Saturday, September 03, 2005

Definitions of violence: from New Orleans to Benton Harbor

The following is from an email written by activist Wendy Murphy. I think it applies to Benton Harbor as much as to Louisiana. So many in our society are blind to structural violence and cultural violence, then wonder where direct violence comes from. Seen in historical context, "riots" and "looting" take on a meaning very different from the media spin. Also see the very relevant article linked below.

Subject: More on "Looting"--and some definitions of violence

In conflict studies there are three types of violence. The first is the obvious, direct violence. The second is called structural violence, when systems exist or are put into place that case harm to people in the short run and/or the long run--such as turning off water to make hurricane victims who have absolutely now way to escape, leave. Robbing the poor to give the rich tax breaks is another type of structural violence, for the levee might break on hundreds of thousands of poor, old, disabled, and black people. This type of violence is quite hidden for most people have difficulty putting words to it or don't see the connections however, indeed, it often leads to direct violence--such as the anarchy we've witnessed these past few days with starving people acting out of desperation. Then there is the third type of violence, cultural violence. This is when other people ignore or accept when bad things happen to victims of direct or structural violence, because the victims are not perceived as valuable people, or are even hated. It's just a personal feeling, but these are the worst perpetrators of violence out there.

What happened to, and was done to, Louisiana, and the following article, is a classic example of the workings of the three types of violence. With this, I hope you will see how even the "looters", each and every one of them, are victims, and were set up to be before the hurricane even hit.


The Perfect Storm: The Death of the Common Good in the Non-Abstract
by Chris Floyd
September 1, 2005
First Published in: Empire Burlesque

But as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated "consumer units" whose political energies -- kept deliberately under-informed by the ubiquitous corporate media -- can be diverted into emotionalized "hot button" issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

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