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Thoughts on Violence

What has happened all over the world in the past week (my allusion is deliberately vague and the time-frame arbitrary; how/where ought we to prescribe limitations on something as ubiquitous as violence?) serves as a new caution to be wary of using terms which include the 'post' prefix. 'Post-conflict' and 'post-colonialism', for example, are not always helpful or accurate. They imply that the problems are over and dealt with. They are not. Post-dictatorship countries like Chile still suffer the effects of the Pinochet years. Northern Ireland is only post-conflict in that the years of intense sustained violence have ceased. The issues from the Northern Ireland conflict are very much present, it's just that the fighting now takes place largely - though not exclusively - through words and political actions rather than with weapons.

On a more global scale, the oxymoronic war on terror has created a perpetuation of terror. It has continued the globalization of terror. In this world of integrated, instantaneous media platforms facilitating the circulation of communications at ferocious speeds, there are too many conflicts and conflictual events to keep up with, regardless of the selective nature of dominant media coverage. It is all too easy to label perpetrators of violent acts as 'evil' and 'mindless', and equally easy to 'other' those who attack 'us' and 'our values'. As microcosmic examples such as Northern Ireland show, perpetrators can often be victims in a range of ways. It is the reasons behind perpetration that we must scrutinize; how individuals decide that, say, becoming a suicide bomber is an effective form of protest or way of making the world pay attention to a cause. Perhaps rather than ignoring the cause, we could pay attention and try to compromise through dialogue.

The 'attack-as-defence' language of retaliation and the solidification of borders which tends to emerge in response to large-scale attacks (e.g. on Western cultural and commercial centres, as seen in Paris last Friday) only exacerbates the issue. What the rest of us can do is remain critical of every image we encounter, and of every 'fact' we are told. We must remember to earnestly question why, and not assume to know. Violence never stops. Let's never stop questioning violence, including our own.


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