May 21, 2013
Youth in Revolt: The Plague of State-Sponsored Violence
Posted on Mar 14, 2012
By Henry Giroux, Truthout
As the social is devalued along with rationality, ethics and any vestige of democracy, spectacles of war, violence and brutality now merge into forms of collective pleasure that constitute an important and new symbiosis among visual pleasure, violence and suffering. The control society is now the ultimate form of entertainment as the pain of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, has become the subject not of compassion, but of ridicule and amusement in America. High-octane violence and human suffering are now considered another form of entertainment designed to raise the collective pleasure quotient. Reveling in the suffering of others should no longer be reduced to a matter of individual pathology, but now registers a larger economy of pleasure across the broader culture and social landscape. My emphasis here is on the sadistic impulse and how it merges spectacles of violence and brutality with forms of collective pleasure. No society can make a claim to being a democracy as long as it defines itself through shared fears rather than shared responsibilities. Widespread violence now functions as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that creates the foundation for sapping democracy of any political substance and moral vitality. The prevalence of institutionalized violence in American society and other parts of the world suggests the need for a new conversation and politics that addresses what a just and fair world looks like. The predominance of violence in all aspects of social life suggests that young people and others marginalized by class, race and ethnicity have been abandoned as American society’s claim on democracy gives way to the forces of militarism, market fundamentalism and state terrorism. The prevalence of violence throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order, but imagines a new one, one informed by a radical vision in which the future does not imitate the present.(27) In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope and individual struggles merge into larger social movements. The challenge that young people are posing to American society is being met with a state-sponsored violence that is about more than police brutality; it is more importantly about the transformation of the United States from a social state to a warfare state, from a state that embraced the social contract to one that no longer has a language for community - a state in which the bonds of fear and commodification have replaced the bonds of civic responsibility and democratic vision. Until we address how the metaphysics of war and violence have taken hold on American society (and in other parts of the world) and the savage social costs it has enacted, the forms of social, political and economic violence that young people are protesting against as well as the violence waged in response to their protests will become impossible to recognize and act on.
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2. See here.
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13. See Gore Vidal, “Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia” (New York: Nation Books, 2004); Gore Vidal, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” (New York: Nation Books, 2002); Chris Hedges, “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” (New York: Anchor Books, 2003); Chalmers Johnson, “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004); Andrew Bacevich, “The New American Militarism” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Chalmers Johnson, “Nemesis: The Last Days of the Republic” (New York: Metropolitan Books); Andrew J. Bacevich, “Washington Rules: America’s Path To Permanent War,” (New York, N.Y.: Metropolitan Books, Henry Hold and Company, 2010); Nick Turse, “The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).
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16. Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, “Cops Ready for War,” RSN, (December 21, 2011). Online here.
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19. Erica Goode, “Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds,” The New York Times, (December 19, 2011) p. A15.
20. Michael Geyer, “The Militarization of Europe, 1914 - 1945,” in The Militarization of the Western World, ed. John R. Gillis (New York: Rutgers University Press, 1989), p. 79.
21. Tony Judt, “The New World Order,” The New York Review of Books 11:2 (July 14, 2005), p.17.
22. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), p. 149.
23. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 149-150.
24. Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, “Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City,” Antipode (2006), p. 757.
25. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, “Translators Note,” in Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Truth of Democracy,” (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2010), p. ix.
26. Smartypants, “A Failure of Imagination,” Smartypants Blog Spot (March 3, 2010). Online here.
27. John Van Houdt, “The Crisis of Negation: An Interview with Alain Badiou,” Continent, 1.4 (2011): 234-238. Online here.
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