Sep 20, 2019 in Case Studies

Violence in the Modern World

For a long time, aggression and violence have been occurring in human life. These phenomena are an indispensable attribute of the existence of a particular individual as well as the entire community. In other words, a single problematic component of aggression and violence always was and still remains an ineradicable phenomenon in human existence. Various forms of its manifestation can be seen throughout the world at all stages of socio-historical development. Moreover, violence affects the historical path of mankind and raises questions about the reasons for its existence. Stating that violence is the best answer to conflicts, Ginsberg starts a new round of debates about the role of cruelty in the modern world. Recent international and local conflicts including warfare in Ukraine, the formation of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and clashes in Baltimore make this discussion even more relevant and important. Moreover, these debates give the opportunity to think about alternative ways of resolving conflicts. Therefore, this paper focuses on the role of violence in the modern world and examines the truthfulness of Ginsberg’s thesis as well as perspectives for non-violence implication.

The history of mankind shows that every nation strives for maximum self-realization and expression of its unique culture. Often the possibility of self-realization and freedom was restrained by different totalitarian regimes. However, there is no development without the struggle between opposites. The emergence of problems in the relationships is a natural process during the transition to a democratic society. The most recent example of such struggle is the Arab Spring that started as a peaceful protest and expanded into the international conflict. Despite its original idea for democratization, the consequences of Arab Spring can be devastating. According to Tharoor, after stabilizing the political regime, Tunisia now suffers from Islamist violence. Such examples continuously raise a question about the role of violence in dealing with the conflict. Benjamin Ginsberg clearly states

the political efficacy of violence is clear. But because violence can be so terrible, there is a persistent tendency to treat it as a problem rather than a solution. Even if we overlook the overt acts of mayhem committed by wealthy and powerful individuals, groups, and nations, we can't ignore the use of coercion and threats of violence by the powerful to control and intimidate the lower orders.

Violence and aggression presented in biological and social aspects are two components of a single phenomenon of human life. Aggression has natural origin observed, for example, among animals. On the contrary, violence is a concept created exclusively by the human mind that embodies human values related to reality and existence. Charles M. Blow in his article devoted to Baltimore revolt claims that violence gives an understanding of recent contradictions in American society in its striving for peace. He states that “Nonviolence, as a strategy, hinges on faith: it is a faith in ultimate moral rectitude and the perfectibility of systems of power”. One can see that leading politicians join the discussion only after the facts of manifestations of aggression and it is another evidence of Ginsberg’s thesis.


However, can violence be the only way of solving conflicts? The experience of multicultural countries in clash resolution shows that there is always the possibility of developing an effective resolving mechanism. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi advocated and put into practice the ethics of non-violence that suggests a non-violent resistance as the only form of communication. Humanists understand that a supporter of non-violent resistance is passive only in the sense that he does not use physical violence against his opponents, but his mind and emotions are active. In fact, nonviolence is fighting against evil, not against its victims. Ginsberg, however, has a different view on King’s example. He claims that M. L. King used non-violent resistance to provoke the police aggression and achieve its conviction from the society. However, the cornerstone of this policy is love. Gandhi fundamentally rejected violence applying non-violent resistance to colonialism and ethical means of influencing the individual and society.

To treat others respectfully means to consider their will, respect their rights, not prevent showing their individuality, not limit freedom, not resort to violent methods or any form of manipulation. Moreover, to treat others as a subject suggests using the force of argument rather than the argument of force. A variety of socio-cultural structures, ways of life of people and the complexity of managing social processes with their inherent contradictions and conflicts are features of the modern world. Therefore, there is a need for tolerance for a diversity of opinions and maintenance of stable functioning and development of the society. The futility of confrontational approach to the social and political conflicts and sectarian problems become increasingly apparent when applied to a current socio-political and religious situation. Steven Pinker provides the statistics for decreasing cases of violence compared to past centuries and states that level of violence is overall very low. It is beyond doubt that violence cannot be a blessing because it leads to destruction, physical and psychological suffering and deprivation that cannot be regarded as a positive phenomenon.

However, John Gray casts doubt on Pinker’s statements and, therefore, takes Ginsberg’s side in this discussion. Recent international conflicts prove that, despite all steps towards peaceful regulations, violence remains the most popular way of resolving conflicts. Moreover, not only international conflicts but also local unrests based on social issues are regularly appearing. With a significant number of issues it becomes understandable that the humanity seems to be far away from the end of this discussion. For example, Blow relies on strong and comprehensive debates of ways to stop the senseless aggression, and his position seems the most interesting in far perspective.

The ethics of violence and non-violence related to ethnic and religious contradictions and conflicts becomes relevant today more than ever. Power is a legitimate political attribute while violence and non-violence are its means. Recent conflicts show the constantly increasing level of social tension. Therefore, while implementing non-violence in politics is almost impossible in practice, society can reduce the overall level of aggression. Modern civilization is at a critical stage of its development, and the formation of new individual, collective, social and organized non-violent principles of existence becomes a popular trend. The readiness of the younger generation to apply peaceful means to solve conflicts has the particular importance. Therefore, there is a strong need for new debates and public discussion despite the variety of opinions on violence.


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