violence operates at multiple levels

What if, however, humans exceed animals in their capacity for violence precisely because they speak? As Hegel was already well aware, there is something violent in the very symbolisation of a thing, which equals its mortification. This violence operates at multiple levels. Language simplifies the designated thing, reducing it to a single feature. It dismembers the thing, destroying its organic unity, treating its parts and properties as autonomous. It inserts the thing into a field of meaning which is ultimately external to it. When we name gold “gold,” we violently extract a metal from its natural texture, investing into it our dreams of wealth, power, spiritual purity, and so on, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the immediate reality of gold.
Slavoj Žižek, Violence

4 thoughts on “violence operates at multiple levels

  1. I think what Hegel missed out on was the knowledge of the border between prehistory and ancient history when hunter-gatherers turned to agriculture. A certain violence was always present, like in other animals, but the advent of agriculture and the resultant city states is what really bumped us up to the next level. Only when we relied on the resources held by others were we prompted to pursue total annihilation of perceived enemies and pursue a culture based on violation – of nature, women, children – anything that could be controlled. (by David Hunt)


      • That’s a very interesting question. Might be helpful to consider violence in a couple of different contexts. There is the violence associated with procuring food, or basic survival. (It’s odd that life must die so others can live, that the living are made from the dead, but that’s pretty much the way is been for billion years. I hesitate to even call it violent, but that’s my visceral reaction to it). Learning to use fire aided in our survival. In the short term, it allows us to kill less as we can draw more nutrients from cooked food and also can preserve it. But then fire permitted our species to propagate, resulting in more violence to the rest of the biosphere.

        Then there’s the use of fire as a weapon and instrument of control. I suspect this wasn’t much of an issue until the advent of civilization. Fire is an important tool in a culture based on violation, but I don’t believe it’s the cause of it.

        And of course, there’s many wonderful things about fire. We’re a species that loves story telling and where would that be without our campfires?

        Hope I haven’t prattled on. What are your thoughts on your question?

        Liked by 1 person

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