Essay

Violence and its types and history

Violence is the expression of physical or verbal force against self or other, compelling action against ones will on pain of being hurt. The word violence covers a broad spectrum. It can vary from a physical altercation between two beings, where a slight injury may be the outcome, to war and genocide, where millions may die as a result.[1] [2]

In terms of our everyday lives, violence has become an important aspect of the way the events around us take place

The global violence of war and militarism is intimately linked with the violence people experience in their personal daily lives. Violence becomes normalised when we constantly receive information from the media about crimes and atrocities which happen around the world.[3]

The violence against women at the domestic front and in other forms is another worrying influence of violence on the society. Mostly in the poor strata of the society this aspect of domestic violence has been very prevalent.

Violence among the youth has been another major concern in the recent past. Official crime statistics reveal high rates of offense among young people. These offenses include rape, assault, and theft. About 34 percent of all offenders arrested for criminal offenses in 2006 were under the age of twenty-one (Federal Bureau of Investigations 2007b). People exposed to violence from a young age become highly sensitive to violence and might even resort to such ways later in life.

Religious and political conflicts have also often resulted in violence leading to the biggest riots causing large scale harm to the society and taking many lives in the process. There have been various such incidents like the partition riots, the Godhra riots and the likes in India and the likes of anti-Semitic riots of Frankfurt, ancient blood libel against Jews etc on the international stage.

Hence violence is something that breeds throughout the society in various garbs acting as a serious threat to a peaceful existence of mankind, be it on a personal level or on a larger international level. Throughout history, most religions and individuals like Mahatma Gandhi have preached that humans are capable of eliminating individual violence and organizing societies through purely nonviolent means. Gandhi himself once wrote: “A society organized and run on the basis of complete non-violence would be the purest anarchy”. This clearly shows that violence has always been a major concern since historic times and continues to be one in today’s world.

Conceptual Framework

Violence is a broad term that can be defined in different ways depending on the perception of the individual and the context. Some widely accepted definitions of violence can be summarized.

The problem of violence as defined in the World report on violence and health (WRVH)[4] is:

“the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”

It[4] further divides the general definition of violence into three sub-types according to the victim-perpetrator relationship.

Self-directed violence refers to violence in which the perpetrator and the victim are the same individual and is subdivided into self-abuse and suicide.

Interpersonal violence refers to violence between individuals, and is subdivided into family and intimate partner violence and community violence. The former category includes child maltreatment; intimate partner violence; and elder abuse, while the latter is broken down into acquaintance and stranger violence and includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions.

Collective violence refers to violence committed by larger groups of individuals and can be subdivided into social, political and economic violence.

Hence the above definition of the concept of violence and its implications on the individual/group or the whole society encircles all the various effects that violence may have on the society in any form of it.

Review of Literature

There have been works of literature discussing the behaviour of violence and its implications. These works are mostly in the forms of articles and books on violence. The major works that need a mention in this regard would be:

1. A History of Violence[5] by Steven Pinker

This is an essay/article in which the author Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, talks about how the current era is probably the “most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth”. Although this seems to be a hard-to-accept fact, but Pinker talks about violence in man’s history and compares it to today and systematically shows how violence was prevalent to the extent of being even a source of entertainment in those times.

2. Two Concepts of Violence by Vittorio Bufacchi

[6]The aim of this review article is to explore some theoretical issues regarding the nature and scope of violence. There are two ways of thinking about violence: in terms of an act of force, or in terms of a violation. Those who define violence as an intentional act of excessive or destructive force endorse a narrow conception of violence (the Minimalist Conception of Violence or MCV), while those who see violence in terms of a violation of rights champion a broader conception of violence (the Comprehensive Conception of Violence or CCV). The strengths and weaknesses of both approaches will be assessed.

3. Critique of Violence by Walter Benjamin’

This is a critique written by Walter Benjamin in which he criticizes the behaviour of violence and talks about how violence is not acceptable in any form and cannot be justified with any possible explanation.

Empirical Study And Generalization

Case 1:

Case Description:

A minor road accident takes place between an autorikshaw and a maruti 800 car. The driver of the autorikshaw (subject 1) is a 45 year old man. The driver of the Maruti car (subject 2) is a 20 year old college student.

The autorikshaw driver is forced to apply brakes because of stray cattle ahead and the maruti 800 behind is unable to react soon enough and hits the autorikshaw which causes a minor damage to both the autorickshaw and the car. Because of it being a minor accident, subject 1 keeps driving considering the moving traffic on the road but subject 2 keeps following him and eventually makes him stop. Subject 2 starts arguing with subject 1 rudely. Subject 1 tries to explain the unavoidability of the accident calmly but the youth i.e. subject 2 pushes him. Subject 1 still tries to reason out but subject 2 slaps subject 1 and uses physical force. At this stage subject 1 has to defend himself and hence hits subject 2 back which results in subject 2 getting overpowered and falling down.

This brawl catches attention of the people in the vicinity. After sometime a group of labourers working on the construction of a flyover nearby come and inquire the matter from subject 1. Soon they start threatening subject 2 to either compensate subject 1 or leave the scene peacefully. When subject 2 refuses to fulfil any of their demands and asks for compensation for himself instead, the labourers attack him physically. After many attempts from subject 1’s side to peace out the situation and pleading from subject 2 the labourers finally stop.

Subject 1 then calmly lends subject 2 a hand and advises him to control his rage and violent instincts and then makes a compromise on the sharing of expenses of damage.

Role of Violence in the Case:

As is apparent, subject 2 was more violent and cannot control his rage initially and resorts to violence to solve a problem or a situation. The use of violence led to worsening of the situation and resulted in the older and wiser subject 1 also using violence to tackle the means used by subject 2. Not only did it cause harm to subject 1 but also to subject 2.

The situation worsened when the spectators also got involved in the fight even though the method they used to resolve everything was contemptible and uncivic.

Hence violence led to a chain of events leading to more violence and harm or damage to people/society. Also violence originally used as a means to solve the problem further worsened the situation instead of improving it.

Case 2:

4 high school students meet at one of the student’s place to play a video game which they are addicted to and on which they spend plenty of time daily. They divide themselves into two teams and start playing. The game basically resembles a war scene where the players are supposed to gun down their opponents to proceed further.

Team A(consisting of subject 1 and subject 2) is leading Team 2(consisting of subject 3 and subject 4). After sometime subject 3 starts getting frustrated and blames subject 4 for their poor performance. Subject 4 gets offended and shouts back on subject 3 denying his blame. Meanwhile subject 1 and 2 already quite ahead in the game mock their opponents and take pleasure in their argument. Verbal abusing converts to a physical fight when subject 4 hits subject 3’s head with the video game remote. Subject 3, physically and egotistically hurt, picks up a cricket bat in his sight and begins bashing subject 4 uncontrollably. Subject 1 and 2 try to stop him but subject 3 pushes them away.

After a few minutes, subject 1’s father arrives and gains control of the whole situation. Subject 4 is rushed to the nearby hospital. Doctors sadly announce that he has lost his left ear’s hearing power due to repeated blows near the ear.

Role of Violence-

As it is clearly seen this is an example of teenage violence. Prevalent in urban India today, such incidents are said to arise because of highly aggressive nature of today’s adolescents who lose control over their tolerance and sensibility once someone hurts their ego.

Also it is noteworthy to mention the role of video games containing any sort of violent actions in deteriorating the psychology of teenagers who have started taking pride and pleasure in using violence to resolve any matter rather than discussing or ignoring it.

Violence proved to be nearly fatal here, though the victim was saved his life would never be the same. Also, subject 3 would live a life of shame and guilt owing to his one juvenile action.

Findings of the Study and Generalization

As it can be deduced from the above mentioned examples, violence can be circumstantial, politically driven or can arise from the way a person’s mind has been moulded.

Usually road rage and petty issues that are blown out of proportion are examples of circumstantial violence incidents. A person’s loss of control over his anger or frustration has severe consequences. This can also be associated with the increasing stress levels of the working class especially in big cities who tend to lose their patience and tolerance easily owing to mental stress and hypertension.

On the domestic front it is often observed that actions performed by adults are replicated by their children. If a boy has seen his father hitting his mother, his siblings or has experienced it himself he is likely to have a similar demeanour in his future. As children’s minds are tender and sensitive, they tend to get influenced easily.

Intolerance and violence occurring due religious and caste divide is mostly politically driven to fill a candidate’s vote banks. People who supposedly fight to protect their religion often forget that no religion teaches violence.

Teenage violence is evidently linked to teenagers’ lifestyles, the type of T.V. programs and online games they are subject to, the kind of places they visit and the people they meet during their re-creation time and the type of living their parents exemplify for them.

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