The Folly of Political Violence

I’ve been cautioned on several occasions not to use the word anarchism because, in the eyes of most people, an anarchist is a bomb tossing madman, a violent nihilist who seeks to spread chaos throughout society.  Funny how we prejudge entire groups of people based on the actions of a violent few.  Nowadays people might be tempted to insert the word “Muslim” in that sentence.  And, depending on which way you lean, you might be tempted to characterize the opposition in the same way.  

There is no question that there has been a rise in political violence of all kinds.  And, here, I speak of neither of the most egregious forms, war and terrorism.  Rather, I  refer to both the rhetoric of violence and of the violent acts perpetrated by the most dangerous of all actors, the true believers.  When people assault and kill each other because they have become genuinely convinced that the “other” is an obstacle to justice who simply must be stopped, we have reached a very dangerous place.

As someone who regards most all laws, regulations and authority as fundamentally illegitimate, I do believe there is often value in resistance, but not of the violent kind.  Rather, the proper form of resistance is nonviolent civil disobedience, as practiced by Gandhi and Dr. King.  I am not a pacifist as I believe that everyone has a right to protect themselves from harm by whatever means necessary.  But I am a practical man who understands the folly of using any form of violence to try and achieve political goals.  And, as a libertarian, the idea of harming an innocent person for any reason is immoral.  In fact, in order to join the Libertarian Party, one must sign a pledge that states “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”  

But, speaking only pragmatically, violent acts do nothing but create a climate in which more, not less, authority is likely to be wielded by the central government.  Terrorists are often very honest in admitting that that is exactly the response they hope for.  They want a more and more authoritarian society.  I don’t and I sincerely doubt that most people out there either hinting at or advocating violent acts do either.  You say you want a revolution?  No, you don’t.  The two most famous revolutions of the modern Era are the French and Russian Revolutions.  Both led, within just a few short years, to an even more oppressive, totalitarian society.   What you want is change and what you are is impatient that everyone else doesn’t agree with you.

Because, you see, violence begets violence.  And a world in which violence rules will most definitely not be one in which people who value peace, freedom and justice come to power.  It will be one where those with the fewest scruples and the greatest willingness to kill and imprison its enemies will rise to the top.  

So, not only is political violence morally wrong, it is stupid.  It is not a shortcut to achieving the society you seek.  It is a road littered with death and suffering,  It is a “Highway to Hell.”  So, whoever you are, I hope you “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  True change is hard and involves engaging the hearts and minds of others.  But that kind of change is possible.  We see it everyday and it is that change that will ultimately lead to a better, more just world.  Those small, sure steps on a “Stairway to Heaven.”

With apologies to AC/DC, The Who and Led Zeppelin, I will conclude today’s post.  As always, thanks for following along and, if you like what you read, please share it with your friends.  Have a great week!

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