Saturday, December 15, 2012

Primitive culture of violence

From the screen of the Television set which is playing a John Wayne classic, gunshots are flowing everywhere.

The good guys on horses are killing the bad guys. And the gun is their weapon.

The gun is the salvation in a plot of good versus evil.

It will kill the enemy and the hero will use it adeptly and expertly to seek out moral justice. For the Frontier man, the gun is the weapon for justice.

Owning the gun and using it against the enemy is embedded within the broader cultural story of "good versus evil."

Guns bring about liberty. And owning the gun is the right of the citizen, understood in a storyline of democracy and liberty. Citizenship is connected to the right to own. And more specifically, to the right to own a gun.

The gun symbolizes a technological innovation, an innovation that is able to carry out mass killings. Its sheer force lies in its technological ability to kill at a distance. The greater the distance and the greater the ability of the weapon to have a massive impact, the stronger it is.

Technologies for mass killing are the weapons of modernity. They are weapons for justice, liberty, and freedom.

The drone is the latest of such innovations, killing at a distance (in Pakistan) from a joystick in California.

Children die, and are counted off as collateral damage.

The storyline of technologies of killing is a powerful one. It operates on a culture of violence, where violence is the weapon of modernity. It is through violence that justice must be achieved. It is through violence that freedom and liberty must be secured.

In the latest expression of this culture of violence within the US, elementary school children in Newton, Connecticut, an affluent US town, have been killed. And the stories connected to this event are on media around the globe.

In a parallel storyline, children in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan continue to be killed by drone attacks. And the stories of these killings are marked by their absence. No images, no names, no grieving families.

In 2006, in a single attack on a madrassah in Pakistan, 69 children were killed.

When asked about the ethics of the attacks, Obama Supporter Joe Klein from Time Magazine responded (

"...the bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old get killed? What we're doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.""

The killing of their children (brown, black and threatening) is justified because it is a war on terror, and the children then are the markers of terror.

The culture of violence works by asserting the hegemony of technologies of mass destruction as everyday solutions to the problem of "good versus evil." The cultural story goes like this: As long as the world can be divided into the good guys and the evil guys, these technologies can be appropriately used for the purposes of liberty, freedom, and justice.

The hypocrisy in this story lies precisely in its ability to portray the terrorist threat elsewhere to justify investments into the technologies of terror, and the large scale deployment of these technologies to continue building the weapons industry.

Technologies of terror are ironically the instruments of freedom, justice, and liberty.

This is a primitive cultural logic that is intrinsic to the hegemony of the West on a global stage.

The hegemony of imperialism was achieved through the deployment of the technologies of mass killing on the savage other, albeit mobilized through the language of freedom, democracy, and salvation. Essential then to this primitive cultural logic is a logic of transaction, where capitalist trade in weapons and technologies of mass murder serves as a fundamental aspect of the global economy.

Industries of mass killing are built around large scale structural investments of imperial powers and their lobbies into influencing public opinion, justifying the uses of these technologies as a human right.

Having the right to own a gun is akin to having the right of speech.

Technologies of mass destruction are crafted into the stories of human liberty, which is celebrated as a universal human aspiration, and recrafted as a narrative to justify large scale global violence.

As we grieve the killing of children everywhere, we must begin by reflecting on the culture of violence that nurtures us, nourishes our aspirations, and limits our abilities to feel for children killed in these senseless acts of violence. A child killed from a drone attack in Pakistan is innocent and fragile, and so is the child killed in Newton, CT.

Resisting the culture of violence must begin by unleashing our ability to feel empathy, to connect, and to weep in the pain of the parent that has lost her six year old.

The children in Karachi, Pakistan lighting a candle for the children in the US teach us a powerful lesson.

"V feel ur pain as u would feel our pain."

As these children teach us, how we resist this primitive culture of violence lies in our ability to feel pain. To feel pain for children everywhere. And to actively work to transform the intrinsic cultural primitiveness of the hegemony of violence. 

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