Sunday, 20 October 2013

Perceiving Violence

-Brian Mendonça

Violence is all around us.  You don’t have to go far to see it. There are many forms of violence, viz. physical, emotional, epistemic.  We have to live with violence. We have no choice. Sometimes our very existence, in terms of our diet, is predicated on violence. A visit to the market in the early morning confronts you with lambs tethered for slaughter while transport vehicles bring squawking chickens to eke out their final hours in overcrowded cages. At the Sonepur mela near Patna in Bihar the pitiful sight of animals would move anyone to tears.

Physical violence usually works on the premise that might is right. If you are a more powerful country it gives you the right to invade a smaller country – for whatever reasons – and annex its resources, be it oil or energy. Violence in the strike at Abbotabad authorized force to kill, giving rise to similar sanction in future, which flies in the face of international law which protects the sovereignty of a country.

When a strike was proposed recently on Syria I asked my students to take a call. Megan who sits at the front bench rose and said, ‘I am a Gandhian. I cannot support this action.’ I was struck by her conviction. How many of us would do the same?

On 2nd October as I sipped my tea at breakfast I heard the sounds of a speech being made in the nearby school which I think was reminding students of the significance of the day. It made me wish that I was one among the students. In my school days we had many heroes to emulate. Today I clutch at thin air. The abject apathy to the values of Mohandas is astounding. Hardly any social events – besides the government-sponsored functions --had been organized, to use the day to reinforce his values. If there was no constant reminder of good action, how could bad action be remedied or prevented?

The media bombards us with images of violence. In the case of rape the coverage takes on a voyeuristic hue. Everyone has an agenda. In popular TV programmes like C.I.D. featuring case studies of the police force and how they crack the case, images of the dead are routinely shown repeatedly. Torture and physical violence is de rigueur.

Children are often receivers of violence. A tired father may come home and whack the child for a minor transgression. The child may look quizzically, not say anything, but internalize it and manifest violence later.

We need to be always alert to violence. It takes courage to recognize violence and intervene. In Mumbai two Goan boys lost their lives because they intervened to stop a girl being teased. 

We can turn a Nelson’s eye to the violence around us. When we move to derecognize the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary in Goa we do violence to the tiger habitat. Violence demeans the perpetrator.  Let us make an effort to reduce violence in our lives.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender Goa Sunday 13 October 2013; pix source: google images

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