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Posts Tagged ‘Kenosha’

Weapons and Ethics

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

The ethical question is not about weapons, but about which ones.

by Adrian Wohlleben

There is no such thing as a peaceful insurrection. This is America; there is no imaginable scenario in which social conflicts will continue and people will not be armed, on all sides. Whether weapons are necessary is an open question, but in any case, they are inevitable. However, as friends noted some time ago, there is an important distinction to be made between “being armed and the use of arms”. If guns are an inevitable feature of any American insurrection, it is a question of doing every­thing possible to make their use unnecessary.

For participants and observers of this summer’s uprisings, the clashes in Kenosha following Jacob Blake’s shooting have dragged the question of armed violence to the forefront of debates. Does the presence of guns on ‘our side’ offer any sense of relief from danger? Do they make anything possible that isn’t otherwise? Can we imagine them being used in a way that would open the situation up, and made people feel more powerful?

In his “Critique of Violence” (1921), penned in the immediate aftermath of a defeated communist insurrection in Germany, Walter Benjamin attempts to bypass sterile oppositions between violence and ‘nonviolence’, legitimate and illegitimate force, instead directing our attention to the more decisive difference between modes and manners of violence. By suspending the question of the ‘aims’ or goals of violence—which, on Benjamin’s view, quickly devolves into myth and metaphysics—and instead differentiating between its means and uses, we shift the problem from an instrumental or technical register to an ethical one. Instead of asking, “for the sake of what end does this act occur?”, we should ask, What is this act like from the inside? What does it do to us, and those around us? How does it activate, or deactivate, our capacity to fully participate in existence? In this way, Benjamin is able to reframe the problem of revolutionary violence: its difference from state violence resides not in the ‘tasks’ or agenda it claims to serve, but first and foremost in the relation to the world, to oneself, and to others that it engenders. (more…)

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