Violence

We are never very far from violence of one kind or another. Recently, trolling and online abuse have come to the fore; but every day, it seems, we read of bomb attacks, murders, abuse of the most vile kind. Acid is flung in the face of women who want to be educated, refuse to marry/don’t have large enough dowries, or simply want to help others but fail to observe local customs. Men who don’t conform to what is expected of them have their limbs broken or their heads bashed in. We wax indignant and call for controls and forget that violence originates in the heart.

Twitter is no more than a tool, a vehicle for self-expression. If what we want to express is violence, violence is what Twitter will express. Internet sites like ask.fm may generate a dynamic of their own, but again, if what is running through the minds of those who use them is cruel and violent, cruelty and violence is what they will show. If we want to lash out at others, either physically or verbally, that is what we will do, unless we ourselves are under control, unless we accept that there are restraints on our freedom. Don’t blame Twitter, blame the tweeter; don’t blame the gun, blame the person who fires the gun!

Today is the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, better known to many as Edith Stein. She died at Auschwitz because she was Jewish and the Nazi regime saw the destruction of all Jewish people as a part of its ‘mission’. She was a victim of anti-semitism but, even more, of the inhumanity we can each show to the other. Today, as we think about the violence being perpetrated by others online and off, we could take a long hard look at our own hearts and see what is lurking there. We may be surprised, and perhaps shamed, to see how much violence we too are capable of, were it not for the grace of God holding us back; and if we are honest, we may be forced to admit that the petty resentments and spiteful words that sometimes slip out of us proceed from the same deep well of violence and anger as others’ more obvious crimes.

Note: I have written about St Teresa Benedicta many times. Last year’s post may interest you, here, or the one from 2011, here, which links with today’s.
PostScript: How could I forget! Today is also the anniversary of the death of Dom Augustine Baker. Fr Baker was a great master of contemplative prayer:

Fr Augustine Baker
Fr Augustine Baker
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9 thoughts on “Violence”

  1. Excellent post …
    Many are led into violence and abuse by a more powerful controlling person. Just as the soldiers were under the threat of Hitler.
    Pray for commonsence but also a strength to break away from those that seek to control for their own evil gain.

  2. I read your two other posts on Edith Stein, St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross. I found it interesting that all three are on violence and self control, something you don’t often write about. I wonder if the up tick in violence has anything to do with the summer heat in our part of the planet?

    These posts did give me pause to think about my own impulses to violence. Unkind thoughts, reactions, etc. permeate my mind when frustrated or met with some kind of violence. I am reminded of the Confiteor prayer, “in my thoughts, in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do…” and how what we think can so much affect what we say, do and fail to do.

    Even in “jest” these things can grow and become acceptable if not nipped quickly. Thanks for the thoughts.

    • I think St Teresa Benedicta is a very fine theologian of non-violence, and as her feast occurs in summer, when tempers seem to flare and we get outbreaks of violent behaviour everywhere, or so it seems, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on violence within and without — and then inflict my thoughts on others. I do think, however, you are right to mention the way in which the Confiteor spells out for us the ways in which we can be violent. The only one it doesn’t mention is the passive-aggressive silence, which can be cruel beyond measure.

  3. To notice my own moments of inner violence during the day and at the end lift them in prayer asking for help with them.

    I feel quite removed from all this violence on internet or twitter. My own, however, is never very far…

  4. I am baffled as to how anyone manages to bully with Twitter with so few words allowed. They must be very skilled at it.
    I spent hours and hours one evening last year reporting the children of a few local primary schools to Facebook because they were rowing online. Unlike the odd bullying words on a school playground, the comments were being re-visited and added to by other children. They were also being passed from child to child and in some cases re-posted to the original victim, who may have already deleted the original comment. What I noticed time and time again were parents and other adults included in their friend lists, seemingly oblivious to their child’s online activities. It was quite easy to go from one Facebook page to another as the chilren were all linked into each other’s pages. I even stumbled on one page with a couple of teenage girls play dancing suggestively to CD on the bed in their bedroom. I think they were copying the dancing off a music CD, it was ‘very’ sexual. As all the children were between 10 and 12 years old I informed the schools and Facebook quickly acted and deleted the pages too. Within days some of them had new pages, once again with parent’s and relatives linked in.

    I have noticed that a written comment somehow instills in children the confidence to repeat it verbally. Whereas one or two may have bullied on the playground in the past, cyber space bullying can encourage dozens of children to take part in an organised and calculated way , with devastating consequences. I am not saying that children are conscious of what they are doing or even understand the seriousness of it; but parent’s and schools could be more proactive in having the pages deleted as soon as they are spotted.

    • I’m sorry to say it has been very easy to bully on Twitter, e.g.sending fifty or sixty rape/bomb threats in the course of a few hours.

      Thank you for your reflections on children’s use of Facebook and cyber-bullying. I think it is something we all need to be more aware of.

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