Physical violence excludes her and the physically weak / Yin Bin NING (Translated by Mon WONG)
Physical violence is not a good strategy to allow ¡¥everyone¡¦ to participate in movements because the violence would scare off and exclude most of the women, senior citizens, disabled persons, children and sissies (¡¥cowards¡¦), leaving the men or the strong who are able to fight against violence to dominate in politics. Therefore, to oppose physical violence is to allow the weak to enter public domain and participate in civil politics.
Those who claim that mob violence has its legitimacy often think that when people are facing state violence, they certainly have the right to use violence against violence. As the Anti-Corruption Movement develops, more and more violence actually occurs between protestors. People on one side claimed to be ¡¥patriots¡¦ and call the people on the other side ¡¥traitors¡¦ or someone who are the henchmen for the state (own country or enemy state). So, should people use violence against each others?
State violence is not just perpetrated military, police and judicial units. The violence used by patriotic mob to carry out the will of the state is of course also a kind of state violence. If counterattacking state violence is legitimate, then citizens should be able to use physical violence against violence of not just soldiers and police but violent mob being tools used by the state. To advocate people have the right to use violence against the state can easily lead to violence between people.
The revolutions of people using violence to overthrow tyrannies started in 18th century keep proving the legitimacy of people using violence to oppose state violence. However, the term ¡¥people¡¦s revolution¡¦ assumes ¡¥people¡¦ are on one side and ¡¥state¡¦ is on the other, but from the look of it now, ¡¥people¡¦ is not a totality but rather divided and even conflicted. Whenever violence occurs between people, for example, when one side uses physical violence to silence the other side resulting in the intervention of state violence (i.e. in the name of ¡¥protecting freedom of assembly¡¦), then state violence is being legitimized. If state violence is considered legitimate, then those who are not happy about it and uses violence to fight against state violence would be considered illegitimate. This means the violence used by the people to oppose state violence is not always considered legitimate.
In this unjust society, state violence is considered illegitimate because it is used to maintain an unjust regime, but this does not mean state violence is always unjust, for sometimes state violence does protect basic civil rights. In contemporary society, populace movement should not use physical violence as a strategy to face state violence, the reason being in the past, the ¡¥people¡¦ in populace movement were mostly strong young men and physical violence was even considered part of male bravado. However, in the past decades, there were major changes in public domain and civil society, mostly meaning the participation of women and other ¡§physically weak¡¨ persons. The large numbers of female (sometimes with children) participants in the 915 siege is an indication of this trend. From the point of view of encouraging the physically weak to participate public demonstrations, physical violence is not a good strategy to allow ¡¥everyone¡¦ to participate in movements because the violence would scare off and exclude most of the women, senior citizens, disabled persons, children and sissies (¡¥cowards¡¦).
In other words, what¡¦s wrong with physical violence is its exclusion of women. Violence not only excludes the women and the weak ones of the opposite side, it also pushes the women and the weak ones on our side to the margin, leaving the men or the strong who are able to fight against violence to dominate in politics. In the end, what will be left in a civil society are the ¡¥strong¡¦ men full of anger and hate dominating the society. No matter which side wins over the power, it would still be a regime led by the strong, full of hate and vendetta without any tolerance. Therefore, to oppose physical violence is to allow the weak to participate in public politics.
Some people think the elderly, the disabled, the children, the women and the ¡¥gentle men¡¦ should be educated not to be afraid of violence. However, the weak ones do not necessary fear violence because violence has a bad name for a long time. During their lives, they are more susceptible to be the victims of violent acts. After all, physical violence is closely related to the tradition of ¡¥the strong bullying the weak¡¦.
During the civilizing process led by middle-class who emphasized civility and courtesy, physical violence were gradually cast out of the public and even private domains. The numbers of corporal punishment in school and domestic violence are decreasing. Some don¡¦t even know what physical violence feels like and bodies are gradually becoming more closely connected with self-esteem. In our time, physical violence, like sexual harassment, is not only about physical contacts, but also about the violation of human rights and individuality.
However, physical violence is but one of the forms of violence and people nowadays do not necessarily need to use physical violence to fight against the state violence in modern era. Demonstrators and movement activists need to develop other forms of resistance and they could include the participation of physical bodies. (For example, protest in the nude which has becomes popular in recent years.)
In short, the feminization of public sphere and the inclusive civil society do not go well with physical violence. However, the personal motives behind many physical violence incidents are closely related to the frustrated masculinity being crushed by unemployment, unsuccessful relationship, being dominated or discriminated by others. Some men lack the ability to use non-physical violence to vent out their frustration, but this does not serve as an excuse for legitimizing physical violence.
When we are faced with people using violence against each other, we can¡¦t just vaguely tell people to be enlightened or irresponsibly say that ¡§everyone is the victim of oppression¡¨. We need to acquire an in-depth analytical knowledge of different kinds of oppressions. Leaders of populace movements have the responsibility to educate people as people have the responsibility to learn by themselves. The new autonomous civil movement needs the learning of new knowledge, tolerance and how to use civilized violence or non-violence.
In the long run, because violence is not the natural inclination of men, so as public culture has become civil and more feminine, it should be able to alter the face of violence. The new civil movement insists on resorting to non-violence is a good starting point.
 This is a longer version of the newspaper article which was published in the Public Forum Section of China Times, 9 September 2006. The article greatly benefited from a conversation with Naifei Ding.
YinBin NING is a member of Taiwan Radical Quarterly and a Philosophy Professor in the Graduate School at Central University.
Contact address: Graduate Institute of Philosophy, National Central University, #300, Jung-da Rd., Chung-Li, Taoyuan, Taiwan 32054