Can history ever move backwards? Can it be called the trajectory of progress into “the civilized violence”? It is a polemic to start with. Theories of progress and civilization are intimated to the myth of linear regulation of violence through modern mechanism of law. On the face of it, there exists a hope for peaceful and stable human society, which aspires to be civilized and progressive. Every possible attempt is made to rationalize such a society, between the binary of war and peace.
These skeptical notes were written after reading the context of hope and peace for a better world on Wisconsin shooting incident in the United States. Almost everybody suggested toleration and legal intervention as solution. The bottom line is evident: still the certainty of a liberal tolerant society which is progressive is possible and viable.
There are various events from the history of humankind, where the question of violence matter the most (every battle that was fought, conflicts between tribes, riots within societies, war between kingdoms, modern nation states, crimes of varying level, economic damages inflicting human suffering, environmental mishaps effected from human interventions etc). From the very blink of dawn of life to the last blip of its breath, human mind and its intellectual genius encountered the inherent violent human nature.
Philosophers did postulate many assumptions on human nature regarding living together peacefully. For Aristotle, human beings are political animals, who want to live together. On the contrary, Carl Schmitt believes it is about the antagonism between the friend and the foe. For Machiavelli, it is the logic of malleable human nature while one reads The Prince and Discourses together. Thomas Hobbes’ self-interested human being becomes more civilized in John Locke’s limited government mechanism. Gradually, liberal hope for a stable peaceful society recognized need for human security in the modern legal mechanism in the discourse of human rights. While Gandhi predicated human nature on the hope of peace, by neutralizing the violence of human nature on the face of conflict, Karl Marx emphasized on the economic inequality within the society as the root cause of unstable society. The intellectual tradition of St. Augustine emphasized concept of sin with fallible human nature. Each of these presupposed a kind of desirable human society: a peace-loving one.
Let’s move from philosophical heights to muddy-shallow empirical reality tainted with human blood: the Wisconsin shooting incident. On August 5, Wade Michael Page, scripted another page of violence in the history of humankind. He allegedly shot six people to death and wounded three others before getting killed by self-inflicted shot during the encounter with police at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. It was later described as a hate crime.
There are mainly three follow ups to this incident. The first is the sudden logic of accusation asking who is responsible for this heinous crime. Following that, comes the second aspect, causality of the accused criminal is being traced as a timeline (like a face book timeline). Another aspect of the media reports highlights the reasons behind the attack: it ranges from the question of hate, racism, terrorism, and failure of liberal democracy.
Logic of accusation
The primary concern of the incident raised questions about the security system in America. Gurbachan Singh, the head priest of Akal Takht, condemned the attack and reported, in The Hindu, as saying “It is a highly unfortunate incident which has taken place in America leaving six innocent devotees dead. This is a security lapse on the part of U.S. Government”. In the same report, the commitment to stop the repetition of the same kind of incidents was seen. President Shiromani Gurdwara Pharbandhak Committee (SGPC), Avtar Singh Makkar, pointed out that the need to bring out “the cause of this brutal attack on innocent Sikhs” and wanted to prevent this kind of incidents in the future.
What interests this discussion is not the question of responsibility of the action of violence, but the necessity of our thinking (including the social media, the law and order mechanism, concerned, the public and the diplomats) about natural causality regarding the action itself. There are some set rules for this game of accusations. Every game of accusation needs a criminal and a victim. That is perfectly done in this case. This is not an exception among the stories of crime. The transferring act of responsibility from the point of action, the society, to the individuals involved does many unseen acts together.
There are certain ways in which blame game is played to the myth of modern peaceful society. One believes that identifying the culprit is the most important step in retaining the hope of peaceful society. This is not enough. The criminal should be punished for his/her action, as it harmed the logic of living together peacefully, and mutually existing harmoniously. It is legitimate to the extent to which the modern legal mechanism and the public outcry agree with the amount of punishment given to the criminal. The situation becomes vague once the criminal opt to die in the process of crime. The immanent presence of the dead criminal will be searched for associated links of miscreants involved with him/her. The question of justice, on behalf of the dead victims, who are innocent civilians and were contributing to the economy and the cultural capital of the society, is asked. Normally, an inquiry into the crime scene is sought as an immediate solace. Administering justice is thus related to identifying the criminal.