What is Biolence? An Explication and Introduction

Biolence is an important element to understand in the quest to assess what a post-violence world could be like. Biolence shields that imagination and makes innumerate the potentiality of the cause of justice towards the wattages and graces of overcoming violence towards interpersonal and transnational peace. Biolence is an expanded anxiety native to the core of our biological traits to which we succumb. Though it is not without markers of clearly divided obstacles that are so fervently obvious steps we must overcome as a civilization and a species. 

Here I will cite myself from the origin essay of this project, “Labors of Freedom: God and Overcoming Violence-Societies.” Biolence is natural, but it is not inevitable.

The more harm we become accustomed to, the more harm we become prepared to inflict ourselves. It becomes organic. It becomes biomechanical. It becomes biolence. However, in spite of so many poets, tinkerers, judgmental continental philosophers, and aggrieved mothers, violence is not natural nor is it inescapable. Violence is not inevitable. Biolence, which I intend to roughly mean those human, animal, biological motivations towards aggression as nature indicates intellectual potential to overcome in human-trusted mechanical biolence against the opposition of an untrustworthy superficial biolence that can easily be understood as something that can be done away with. As we work towards a more perfect society, we cannot actually do so without an understanding of violence as a reality to be overcome. Without an understanding of violence, we cannot overcome it. We are overtly capable of overcoming violence with a firm understanding of it and incorporating that understanding in our push towards a free, communally democratic, secure society. (“Labors of Freedom,” 2019)

All ruminations of violence are course details that so many talented, productive thinkers in the past have over-simplified with the gloss that violence is inevitable. Being natural does not dictate the manifestation of the inevitable. Not in this case. What is equally natural is our propensity to observe, indicate and course correct our way of life towards a more natural whole. Personal self-harm, interpersonal violence, integrated self-hatred and political violence – these are all indications of the same motivations just set along the sliding scale of a different carrier. Familial violence is the absorbed recollection of cultural information that is interiorized and fabricated as original, making the actor of violence a new birth of an origin state, but it did not start there. 

What takes place, in this course, is a form of political violence in that it is a cultural enforcement of accepted norms to which others are subject to. In Cindy A. Sousa’s exhaustive review of literature on political violence, she illustrates the individual and collective responses and needs for the organized action against these acts, illuminating, “[p]articipation in civil society and political processes is essential for the health and well-being of individuals” (2013, 174). Sousa continues, 

It engenders a sense of responsibility for collective functioning, enhancing individual well-being (Nowell and Boyd 2010). Political violence undermines individuals’ ability to engage with, and have confidence in, social and political life by: contributing to individuals’ isolation and withdrawal from society; deteriorating individuals’ trust in others, justice, and government entities and democracy itself; and lessening individuals’ abilities or willingness to engage in political activities. (2013, 174)

With greater collective and individual clarity, we must bring to the surface of our lived social lives the reality that all forms of “[p]olitical violence diminishes individuals’ trust in the moral organization of society, government entities and processes of democracy” (2013, 180). Structural violence put into perspective – either that which is historic or present day – brings us closer to examining our personal path in accepting violence as par for the course of detrimental waves of uninvited dystrophy in allied persuasion towards a just and reasonable outcome of our social experiment of civilization. If biolence was inevitable, we would not be able to articulate methods out of its reach. Cultural precedence that our strengths lay dormant for extended periods can be found in just about any avenue of political and social history. 

In the article, “Fear and Anxiety: Writing about Emotion in Modern History,” Joanna Bourke asks, “Is fear identical to anxiety? Is fear a response to danger or, since many fears arise in states of tranquility, is it something more subtle?” (2003, 114). Of course, within a multicultural society, and transnationally, dictations of discriminations of fear will vary. 

As Bourke notes, “words used to describe feelings similar to those expressed by the English word ‘fear’ vary culturally, and this variation profoundly changes that culture’s emotional world” (2003, 119). It seems reasonable to articulate social and interpersonal fear as carriers of hate and violence, not unlike carriers of a virus that mutates as it is passed on and transmitted from one individual to another. The biolence of fear communicates interpersonal resentment towards an unholy rectification of the dowry of social disorder. As previously stated, at times the elaboration of social injustice and our responses to it may seem to come out of a seemingly counterintuitive space. Daniel Kapust points out, in “On the Ancient Uses of Political Fear and its Modern Implications,” that historically, ”[c]owardice was stigmatized, while courage was to be praised and cultivated” (2008, 356). Writers of ancient times sought to heighten emotions and impose fear and practices of resolution and a manner not unlike propaganda more than intellectual expression – however it may be assessed and discerned, yesterday or today. Fear as an evocation of political violence has long been a communal trend to spread apathy and division and grow interpersonal resentment towards the other, any other. 

The cultural motivations of violence are tied into the genetic mores of domestic transgression from our personal sphere to the political sphere. Through capitalist enforcement of privileged classes and class division, the weight of not sparing with the power-entity of the political class interferes with familial ties and presupposes a biolence of entry into social order. This order cannot be sustained. It is the harbor passenger on the way to sub-routed corridors of freedom from our domestication intended to suppress dissidence as though any such form would inherently be violence itself, but it does not need to be. 

Walter Benjamin, in his essay, “Critique of Violence,” (elaborated on here) ruminates about the natural law in a way befitting of this essay’s earlier discussion on biolence, that is, both the biological motivations to rush into and out of unrestricted violence. That is, unrestricted violence that is interpreted with many assumptions that it is in our nature to release such conditions of violence and that it is unrealistic to expect a type of humanity to emerge with conditions where this violence and the home-state-of-violence has emigrated to the past, to a previous state of order and calligraphy of time where we find ourselves in a new future of dispelling time.

Violence can be the past. We can breach a post-violence world. Biolence does not need to be our homing motivation. Just as humanity is capable of withdrawing from the shell of antiquated beliefs on accustomed “rule of law” so too can we seek a higher order that elaborates on the past – just yesterday – as a seismic shift towards a more distilled order of consequence. What is “consequence” but our native intention? Our intentions are often more neutral than what is mapped and our desires are often better served in an appropriate environment where we are free to discover our individual potential and observe the stars in all their reflecting light; reflections of us beaming down to ourselves.  

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