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Joe CorbettJoe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].


Reply to O'Doherty on the Necessity of Violence

Joe Corbett

So let me stand alone among the masses of bleeding hearts who romantically envision a would-be utopia of non-violence.

In his response to my article on 'Integral Violence', Bryan O'Doherty seems to think that we can and must leave political violence behind us and stop the cycle of violence in history. Although a laudable goal, I think Bryan is getting a little ahead of himself with this idealism, and he is by no means alone, for many greens and integral community members feel the same way as Bryan. So let me stand alone among the masses of bleeding hearts who romantically envision a would-be utopia of non-violence, by saying, unequivocally: never has there been, and never will there be, major social transformation based on peaceful non-violence without first having social justice based on principled egalitarian social relations that are culturally and institutionally supported by the power and force of law.

I wholeheartedly agree that peace and non-violence should be part of the goal of social change objectives, but only when there is the foundation for this to exist. Predatory imperialist capitalism based on ever-expanding unequal social relations cannot serve as that foundation, for it is itself a system based on violence and destruction. Therefore, the civilizational foundation for political non-violence does not yet exist. To disarm yourself in the name of non-violence amidst your armed (lower level) adversaries who will not hesitate to use weapons against you is simply suicidal, and does not further the cause of social advancement.

Remember that social development has always taken place with violence for the greater good of the developmental process. It is not a pretty thing, but evolution is a messy struggle, afterall. We must not be afraid to call a spade a spade, or class warfare 'class warfare'. Once there is the cultural and institutional basis for political non-violence based on social relations of equity, then we can start planning for social transformation without the use of violence, or as Marx said, to make history without compulsion. But until that foundation has been laid, we are out of luck. And so let's not get ahead of ourselves on the issue of political non-violence. That is a consideration for future generations to ponder, one or two social transformations down the road.

And this brings me to Bryan and the bleeding hearts aversion to top-down social transformation. As I previously stated, I am a libertarian eco-socialist, so there really is no one more enthusiastically supportive of the idea of a locally sustainable populist democratic self-government by and for the people than me. The question is, how do we actually get there? Developmentally, it's always been the leading edge of a people ripe for their time that has brought us forth in history, step-by-painful-step, since the stone-age. As regards our own time, the leading edge are the greens, or precisely the populist democratic environmentalist types. Before this time it was the orange modern crowd, the go-get-'em achievement-oriented materialists and objectivists. Their time as the ruling class center of gravity is gone, and we need to get rid of their stranglehold on humanity, ASAP. Therefore the bleeding hearts must now go against their own instincts by seizing power and outlawing predatory behavior that exploits labor, wrecks community, and destroys the environment, and in the process build the alternatives that will replace this form of life. There is no compromise that can be made on this point. Green values must be imposed by force and implemented as the law of the land to move the center of gravity up to a sustainable level and, incidentally, to lay the foundation for future non-violent social transformations.

Finally, let me just say that I share Bryans belief in the resilience of the Earth and its ability to bounce back and persevere through abuse. However I am not so confident regarding the most unfortunate of humans, 2 billion of which live in desperate poverty and will be the first to starve to death from food shortages brought on by drought and changing weather patterns, among other looming environmental catastrophes. And for those who are still in doubt, let me remind you that there are at least 2700 Giga-Tons of known carbon reserves left for corporations to pull out of the ground and spew into the atmosphere for their profits, while estimates are that we are only 600 burned GTs away from surpassing the safe limit of 2 degrees global warming. So it definitely seems like the odds are stacked against us. And if you ask me about the question of violence, it looks like the gun is already pointed at the heads of us all.

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