Causes Of Political Violence


Political violence is like a festering wound, in that, without the aid of antibiotics the wound has the potential to depress the immune system and eventually overwhelm the individual, leading to death. In this analogy, antibiotics could represent forces that are always looking for the rogue virus\'s bent on the destruction of the whole body (society). I often wonder why people resort to violence, of any kind, to solve a particular problem. Questions can be asked of the individual(s) involved in carrying out the attacks, but the questions never seem to be answered in a way that will show why violence is needed to resolve conflict. Rather, excuses are rendered in the hopes that by the logic used in explaining why conflict must be resolved, this will justify the actions. This leads, though, to a sort of circular argument. For example, in the case of Saddam Hussein (put aside the fact that he is the president of a nation) is an idiot. Why exactly he felt it was justifiable to invade a country, who at the time had an OK relationship with the United States, and then think the US and/or other countries would allow him to forcibly occupy that country. Whatever his logic, his actions were not justifiable. I believe his logic was as follows: Something happened to his country (economically, socially, politically etc.) that he did not like or want to happen. Hussein decided to adopt the eye-for-an-eye approach to conflict resolution. Except he changed the rules and instead of responding in a like manner consistent with eye-for-an-eye, he went over board with his reaction. He forcibly invaded a country.
I use the Persian Gulf War as a recent example of reasons for why people resolve conflict not through peaceful means but through violent actions. Iraq is not the only country in the system to use this type of logic when tackling an issue that is perceived to have only one avenue of approach to resolution: war. It seems that every, or nearly every, state in the world will resort to brute force to make a point. This then begs the question of, why? I will explore some of the popular assumptions for why people act as they do and try to come to some sort of agreement which we may all universally agree upon.
Sederberg explains four of the most popular explanations for violence and revolution and points out some of the flaws in the arguments. The first explanation I will talk about is the Killer Ape Thesis, which basically states that humans are biologically programmed toward violence and that because we are programmed in this way, this is an explanation for the cause of violence. Sederberg also points out that certain questions need to be answered before anything else can be argued, such as what causes discontent? In the killer ape thesis discontent is a moot point. If we are in fact programmed toward violence than discontent should not be an issue. To say that hereditary genes toward violence are passed from one generation to another is to say we have no choice in the matter of violence. We would, simply, all be vicious killers with no way of not being otherwise. Discontent, however, is something humans can turn on and off, like anger, sadness, or happiness. The killer ape thesis is great in explaining violence but not in explaining the inclination toward violent expression (Sederberg 102). Clearly, biological factors do not incline us towards violence, but the Cherry Pie Thesis does in some way explain why we are violent.
Sederberg describes the cherry pie thesis as one where biology or heredity may play no part in trying to explain why humans are prone to violence. He says that we are violent because of our culture. That is, we are violent because of, say, where we live or the era in which we grew up or the economic status we hold. This thesis though, like the killer ape thesis, is circular in its logic. Society may cause discontent among citizens but only with respect to history. For example, England and Ireland have been at war with each other for some time now; each fights the other because of some injustice. This injustice occurred in the past