Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dom Hélder Câmara: Violence Begets Violence, Which Begets Further Violence

Dom Hélder Câmara

My theme for meditation today: Dom Hélder Câmara's prophetic analysis of the spiral of violence in his 1971 book of that name, a copy of which Alistair McIntosh has helpfully made available online. Here's the heart of Dom Câmara's argument that violence begets violence, which in turn begets more violence:

Look closely at the injustices in the underdeveloped countries, in the relations between the developed world and the underdeveloped world. You will find that everywhere the injustices are a form of violence. One can and must say that they are everywhere the basic violence, violence No. 1.  . . .  
This established violence, this violence No. 1, attracts violence No. 2, revolt, either of the oppressed themselves or of youth, firmly resolved to battle for a more just and human world.  . . .  
When conflict comes out into the streets, when violence No. 2 tries to resist violence No. 1, the authorities consider themselves obliged to preserve or re-establish public order, even if this means using force; this is violence No. 3. Sometimes they go even further, and this is becoming increasingly common: in order to obtain information, which may indeed be important to public security, the logic of violence leads them to use moral and physical torture - as though any information extracted through torture deserved the slightest attention!  . . .  
The world is heading for trouble, protest, violence, coming from the oppressed and the young. 
Who has any illusions about the stepping up of governmental reactions? We need only consider how many countries have submitted in our time to extra-constitutional governments or dictatorships. Look at the map and count the number of countries in the hands of the military. 
Thus, the inescapable conclusion is that there is a real threat of an escalation of violence, of seeing the world fall into a spiral of violence.

The violence of brutal systemic injustice, which reduces some human beings to the subhuman status of things, produces the reactionary violence of those struggling for their human rights and to break out of the subhuman status consigned to them by the injustice of the system itself. This, in turn, produces the violent backlash of government repression, which is ultimately all about safeguarding the system that produced the first level of systemic violence itself--and this response assures that violence will spiral and continue spiraling through one society after another until its systemic roots are addressed. 

I wonder when we'll begin listening to Dom Hélder Câmara.

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