Roots of Violence in the U.S. Culture: A Diagnosis Towards Healing
Author Alain Richard
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 1999; 156 pages; paperback; US$14.95
ISBN: 1-57733-043-9

An excellent book, on my Top Ten "Must Read" List.  I recommend you buy the book and read it in its entirety.

 
Table of Contents:
Introduction
1. What Do We Mean by Violence, Nonviolence, Culture, Market Culture and Principles?
2. Why Were So Many Wonderful Possibilities Not Realized?
3. Market Culture: Its Emergence and Effects
4. Seeds of Violence from Colonial Origin
5. Individual and National Dreams
6. An Individualistic Role Model, the "Self-made" Man
7. Facing the Tangled Roots of Violence
Afterword
 
 
Introduction
- so many wonderful promises, so many hopes wither or vanish.  Why?
- lead young people to cynicism and violence?
- deception
- obvious that powerful realities of the culture strangled many of the promising new blossoms.
- dominant culture
- money before people
- work towards the transformation of the U.S. culture
- violence ... has deep roots in ... the North American culture
- imitation
- scapegoating
- separation of people from the land
- dead end road of escalating violence
- my hypothesis is that some seldom-discussed assumptions within the principles of the U.S. culture foster various violences.  As the U.S. culture spreads around the globe, these incriminated principles help generate violence in other parts of the world.
- only a deep criticism of several principles of the culture can bring light to the situation
- very difficult to be conscious of the true bases of one's own culture
- being critical of one's own culture is often considered sacrilegious or unpatriotic
- dramatic consequences the privileged status of a few has upon the many
- contempt
- local needs were sacrificed to benefit the desire of a colonizing nation
- scorn show to ... labourers; ... many injustices inflicted to vulnerable workers
- the ugly face of poverty is visible to all who choose to see
- people ... defensive
- However, an adult needs to denounce any false security.
 
 
1. What Do We Mean by Violence, Nonviolence, Culture, Market Culture and Principles?
- (violence) negates the fundamental humanness or sacredness of the person or the creature
- strength as resistance is needed for any personal, social or cultural change
- passive people, who constitute the most impressive majority, need often to have their aggressiveness awakened to start a struggle
- violence is a dysfunction in conflict resolution
- an adversary who uses means that threaten the humanness or the life of the opponent reveals a desire for murder, whether partial or total, symbolic or real
- (nonviolence) is a method for resolving conflicts and injustices, and it is a spirit
- truth ... is also the fact that human beings in their core are longing for living relationships and communion, and for experiencing a life consistent with that yearning
- seek to establish a new balance of power by disarming their opponent with the inner power arising from their liberty, courage, steadfastness, or love
- confidence in the intrinsic goodness of every human being
- active nonviolence that aims at the eradication of violences
- active "noncollaboration" with injustice; it intends to paralyze the adversary or the adverse system but respects the opponent
- six principles of nonviolence: 1.  ... not a method for cowards ... ; 2.  ... win his friendship and understanding ... ; 3.  ... directed against forces of evil rather than against persons ... ; 4.  ... willingness to accept suffering ... ; 5  ... avoids ... internal violence of the spirit ... ; 6.  ... the universe is on the side of justice.
- culture is the whole way of life, material, intellectual, and spiritual, of a given society
- differentiating one group from another
- "market culture": the culture born from the womb of the market; a culture in which the laws of the market economy take the place of the principles on which previous cultures had been established; economic rationalism
- a substitution of meaning has happened subtly ... market culture has established new points of reference in every area of our lives
- human based cultures vs. market culture
 
 
2. Why Were So Many Wonderful Possibilities Not Realized?
- eg. ... singers ... co-opted by the dominant culture
- eg. ... hippies' intuitions, especially that humanness and individuality should not be subordinated to money or organization
- the establishment and the prevalent principles
- those working to develop a communitarian spirit and communitarian patterns should take into account that their efforts are simultaneously countered by the merchants controlling the television channels who encourage passivity and individualistic patterns of behavior
- television viewing is a requisite of the American Way of Life; any TV advertising is certain of an impact
- eg. Kyoto ... has shown ... ecological choices of the U.S.A. being dictated by corporate interests and not by the future of the planet
- bitterness or despair takes the place of reasonable hope
- destructive behavior of the culture we live in
- eg. the down-winders of eastern Nevada and southern Utah suffer high rates of cancer and death (from past nuclear testing)
- damaged millions of people for life
- hope was destroyed (of U.S. policy against the treaty requirement to eliminate nuclear weapons)
- manifestation of a deeper reality ingrained in the whole life and culture of the country: the need for total supremacy
- as the principles guiding the culture stay the same ... the decisions will not change
- the Number One Syndrome: ... the need for total supremacy.  It is a principle of the culture.
- assimilations of minorities carried out under the guise of national unity represent a terrible loss for the American people
- an only negative way of looking at the world is not healthy.  However, a refusal to look at cultural flaws and defects is likewise unhealthy.
- purpose ... to motivate people for a change that can heal the main sources of cultural violence
 
 
3. Market Culture: Its Emergence and Effects
- daily ... economic war
- advertising increases consumption, thus creating new wants and even new needs
- affluenza: 1. the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling resulting from trying to buy all the latest stuff and keep up with the Joneses; 2. an unsustainable addiction to consumption and economic growth without regard for the consequences to our families, communities or the environment
- advantages for some ... destruction for many
- we now live in a market culture
- penetrates the whole social fabric .. consequences ... are powerful, subtle, and destructive
- the criticisms ... are related to the substitution of moral principles by principles that had been established for the material success of the market system
- invoke the laws of the market
- family dramas, suicides, poverty, say the corporations, cannot be considered.  Competition cannot listen to calls for compassion.
- eg. health care system
- life, human dignity, confidentiality, respect for family and the needs of children become subservient to economic laws
- when the U.S. ... limits the entry of Mexicans ... it violates the most precious principles of the U.S. culture
- the few previous examples show how market principles are often in conflict with a culture based on human values
- growth of industrialization and its associated accumulation of capital created human struggles ... a conflict of values
- most people agreed that the market cannot run wild and should follow moral principles
- politicians, ordinary people and even ethicists began to bow unquestioningly to the laws of market
- the individualism exemplified in the role model of the self-made man helped society move from a human centered vision of life to market mechanisms, where human relationships have less and less importance
- reduction of the human person to the utilitarian aspect of its existence
- the human based cultures see the goal of the culture as favoring a holistic development of the human beings and of the societies created by the persons.  The market culture's goal favors material development and economic prosperity.
- on the international level, the "structural adjustment" policy of the World Bank illustrates the substitution of market laws for moral principles
- the World Bank was established on free market and material development principles.  The humanistic and religious roots have disappeared.
- FDR pushed legislation that expressed a deep humanist concern which could be found in the soul of most citizens
- often I hear parents complain that they do not understand where their children found the values for their life
- financial interests control the media, popular music and entertainment, and cast their values upon the children
- the result is a growing subservient mass of people whose culture is now the Market Culture
- for the country's forefathers, freedom meant exemption from the control of arbitrary power, religious or political
- most politicians today consider free markets the backbone of freedom
- the well-organized market with its rationalism has taken its place ... as the very backbone of our present U.S. culture
- in front of an international quasi consensus, U.S. representatives are often alone in defending policies judged immoral by a majority of their constituency
- the government is aware that it can disregard public opinion because most protesters continue to abide by and nurture the market culture in their daily buying choices
- the aggressive trade policy of the U.S. ... bringing prosperity to a few, while imposing a disrespect of the wisdom and uniqueness of host cultures
- people lose their points of reference and feel disoriented, uprooted, and even violated
- important cause of the violence in their homeland
- the violence flowing from the market culture affects the core of any creature
- following utilitarian principles, the market culture does not value the preciousness or sacredness of all creatures
- this violence imposed by the market culture is so rarely mentioned
- when a materialistic culture replaces a culture based on humanness, destruction follows
- life is devalued.  There is a desensitizing of awareness of the destruction and death that violence inflicts on both the victim and the perpetrator
- the major focus is material prosperity.  Development and profit are the supreme values that justify choices.
- human beings become mere commodities ... and the prostitution goes on
- the devaluation of life in a market culture is further demonstrated in the casualness of killings between gang members for the exclusive right to sell drugs in an area, or of deadly attacks for a few dollars
- human life is cheapened.  Greed makes people unconcerned and indifferent to human life
- the North American media values the life of one U.S. citizen more than many lives from a Third World country ... this reveals a lack of awareness that sacredness of life knows neither racial nor national boundaries
- de-humanization ... the most destructive of all
- dehumanized when .. victims ... of superiority
- the market culture which claims to be the culture of the future does not recognize the sacredness that is the most valuable treasure of every created being
- when people sense that their preciousness and their dignity are not recognized, they feel deprived of their humanness, they feel de-humanized and sometimes express their frustration against the violence of the market culture with violent acts
- as a remedy to desecration of the human being, the daily actions that can help people retrieve their humanness are of major importance.  Being considered a precious person whose dignity is indestructible invites people to a more human behavior, more respectful of justice, and more peaceful.  Hundreds of millions of market culture victims wait for suggestions and help in retrieving their humanness.
- support
 
 
4. Seeds of Violence from Colonial Origin
- deceived by the American Administration
- former occupants of colonized lands became victims of violence from the newcomers
- superiority ... is a mark of racism
- the U.S. administration violated many international treaties signed between Americans and Indian Nations
- a practical contempt of non-Whites
- when the majority fears losing a privileged status, intolerance increases
- the country's economic structures continue to favor Whites
- wounds and anger are among the most frequent causes of violence
- victims ... turn their anger and despair against their own lives (eg. alcohol)
- high percentage of minorities ... in U.S. prisons ... victims of unemployment
- black ghettos and Indian reservations are a powder keg
- no noticeable progress in respect, esteem and power happened
- "Why does the U.S. make us suffer so much?"  People referred to the economic colonialism imposed on their countries, or to the aid given to their oppressive governments.
- How can such an imperialist spirit sustain the foreign policy of the U.S.A., a country once a victim of British colonialism?  Modern psychology partially answers the question by noting that victims of abuse and oppression tend to victimize others.
- colonized nations become colonizers.  Oppressed people become oppressors if they accede to power without healing their own wounds.
- the North American society was established on some assumptions rarely discussed: the primacy of the invading race, culture and religion
- they clothed their search for wealth with biblical motivations and pious proclamations
- These three ubiquitous realities of the American Way of Life, suggest that they are the main values animating its life and culture: 1. primacy of the invading culture, race and religion - 2. material development - and 3. profit at any price.  Obedience to God, liberty, pursuit of happiness ... now carry little weight.
- the oppression of the American Way of Life upon people of other countries has to be recognized
- threats and pressure, psychological or military, are exercised as needed for this outcome
- Messianism and the Number One Complex: idealistic, self-denying, hopeful of divine favor for national aspirations
- such competitive thinking, according to psychologists, is very destructive; comparison damages relationships as it erases the uniqueness of a person or a group and competition destroys communitarian spirit as it opposes the natural law of human interdependence.  People lose the ability to think of themselves as part of a larger group.
- domination
- much of the desire to be Number One is clearly nationalistic ... search for mastery over others
- no healing of these old wounds will happen without a national upsurge of truth and courage
- racism, disdain for others, and total submission to a materialistic vision of development and profit-making will be brought to the level of a practiced civil religion
 
 
5. Individual and National Dreams
- the American dream ... is reduced to the accumulation of material possessions
- more difficult to see the difference between reality, illusion and dream
- immediate satisfaction ... instant gratification
- before these last years the training of children emphasized the fulfilling of their needs through effort, learning and saving.  Now both youth and adults ignore that preparation, get frustrated if their wants are not satisfied immediately, and become violent
- the Sirens continue to allure
- vulnerable to persuasive salespersons or telemarketers ... temporary credit
- frustrations and anger easily lead to violence, a violence that becomes casual
- a consumer driven society systematically arousing people's wants exacerbates the frustrations of those whose desire for material gratification far exceeds their resources
- indigenous cultures who wish to keep their traditional way of life conflict with promoters of the American Way who pretend that such amenities are necessary
- addictions enslave people ... temporarily release the tension created by the injuries ... numb their wounds ... truth is that it creates a dependency
- the market culture reduced the dream to only becoming rich.  To promise to every American richness is in itself a violence towards the rest of the planet, as it can be done only at the expense of others.
- Manifest Destiny of the Nation
- how I wish that Americans would not fall into the same arrogance
- "We have to spread our system and culture." ... the CIA exploited this ambiguous religious and nationalistic missionary zeal ... violences followed
- it is time for the U.S.A. as a whole to look clearly at that mission and to face its ambiguities and its resulting violence.  A collective national psychotherapy is urgently needed.
- a courageous process is needed to bring the profound healing which is required
- because they are poor and did not make it, they believe they are rejected by God.  Society tells them
- signs of a deep frustration ... violences is brought by this disappointment
- inside the U.S.A. there is the realization that the nation is moving in the opposite direction of what the Founding Fathers had dreamed
- Freedom is shrinking.  The primary freedom, to make profit and accrue wealth, is held by the few.
- a national frustration that the manifest destiny ... is not recognized by everyone on this planet
- crisis
- national bursts of violence against whoever resists the "benevolence" and the "divine" nature of the U.S.A.
- I see an incredible violence in the belief in a Manifest Destiny.  I see also the wounds inside North Americans that this exceptional mission has not been realized as they have dreamed.  More violence follows.
 
 
6. An Individualistic Role Model, the "Self-made" Man
- individualism lies at the very core of American culture
- this individualism may have grown cancerous
- they are incomplete persons whose development has been blocked
- his woundedness provokes frustrations and violences
- Paul of Tarsus warns of the danger of doing great things, and not having love that is the core of human existence
- the self-made man is the American success story
- What does the model of the self-made man say about what it means to be human?  How does one become a complete person?  Is the ideal human being independent of others?
- Social commentators and ethicists denounce the destructiveness of North American individualism.
- four relationships are essential for becoming fully human: 1. relationships with other persons and groups, small or large; 2. relationship with "God" (spiritualism); 3. relationship with all of creation, animate and inanimate; 4. relationship with the totality of the self, including the "dark" or "shadow" parts.
- a person is created through relationships.  Growing as a person means entering fully into these relationships and being changed by them.
- experiencing the dignity of the self and the other
- becoming human includes the understanding that people share a common humanity and a common world
- vs. exploitative relationships
- some psychologists claim that today's ecological crisis threatening sustainable life on earth, injects fear and increases the difficulty for future planning
- develop inside themselves virtues, instead of fighting against their sins.  When virtues or the light inside us grows, the dark side of us that leans towards sin decreases considerably
- the self-made person, dependent on success for his self-worth, cannot acknowledge his shadow.  His pride blocks his need for God (the spiritual) or others.  Barring himself from true relatedness, he is a prisoner in his own self-made cell, a wounded man.  He has lost touch with the core of his humanness, and thus with his divineness.
- must remove him from his pedestal
- often the self-made man does not appear threatening, but behind the smile of his auto-satisfaction lies a terrible violence
- freeing the self-made man ... will be a very difficult enterprise
- give up their pride and dominating spirit to enter respectful relationships
- anthropology enfleshed by the self-made man grew from the struggle for life and from the wounds of past dysfunctional relationships
- my statement that the current anthropology is truncated and is the main cause of violence of the North American culture may provoke scepticism and raise eyebrows
- the ethic of authenticity might be the most important treasure of the North American culture ... on the other hand, this richness carries in itself the danger of a self-centeredness, bringing very destructive consequences
- when people do not strive for wholeness, their distorted vision of the human being favors the growing market world
- correlation between inner emptiness and consumption ("I shop therefore I am") ... the weeds of Greed, the Number One syndrome, and the self-made man model compete to occupy the empty space inside the human being
- only the painful experience of failures may bring new life as it shakes the bases of one's existence and forces re-evaluation.  The first requirement is recognition of one's own incompleteness
- is there a greater experience than personal fulfillment through a nurturing relationship?
- while no group is perfect, to walk alone in an effort to reform society damages deeply those who do so
 
 
7. Facing the Tangled Roots of Violence
- credit the U.S. culture for the presence, in other parts of the world, of the destructive values that I pointed out
- old market praxis that the most important lender can make the law in any deal ("the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules")
- prevalence of material interests over any moral considerations
- eg. G.A.T.T. and M.A.I. - in other developed and developing countries the undemocratic secret preparation of the M.A.I. provoked reactions
- the reality is that the financial powers de facto control the economic situation and present their control as a Law of the Universe
- the world over, the global culture where a market culture assumes that it has the right to establish the principles of morality, seems really to be an export of the U.S.A
- racist policy continues
- the certitude of a Manifest Destiny of the American people, that continues to give foundation or to cover new forms of imperialism, does not seem to have an equivalent in any other part of the world
- the self-made man is truly an American creation
- the specific type of American individualism exemplified by the self-made man gave to the substitution of market values for human centered values, a dynamism simultaneously subtle and extremely powerful
- recognize the determining action of the U.S. culture in the arising of new global values
- more scholars have examined the violences coming from the growth of cities at the expense of traditional social ties.  Western civilization is, without doubt, the deeper cause of the global urban mushrooming.
- the causes of violence explored in the previous chapters grew on various grounds: a truncated anthropology resulting from wounds contracted in the Old Countries and giving an erroneous understanding of human growth; various scars inherited from a colonial past that started as a heroic adventure; desires and passions common in every human being but fuelled by the abundance of land and resources; an American dream; an ambiguous special destiny; and a market culture subtly replacing any previous values of the culture.  This is not an exhaustive list.
- we need to understand some of the dynamisms of these causes and their interactions in order to prioritize our efforts for transformation into a more humane and just situation
- (some) establish a list of violences so extensive that they become lost ... we do not need to fight all the manifestations of violence at once
- the ultimate roots of violence ... may be the lack of spiritual development
- our common responsibilities arise from living in a specific culture, in a limited territory, at a unique time.  This context of our existence limits our means of action
- power and desire seem the most common forces acting between the potential violence and the violence itself
- Rollo May, in "Power and Innocence", describes this in five levels of power present as potentialities in every human being's life: 1. the power to be; 2. self-affirmation; 3. self-assertion; 4. development of aggression when self-assertion is blocked; 5 violence as ultimate explosion if all efforts toward aggression are ineffective.
- de-humanization ... gives birth to open violence
- the importance of mimic desire at the source of various violences
- artificial development of wants impossible to satisfy
- unfulfilled desire gives place to frustration which grows, brews inside the person, or explodes
- oppressive models
- these dynamics involving power and desire are those which allow the roots of violence to visibly manifest their destructive potentialities
- avoid the frequent confusion of mistaking them for the roots of violence
- anxiety about the future and fear of lacking power are most likely the seeds of greed
- market culture develops wildly and spreads its violence all over the world since it follows the penetration of businesses built on the principles of economic rationalism that pretend to be inescapable
- the market culture became a cancer .. because of ... truncated anthropology.  European and Asian cultures emphasize relationships more.
- Greed is nurtured by individualism.
- those who are conscious of what is happening can act to rediscover the sacredness
- this consciousness is essential in resisting the attacks of the market culture
- destructiveness of the market culture ... has become the worst violence done to human beings
- greed helped racism to develop
- Messianism and Manifest Destiny of the American nation helped the search for material prosperity, along with the omnipresent greed that infiltrates such a pursuit
- the Number One complex ... favors domination
- this is the opposite of a mentality of interdependence, complementarity and solidarity.  With such a competitive and dominative mentality, true relationships are almost impossible, as dialogue is not sought.
- frequently irritates foreigners aware of this ridiculous pretentiousness as a source of dramatic violence
- however painful it is to face this reality, it is essential to look at it
- truth makes us free.  Otherwise freedom does not exist.
 
 
Afterword
- healing of a nation or of a culture requires a good diagnosis before the choice of a medicine
- heal the principles on which our culture is established
- only a persevering intellectual, moral and structural effort can change the wide-spread mentality concerning the becoming of a person
- establish limits on market laws
- if the ecological movement understands better that the future of the planet depends on a nonviolent way of life, a well founded hope can develop and bear fruit
- material measures, however sophisticated, cannot succeed in healing the American culture.  Anthropological and spiritual vision requires a deep transformation of people.
- process having both spiritual and structural effects
- the possibilities of nonviolence for a "total revolution" which does not mean only a turnover of power holders, but a compete change of mentality and structures
- UNESCO Culture of Peace Program
- eradicating the true roots of the violence is the only hope for healing the violence dwelling inside a culture
- nonviolence builds its strength on the importance of relationships
- awaken the good inside their adversaries
- confidence in the divine power of the good and its unity
- nonviolence ... is a spirit and a methodology aimed at disarming an opponent and destroying the germs of violence
- refusal to use any tricks
- it avoids words and actions which might incite the actor of injustice to become more aggressive
- the market culture ... discards the value of sacredness in the name of effectiveness
- nonviolence resists this stance, and proclaims that the freeing and growing of sacredness is an important element for a real efficiency ... avoiding material destruction
- culture of relationships ... communities
- will there be enough willingness to accept the various requirements of groups and communities?
- the pyramidal model so frequent in the dominant culture in the U.S.A. will need to be replaced by the circular model used in consensus groups
- creativity
- needs charismatic animating figures
- e-peace
- inner source of power
- in a nonviolent struggle, strategy attempts to provoke a change inside the adversary through the power of truth and love.  if such a change does not occur, then strategy strives with a more powerful mass movement to exert constraint so that the opponent feels compelled in his own interest to accept the just demands of his adversary. In both processes of the nonviolent actions, respect for the sacredness of the adversary is a fundamental element.
- Gandhi's ... non-cooperation (with the market culture) is the first step ... for now, boycott seems the most appropriate means ... when the motivation of boycott is the dignity of the human being who is not for sale, it exerts a powerful attraction
- dissent through actions of non-cooperation should lead to the creation of alternative structures, shaping the future and involving the participation of huge numbers of people
- it requires shaking off passivity and motivating people to accept a personal sacrifice
- keeping the human person at the center of a Way of Life
- people growing up in the North American culture either have been deeply damaged during the first years of life, losing adaptability, or are unwilling to develop creativity and adaptability ... passivity ... TV
- the survival of democracy and of the human race need an active participation of at least a large minority.  These people work to help large numbers become more human
- new teaching methods ... Paulo Freiere
- Nonviolence is not an easy way.  It requires people not afraid to challenge their own mentality, the behaviors of others, and the structures of society.
- require a wider perception of the attack on humanness ... that consciousness is a prerequisite for any motivation. 
- the dynamism of motivated people able to be agents of change
 
Some Principles of a Nonviolent Culture:
1. The human beings do not exist without relationships.
2. The human dignity should not be alienated.
3. All of creation, animate or inanimate, is sacred
4. Means that do not respect the human dignity and other expressions of the good cannot be used even for beneficial results.
5. The same good with its power exists inside each of the opponents during a conflict.
6. The power of truth and love, that has a divine origin, is greater than any other power (brute force, psychological power, wealth).
7. The collective expression of the inner power requires a certain level of social cohesion.
8. The challenge of communities and the pursuit of the common good are a requisite.
9. Nobody has the whole truth.  No culture has the whole truth.  Each one sees and serves only a part of the truth.
10. To accept the risk to suffer rather than to impose suffering on others.
 
- participate in motivating others
- the market culture is suffocating the center of our being
- what is at stake is important enough to start changing