Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vindictive Violence

I just watched "V for Vendetta" last weekend, and it has brought up quite a few questions as to what, in pop culture, kind of violence is acceptable. The main thing that bugged me as I thought about that movie and other images it reminded me of was that there seems to be a notion in popular culture that not only can violence become the necessary route; but also, in some ways, vilence is the RIGHT thing to do in some circumstances. For example, the movie I watched basically hovered around the theme of vengence against a government that controls and kills people to an astonishing degree. The main character "V" knows exactly what the government is trying to do, and puts into action an elaborate plan to expose the government for what it is AND kill those who made him what he is. By the end of the movie, you feel as if the only course of action "V" could take was to kill those who made him what he is.

There is an interesting twist to the whole movie, however. Near the end, large numbers of people march on parliament where a large military force is stationed to stop them from going further, and instead of a violent clash, the people end up being able to walk through the soldiers ranks unharmed. It worked so beautifully that I wonder if the murderous vedetta that "V" carried out was truly necessary. Maybe that means that popular culture is subconsciously espousing an idea that non-violence is great and all, but you still need to have some violent actions take for it to be truly affective and effective.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Tale of Two Strangers

Today I heard two very different, very amazing stories from a couple of people who I consider to be friends.

"It was the best of times..."

I walked into chapel choir today, and walked right in on a story of the kindness of strangers being recounted to the choir. Our choir director told us how he ended sleeping on a cold steel bench for three hours in O'Hare airport, and afterwards, he noticed how much he and other people around him trusted each other with their possessions. Not only that, but he also noticed how because of the kindness of strangers, sleeping people were woken up to be able to catch their planes by strangers. Strange people looking out for other people.

"It was the worst of times..."

I walked into my classroom building today saw my good friend and noticed that his glasses were gone. When I asked him about it, he told me that he had been jumped and beaten by strangers while walking around town just last night. Unknown people, for whatever reason, stole from and beat up my friend for no apparent reason. How can somebody devalue another human being to the point where she or he can steal from and violently attack another human being? Do they just not care that the person they attacked was a person full of love and compassion for other people? I must admit that this is first time in a long time that someone close to me has been the victim of un-aggravated violence. Heck, it may be the first time ever. The whole event seems so raw and disconnected with the depictions of violence I've seen on TV and in the movies. The fake events in "entertainment" pale immensely to reality. It also makes stories like the one I heard in choir today seem unbelievable.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cycles of Violence

Well, here I am at a new weekend right before my school takes a small break to let students catch up on some reading, and I find myself immersed in a particularly difficult text from I Peter. The basic problem with this text is that one can easily read it as a text saying that one should just quietly endure in her or his suffering because the present life does not matter. Truthfully, that's not a reading I can in good conscience relate to other people. Besides, it seems so contrary to the life Jesus lead and strove for in his ministry, death, and resurrection. All throughout the gospels, we hear time after time stories about how Jesus was either challenging established conceptions of how to act, confronting social structures, healing the sick, or feeding hungry people. That is most certainly NOT a philosophy of inaction. So what are we to do with I Peter and it seeming language of silent suffering? Well, yes it is about suffering. It is about a very real reality that all of us face at one time or another within the world. But, it is not just pointing out an obvious fact of life. It says that the only way one can end suffering, violence, and abuse is to break the cycle of retribution with a radical love and care for other people and breaking down the situations that enable suffering, violence, and abuse to be carried out. So, wives shouldn't just sit quietly as their husbands physically and mentally abuse them, but neither should they return in kind the suffering, violence, and abuse directed at them. They should instead remove themselves from the situation and put into action a sequence of events that either leads to incarceration or treatment for the abuser - a kind of love heals both parties involved. But, as per Jesus' teachings, we should leave it up to the abused to be the sole one responsible for ending the cycle of violence. Indifference and inaction of people on the outside are just as culpable as people personally involved in the suffering, violence, and abuse. We need to be just as active if not more active in finding ways to end cycles of suffering, violence, and abuse we see all around us in the world.