Violence pays!?
The 49th Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Amsterdam, August 24 2004

Dear reader, 

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 violence pays.
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 Catastrophes").

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 collaborators.
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 result.
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 chapters:
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

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50. New colonial wars
To the index of All Letters