Tuesday, May 29, 2007

People will join the Uprising when they can hum the Theme Song

In the following article, “Breaking Free of the Cycles of Violence”, I lay out some observations of the problems I see and calls upon all of us to begin to adopt a more critical attitude about the use of violence in its many forms and how we can disengage from this “game”- develop an aware attitude about our acts and how they affect others.

I have been working on his since graduate studies in Social Work in the mid-70’s. I took away much from my studies of systems theory, criminal justice, family and social dynamics and how we find permission for what we do. I have also learned a lot about power relationships from Margo Adair’s writings and workshops, and broadened my awareness of many issues these past 25 years with the help of this odd collection of misfits known as San Francisco.


Don Eichelberger

Violence in currently structured society is pervasive. Literary and Biblical accounts date it from before Cain and Abel, to Satan’s war against God. Western tradition since then has been a story of war and subjugation. Individuals within those histories have faced and continue to face oppression and violence.

If we are to break free of the cycles of control and domination that lead to violence, we need to be aware of how the dynamics of violence feed on themselves and perpetuate and escalate violence.

Identifying individual and social roles in the violence process is important. For as we empower personal action to end our “will for violence”, meaningful social change will begin. Internal change will cultivate a desire to end violence.

Just as current culture is built upon a historical foundation of violence, future culture free of violence will be built upon principles of anti-violence now. We are currently living the history that will hopefully form the underpinnings of a more caring future.

Once the internal will to violence is lessened, we can look at social dynamics of violence more clearly. Institutions that perpetuate and thrive on violence can finally begin to be disassembled.

Violence, as defined here, is the imperative to dominate. It is the culmination of a cycle of events and systems based on making life work like a game, with winners and losers. As the systems feed the violence and make it stronger, so the escalated violence feeds back into those systems, making them more violent, spiraling the cycle.


The cycle begins with the imperative to acquire or preserve property. Whether we are protecting (or coveting) personal property, personal authority over others, or strategic resources for a nation, this dynamic opens the way for violence. This is not the same as acquiring survival needs. Thus, a wolf pack attacking a caribou is not violence.


Once the need to defend property is established, it builds a mindset that widens the definition of property and asserts our right to control it. Propriety rights (read territorial imperative) involves controlling not only real goods, but also people and institutions. The patriarchy claims control of women, children, workers, economic and political processes, and future outcomes.


This is the tactical mechanism for enforcing proprietary rights. It is a system of rewards and punishment that enforces property rights.

Positive reinforcement is given to people & and instituting that consolidate control. Reinforcement is withheld (political contributions, grants, jobs, favors) from entities not toeing the line. Corporal ad capitol punishment, police, military and economic power are the coercive arms of the process.


Will to violence involves creating the apparatus to provide the system with willing and unwilling participants. This is the socialization structure, and it invades all social institutions. Patriarchal western culture centers around creating children obedient to authority- the mission of families, schools and churches. When children gain the age to begin to assert their own authority, two paths open.

The “lucky” ones go on to higher education, where their violence is refined and focused on the competitive art of achievement. Through camaraderie in sports, frat parties and the paper chase, a new generation is trained to “get their share” of power and authority.

Power equates to money, and authority is the control apparatus (largely bureaucratic and/or hierarchical) of the corporation, state, church and military.

The unlucky ones go into military, prisons and/or an oppressive wage slave existence, often in heavy industry, weapons work, mining, etc., or else in menial labor or service jobs. Military and prisons are both “monster factories” that teach and reinforce the most hands—on forms of violence. Class, race and gender divisions in these two paths are stark.

The most brutal violence happens in populations where large numbers of people have been in military (especially combat) situations again socioeconomically determined. The criminal justice system’s injustice is most evident among groups of people unable to afford the price of justice. These systemic inequities feed into the cycles of frustration/rage that precipitates much domestic violence and child abuse.


This critical process creates the battle ground where violence is allowed expression. Patriarchy provides the first institutional cleavage, pitting men against women, Man is superior. This is probably the oldest institutional cleavage, and is woven intrinsically into the fabric of today’ systems in all but a few societies.

Institutional divisionism is rooted in creating an us—them mind set that can perpetuate barriers between people and separate people from the natural world. Its function is to mobilize divisiveness, is an educational process of dividing and controlling. Besides sexism, it manifests as racism, religious bigotry, patriotism, homophobia, regionalism, gang warfare, and all divisionistic practices.

The mind—set is hierarchical—pitting one entity against another using some adopted standard of “worth”. Hierarchical institutions spread this standard- patriarchic family structures, church establishmentarianism, and educational institutions, including schools and the media.

Popular news often focuses on violent attacks (“if it bleeds, it leads”) and helps spread the veil of distrust among individuals. War rhetoric and terrorist sensationalism help drive wedges among nations. The propaganda machine is consciously driven by forces bent on maintaining their power. It is not above product media that stirs deep—seated divisions (e.g. racist stories, sexist advertising and jingoistic movies and music).

Sports as media also helps keep a population aggitable. Passions stay stirred from the World Series to the super bowl, NBA play—offs Stanley Cup and Big Time Wrestling. The Olympics opens the way for the rawest kind of nationalism, giving this divisive dynamic an international flavor. Competitive political battles, long on rhetoric and media imaging and short on substance oils the machinery with its slime.

Besides institutional processes that divide people from each- other, other processes work to separate humans from the natural order. This process, termed “desacralization by Jeremy Rifkin , places humans on a hierarchical scale above the rest of creation. Desacralization feeds back into the beginning of the loop and our definition of property.

High tech medical practices continually try to overcome the world’s most natural processes, birth and death. While some headway is being made to retrieve the art of midwifery and reinstate home birth and “natural birth” as the norm, much of Western medicine continues to negate the body’s role in maintaining health. Hospitals and the funeral industry have placed an antiseptic veil around the most pervasive of human experiences, being born and dying, a isolating us from the profoundness of our mortality.

Food production and distribution further alienate us from the natural cycles. High tech growing has relegated the land to chemical dependency, robbed food of nutrition and placed agricultural workers into a malnourished and oppressed subclass.
The real estate industry has made the life-giving earth into property, where market value transcends intrinsic value, transforming nature into a commodity or a “resource”.

Food processing and marketing help push the violence cycle in several ways. Processed foods, higher in sugar and additives, triggers bodily responses that can lead to agitation and direct violence (e.g. the “Twinkie Defense”). Economic violence is done to the lowest socioeconomic rungs in inner city neighborhoods, usually located farther from large food outlets, where prices are lower. And long bins of cut up animal flesh further separates humans from the suffering of beings “lower” in life’s hierarchy, and further desensitize
humans from the cycles of life at death.

This is not a definitive analysis of institutional divisions that feed the violence. These are illustrations of a wide range of ways the cycle functions, and that is its purpose. Locating our place in that cycle can suggest where we as individual feed into the cycles, and hopefully suggest ways that we can begin to take action in our personal lives to disengage from and dismantle the cycles. Then begins the challenge of creating life—affirming cycles to replace them.