Violence: A Government’s Weapon, A Citizen’s Sin

Violence has become a rampant weapon by organized authority, we may have failed to realize its abundance in the political sphere.

As globalization takes its course in the world political arena, information that previously seemed distant has become easily assessable. By simply following prominent Instagram users living in Palestine and Israel, it was possible to obtain some insight into the Israeli-Palestine conflict of May 2021.

Increased information assess has sparked debates on whether violence has increased in recent years, or if technology has allowed us to have wider access to what was already present. Even more important has been the involvement of organized authority (government) in violence.

Violence could be used as a means to achieve personal interests or ensure security, even though it is generally considered a vice. So, the government may sometimes use violence to pursue their interests (which varies depending on who is in power). And while their use of violence is not always evident, it could be perceived through its policies and use of law enforcement.

The first example would be the United States. The United States (who is also the most involved nation) has countlessly interjected itself in the domestic matters of foreign nations. One prominent example was the invasion of Libya by NATO forces in 2011 for regime change. While the regime of President Ghaddafi was not perfect, this was going to be the third time the United States would invade another country seeking regime change. In these three scenarios (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya), the results were all catastrophic, suffered by surrounding countries.

So, when the US invades these regions (especially since they have a strategic interest in them), the result is often more disastrous than anticipated, and yet the policies continue. Senator John McCain once complained the US had acquired so much C-130 (military aircraft), “we’re going to have a C-130 in every schoolyard in America.” Investing in the military is important for defense, but with limited land space and so much military technology, chances are it will be deployed elsewhere.

Over in Asia, China has often used violence to achieve its political interests. One of such is its suppression of the Uyghur Muslim population within the country. This specific group is subject to detention camps where the government forces attempt to strip them of their religious beliefs and even go as for to impose birth control. The Uyghurs are also more culturally similar to Central Asian countries, and this creates a divideBeijing has also been known to show toleration and engage with forces that use violent means, a current example being the Taliban.

Recently, China proclaimed a death sentence on a Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, for alleged drug trafficking. This many believe is a tit-for-tat game played by China which is evidently unpleased about the detention of a Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, in December 2018. The Chinese government is also known for its reluctance to be involved with the domestic policies of its trade countries. While this is different from the United States who is more interactive, they are likely uninterested in making corrupt regimes feel an economic impact for their actions.

Over in Africa, despite the instability of the government institutions as they undergo their democratic consolidation, the use of violence by government forces has been rampant. In Nigeria in 2020 October, the citizens (specifically the youths) decided to use Independence Day, October 1st, to protest against corruption and an overt violent segment of the police force called Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). The protests sparked outrage and support from celebrities like Kanye West.

However October 20, the Nigerian soldiers were said to have conducted open fire on protesters in Lekki-toll gate, the largest assembly point. While the Nigerian government refused to be accountable, it can be assumed that the Nigerian military would not conduct open fire on citizens without the government being aware. The violent attack was a means to curb the protests against corruption, protect selfish interests, and maintain “order”. It was not the first time the government had used domestic security against its people.

Countries in the Middle East would also often succumb to violent means like the other countries listed above. Iran has often used extreme punishment such as the death penalty to maintain control in the region. A journalist, Ruhollah Zam, was executed due to his opinion through a platform he ran, Amad News. Through this platform, he criticized government officials with over a million followers on telegram. He was hanged after the Iranian supreme court pronounced a death sentence. The Iranian government seemed to be no proponent of freedom of speech and would silence (or execute) any potential threats to its regime.

In 2019, there was a nationwide protest by Iranians against the overnight rise in petrol prices. These were met with violence from the Iranian law enforcement. Amnesty International concluded that there were many serious human rights violations, estimating the killing of 304 men and arrest of more than 7,000 people. The Iranian government (similar to Nigeria) has acted differently, significantly using violence within its country to protect the interest of the elites and ruling group.

Some use of violence appears controversial, and many would deem it a “necessary violence”. An example is when the United States or the Islamic States communicates to their members that there is an ongoing conflict between the two parties, and to ensure their personal survival, they would need to weaken the opponent’s forces in an “all or nothing” battle. George’s Bush quote, “you are either with us, or against us,” in the wake of 911, or the chants for death to America by members of the Islamic State portrays this extreme battle. While both parties may seek peace, violence is the route the parties have taken to reach it. 

The discussion becomes more philosophical (and historical) when we attempt to understand why this is the case. Violence has persisted for most (if not all) of recorded history, and what is at play is not a new phenomenon. From the expansion and conquests of Romans, Mongols, Arabs, the British, and European slavery to the confined violence occurring in the Aztecs in unencountered Americas, violence has been present in all situations.

However, using it to pursue (selfish) interests is immoral and should always be frowned upon. Despite the vast appearance of thefts, laws are made to prohibit such actions. Therefore, it is only reasonable to expect the governing authorities to continue to seek more modest means of achieving their interests. 

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