One of my favourite poems by William Wordsworth which I can’t help but reproduce in entirety reads thus –
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure: —
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
When we stop for a moment on our tracks to think of all the various acts of violence that can come to our mind, we will quiver at the enormity and increasing novelty of them all. Properties damaged or destroyed by violence can still be restored, but precious lives? Can people killed in violence be brought back to life? Can their loved ones recover completely from the brutal fact that snatched a dear one from their lives? Acts of violence are always external, but their causes and impacts are largely internal. The idea of violence is conceived in the mind and then takes birth as visible actions. And, at the root of such conception of violence is hatred – sheer hatred – rising either out of differences in thoughts or beliefs or judgement. Volumes can be written on the topic of violence, but I’ll briefly touch upon few of them and their ramifications.
Heated aggressive exchanges between husband and wife, alcoholic husband bashing his wife in a fit of drunken stupor, in-laws beating the daughter-in-law to press for their demand for more dowry, bride-burning for dowry, beating the wife/ daughter-in-law for conceiving a female, forced abortions, mother beating children mercilessly – either because she is frustrated for unspoken issues of her own or because her children are truly a handful for her to handle, beating one’s own self because the situation is out of hand, siblings killing each other over property, homicide – are a few of the many instances of violence in the family.
- Violence at a societal level
People groups behaving violently towards each other – race against race, tribe against tribe, ethnic groups against each other, religious groups against each other, a neighbourhood ganging up against one person or family for some conflict of interest, in Indian context – caste violence, honour killings or villagers inflicting atrocities on newly married couple who have tied the knot in deviance to accepted cultural practices – the resultant arson and lynching paint a shoddy picture of human affairs.
When protests for rights take violent turns, they often result in mob violence and riots. Either clashes of protesters with law enforcement agencies or clashes among rival protesting groups, a sudden angry exchange in the traffic leading to group formation, stone pelting and vandalism often leading the way to organized acts of criminal nature, not to mention gang rapes and/ or murders.
- Violence for experimentation and thrill
Alfred Nobel did not invent the dynamite to blow up roads, bridges, houses in order to demolish developmental works, cause fear, havoc and mayhem. Nobel just discovered a new method to blast rock! He did not intend to spread violence for the mere thrill of experimentation. Today, the principle of the invention of dynamite is applied to invent variations of explosives which are used for destruction and devastation. At the same time, we do have some crazy creative minds (psychos, I would call them) who gain saddistic pleasure from experimenting, inventing and discovering stuff that are intended to propagate barbarity.
- Violence as political vendetta
Violence resulting from political vendetta is not unknown to any country in the world. Most countries in the world have had their share to witness such violence during some periods of their political history. The gains from such vendetta politics are minuscule and short-lived, but the scars they leave behind are long-lasting and generational – at times heaping the onus on the future political clan to seek forgiveness for or make amends for the losses that the previous generations have caused.
- Violence wrecked by terrorism
Terrorism arising from cultural or religious indoctrination serves NO PURPOSE save destruction. Well, that in fact is the sole objective of various terrorist outfits – mere devastation!
Random acts of violence are the saddest of all. We are aware of the mass shootings in school campuses, road rages and accidental celebratory gun shots. Though there may at times be some reasons beneath such random events of violence, none justify the actions.
Is there something called ‘silent violence’? Have you experienced fist fights in your head at times – the times you feel you would rise to bash up someone and counter their attacks as well? That’s silent violence. It does not cause immediate visible destruction, but eats you away from inside.
I deliberately refrain from quoting instances for each of these categories of violence. But, I want you to recall episodes of each such type that you might have witnessed, read or heard about. No matter what be the reason, was violence the only answer in all those cases?
Violence is not God’s design for mankind. God has created humans with thinking and reasoning minds, just like His, that can debate and dialogue over diverse issues, that can agree to disagree on conflicting interests, that can tolerate each others’ differences and still continue to coexist in harmony. That we are created differently in appearances and thoughts is an evidence of God’s creative genius. So, aren’t we mindless to clamour for uniformity of thought and expression?
It is such a paradox that we are liberal to tolerate sin, but are intolerant towards views, opinions and practices of others simply because they are not in line with what we consider to be right! I have always maintained in my articles that the only absolute for what is right and wrong is God’s standards and His standards hold true universally. Practices or beliefs rising beyond God’s standards are relative – they are not binding on anyone and cannot and should not be imposed on anyone.
Wars have been fought over land borders or revenge. Countless soldiers have been martyred rendering mothers childless, children fatherless and robbing the happiness of wives as they enter into widowhood. The United Nations was established in 1945 after World War II with the intention of preventing future wars. It has remarkably succeeded, hats off to the wise think-tanks and diplomats of all countries that have got together to keep dialogues going on in volatile regions – we haven’t witnessed a World War III!
But that having been said, wars haven’t been deleted off the pages of history. It is good to feel proud for the martyrs and marvel at their valiance. It is noble to provide financial security for their families in exchange for the lives that have been sacrificed. However, have we ever gone beyond to think of the untold mental agony the widow goes through or the psychological damage caused to the child who never got to have a glimpse of who his/ her father was? Long after the wars are over and the fumes have cooled off, we are left with soldiers maimed for life. They may win medals of gallantry, but we cannot understand their mounting frustration of each day as they depend upon others to go about their daily chores! We cannot even begin to imagine the battles fought by soldiers off the battlefield – with PTSD. Even the most empathetic civilian cannot claim to understand them because civilians do not experience or witness the toughness of battle scenes as soldiers do.
None of us is an eternal occupant in planet earth. None of us is the custodian of a given set of values or beliefs. None of our self-interests weigh more than lives of others. Do egos cost more than lives – those lives which we do not have the power to create?
Reflecting on all acts of violence, I can only lament in Wordsworth’s words – ‘What man has made of man’!
Each act of violence causes irreparable psychological damage. We cannot eradicate violence from the face of the planet. But, each of us can pledge not to endorse, encourage, enjoy, practise or propagate violence in any form, whether within the four walls of our houses or outside, whatever be the reason.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – The Bible