Violence and the Lie

My step daughter asked once what stopped people from hurting other people.

© Elaine Elder, Pale Horse at Sunset, mixed media
© Elaine Elder, Pale Horse at Sunset, mixed media

The law, the police, the easy responses spurt out, but one who doesn’t know better can see the flaw in the answer. They only do something, anything, after the violence is done. They are hovering swords, not protecting walls. Morality? If someone wants to hurt you, he’s already reconciled his violence with whatever morality he holds. So what keeps them from doing violence? Nothing. Nothing but the threat of violence.

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle. -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It’s a cold realization when it firsts comes to us. We get used to it over the years, get used to the terrible and constant vulnerability of life without parents. We get used to it because rough men stand in the night ready to do violence on our behalf.

That idea of violence is uncomfortable with our civilized sensibilities of the modern world. We reject violence as a tool of state or individuals, we reject it as a determinant of morality. Might does not make right. And yet our armies are scattered across the globe. But you see we need those soldiers, because although we are righteous, the others are not.