Violence as a Virtue?

I actually started writing this several weeks ago, and am only now wrapping it up; partially in order to ensure it doesn’t just sit here unfinished, partially because I haven’t posted anything in a while.

When making an argument for something that seems either novel or extreme, it always helps to use the words of people better than yourself. So I’m going to quote Robert Heinlein:

Those who cling to the untrue doctrine that violence never settles anything would be advised to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Nations and peoples who forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.

That’s a great quote, and I’m using it because it’s on the top of my head, not that it’s specifically relevant to this post.

What I’d like to attack (yes, the word choice is intentional) here is the notion that the concept of violence is so completely abhorrent that it should be discussed in the same tones and with the same palpable unease as accompanies discussions of minority issues by well-meaning but guilt-ridden members of the majority ethnic group in this country.

The reason this notion is idiotic is simple: life itself is violent. Violence is not only a necessary part of life, but a fundamental part of it. The act of eating, including not only the sourcing of the foodstuffs that reach your plate, but the act itself, is predicated on violence. Just chewing your food is a violent act by the dictionary definition. The house you live in was created by violence. Trees were murdered and habitats destroyed so you could park your doughy ass in front of a TV without getting rained on. Virtually the only thing you can do to avoid participating in this chain of violence is to somehow will yourself into nonexistence. And even that act, were it possible, could be considered violent.

It’s not that violence should be considered good for its own sake. Frankly there is nothing that could be considered good for its own sake. Ideas, concepts, and philosophies, are good or bad because of the effects they produce, not on their own merits. In fact, without the effects caused by putting these ideas/concepts/philosophies into action, there is no merit in the first place; just the suggestion of merit, something equally ephemeral. (Tangentially, this is why Communism is not a “good thing”.) This kind of defective thinking forms the root for many problems I’ve noticed, but applies specifically to the concept of violence.

For example, when someone is shot with a firearm, there is always at least a flicker of the suggestion that firearms should be banned. Why? Because the firearm called seductively to the assailant to caress its trigger while the barrel was pointed at a potential victim? Obviously, no. People take actions that have effects. The causes of these actions are ideas (often half-baked, ill-reasoned, or downright maniacal), but ideas do not take the physical form of action without a person to carry them out. Neither should the actions, and the tools used to accomplish them, be put on the same chopping block of judgment. Tools, like ideas, exist without merit or judgment until human intention is applied to them.

It could and will be argued that simply by being available, certain tools designed to inflict violence (for good or ill) increase the likelihood of misuse. But this still doesn’t address the true problem which is the intent behind their misuse, and reflects a sense of moral laziness or lack of fortitude required to address the illness instead of its symptoms.

Violence is not always necessary. Ghandi’s march to the ocean for salt is an example of this. However, the weak-minded (or hearted) pacifist will take examples like this and use them to justify wholesale abdication of violence. And this is just as asinine as a mechanic who in a pinch, had to use a wrench in lieu of a hammer, deciding to forgo the use of hammers entirely.

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