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What Violence Is For

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
About a month ago, in that thread about respect for terrorists, I suggested this article to help understand the meaning of September 11. At the time it was not yet available online. It now is.

<a href="http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0112/articles/bottum.html" target="_blank">What Violence Is For</a>

J. Bottum


Copyright (c) 2001 First Things 118 (December 2001): 31-33.

[quote]... While I listened, I stared down at the well - ordered landscape beneath me, much of it splashed with irrational, irregular Rorschach blots of dark trees spreading along the windbreaks and the creek bottoms. Before I left, I had done an electronic search of American newspapers and found more than five hundred editorials and op - eds that used the word "senseless" the day after the hijacked airlines smashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. To sit for hours in front of the television, as nearly everyone in America did on September 11, was to hear the same thought, over and over: senseless, meaningless, unintelligible. As the fields rolled by underneath the plane, the stands of trees began to look like stains of blood, splatters on a neatly ruled and tidy map. There has been something slightly off - center, something eccentric and askew, about much of the response to September 11. It is difficult to pin down precisely: a rhetoric somehow simultaneously too high and not high enough, a feeling simultaneously of unreality and too much reality. You can catch a hint of it in both the name initially chosen for the Afghan campaign, "Operation Infinite Justice," and in the fact that the name was quickly abandoned in embarrassment. The neatly ruled and tidy categories of modern thought cannot comprehend the archaic principle that made the destruction of the World Trade Center not meaningless but meaningful for its perpetrators.

A people like us - a people who have convinced ourselves that myth never actually works - cannot understand when real myth rises up in the world again in all its violent, sacrificial, monstrous, and satanic glory. With six thousand dead on September 11, we know beyond doubt what blood is. But we have forgotten what blood means. The crowds in the streets of Cairo, the marchers in Islamabad, the Palestinians who ululated and fired off their guns to celebrate the slaughter of Americans: they still grasp what blood does and why a mythic culture needs violence for its foundation. Until we remember again what they have not forgotten, we will not be able to respond - with the right infinite justice, or the right finite justice, or even the right mercy. We will keep getting it wrong...<hr></blockquote>
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post #2 of 9
An interesting read. I was not sure where he was going for part of it. So, in my first time thorugh it I guess what he is saying is that the purpose of violence is to build the foundation for a new cilvilization on the blood of the victims. Ands then that we need to use force, not violence to stop that from getting off the ground. Would you agree that was his main assertion when all was said and done or did I miss it?

[ 12-21-2001: Message edited by: NoahJ ]</p>
NoahJ
"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." - Mahatma Gandhi
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NoahJ
"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." - Mahatma Gandhi
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post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by NoahJ:
<strong>... I guess what he is saying is that the purpose of violence is to build the foundation for a new cilvilization on the blood of the victims...</strong><hr></blockquote>

Yes.

[quote]<strong>... And then that we need to use force, not violence to stop that from getting off the ground... </strong><hr></blockquote>

Yes.

[quote]<strong>... Would you agree that was his main assertion when all was said and done or did I miss it?</strong><hr></blockquote>

Well, his first point is theological when he cites René Girard's contention that Juadaism and Christianity are anti-sacred, anti-mythical in their "partisanship for the victim." There's a fundamental difference in the way we think (or perhaps just subconsciously embrace) and those who understand "what blood does." He talks about how we attempt to "maintain the Christian alternative without maintaining Christianity." He then reminds us that the Christian alternative is actually an alternative to something. He suggests that we are victims of a kind of amnesia where we are unable to acknowledge that others "might do exactly what they say they do" and unwilling "to admit that there exist cultures which genuinely require for their continued existence the blood of sacrificial victims to be mixed with the mortar of their buildings." He describes our condition as delusional and then argues why it is dangerous for us to speak of September 11 as senseless:

[quote]... Christianity never said that violence is senseless. It said that violence is wrong. The notion that violence has no meaning creates as its first by-product a soft pacifism - the illusion of the comfortable classes, as Reinhold Niebuhr once called it - that wants both to be safe and to refrain from sullying its hands with coercive force...<hr></blockquote>

[ 12-22-2001: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #4 of 9
hehe...

What blood means. Isn't interesting that the poets grasp the situation more completely, if not more correctly, at least more passionately, or seeming passionately, than the rest of us?

Of course he's really saying that it's better to make a scapegoat than to be one. Or at least if he isn't saying it outright, it's what the epic leaders are thinking. And who can argue with that. I hope they are thinking it. I want to be a pacifist again. I won't ever be. But at least we can have the event turn, "the sigificance of blood," in our favor.
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post #5 of 9
Ah, the mystification of religions in today's world. When will we drop all that crap and get on with human civilization? I have said this over and over again and I'm tired of saying it again and again. I guess since I am a very small minority (people who just wish to be part of all the human race and seeing what amazing miracles we as humanity can do) that it falls on religiously deafened ears...
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post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by Artman @_@:

<strong>I have said this over and over again and I'm tired of saying it again and again.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Tough.
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post #7 of 9
[quote]Originally posted by Matsu:
<strong>I want to be a pacifist again. I won't ever be.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Exactly.
post #8 of 9
[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:
<strong>

Tough.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Tough for you. Fine for me.
Happy Holidaze.
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post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by Artman @_@:

<strong>Tough for you. Fine for me.
Happy Holidaze.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Why tough for me? You're the one is is tired, not me. Anyway, thanx and Happy Holidays to you too.


[ 12-23-2001: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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