Saturday, 13 March 2021

Understanding violence


In the aftermath of the horrific Sarah Everard murder, violence has been one of the big topics of discussion on social media.

Loads of people have contributed with harrowing stories of their own, by expressing sympathy, by asking what they can do to help, and with useful advice and information.

However many others have interjected with appalling rubbish like victim-blaming, "not all men" mind-farts, blatant whataboutery tactics, divisiveness, and treating the discussion on violence like some kind of vapid point-scoring competition.

Of course a lot of the appalling rubbish is deliberate bad faith stuff, aimed at derailing the debate, and preventing any kind of consensus, however I strongly believe that a lot of the bad takes come about because people simply aren't thinking about the subject in any kind of logical or systematic way.

I've already done a post on Facebook trying to explain the illogical identity-defensive thinking processes that are responsible for so many men somehow concluding that releasing noxious "not all men" mind-farts into other people's important discussions is a good thing for them to be doing.

In this article I'm going to lay out the way I understand violence, how I categorise different types of violence, and how the different types of violence can so often overlap and interrelate. 

This isn't any kind of official way of thinking about things, it's just how I try to understand thinks myself, which I hope you find interesting or useful.

There are three main subgroups within the overall category of violence: self-harm, interpersonal violence, and systemic/institutional violence.

The Sarah Everard murder illustrates how different types of violence can overlap, because it's clearly an example of male-on-female violence, which is a sub-subcategory of interpersonal violence, but the fact the alleged murderer is an off duty police officer, and the low importance the legal system seems to give to preventing male violence against women are both aspects of systemic violence.

In the same week as the Sarah Everard disappearance, Meghan Markle spoke out about her mental health issues and having had suicidal thoughts, which is relevant to the self-harm category of violence.

Piers Morgan's sustained campaign of bullying and harassment against her (apparently motivated by his intense bitterness over an incident when he got her drunk, but she got away from him) is more interpersonal violence.

The way corporate media hasn't just allowed him to get away with it for years, but actively provided him huge platforms to do it on, is another example of systemic violence.

One of the main focuses of my work over the years has been opposition to systemic violence. Opposing state brutality, military conflict, economic warfare, rentierism, capitalist criminality and exploitation, etc, but I've covered self-harm and interpersonal violence too when I've written about subjects like online bullying, bigotry, extreme-right propaganda tactics, and my own personal mental health issues.

The main focus of conversations about violence this week has understandably been on male-on-female violence, with huge numbers of women publicly detailing the harrowing experiences men have put them through.

In my view it's entirely appropriate for men to join the conversation to offer sympathy, to ask what they can do to help, and also to widen the discussion of the broader category of male-violence by giving personal examples of how male violence has also negatively impacted their own lives, through male violence against children, and male violence against other men.

In my view it doesn't matter whether you're male or female, if you've never had a single first hand experience of male violence, you've led an unusually fortunate life, because almost all of the rest of us have suffered profoundly traumatic experiences at the hands of men. It's just that a lot of us don't like to talk about it all the time, or even ever.

It's absolutely vital that people listen to all victims of violence when they speak out, but there are different approaches that will determine whether you're adding to the debate or derailing it when you try to raise your own experiences of violence.

If the main focus of the discussion is male-on-female violence, and a man brings up his own personal experience of male violence to add to the narrative that male violence is a serious problem that requires action, that's a good and commendable approach.

If a man takes a "what about me, everyone look at me!" approach, he's clearly talking over other people's important conversations, and he's going to get shouted down for being an insensitive attention-seeking narcissist.

And if a man attempts to turn the debate into some kind of petty point scoring competition by cherry-picking statistics to diminish the importance of male-on-female violence (eg. men are more likely to be attacked on the street than women), it's difficult to conclude that they're not just being deliberately divisive.

Women can be divisive too. There's absolutely no need whatever to trivialise female-on-male violence in order to correctly assert that male-on-female violence is a huge problem.

Yes, of course we all know that women are statistically more likely to be on the receiving end, but what's the purpose of saying something like "nobody is talking about how there's almost no female to male violence" other than to turn the debate into some kind of petty and divisive point-scoring exercise between men and women?

Why belittle millions of other people's suffering and try to drive a wedge between men and women, instead of building consensus that male violence is a really serious problem, and that yes, all violence is wrong?

Domestic violence against males is hugely under-reported because we live in a toxic macho society in which the social expectation is that men are the strong ones, not the weak ones who are beaten and psychologically abused by their partners. So how must it feel to a man in that awful position to see people minimising and trivialising traumatic experiences they've actually lived through, just because they're treating the debate on violence as some kind of divisive point-scoring exercise between men and women?

Men don't talk about being victims of violence because they're afraid of being judged as weak and unmanly, just like they're far less inclined to admit to their mental health problems, which manifests as absolutely appalling suicide rates, especially amongst younger men, where it's actually the number one cause of death. Issues like refusing to ask for help and suicide are part of the self-harm component of violence.

Under-reporting of violence by men against women is also a massive issue, but for a very different reason, and that's the way the system repeatedly fails women who try to report their abusers.

Why go through the trauma of reliving and recounting abusive experiences, and sacrifice so much time and effort seeking justice, if the system is set up to let the abuser get away with it most of the time anyway?

Once again we're back to the way the different kinds of violence overlap and interrelate. The system is so utterly dysfunctional because of the low priority the political establishment and legal system (which are both still  heavily male-dominated) put on combating male violence against women.

If the system wasn't so utterly dysfunctional, the problem of male-on-female violence wouldn't be nearly as bad.

In conclusion I'd like to add a few pointers on how to engage constructively in discussions about violence.

1. Listen to all victims of violence and be supportive
2. Don't talk over other people's suffering
3. It's not a competition because nobody can ever "win" the discussion on violence
4. Ask how you can help instead of being argumentative or using divisive language

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9 comments:

Vivien Markham said...

A social worker friend told me that violence against spouses or children is present in all classes how come the press and media make violence a working class problem? They come to the attention of the authoritites and police whereas the middle and upper classes keep it among themselves and don't tell anybody that their lives are less than perfect and are ashamed of it.

Anonymous said...

Sweet, but it's worth remembering that Thomas A Clarke the writer of this blog is a cis het white male and whilst he at least recognises his position of privilege and power within society (afforded to him at the cost of every other P.o.C, woman and trans person across the intersectional spectrum), he is still beholden to it and despite this; wholly compromised.

I'd gladly ask anyone reading this, heartfelt as I'm sure the poor dear is trying to be, to simply look for works on the same subject by woman and people of colour. Y'know, those individuals who've been on the receiving end of this violence instead of those who've up until recently ignorantly participated in it. It's 2021, I think we can do without having a man tell us how to behave for a change.

Anonymous said...

"Sweet, but it's worth remembering that Thomas A Clarke the writer of this blog is a cis het white male and whilst he at least recognises his position of privilege and power within society (afforded to him at the cost of every other P.o.C, woman and trans person across the intersectional spectrum), he is still beholden to it and despite this; wholly compromised."

LoL

Unknown said...

I think to suggest that AAV has no knowledge of violence is deeply wrong. Most boys get bullied at some stage and deserve a voice. I thought his ideas were thoughtful and helpful. Turning groups against each other will only exacerbate problems. An effort by all is required to improve society. What I do feel is being overlooked is the fact that children are not born violent. They learn it. Several times recently I have received very distasteful videos of children being aggressive which apparently the senders think are funny. Teachers work hard to help children who bully to stop it, but we need to look much more carefully at parenting skills and attitudes to violence among children if we want change.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous: *Lol.

Silly privileged male.

Lol.

Anonymous said...

1. Listen to all victims of violence and be supportive
2. Don't talk over other people's suffering
3. It's not a competition because nobody can ever "win" the discussion on violence
4. Ask how you can help instead of being argumentative or using divisive language

How is this going to stop another psychopathic police officer abducting and killing a woman off duty?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous

It's not mate. The writers a socialist. Tells you all you need to know really Lol.

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El Dee said...

What concerned me about the 'State Violence' aspect of this has been the obvious differences in how different people were treated.

On one hand in Scotland we had illegal gatherings (no permission requested and no social distancing) of Rangers fans following the confirmation they'd won the league. It was well known this would happen and it was well known they would gather at Ibrox and George Square. The police COULD have gotten ahead of this and closed the area off and sent those turning up, home. They did neither. 'Fans' were allowed to gather in large numbers unhindered by police who merely watched. They kept watching whilst they set off fireworks in public areas (these were all public streets at or near Glasgow City Centre) No thought was given to how many innocent members of the public could be hurt nor to how many would end up being infected with COVID as thousands gathered without masks and caused mayhem whilst shoulder to shoulder. It has since proved that there WAS a spike in infection due to this.

The police patted themselves on the back for doing nothing whilst everyone else criticised them. Violent football fans are okay if it so happens it's the team most of the cops support.

Meanwhile, a peaceful vigil for someone murdered by a serving police officer is violently disrupted by the same group he worked for. Not even a hint of irony..