Persuasion through ViolenceSteven Lieberman
Persuasion through Violence
“War is merely diplomacy through other means”… Carl von Clausewitz wrote that in his seminal work On War (Pub. 1835). He had a point when it came to the engagements between nation states.
When it comes to civil society, the use of violence is singularly an act of tyranny. Regardless, if the power of pain comes from an instrument of the government, the collective, the abusive spouse, or the common street thug… violence, and the use of violence to shape the behavior of another is rooted in a singular principal: Narcissism.
Last week we saw narcissism on display in Virginia. A malcontent attempted to assassinate members of congress since they would not agree on his world view. Reports would suggest that his desire to control the destinies of those around him have been going on for quite some time. Foster children relegated to his care have suffered continuous victimization at his hands. (In one instance going so far as to terminate her own life rather than to suffer at his hands any longer.)
Interestingly, the typical reactions from neighbors when a monster is reveled were not present here. Normally we hear “He was such a nice man!” “I can’t believe he would do that”, and other protestations from those that live in denial.
Not so in this case.
Here… neighbors were quick to point out that he is a slob of a human. My favorite was “I’m not surprised… he’s a mean little bastard.” Spoken by his next door neighbor.
But let’s get into the weeds for a moment and look at the motivations of his actions… for they mirror the motivations of countless others that have taken up the use of violence in our civil society as a means of achieving a political objective. (Well… that may be a bit presumptuous on my part frankly… there is a good chance that they are using violence primarily because doing so makes them feel part of a collective. Perhaps it is pure tribalism… my tribe will make war on your tribe for no other reason then to do it.)
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Our system of government, popular representative democracy, has survived for over two hundred years for a very specific reason built into our Constitution. A singular belief that power emanates from the “People” and that regardless of the minutiae of our civil society, there are certain aspects of the lives of individual citizens that cannot be touched.
We can kvetch about the way people behave, but we cannot use the power of government to force people into behaving differently.
Said another way: I might disagree with you, your lifestyle, your choices… I may choose not to associate with you because of your choices… or maybe simply because I am a jerk… regardless of my motivations I am powerless to use the tools of government as a means to alter your behavior to be inline with my preferences.
I am totally allowed to use my powers of persuasion to educate you to your misguided ways… but you are in turn free to ignore me… or if necessary make me a pariah, to warn others of my arrogant ways.
What you… nor I… cannot do is threaten each other with violence due to our beliefs, or use violence to threaten others from hearing our message.
This fundamental underpinning on the rights of the individual is what ultimately leads to our longevity as a nation. We can bitch about “stuff”… but there is certain “stuff” , we cannot change… we cannot even attempt to change. The knowledge, that the individual is sacred. It creates predictability in our system of governance… and ultimately gives solace to those that failed to persuade the majority to their point of view.
See… I may have failed to convince you that we should all own guns, but at the end of the day it really does not matter, because the State’s power to take my guns away is supplanted by the Constitutional protections of the Second Amendment.
(If you coughed while reading that last line, I completely understand.)
But therein lies the problem.
As our trust in the edifices of power and the Constitution wanes, (as it has since the 1960’s) our reliance on the protections of that document are also degraded. Without an almost religious adherence to the protections of the minority codified in the Constitution, the value of the Constitution is cheapened to mere paper.
When a class of individuals… people that have enjoyed systemic power for more than a generation… suddenly feel that power base threatened, they do not stop and reevaluate their message… they turn to violence as a means of poking the new administration.
This is particularly dangerous, not just for those at the receiving end of barrel, or a broken beer bottle… it is dangerous for the longevity of our society as a whole. It is… at it’s core, an existential threat to the concept of individualism and freedom.
After 9/11, we passed the Patriot Act. This was designed as an intelligence gathering tool to prevent further acts of terrorism. Within a year, a US attorney was boasting about a drug running trial in Washington State that she had prevailed in, using evidence that was obtained through tools established in the Patriot Act…. an act as drafted that NEVER should have been used to obtain evidence for anything other then terrorism.
This scared the hell out of me! For when would the use of the provisions of the Patriot Act be used by the government for very very unpatriotic things?
It also illustrates a point. Once you build “it”… or create the justification for “it” to be built in the first place… the “it” you sought may turn into something that you could never have envisioned.
Violence… the ultimate “it”… must not be tolerated. The government has tools… existing tools… to combat the use of violence by those that would seek to use violence as an agent for change.
But we must also combat violence ourselves. We must be ready to protect ourselves against violence. The great irony is that ultimately, we must be willing when necessary to use extreme violence as a response to a violent act.
The shooter in Virginia was stopped because of the brave actions of two capitol police officers that brought war down upon the shooter. One officer wounded… but staying in the fight to protect the innocent.
We must not now… not ever… allow tyrants to dictate our way of life!
When a group of individuals are prepared to defend themselves against the actions of tyrannical malcontents, the actions of those monsters are mitigated before they begin. If the slugs are so foolish as to proceed with their acts of violence, then the devastation they bring is marginalized by the presence of those patriots that will stand and defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign… and domestic.