Tuesday, June 19, 2018

No Man, Having Acquired Purpose, Skill, and Calm - Would Relinquish Violence


theconversation |  Are you optimistic or pessimistic about possibilities for exit from violence?
R.C: On the micro level, I am optimistic. Face-to-face, humans are not good at violence. They bluster and threaten and curse, but most small-scale violence – whether in quarrels or in protest demonstrations – ends in stalemate.

Physical damage happens when one side achieves emotional domination, confronting a weak or momentarily passive victim whom they can attack without resistance. When both sides mirror each other, maintaining a steady face and voice, replying without escalating, threats dissipate. Prospects are good that more people will learn techniques of keeping anger and fear from escalating, and thus cooling down the possibility of violence. Knowledge of the social psychology of interpersonal conflict is now spreading – in business corporations, in schools, hopefully among police and the people who encounter them. On the micro-level we may get a more peaceful everyday life.

This will not come because the world has solved the structural problems that cause the malaise and desubjectivation that Wieviorka has described. Causes for anger remain, but we can make the situational eye-of-the-needle into violence even narrower.

On the macro level, I am more pessimistic. In asymmetric war between rich states and embittered insurgents, the cat-and-mouse game continues. Rich states devise more and more electronic surveillance tools and more precise remote-controlled weaponry.

Insurgents respond with electronic hacking and hiding in the civilian population awaiting the moment to commit atrocities against other civilians; anonymous attacks and counter-measures make life more unpleasant for all of us. The politics of would-be charismatic leaders and routinising bureaucrats keeps stirring up political disputes. International crises are repetitive because they are de-escalated only after they become too costly to continue, and crises reappear because perceptions of the evil done by the enemy stirs up cries for intervention and revenge. Perhaps my macro-analysis is too pessimistic. In any case, it is a reason why I focus on micro-analysis, with its elements of optimism.