Cathartic Violence and Progressivism

Violence and progressivism wouldn’t, on the surface, seem to go together. Progressivism ranges from explicitly pacifist, in the case of the Quakers, to generally frowning on violence. Aggressive, militant progressivism had its brief day, in the English Civil War, but after losing power took a more indirect approach.

Although progressives avoid violence themselves, they don’t mind it when others use it and it suits their purposes. You see this in the early Victorian period. In “A Tale of Two Cities” Dickens portrays the French Revolution as an unfortunate but inevitable explosion of violence created by the cruel oppression of the people by the aristocracy. Reaction by northern abolitionists and progressives to the Nat Turner uprising and massacre of whites was that it was a more or less justified response to slavery. The reaction to the John Brown raid was similar, or more positive.

The idea of cathartic violence as the inevitable and socially and spiritually cleansing response to oppression was codified by Lincoln, implicitly in the Gettysburg Address and more explicitly in his Second Inaugural Address. The idea faded with Reconstruction but came back with the communist promotion of black civil rights in the early 20th century and the wider civil rights movement and worldwide communist revolution later in the 20th century.

The idea remains with us as the leftist response to crime by groups they classify as oppressed-blacks and Hispanics obviously, but even women. Since these groups are good and could only engage in violence if seriously provoked, violence on their part serves as a signal that some oppression must be remedied, on the individual level as well as the social level. Thus criminal proceedings against a black criminal will conclude with what can be done to help him, rehabilitation being an important part of the sentencing procedure in progressive justice systems. The criminal justice system in the US is infused with a sense of regret that it is necessary at all.

The original form of violence among humans is pagan violence. Pagan violence doesn’t have any moral content, it is simply a matter of dominating and avoiding being dominated. One set of humans might be championed by one god, others by another. The gods themselves aren’t even moral.

A later form is righteous violence, as seen in the Old Testament, and also in the Koran. In this case God instructs people to attack and destroy other people who have offended him. The victims must be totally dominated, either killed or enslaved. The victims reaction to this is of little importance since if not killed they will be rendered totally powerless.

The cathartic violence of progressives has an element of righteous violence, but since progressive society contains no formal state of slavery this element has to be small. Progressive society depends on a generally accepted consensus. People either agree, or are going to agree, by the means of various sanctions and by propaganda.

So the cathartic violence of progressivism requires its victims to accept the justice and goodness of the violence against them. They are supposed to be joyfully reconciled with their victimizer in accepting their suffering and the greater moral status of the victimizer.

This is crazy. Pagan violence and righteous violence will create victims who will be angry and want revenge but who will be unable to get it and whose feelings will be of no importance. Creating a pool of victims who are supposed to accept their status with at least equanimity is simply not possible in the realm of human psychology.

Progressives are outraged at this pool of uncooperative victims. This outrage leads to the mass dehumanization that is characteristic of all kinds of progressivism. It is deeply immoral to refuse to accept this status, and so these victims must lose their status as humans- which is of course how righteous violence controls its victims. Communism starts with propaganda and ends with endless political oppression and murder, progressivism creates more and more non-persons- in the last few years to include anyone who believes in traditional sexual morality.

The concept of cathartic violence is stupid, but more troublesome is its immorality and vacuity. The concept of pacifism is wrong, but at least contains the insight that violence will tend to lead to more violence. Any violent act or system of violent acts must contain in its intent some kind of stable solution that is better than the status quo. And it must recognize that violence has a serious deleterious effect on the person engaging in the violence. Violence can never be cathartic, this is a gross intellectual, moral and spiritual error.

Some kind of reconciliation is crucial for positive human existence; even progressives sometimes make bogus attempts at it, as when a communist revolution and mass murder aren’t going to happen- as in South Africa- or have been attempted and failed- as in Central America. But in almost all cases, progressivism is wedded to the idea of cathartic violence.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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8 Responses to Cathartic Violence and Progressivism

  1. Toddy Cat says:

    With all due respect, I think that there are some unjustified assumptions here , verging on liberalism. It isn’t true that violence tends to lead to more violence – in fact, the opposite tends to be true. The violent destruction of Carthage led to the Pax Romana (eventually), I haven’t heard a peep out of the Nazis recently, and the British defeat of Napoleon ushered in almost a hundred years of European peace. The whole “cycle of violence” business is mostly a result of liberal/progressive attempts to save leftists from going down to defeat before militarily superior conservative forces. Hence the endless liberal-inspired cease-fires, negotiations, mediation, etc, whenever some of their pet terrorists start to get beaten. Also, I’m not sure that violence always has a deleterious effect on those who wield it. It can, but once again, this seems to stem mostly from leftist guild-mongering. Certainly, those who wield the sword of the state in Just War, or who use violence in self-defense, have no need to feel any guilt or shame – quite the opposite. And looking at the crime and suicide rates of troops returning from most of our wars does not bear this out – they tend to be no higher than the general population. Of course, this in no way invalidates your larger point about the fallacy of cathartisc violence.

    • This is a pretty involved question. I don’t think that saying violence is a dangerous tool is progressive. Violence can lead to more or less violence, depending on how it is used. Violence is like what Aristotle said about anger- anyone can be angry, that is easy, but to be angry at the right time, for the right reason, with the right person, not anyone can do and is not easy.

      Righteous violence is very much like pagan violence, except for the rationalization. Communist revolutionary violence has a strong streak of righteousness, maybe coming from the Jewish influence on communism. It can also come from Christians resorting to Old Testament justifications for violence, such as Ignacio Ellacuria or maybe the early Russian revolutionaries.

      *But*- all leftist violence has to be considered cathartic in purpose, because all leftists believe violence of one kind or another purges society of the anger of the oppressed and will lead to a peaceful, harmonious society. Pagans don’t give a shit what the people they have conquered and enslaved think, but communists expect everybody to be happy after the revolution, just as progressives do.

      A constructively organized society has to avoid violence when possible and use it judiciously when necessary.

      • Hizzle says:

        Still you’ve got to take into account that these things are a circular firing squad. A black man is a victim of oppression until he attacks a Pomeranian or a homosexual, at which point he is even lower in the eyes of the progressives than a wrecker like Joe the Plumber.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        I certainly agree that both society and the individual should use violence judiciously, and certainly, violence is like surgery – dangerous, but often necessary. But I still disagree with your emphasis on the dangers of violence, as opposed to the deterrent effect that it can have – in fact, I would argue that, the more the possible dangers of violence are emphasized, the more violence there will be, because the only people who will listen to these warnings will be people who are not likely to initiate violence anyway, which will discourage self-defense, embolden predators, and result in more overall suffering (the same thing has happened with regard to the concept of “international law”). One notes how the rise of concealed carry and the emphasis on the right to self-defense have reduced crime and violence in this country, as opposed to the ’70’s when we were all lectured on the “dangers” of violent resistance, and crime skyrocketed. But perhaps this is only a matter of emphasis – the ’70’s crime wave really left a mark on me, and yeah, I agree, the whole leftist thing about “cathartic violence” and the alleged right of “victim – class” people to attack innocent members of so-called “oppressor” classes is pure, distilled evil. So we probably don’t actually disagree on much. Chalk it up to hearing WAY too much pacifist propaganda as a kid…

  2. “A later form is righteous violence, as seen in the Old Testament, and also in the Koran. In this case God instructs people to attack and destroy other people who have offended him.” I haven’t read the Koran and don’t know to what you’re referring in it, but I would point out that the OT does not describe the martial destruction of other peoples as being ordered because they have “offended” Him. God ordered His people Israel to destroy the Caananite nations simply because He wanted them destroyed. In much the same way, He raised up Pharaoh for the express purpose of destroying him –in order to show His power. His destruction of nations or individuals, like all other things, serves His purposes.

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