Growing up, we are told on several occasions that violence is never the answer to an argument. We are expected to solve all conflicts with civil discourse or to walk away if that isn’t possible. Everyone hugs and shares and gets along in perfect harmony.
But then reality comes along and slaps the shit out of you, and you start to think that you may have been lied to.
That first experience can come in a variety of forms. It could come young, if you live in a household that finds spanking to be an acceptable form of discipline. It could come after your first schoolyard fight when you get knocked out by someone bigger and stronger. It might come much later, when a gang of disreputable youths start punching you on the subway and demand your wallet, watch, and jacket. But sooner or later, you find out that physical force can absolutely settle an argument.
Before we go further, it’s probably prudent to say that violence isn’t always the RIGHT answer; just that it is AN answer. In any argument, conflict, or discussion, violence is always present as an option for victory. Whether the consequences of using force to solve an argument are manageable or not is another matter entirely. Beating your neighbor bloody until he agrees to keep his dog off of your lawn might get you the immediate result you want, but the subsequent police involvement, criminal trial, and incarceration might not be worth it.
If you think about it hard enough, you’ll realize that violence underlies almost every aspect of our civilized society. Behind every one of our laws, behind every diplomatic exchange, there is an understanding that failure to come to a peaceful agreement could result in physical conflict. Think about the above example regarding the two neighbors. Why would the violent neighbor submit to arrest by police, trial in court, and incarceration? Why not beat them all bloody, too? It’s because he knows that if he doesn’t comply with verbal commands, he will be detained by force. If he resists that use of force, police will escalate up the use of force continuum until he submits, up to and including lethal force. This would be true whether the neighbor was accused of assault, murder, or driving with a suspended license. When we as a society make a law, we are agreeing that, even for the most insignificant and asinine law, we are willing to enforce that law with violence.
Our history is rife with examples of individuals, tribes, and nations solving their differences through the judicious use of kinetic diplomacy. Violence comes as natural to us as breathing. Civilized society likes to think that it has grown past all this, that we’ve somehow evolved above such barbaric methods and now live in a more enlightened state. But underneath it all remains an unspoken truth, which is that we still live under the threat of force. Might does not make right, but it still makes the rules.
There is plenty more to discuss on this topic, but for now we’ll leave it at this: despite popular belief, violence is always an answer.