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A few thoughts on violence

When violence ensues as a means for voicing people’s opinions, the State has to fight back. Why is violence an unacceptable instrument? I am 99%, agree with 99% of what the protest is lamenting, but am not sure of the 1% of the questions they’re leaving out. As a non-violent person, I have to come to terms with violence, its roots, its meaning, and its consequences.

Giarre, Italy

In the past week we’ve been witnessing widespread violence during some of the demonstrations that are uniting the “Ninety-Nine Percent” against the wrongdoings of the capitalist society. To be explicit, Italy and Greece have shown the fiercest episodes of violence. In the United States, violent police repression has not met any violent reaction from the camping crowd.

What is the picture of the current situation globally? The 99% is protesting against the crisis that the capitalist financial groups have contributed to create. They are also blaming governments who have proven unable to take a single step in favor of the many in these times of hardship. There’s little in the 99% program as far as solutions are concerned. That’s because the 99% is everyone, and not even common sense gets to be that common. Tax the rich, free the market, help national companies, liberalize the markets, lower taxes (and so on) are incompatible demands. The positive sides of the protest are: the capacity to respect each other’s opinions and the acknowledgement that people have indeed a say in politics.

Politicians have tried jumping on the bandwagon of the protest, in order to gain support for the next elections. However, the movement has politely (sometimes roughly) asked them to let the 99% speak, excluding them from the proportion. This can be an interesting point for debate. How can one claim to be practicing “perfect and pure democracy” when the 1% is deliberately excluded? Representative democracies constantly exclude one minority or the other, but this movement calls for cornering one tiny slice of society and denying them the widely-chanted democratic values.

Politicians have looked down on the movement because of its lack of organization and structure. Without a clear hierarchy, it is more difficult to synthetize the thoughts of the 99% in a program to come out of the crisis. Without a chief and a board, responsibilities are unclear, control is harder, and predictability is zero.

These past two paragraphs lead to my first conclusion. The State and the parties are acting in a very conservative, quasi-fascist manner because they have not understood the movement. Also, they don’t want to admit that this crisis is their fault and that the system they’ve been part of is corrupt (not just money-wise, but its mechanism has proven disruptive for our social life). So police is violent, violent groups (otherwise easily targeted) are left free to rampage cities such as Rome and Athens, yes, the nests of what we now call “Western democracy”, and the media spreads terror lexicon on our faces.

But, is violence not the right answer? No. According to the State, parties,the 99% protesters – according to everybody – violence has to be censored, rejected, condemned, hated, incarcerated; it needs special police forces, special laws, special articles on the newspapers. Even “special reporters” have used their skills with their mobile phones to record and denounce the violent hooligans at the rallies. The novelty here is that these “special reporters” are not journalists, they are from the crowd. They are citizens, the 99%, the average person. The new kind of civil war is conducted on YouTube, and there’s three sides in it: the 98.9%, the 0.1%, and the 1%. Thanks to the fact that we make up these figures, it will always round up to 100%. The last time I was confronted with this kind of “social police”, I was reading George Orwell, Nataliya Ginzburg, Boris Pasternak. I hope such kind of society is not what the 99% movement stands for.

OK, so violence is not the right answer for who is in power or who votes for them. So why is that the democratic institutions are responding so violently? Is it just to abide to the weberian precept that the State should own the monopoly over the use of force? No. The State is trying to reinforce and protect itself, to become compelling for the many. It is only by becoming the paragon of any societal interaction that the State can continue living. And not having a grip on violence weakens the structure. Without being apologetic of violence as a way to foster dialogue – it is not – I think violence should be regarded as one way to express social discontent. For this reason, I think and I hope, the Italian 99% movement has not taken a bold stance against violent groups.

It is crucial for those who would rather like to build a new society based on equality and freedom of expression to deal with violence. Just denying it or rejecting it won’t make the discussion go further.


These are my serious thoughts on violence, in the next days I’ll outline my silly plans to solve violence among people and finally reach a human condition.


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