August 24 2004
If you are a poor black man serving a long prison sentence in an
American jail (and there are too many, see the
sixth Letter), you may not agree that
But in many cases even small groups of masspeople get results by
using some violence.
Anyhow, violence brings something about that never can be achieved
by peaceful means. Shocks, that contain always some violence, are
indispensable to advance society. (see my series “Political
The American army was chased away from Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.
Saddam Hussein and Noriega were arrested by American violence.
The Spanish and the Philippine army left Iraq after violent
incidents against their citizens.
Jordanian, Saudi and Turkish firms stopped their business in Iraq
after employees were abducted.
Medicins sans Frontières left Afghanistan after the death of five
Many hostages were freed after the payment of ransom.
The list can be made very long and includes many small acts of
unknown people that never reach the News.
Nations and governments often use violence to confirm their leading
position and their superior power.
Relatively small groups of masspeople, who seem to have no
real power, also can get positive results by using some violence
(including the threat with violence).
It does not matter if you agree with what is wanted or with the used
violent methods (I often do not) but I have to confirm that violence
sometimes (or is it often?) pays. Successes are numerous.
The positive results – the perpetrators get what they want – are in
flagrant contradiction to the results of peaceful actions in which
many more people are involved. These activities demand much more
energy than violent and direct actions. Peaceful, decent or
dignified demonstrations against the Vietnam War, the Gulf Wars and
the ABC-weapons or in connection with human rights, genetic
manipulation of crops, the continuing existence of widespread
poverty and preventable illnesses have had hardly any positive
Many inhuman situations continue to exist on our world in
spite of (or is it because of) the fact that most political activity
of masspeople is restricted to peaceful methods.
By the way, why should
you be afraid for violence because our society is drenched in
violence and in the threat of violence and we have to live with that.
Maybe in another thousand years violence will have disappeared but
for the time being it is very much present. .
My book “About Violence and Democracy” includes the following
10. Psychological violence
11. The phenomenon violence
12. Kinds of violence
14. Creative violence
15. Violence in history
16. Revolutionary violence
Yours truly, Joost van Steenis