|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Violence: The Degenerated
"Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent" Hannah Arendt, On Violence.
The above statement is meant to be true in human politics where legitimate power usually doesn't need to rely on violence to get its way. In such a case, violence is often a last resort to make one's voice heard in the stifling insensitiveness of bogus power structures. It is also true in our relationship to the other sex, other races and other species.
When the other is abused by an oppressor, the latter's power is a pseudo-power; in fact, it is powerless because illegitimate. No woman, no colored person. no individual of a non-human species in his/her right mind has ever given or would ever give someone freely the right to exploit, to imprison, to torture or to kill them for pleasure, for fun, for profit, for food or for other reasons. The oppressor simply imposes his/her values, urges, needs and prejudices on the other. There isn't even a glimpse of free and consensual co-operation between an oppressor and the oppressed. No consent, no legitimacy, but a lot of force and violence in their stead.
Illegitimate power always harbors temptation: the conscious or unconscious temptation to become violent, consciously or not. The more violent we are, the less powerful we are over those we do violence to and, ultimately, over ourselves..
When sex-, race- or species-related otherness means "not even like me", when, in my mind, the other is not as good and right as me, and, even worse, when the other is wrong and bad no matter what she or he perceives, feels, thinks or does, I stigmatize what differs from my sex, my race or my species. The other becomes someone I fear and avoid getting to know, someone I keep within a safe distance: the distance of prejudice.
Fear, ignorance and/or prejudice however breed religious, political, dietary or any other ideological zealotry. Such behavior is also the source of sexual, racial and speciesist chauvinism. Standing on the shaky grounds of illegitimacy, all such intolerance is prone to push us into imposing ourselves on others we deem inferior, hence exploitable. Nothing needs as much compensation as weakness or powerlessness!
In short: ignorance and prejudice engender fear which, in turn, keeps us ignorant and our prejudices alive. A vicious circle that makes us blind to the others, hence to ourselves!
For, who are we, if not the sum total and the synergistic effects of all our interactions with our environment, non-human animals, and plant species in a giant web of evolutionary connections. We can't help building our identity on the other sex, race, animal or plant species. Without which we wouldn't be persons; we would simply be nobodies, nominds, nosouls.
We are never independent but always interdependent selves, part and parcel of living matter. Once we fully realize this, we get a chance to break out of the vicious circle and to overcome our violent inclinations.
We have made remarkable advances in abolishing sexism and racism. We have just begun gaining ground making speciesism an ethical issue. Vegetarians and vegans are the spearheads of the movement. Practicing what they preach they contribute to a more peaceful world.
Befriending ourselves will render us more powerful and less violent. No waste of energy anymore! Simply saving it to strengthen our evolutionary connections with all others. We thus can weave into existence a genuinely legitimate power base for our great cause, the cause of life.
Power is life-giving, regenerating. Violence is not. It is degenerated power.
No more killing oneself and thousands of others for a cause, a lethal cause others don't share, let alone, are ready to die for!
Killing and dying for the cause of death doesn't make sense because it leads to nowhere. Once you are dead you are dead for good. But once you are alive, you are not alive for good. And this vital asymmetry is precisely what makes life as a whole a cause worth living for.
And if it is true that in the long run we'll all be dead, then be it so! We'll be dying slowly then, as slowly as, indeed, we can. This non-violent will to live is the most noble and most innocent unfolding of power.
Dr.Claude Pasquini, who lives in Luxembourg, is the IVU Liaison Officer for Europe.