Cultural Violence

Wars all over.

I was going to write about Terence Rattigan or John Osborne or cult actress Jessica Harper – but I’m still musing on the horrors (& joys) of News Dramas.  A few violent incidents have caught my eye this week… I’ll have forgotten them in less than a fortnight (unless they develop) so I may as well write about them now.

Frist up was the American soldier who shot dead 16 Afghan civilians. Since Afghans are not fully human in the British media the emphasis was more on how horrible it is to kill children in general, then on how trigger happy Americans are in general, then on how dangerous this would make life for the troops, then on how deranged the killer was and then a few people on the left fumed that the killer was probably evil, not deranged, and was taking revenge for the deaths of his comrades in an unprofessional manner and this is the norm in Occupations. The debate seems to be going nowhere since America is big and can do what it likes and the soldier is being charged and the surviving villagers have been paid off.

Second up was the Toulouse spree killer who killed three ethnic minority French soldiers and three Jewish children and a Rabbi. At first it looked like the work of a right-wing racist, then it turned out to be a Muslim of Algerian origin who grew up in the crummy Toulouse suburbs who was killing to highlight the French army’s presence in Afghanistan and the plight of Palestinian children. If he’d been a right-wing racist the media reaction would have had a safe pattern to fit into and would have denounced him as evil and a terrible sign of how we must be vigilant against haters. Since he’s not – or at least he could be on the Islamic right – but technically in France he’s swept into the left category due to being a religious and ethnic minority, working-class, disadvantaged and for hating The War and Israel… yet on the other hand chasing after a seven-year old girl, grabbing her by the hair and shooting her at point-blank range, even if she is Jewish, isn’t going to be popular with any sane member of any wing – the mainstream media has been silent or a bit muted and scattershot. To the real debate that is being covertly stirred by the killings, the killer himself is fairly besides the point. European anti-Semitism created Israel – if America loses interest in the place – we could wipe it out in a heartbeat. Only we don’t know how we’ll feel about the wreckage. Without fanatical Jewish settlers to demonize we’d be left with the horrible knowledge that we forced them into that desert and then killed them because they couldn’t integrate, and they couldn’t integrate because we forced them into that desert with our hatred. The Palestinians were innocently going about their business, the Jews tried everything to keep us off their backs… when it’s all said and done… left or right… it’s European nominal Christians that caused this horror. And we’re still not nice enough to sort it.

Lastly there’s the murder of a teenage black boy in Florida, Trayvon Martin, by an over-zealous member of the neighbourhood watch. For many people this is about race – the teenager was killed for being black either because his killer is a racist who hates black people or because the killer stereotypes black youths as criminals. In truth anyone who says it wouldn’t cross their mind that a black male teenager with a hoodie in a gated-community was up to no good knows that black teenager personally. All teenagers – esp. sulky ones that hang about the streets (which is all of them) cause anxiety in us olds – but the black male variety has the most negative baggage hanging around his shoulders. Who doesn’t think he could be carrying a knife??? Look at all those gangsta videos. Even the Liberace of rap Kanye West can look threatening from certain angles when he’s in the mood. For others the murder is about America’s insane gun laws specifically the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that permits potential victims to use any amount of force on the person they think might be about to victimize them. In this case the killer followed Trayvon and accosted him after phoning the police and being told not to go near him and still got away with a self-defence claim. Myself – I feel sick that a young man got killed for walking down the wrong street – and I look at pictures of the killer and think he’s the slightly dim stalkerish type who thinks real life and Chuck Norris films resemble one another. As for the police – they probably need society to tell them which set of assumptions they’re supposed to work from – because being human they’re going to be working on social assumptions.

And that made me think about our culture’s bizarre attitudes to violence.

Never in human history have we disliked violence more and never in human history have we valued it more.


Every direction you turn in violence is glorified. It’s the Jungian opposite to our settled suburban sprawls that put work, home, family, buying stuff and tolerance at the top of our agendas.

On the right and in service of any established State (right or left) we still have Queen and Country (or Other Leader and THE NATION) and notions of Just War (which should be renamed Just War IMO).

On the left and in service of any wannabe State (right or left) we have a passion for riots, uprisings and slogans so great the t-shirt industry would collapse without it.

In the overtly apolitical Status Quo in the middle we have an orgy of self-mastery through guns, knifes and yelling thuggish insults at our nearest rivals.

Apart from a few tree-huggers who are about as sexy as mud unless young and naked in mud – everything in the culture encourages us to kill for countries, causes or kicks.

When it comes to violence every last one of us is a stinking, nose-pressed-to-the-window, armchair, pain tourist hypocrite, so if the unhinged, the OCD and the fanatical among us go amok we’ve done next to nothing to prevent it.


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