Sunday, 4 October 2009

Condeming Violence (and getting neatly labelled in the process)

Condemning violence is becoming problematic these days. If you condemn violence against women and terror strikes, people will nod their heads in agreement. It is when you start condemning other forms of violence as well that you start getting some interesting responses. Here is a list some of the labels that I have been given by acquaintances and close friends over the last few months.

  • Romantic (because you condemn the violence of in-equitable development)
  • Maoist sympathizer (because you condemn the use of force by the government to evict people from their homes in tribal districts)
  • Marxist (Because you condemn the use of 60,000 mercenaries in Iraq by the US government)
  • Leftist (Because you condemn the violence of imperialism)
  • Communist (Because you wave the facts around the death of 4 million people at the hands of US troops in the last 60 years)
  • "Socialist Type" (because you criticize the violence of water privatization)
  • Capitalist (Because you condemn the violence of Maoists)
  • Anti-National (Because you condemn the militarization of Kashmir, North East and the death of Pakistani Civilians in US Drone strikes)
  • Atheist (Because you condemn the violence of religion)
  • Environmental Extremist (Because you condemn the violence of corporate greed)
  • Activist (Because you condemn violence against Dalits)
  • Terrorist Sympathizer (Because you condemn the violence of Israel against Palestine)
  • Conspiracy Theorist (Because you condemn the media for spreading hate)
  • Jihadist (Because you condemn the violence of America)
  • Hypocrite (still trying to figure this one out)
Violence seems to have two categories or buckets. Popular violence and Unpopular violence.

Popular violence is the kind of violence that we support and excuse.Violence that does not affect us directly but seems to benefit us tangibly or intangibly. This sort of violence typically
  • Preys on fear created by the media (e.g. fake encounter killings), 
  • Appeals to national jingoism (lets wait for the SWAT Valley to self destruct) 
  • Provides for a larger corporate presence in the country (mining concessions are more important than people who live in those areas). 
  • A sure give-away that the violence is "popular violence" will be the over-whelming support that it will receive from the media (Iraq war).

Unpopular violence is the violence that has typically affected somebody we know or violence that we have been witness to. Daily example of "unpopular violence" include the violence against women or the violence of alcohol abuse or the violence of terror strikes on Indian soil.

I find it amusing that people condemn violence vehemently but can be selective about the violence that they condemn at the same time.

I am getting used to the labels. Violence, irrespective of which bucket it falls in, needs to be condemned.


  1. Isn't it ironic that we have a high regard,respect for religious violence in our society? Ramayana and Mahabharata - now where do you classify these?