eye makes the world go blind.” And, besides, why put
violent energy in the world? It can only come back to bite you in the
ass. (“Live by the sword, die by the sword” in other words.)
Yet there are those who say that violence is cleansing and liberating,
as Franz Fanon famously asserted…in which case we should have
no trouble believing Josef Stalin’s notorious line, “One
death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic.”
Can there ever be revolution, change, and upheaval without violence?
Perhaps; and we cannot know until a sincere attempt is made. But it
is certain that violence without revolution is senseless.