Violence: assertion and negation of power
By Mushtaq Soofi | 5/29/2015

Humans since time immemorial irrespective of differences in their ethnic, religious, linguistic and regional backgrounds have been exhibiting two contradictory strands in their psychic-make-up; aggressiveness and peacefulness.

Both the traits continue to play a crucial role in an incessantly evolutionary process especially in terms of making us what we are. Aggressiveness has ineluctable links with human instinct that to a large measure ensured our survival in the primordial conditions i.e. jungle life and also our success in transcending the restricting parameters of animal kingdom.

Man`s aggressiveness whether in its raw form or honed as a crafty stratagem preempted other predators intruding the human turf as well as enhanced his capacity to encroach on the animal domain which resulted in carving a bigger and safer space for him to act and react during the taut moments of dangers that were not infrequent. Clever use of aggressive power gradually eliminated or tamed man`s real and perceived foes paving the way for the emergence of social life. Aggression was perhaps necessary but not sufficient condition for shaping human society worth the name.

What quintessentially defines human society is not aggressiveness but rather the opposite of it, peacefulness. Peacefulness in human context is born of a desire driven by sense of caring and sharing in an atmosphere free of motivated interference that aims at making things move in a particular direction at the cost of motion inherent to them. Such interference disrupts the organic interconnections between things causing a rupture in the chains of naturally evolved cribs that imperceptibly feed and sustain them. Genuine peace creates conditions, which despite the dialectical frictions embedded in the very nature of things, helps growth and development in multiple directions enriching human existence. The wildly propagated notion that war, brutal display of aggression, provides impetus to development and innovation still holds sway simply because violence has been touted as human strength in an effort to safeguard the interests of the powerful.

The powerful conceive peace as an interlude between the past and future wars. Hence peace for war and war for peace! `Those at the top say: peace and war are of different substance/ But their peace and war are like wind and storm/ War grows from their peace like son from his mother. He bears her frightful featureĒ says the poet.

Grappling with the aggressive instinct which usually expresses itself in an outlandish display of violence, is doubly problematic for human society. Man continues to carry genetically transferred aggressiveness dictated by instinct coupled with consciousness that can make its outreach phenomenal, almost limitless. Animal`s instinctive aggressiveness in caparison seems to be as good as innocuous. It`s nothing less and nothing more than what it is. It operates within its strictly marked biological limits. Lion, once satiated, would never pounce at another animal however weak or meek it may appear. But man`s predatory lust propelled by his consciousness and imagination is hard to quench if we look at history, recent and distant. The whole shebang is a riddle not fully solved till date. The best endeavour so far to control violence flowing from the arcane source of human aggressiveness has been the creation of state.

State represents a consensus by groups, small and large, on the crucial question of how to control and sublimate the dreadful propensity to violence inherent in human predicament. It must be regulated if it cannot be eliminated altogether.

State has been designated the regulator with the responsibility to frame and enforce rules of the game that keep the social ship on an even keel. It has been empowered to discipline those who breaking the rules deviate from the course through coercion if necessary. That`s why state has come to monopolise the legitimate use of coercive force sanctioned by norms and laws. The state whatever its formal structure loses its legitimacy the moment it assumes blatantly partisan role or renders itself incapable of exercising the coercion when needed in resolving the rag-ing conflicts between different segments of population under its jurisdiction.

Pakistani state that now faces like a paralysed spectator the avalanche of violence on a daily basis these day, is itself responsible for the situation it is inextricably in. It has committed some `cardinal sins` under the influence of ill-conceived ideological imperatives in the pursuit of ill-defined strategic interests.

One, the state patronises certain groups with exclusivist agenda at the cost of alienating larger chunks of population not treated as stakeholders. That has resulted in a widespread resentment, a response to the unacceptable dictates of the pampered groups which expresses itself in some cases in counter violence as they are left with no other option.

Two, the state has outsourced the use of coercion to entities, non-legal or quasi-legal in pursuance of some of its non-transparent socio-political objectives blurring the lines between the legitimate and the illegitimate.

The whole shenanigan has made the state along with the non-state actors openly supported by it, suspect in the eyes of the people. On top of it, our ruling cliques have politicised the law enforcement agencies by inducting their lackeys into the state apparatus who are loyal to their masters rather than to the state.

With the emergence of multiple power centres the sources of coercive power have multiplied undermining the state monopoly over the use of violence in the name of law.

Now we see a spectacle with ominous portents; a policeman shooting lawyers and lawyers ransacking public offices, a politician vandalising police station and his powerful opponent sending masked commandos in civvies to thrash the former`s security guards on the premises of High Court, burglars killing citizens and crowd lynching burglars. You have your plate full of violence even if you ignore the recurring terrorist attacks.

In a nutshell, what we helplessly witness is the withering away of the state, not in the Marxian sense.

It`s rather mere withering away as there is no other social organism in sight to replace or supersede it.

Published in Dawn