Friday, January 8, 2016

Violence: Taking Over Like a Virus

SARS virus
(Sourced from Pinterest.)
I woke up and it was 2016 and I realized: the violence is winning, and it's winning most of all not because it's so deadly, but because it is like a virus.

Remember what they taught us in high school biology? A virus is able to be so successful precisely because it (most of the time) doesn't kill its host.

About ten years ago I read the powerful book, Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, and realized: "violence is viral." Acts of violence somehow make people want to respond, sooner or later, with violence of their own. At that time I thought a lot about the "chain reaction" aspect of how violence happens, and asked myself, "Do we have some kind of behavior that can set up an even more robust chain reaction?"

Now I'm thinking about the peculiar way violence creeps along -- yes, killing many people, but also affecting a vastly larger number of witnesses to the violence.

Just consider two examples.

In the wake of mass shootings in the US, some people see a solution in keeping guns away from people inclined to carry out acts of violence. But others feel they must have power of their own to inflict violence, and insist on having full access to guns of their own.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS has been carrying out a flamboyantly violent expansion campaign, relying heavily on the theme of countering Western violence against Muslims.  ISIS adherents have carried out violent acts in numerous Western countries, too. Some people see a solution in responding with violence that is large enough to "eclipse" that of ISIS.

I can't help thinking that we simply are not being intelligent about how to respond to violence. 

How might recognizing the "viral" nature of violence help us to respond to it more intelligently?

What happens when you start to carry the violence with you?
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Related links

This post owes a debt to Ceasefire/Cure Violence, which I learned about in Chicago, including through the film The Interrupters. Check out this short video: Cure Violence - The health solution to violence . When are we going to make the connection between violence in our communities and the violence purveyed by the US worldwide?

President Obama, following the lead of public health professionals, is using the language of medicine to approach the problem: "The epidemic of gun violence in our country is a crisis. Gun deaths and injuries constitute one of the greatest threats to public health and to the safety of the American people." (emphasis added) (See "Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility," New York Times, January 8, 2016). Perhaps the following suggests one kind of "counter-chain-reaction" needed to overcome violence? "I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve."

Related posts

Violence or nonviolence? If you're interested in radical change, look at the hard facts on what's worked worldwide.

(See Chenoweth on Why Nonviolence Gets Results (The "Cliff's Notes" Version))

Anyone who has had to write a speech knows that the hardest part is to land on the main idea. Once you've got that right, the rest practically writes itself.

(See "The way to respond to ISIS is not through violence." )

There are all kinds of efforts to change the way policing is done in Chicago, and how it gets managed. These efforts mirror those being made in cities nationwide. I support those efforts, and am committed to working on them until we accomplish sweeping change. But sweeping change will take time . . . .

(See Disarm the CPD)

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