NOT YOUR NORMAL, EVERYDAY VIOLENCE
Frank Lloyd Tiongson
Those squeamish, middle class, “educated” liberals? Yeah, they’ll be the first to pull the trigger when someone hands them a gun.
Because in the middle class imagination, there is only one kind of violence: the pitchfork-wielding-mob type, the rampaging-soccer-fanatic type, the genocide-instigating-tyrant type. And when their own naïveté slaps them in the face, when they have been pushed into a corner, they will only know how to wield the same kind of violence – the mindless, destructive kind.
It is no wonder that various forums are flooded with the self-righteous condemnation of the “violent” mass demonstrations in UP and PUP. Throwing school desks from balconies, forcefully barricading the administration building, and lobbing paint at a school administrator, they say, were too much. Those militant activists, a lot of them would say, were uneducated, incompetent fools who let emotions get the better of them. I also saw at least three people quote science fiction writer Isaac Asimov: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Well and good. But doesn’t it mean that the Philippine revolution and other uprisings around the world geared to overthrow colonialism were fueled by incompetence? Everything has been reduced to a question of competence, educational background, and etiquette. Perhaps next time those activists can bring a copy of their curriculum vitae before setting fire to a pile of chairs.
What their “education” apparently failed to impart to them is the ability to make distinctions. Constant exposure to ideological state apparatuses can, indeed, do that to a person. Violence, my dear lads, enables you to drink your morning coffee in peace and allow you to step out of the house without expecting anyone to hit you with a bat. It has only been ingeniously masked with the terms “security,” “punishment,” “law,” and “order.”
Hence, once the semantic muck has been cleared, one can always see state-instigated violence – what Max Weber in Politics as a Vocation calls “Gewaltmonopol des Staates” or the monopoly on violence. What makes us stop when the traffic light turns red is not etiquette. It is the knowledge of the violence that the state can inflict on us. After all, it has the whole armed forces, the police, and hired mercenaries, not to mention the horrors of Philippine jail management, at its employ. Law-abiding citizens are necessarily masochists, under constant exposure to different forms of legitimized violence.
Consequently, what results is a misrecognition and misunderstanding of violence. We never consider the state and its apparatuses such as the Board of Regents as perpetrators of violence. They are always the sources of order. While those lofty-minded liberals are quick to denounce violence, they fail to account that violence is very much present even in the minutiae of daily life, even in their haughty declaration that those “violent” hooligans who spray-painted Quezon Hall were uneducated and incompetent activists (which is actually a very poor example of what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu meant by symbolic violence since it can only be inflicted by those who possess symbolic capital).
Hence, everything else that do not fall within the ambit of such legitimized violence is plain and simple violence, such as the radical mass demonstrations in UP and PUP. It is, indeed, a matter of determining which is more violent: a graffiti on the wall, chairs thrown from balconies, or a student unable to enroll because of excessive fees, or a single teacher tasked to check 200 papers for the same measly salary because some person “soberly” decided that it is practical to increase class sizes.
Again, this misrecognition is simply a case of their inability to make distinctions. A closer inspection of the BOR protest would portend that the seemingly “violent” acts were actually carefully calculated. If those “scoundrels” wanted to do violence upon UPLB Chancellor Velasco (and I mean real violence) they would have thrown rocks, plants, and even the entire Oblation statue at him. When Malacañang-appointee Regent Abraham Sarmiento was blocked from entering Quezon Hall to attend the meeting, what prevented the students to hurt him and allow him to go away unharmed? Remember that Sarmiento was the Malacañang-appointee who was behind the whole PGH directorship fiasco and the whole issue on the eligibility of Student Regent Charisse Bañez.
The paintball hurling and the barricading were precise and surgical deployments of violence, enough only to bruise egos. They were symbolic acts intended to remind their targets of the students’ and faculty’s fury. They served to tell them, in the corporeal sense, that the students can touch them, that our discontent is thick enough to be cut by a knife, that there is no such thing as impunity and avoiding accountability. These are far from the mindless, destructive violence pervading the minds of haughty “educated” liberals.
Ironically, it is the same class of people who would recommend filing charges against the demonstrators. They are the same people who would seek harsh sanctions and penalties against those incompetent hooligans for “abusing their freedom of expression.”
Those squeamish, middle class, “educated” liberals? See, they are the first to call for blood.
Originally posted here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=389823291552&id=717548437&ref=nf