What is Violence?


A Native American was talking to his grandson about his feelings after the events of 9/11. He said, “I feel as if have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is a vengeful, angry, violent one; the other is a loving, compassionate one.” The boy asked him which wolf was going to win the fight in his heart and the grandfather answered, “The one I choose to feed.”

Violence is inconceivable if everyone is genuinely concerned with the happiness of others.
Osho variation

The attempt to achieve and maintain justice, or to undo or prevent injustice, is the one and only universal cause of violence.
James Gilligan M.D.

And for the longest time I thought there was a lot of merit in that statement until I realized it is essentially no true because it omits, as Krishnamurti points out  that “Faith invariably breeds violence,” to which The Dalai Lama adds “violence begets violence.”

And one of the reasons, I gave up the Anglican Christian faith in which I was both baptized and confirmed was that, as adult,  I realized that in the name of their God, Christian leaders had killed far more people over the centuries than evil men like Hitler and Stalin had ever done in their short lives. So, for centuries religious intolerance has been one of the major causes of violence, which is still happening today in the Middle East between the two Muslim factions of Sunnis and Shiites. as well as with other minority faiths in the region.

So I would be tempted to suggest that the real universal cause of violence, in whatever form, is in our fear of the Other, who is not one of Us, and hence must either be converted into one of Us, or be killed as infidels.  At the same time, as many traces as possible of these “Unbelievers” must be removed from the face of the earth, which is why we know so little about great civilizations like the Mayans and the Incas whose sacred texts were destroyed in the name of Jesus and his God. And why the Taliban, for example, demolished those ancient Buddhist statues. And why some ancient Muslim temples in Africa and Syria have recently been desecrated by other fundamentalists.

And from there it is a simple step for me to reach the conclusion that the one and only universal cause of violence actually lies in conflicting belief systems of either a religious or justice nature.

Lastly, a quite different view of violence by the Trappist monk, Robert Merton:

There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence, and that is activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of this innate violence….To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything is to succumb to violence….The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our inner capacity for peace, because it kills the root of the inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.