We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Friday, November 12, 2010

simple questions about complex things...

What does it mean to be violent? That seems like such on obvious question and yet I find myself increasingly reticent to assume the answer. During breakfast I was reading over the “Nonviolence Spectrum” (pp. 30-31, Engage), shuffling quickly through the obvious, picturing my body travelling easily from one side of an imaginary spectrum to to the other, planting my feet in the appropriate place, casually observing that for some situations I’d nonchalantly answer “not enough context.” Suddenly, I was confronted with a situation that I felt was definitely wrong but that I was averse to calling violent. The ease of my responses disintegrated. The image of myself I’d projected onto the spectrum drifted, with a look of consternation, to the center, not knowing where else she could go. Now, some items that I would easily call violent also gave me pause. Yes, the action seemed violent, but did it seem wrong?

I find myself confronted with two questions: “What is violent?” and also, “What does it mean to be violent?” The first being a matter of definition, the second a matter of interpretation and, frankly, judgment. I question too whether I have begun to absorb the perceived ideology of those around me, lumping violence unquestioningly with injustice (and, I think when I say “wrong” as in the above paragraph, what I mean is “unjust.”). Is this pairing helpful or harmful?

I pondered these questions while going out to check on the chickens. Last night we had reintegrated one of the hens who had been separated from the flock to recoup from a cat-inflicted wound. This morning I found fresh blood on her featherless back indicating her sisters had been pecking at her. She had to be removed again. Were the chickens behaving violently? It certainly seemed so, though I knew their behavior was not malicious but rather unalterably instinctual (thus far it seems that our aviary friends are incapable of self-conscious reflection). Without thinking that I was talking about violence I’d had a conversation along similar lines with my 5 and 7 year old friends, Rehema and Bethany the previous night. They were curious about how the one hen came to be injured and why the cat had attacked her. I tried to explain that the cat wasn’t being mean it was just being a cat, that I am not angry at the cat but I do want to protect the chicken.

As is so often the case, reading on provides an answer. According to Pace e Bene, “Violence is any physical, emotional, verbal, institutional, structural, or spiritual behavior, attitude, policy or condition that diminishes, dominates or destroys ourselves or others” (Engage, 33). A question on the following page reflects my chicken-based contemplations, “Do you think that intention plays a role in defining action as violent or not violent?

I am interested in learning of other’s views on these questions. Any thoughts?

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