Monday, August 16, 2004

The Badge, the Stick, and the Gun

"Violence never solved anything."

How often have we heard that refrain, especially from the anti-war crowd? There are obvious ways in which that trite sentiment is clearly wrong, as mocked on the signs of the counter-protesting Protest Warriors ("...except for ending slavery, fascism, nazism, and communism"), and in Orwell's scathing observation that Pacifism is "objectively pro-Fascist."

What is even more surprising to most people, however, is the realization that our entire civil society rests on the implicit threat of violence.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Rather shocking thought, isn't it?

But it must be so. Why do you pay your taxes, or obey the traffic signs, for example? Because you are a good-hearted person, a veritable Saint? Well, perhaps you are. Congratulations! I'm sure you'd agree however that most of the rest of humanity does not share your exceptional selfless altruism.

Notice I'm not even talking about why people don't commit major offenses like murder -- I'm talking about the little stuff. Clearly, the reason most people go and fill out their 1040-forms semi-accurately is because they realize that if they don't, and get caught, the will be fined.

Fair enough! So they obey the law to avoid the fine? Is that all?

No. Why do they even consider paying the fine? Why not just ignore it?

Well, obviously because if they don't pay, they will have to go to jail, and who wants to do that?

But why do they walk off to the jail cell and step inside?

Ah, now we get to the crux of the matter. Because if they don't, violence will be used to force them inside. And so we see the true steps at work that keep society functioning smoothly.

For when you are first caught in your offense, Society will send a man with a Badge, a Stick, and a Gun to visit you.

And first that man will show you the Badge, to indicate that he has been given a special sanction from Society to act on its behalf in a very special way, and he will then ask you to comply with the Law.

And should you fail to comply with this request after seeing the Badge, the man will proceed to use the Stick to physically compel you to follow the prescribed procedures.

And should you still resist the influence of the Stick, the Gun will finally be employed to kill you.

Most people would rather avoid this series of events, and so follow the Law. But it's not just to avoid jail, it's to avoid the unpleasantness of the Stick and the Gun.

The Badge, therefore, represents the threat of violence, potentially deadly, that Society has in store should its wishes not be followed.

This is all very nasty stuff to contemplate, but on further reflection, how could it be otherwise? We do not live in a Utopia, but rather in a very fragile, very delicate construct that has invented the effective and reasonable process of the Badge, the Stick, and the Gun, to shield us all from the Hobbesian Nightmare that lurks beneath the surface.

Violence, then, is merely a Tool. It can serve both Good and Evil. It is well to remember its importance in enforcing Justice, and that the rules of the Kindergarten -- with nothing more severe than a "time out" -- do not apply outside of that artificial realm.


Blogger BearC said...

I don't believe that because violence is used by our society to enforce rules that nonviolence is an approach only for 5-year-olds. And perhaps the "solving" that violence does bring about only brings more violence down the line...

nonetheless, a provocative and worthwhile posting-- so thank you.

10:58 PM, August 16, 2004  
Blogger RDS said...

Bear --

You make a good point, I wasn't implying violence is always the only or even best solution, but that it is sometimes the only one, and is very important.

Certainly non-violence, as a tactic in particular specialized circumstances, can be very useful. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were able to use non-violent methods effectively because they faced governments that were responsive to the will of the People, who were informed with a free Press.

Under other conditions, they would not have achieved their goals, and the only result of such "nobility" would have been many innocent dead without any progress to show for it.

As a general strategy, therefore, I maintain Pacifism only allows Evil to flourish.

Thanks for reading, and leaving that cogent comment!

11:53 PM, August 16, 2004  
Blogger poverty hill said...

Still we see the protests of violence never being the effective way to ensure peace.
The left has proven historically violence is the way to implement any agenda.
Notice, a good majority of the time individual man will not obey any law or regulation without the promise of force behind it. That's just the way we are wired.

Peace has never begat peace. Only the threat of or use of violence as in a war has brought about a break in the ongoing violence of this world.

8:55 AM, August 19, 2004  
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