Posted in coronavirus, Fragments

Fragments on Fragments 8

For an introduction to this series, look here

Stamp out violence more quickly than a wildfire

Just like a fire (or a virus), violence is catching. In close-built cities, fire out of control was one of the greatest threats to a community; Heraclitus suggests that giving in to violence is an even greater danger. Giving up on the shared accountability and mutuality of community and resorting to the rule of the strongest destroys the humanity of each of us as well as the bonds that tie us together.

But what if those bonds are also ties of injustice? The Black Lives Matter movement has exposed – as if it were not in plain sight already – the structural injustices suffered by people of colour in predominantly white societies. It is one thing to try to root out individual instances of injustice, but how do you reconfigure unjust systems?

It is clear from many lessons of history that violence does not root out violence, though it may change around who are the perpetrators and who are the victims. The challenge is to loosen the bonds of society enough that those who are oppressed are released, but the whole body of a community does not dissolve. It is to loosen, and then retie those bonds in a shape that more resembles justice.

To see what justice looks like is hard work, because it involves rooting out the desire for violence in ourselves. Whether it be the violent defence of privilege, or the desire for revenge for injuries suffered, when in the grip of the desire for violence it is impossible to see what justice looks like.

Detail from Heirloom, part of the Broken Beauty residency in Southwark cathedral, 2018. Photo credit: Alison Clark

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