Structure of Violence

“Social violence is seldom random. It has an underlying structure declared the sociology professor. “Understanding of that structure is important if you want to counter it in day to day life’

“What do you mean by social violence”. A student was curious

“Any violence which has its roots in race, ethnicity, religion, gender, domesticity or customs is social violence and they all originate and escalate in a similar way.

Now to explain this mechanism, the fist component lies in a concept called the ingroup. Tracing its roots to our tribal past when all of us survived in small tribes of 50-70 people, our evolved psyche still applies that distinction to demarcate between friends and kins who are like us and thus are our ingroup.

Outside of our group are categories of people or out groups, who are different and have to be dealt with; cause they might be a threat to us as well as to the coherence of our ingroup”.

“So the perceived ingroup resorts to violence against the perceived outgroup?” A curious one interrupted.

“Yes absolutely. However do know that divisive leaders can stretch the ingoup to mean an entire caste, religion or ethnicity. Now the first step in structure of violence is profiling of the out group. You profile them by giving them the labels : They are responsible for fall of stature( Jews in Germany), they are less than human ( Slaves) ; we are superior ( gender bias in patriarchal set up) they are a global threat ( islamophobia). Once the profiles become common and turn into stereotypes; subtle acts of bias start against them. Jokes are made on them, askance glances are cast at them, social media trolls are set up etc.

Soon enough and as the next step, these subtle acts turn into acts of open prejudice and bigotry. Name calling, dehumanization and ridicule of the outgroup starts. They are spoken down to and subjected to open contempt. Visit any social media discussion or a TV debate to witness this kind of bigotry live in action.

Remember, that from hostile profiling to acts of prejudice or from stage 1 to stage 2, the method of escalation is the same with only variable being the time taken to profile and act against various out groups. After this, the big escalation or stage 3, comes into play.

Prejudice turns into acts of discrimination. At this stage the out group is not allowed certain privileges, their rights are taken away, they are disbarred from certain spheres of public life. Racial discrimination in the western world, caste discrimination in India, religious discrimination in Arabic countries, domestic violence at homes, are all stage 3 of the structure of violence.

Very soon stage 4 is reached and these discrimination turn violent. Crimes of person against the outgroup members are committed in the form of assault, murder, rape, theft, arson and so on. Whenever you hear rioting happening or people of certain race of religion getting killed, know that the first 3 stages were successfully scaled for these crime to result.

Last stage or stage 5 in this escalating spiral of violence is reached when the whole out-group community is systematically targeted for elimination and genocide results in the form of holocaust or ethnic cleansing or religious purges. To give you a perspective, in last century over 150 million people have been killed in genocides across the globe”.

“Can all violence can be understood by applying this framework”. Another student wanted to know.

No, not all violence can be understood this way. Political violence is slightly different, as it is not totally one sided, though it does have some overlap with its social counterpart. Wars between states and uprising against the states, are generally armed conflicts and mostly groups who are better funded, deeply motivated or capable of withstanding more losses, triumph.

“How can this violence be prevented”. Another hand shot up.

“We will talk about the prevention soon, however for now know, that earlier you intervene ( or at a lower stage) in this escalating dynamic, more violence you can eventually prevent”.

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