Consequences: Confronting Violent Culture
Fairly often, maybe once every couple of weeks, I go out to Overlook Park at sunset. It’s situated on a steep hillside, and provides sweeping vistas of the Portland area. To your extreme left is downtown, a cluster of buildings huddled together, almost always shrouded in fog. Directly center is the Northwest industrial area, including the strange, dinosaur looking cranes used to load and unload moored cargo ships. If you blur your vision they resemble a congregation of horses drinking at the edge of a river. To the right of the cranes is the solid green sprawl of Forest Park, the Vancouver docks, and then at the extreme horizon, the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
It may seem strange, but when I go to this place I often end up thinking about violence. It’s not something I do purposefully, it just happens on its own. What do I mean by that? There are probably all kinds of abusive dynamics playing out in the city as I look upon it, but I can’t physically see any of that from this bench. So again, what would cause me to think of violence?
Derrick Jensen wrote, “This culture is based on turning the living into the dead. Turning life into death”. I guess that’s what I always end up doing, I’m looking at dead things; office buildings, oil tankers, dinosaur-like cranes, etc. Death. When you begin to see these things for what they are, you begin to also see them for what they once were, and therein lies the violence. I don’t see high rise condos, I see mountains torn in half and old growth forests obliterated. I don’t see cars and trucks streaming down the highway, I see bloody mutilated children screaming for dead parents after a US airstrike to secure oil interests. Something as seemingly benign as a cellular phone contains an a level of suffering that most of us can’t even begin to comprehend.
Coming face to face with consequence. (WARNING: This is an extremely graphic video)
That was a 12-year old boy with his entire jaw blown off by munitions fired during the ongoing genocide in Syria. There have been millions just like him. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Vietnam and Korea, Laos, the list goes on and on. Ask yourself, is it worth it? More importantly, ask this kid… is it worth it? Don’t expect a response, he’ll never talk again with half his fucking face obliterated, in fact, he’s probably been dead for days now. Part of the reason that this culture continues to exist with such unrelenting support is that we can choose to ignore the consequences of our actions. We can choose not to watch videos like this. We can pretend they don’t exist, but they do, and one day we are going to be forced to deal with this shitstorm we’ve created.
Of course, what holds true for the human casualties of this worldwide war holds true for the non-human victims as well. Have you ever noticed that the only time environmental catastrophes (As if life on this planet right now isn’t just one giant environmental catastrophe) are reported on by mainstream media is when human beings are forced to confront the consequences of their culture. Take the 2010 BP oil spill for example, this event generated a media firestorm unprecedented for an ecological disaster at that time. The 3 months long oil leak had a horrific affect on the already long-suffering ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico. The world could not ignore this spill though, and why? Because of the extensive economic impact that it had on the fishing and tourism industries. It’s the same story, every fucking time. How many news outlets were reporting on the quickly growing 8,500 square mile dead zone in the exact same area long before the BP spill? Virtually none, because nobody gives a shit about consequence until it threatens our god given right to eat fresh shrimp in Denver and affordably drive 10mpg monster trucks.
I recently had a conversation with a pacifist friend of mine. He’s a kind and caring individual, and he steadfastly maintains that the use of violence, any violence, is an unjustified act. I ask him if he’s a violent person. He tells me no. I ask him if he believes violent action is ever a valid means of change. He tells me no. He tells me that violence begets violence. He tells me that if I want peace I need to visualize peace, I need to practice peace, I need to fight violence with love and empathy.
Everybody existing within this culture practices violence on a daily basis for one simple reason. Whether you want to admit it or not, violence is being done in your name. Every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. And now I’m wondering, if this pacifist friend of mine had to witness, or better yet, experience, the consequences of this violence on a daily basis, would he still feel the same way? If he had to live amongst the clear cuts and toxic rivers and bloated carcasses, would he still still sit idly by? Of course not.
Pacifism is an excuse for inaction, you are just as guilty as I am.