Violence as Change
“Am I so scary you can’t say it ?” - Katherine, “Her” the movie
When she hits she hits hard
Her words leave a scar that stretches
From my lower jaw (outside) to my aorta (inside)
A 3 dimensional cicatrix
"The most dangerous philosopher in the West," writes Adam Kirsch of The New Republic about Slavoj Zizek. This is the guy who wrote: "Gandhi was more violent than Hitler”. And rightly so. In this single sentence, Zizek lays down a framework to define Violence: It can only be measured as a function of the change it provokes in the existing state of things.
"It takes more violence to disrupt the existing order than it does to preserve it.” (The Red Fury blog) - and that is precisely where Gandhi, by boycotting British products and creating social space outside the scope of the colonial state, out-did Hitler whose war and mass killings were essentially a preemptive counter-revolution to preserve the Reich.
Violence as ‘Dark Matter’
But violence does not only mean change. Violence is here all the time so that things remain the way they are. Zizek writes about “Systemic violence”, an unspoken reality endemic to our socio-economic order.
He compares it to “Dark Matter”. It is invisible to the naked eye. More so, just like “Dark Matter”, having a name for it doesn’t mean we know what it is. Sartre echoes that very same idea : "I distrust the incommunicable; it is the source of all violence."
And Sartre does a great job fleshing out “Systemic Violence”. Maurice Cranston sums up "The Critique of Dialectical Reason" writing : "Terror is the guarantee that my neighbour will stay my brother; it binds my neighbor to me by the threat of the violence it will use against him if he dares to be ‘unbrotherly’."
The question resonates on the surface of my skin
And slowly dissipates
The waves are the water
Water is the waves
'I'm going to smile, and my smile will sink down
Into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.’ - Sartre
Violence as Stillness
Despite the revolutionary tone of his writings, Zizek admonishes in a talk: “Don’t act. Just think”. How amazing is that ! It echoes Gandhi’s actions of course but delves deeper : Violence is non-violence ! Zizek shines a light when he writes: "Sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do”. This is very much an opportunistic stance. Resist the calls of pseudo-activism and “learn, learn and learn”. The day will come when things larger than you will steer society. Then, prepared as you are, you’ll know exactly what to do.
But I couldn’t say a thing
Every second I had spent silent
Now faced me with sarcasm
“Now speak, big boy”
And the silence outside rammed the racket inside
And I cried
Violence as Resilience
It’s OK to have fights going on within oneself. Violence is everywhere, especially inside. A voice says yes, another says no and a decision pattern pops up to settle the dilemma. Violence is one’s inner dark matter. If you think you'll ever be in peace, you missed the point. War is part of peace.
And that very realisation is liberating. Personal calm becomes a co-habitation with inner violence. And more so: Violence becomes a boon. An opportunity to seize like Zizek would have it.
Violence in Zizek and Sartre’s frameworks is a society's un-seen authority that keeps things the way they are. At a personal level, one can make sure violence translates into a state of constant growth. Every time the mind says no and yes, the fight becomes an opportunity for self-disruption:
"One must have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star” Friedrich Nietzsche, mind you. This re-conception of personal violence is nothing more than Resilience. Extended, this becomes a radical call for Self-terrorism. A choice to constantly disrupt one’s certainties: Taking that which you've converged to after months of thinking and breaking it again.
I looked down baffled
By the violence of her stillness
And saw it for what it was:
I grabbed the bill like a shield
And my bank card like a sword
To the Twin Towers of my mind
And a 9/11 of my Soul