Monday, November 26, 2012

(Non) Violent Protest

Why do we fight and what do we fight for? Violence as a pervasive and still permeable structure of revolution is fueled by conflicts of power, a power that has always taken legitimate and illegitimate forms. The articles for the week focused on how protest centered on political, social, cultural, economic themes, without looking at the way violence intertwined with these realities. In the 18 days of protest throughout Egypt, violence seemed overlooked. Perhaps this is my own romanticizing of martyrdom in hoping to give meaning death, but still, I am concerned with how and why the protest was seen primarily as a “battle of words and images,” (Lindsey) a battle of idea and principle, and not a battle of bodies or force, ignoring organized violence. I am interested in the way that violence seems to transcend politics, if not the human all-together, how it might engage with Ranciere’s assertion that “democracy is this principle of otherness.” Perhaps violence too relies on otherness, on chaos, on mass individualism. And then if we address violence in relation to power, we must recognize that the people’s power has always been the power to retaliate. It has always been a power of rebellion, a way of fighting against forms of oppression. Power has never been handed to the people and, therefore, the modern day violence we see is but one real effect, perhaps an unintended consequence inherent to protest. That idea brings Colla’s piece to mind. Maybe violence falls under the repertoire of performance as familiarly associated with protest. In looking more carefully at the texts, Swedenburg touches on violence briefly as it relates to youth as dangerous agents or perpetrators within a culture of violence, while Lindsey makes statements like “although protesters faced violence from police and -- infamously -- regime-enlisted thugs, for the most part the revolution was peaceful.” But I want to think about violence as something beyond, other than, violent acts. And then also thinking of violence not as it pertains specifically to the victim but to the citizen, perhaps also looking at gendered violence, violence of resistance, and extreme violence. I want to think about the types of destruction, physical and meta-physical, that arise as result of violence. Is violence acceptable in the name of the nation? On a governmental level, how free is the state to act with violence and how much more so than civilians? Why is it that the state can act with violence to protect the people from other forms of violence? How is nationalism then introduced in this discussion? Can we hold individuals responsible for acts of violence that are against the state or for acts of violence that are under the structure, under the violence culture? Is violence ever justifiable? Is there a natural element to violence that we ignore? Is violence necessarily bad?

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