Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Classifications of Violence 1: Violence and Conflict

I'll try, but the language won't always be clear.  As a default, I will probably use the word fight when I mean assault or counter-assault, and things like that.  But the blending of violence and conflict is huge.  It is not a division, nor is it a precise scalar.

One example that may be useful is bullying.  If my friend wants to go to fast food and I drive to a nice restaurant instead, is it bullying?  I'm taking charge, disregarding wishes, showing that my desires are more important than his or hers, dominating.  THAT IS ALL IN THERE.  Is it bullying?  Does your assessment change if I pay? If I insist on splitting the check even though I chose? If I say I want things my way?  If I don't say it? Do I need to say a mean thing?  What if I know the only reason my friend wanted fast food was for economy and I'm trying to be nice?  Is paternalistic dominance any different than the other kind?

And, quick experiment but I doubt if one person in ten is honest enough to truly answer the question-- if we reversed the initial premise and I force us to go to fast food, do your political sensibilities around fast food make that choice worse and therefor more bullying than the other way?  Is it not bullying if it is "for their own good?" And isn't that self-righteous bullying the most dangerous of all?

Point is, no two people will have the exact same line on what constitutes what behavior.  And no person will be completely consistent  either.

Conflict is natural and endemic.  It will never, ever go away.  Tropical plants poison and strangle each other for sunlight.  No two people will ever agree on 'best.'  If we want the same concrete things, we will compete for them.  If we want different abstract ideas, we will compete there as well.  It would take an infinite amount of resources to make concrete competition go away and an insect-like hive mind to make the abstract competition go away.

And that creates conflict.  And almost every aspect of human behavior and language, on some level, is about managing conflict.

So where does conflict become violence?  My answer would not be yours.  Marc likes using a dictionary definition just to show that the definition of 'violence' is so broad as to be meaningless.  A violent emotion, a violent storm, a violent outburst, a violent assault.  In practice, I find that people define violence as conflict that scares them or really offends them.

My example-- there are acts of physical force that I don't find violent.  Spin the guy, shove him against the wall and cuff him.  I see no violence in that. I know that other people do. Spin the guy, sweep his legs out from under him and cuff him, I see a glimmer of tiny violence in the takedown, but it's borderline.  Yet I see a huge amount of violence in grooming a child to be a victim personality.  In that entire process there might not be even a harsh word... but I see it as profoundly violent.

Everyone will see and feel that line in a different place.  Don't sweat it.

For our purposes, this is why we need to think about this:  In what follows we will be talking about the motivations and patterns of beatings, assaults, muggings, rape and murder.  But the exact same patterns will show up in other kinds of conflict that never rise to the physical level.  A violent group will punish a member who betrays with an orgy of violence, with all of the loyal members participating.  It is the exact same pattern as a group of high school girls starting a gossip/character assassination campaign because one of them started dating the clique leader's ex.

Don't think of violence as exotic.  It is just more magnified.  The patterns of conflict change very little even with extremes of expression, you just have to look at the pattern.

So, you DO have experience.  Just at a different magnification.  Take any examples or categories I give and look for the corollaries in your life.

And, second, as a favor-- just because something follows the pattern, please don't try to pretend that they are equivalent.  Being bullied is not the same as being murdered, words do not cut like knives.  This is something that people cling to in order to make their personal lives and experience seem more special.  That's a trap.  Whenever possible, personally, I take a step back and realize how very simple and comparatively easy my life has been.


Neil Bednar said...

Wow, excellent stuff. I'm hooked!

Josh Kruschke said...

Context. Labeling rarely provides it.

Just because something looks like a duck & acts like duck doesn't mean it's a duck.

What I pulled out of the leason.

Josh Kruschke said...

P.S. "For their own good!" This can be insidious(copout?). Do you mind your own business/butt out or butt in? From my own experiences, theirs a perfect example on this blog where I was "Forceful" in chalinging peoples opinions/ideas. I even remember, saying, "It will do them some good." or something like that.

Personal note; Hope, I'm not as big an ass now. Working on it.

Note to everyone; Feel free to call me out on it.

Anonymous said...

Is it not bullying if it is "for their own good?"

Heard a horrible news story once. In the story, a man had decided to shelter a friend's family from an ugly truth about how the friend's daughter had died. Because the man helped hide what had happened (for their own good, mind), the family of the dead woman was unable to pursue justice against an incompetent public official who had done something truly wrong. The family did not know what had happened, and the friend never would say a word about what the official had done, for fear the family would learn some of the really awful details about the death.

One of my loved ones thought this was a heartwarming decision. "I'd do the same thing for you," this person said. That was well-meant, though not a choice I would make. What kicked me in the teeth was being told that of course they would still do something like that even though I have said I would always prefer to know the truth no matter how painful it might be. After all, "That's what love does."

Love? Maybe. But my gut reads it as mistrust: I don't trust you enough to let you face the world for yourself.

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a benevolent dictator and a terrible nasty one? Is it intimidation?

Dictionary definition of bully: "one habitually cruel to others weaker than himself."

Josh Kruschke said...

Anon 2:10

Does the dictionary define what "weaker than himself" means? How about "cruel"?

Two subjective terms kinda make that definition.... subjective.

Butting out now.