“Violence,” you say, “is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
I can only agree. It’s a great saying. Whose is it?
“Isaac Asimov, I think. I’m not sure.”
The science fiction writer?
I love the guy. He said a lot of great stuff. Have spacesuit. Will travel.

“No, that was Heinlein.”
Ah. Right-wing libertarian Heinlein. I loved a lot of his stuff, too. Starship Troopers. Stranger In A Strange Land. Shame he was a right-wing libertarian.

“He was probably ok with violence, too.”
Shifting back to the topic of violence….
“Shall we?”
Why not? I agree with you.
“With me or Isaac Asimov?”
Either. Both.

I agree that violence is a crap idea. It’s a crap idea for a whole range of moral reasons… and it’s a crap idea for practical reasons too. Where would you like me to start?
“Morality’s your bag.”
Ok, morality – I’ll start there.

Here’s the moral case against violence:

Ethically, in ourselves, we’re all equal – sparks from the same fire, water from the same stream.

Ethically, too, we’re all entitled to equality of opportunity, equality of nurture, equal kindness, equal consideration, equal care.

But violence attacks equality. It enforces – or tries to enforce – inequality: between the violator and the victim, between the abuser and the abused. It’s an assertion, or attempted assertion, of dominance. It thrusts a knife through equality’s heart.

Can anything that thrusts a knife through equality’s heart be moral, do you think?
“I shouldn’t think so.”
Me neither.
So that’s the first thing that makes violence immoral. It conflicts with equality.

There’s more.

You see, it’s not just equality that violence has trouble with–it’s freedom, too. No one's free if they do something or don’t do something out of fear. But that’s what violence is all about. It’s a vehicle of fear. It attempts to coerce, enforce or compel.

Yet freedom is a prerequisite of morality. Can a car or a lawn mower be moral? Do you scold a hammer for being cruel? Morality presupposes freedom. Morality is meaningless without an agent–someone capable of choice.
But that’s just what violence attacks: choice.

The violent attempt to limit your options. They create a wall of force through which the violated cannot pass. They objectify their victims.
We’re roboticised by the violent–at least as the violence occurs.
And anything that roboticises a human being can only be immoral.

And then we get to the crux of the matter: what morality is.
To be moral is to care.
Nurture is at the core of morality. The nurturing others, the nurturing of all humanity. How could it be otherwise? How could anything else be moral?
But violence is the opposite of this.

You do not nurture someone when you kill them, beat them or lock them up. You do not nurture someone through physical or emotional abuse.
It’s a lie to suggest you can ever be cruel to be kind; cruelty always causes harm.

To use violence, even against criminals, violates your own morality. It makes you a criminal too – and is a criminal truly what you want to be?
“You’re asking me?”
It’s rhetorical question.
“Thank f*** for that! I was trying to think how to reply…”

So that’s the moral case against violence…. Want the pragmatic?
“Only if it’s less harrowing.”
It is.
“Ok, fire ahead.”

The pragmatic case against violence:
Violence inspires violence. Directly, as reprisals or revenge, and indirectly, in the form of self-harm or violence passed onward to others.
It’s easy enough to see why.
Newton’s Third Law tells us that energy doesn’t just vanish.
When you see something happen, the energy of that happening doesn’t evaporate into nothingness. It takes a different form. You could call this Social Newtonism: coercion creates resistance; violence incites violence. It’s as evident as an apple falling from a tree.

So the energy from a violent act doesn’t just vanish – it ripples outward, through society. It has repercussions and consequences. But is that something anyone wants?

Pragmatically, ignoring morality, even on the basis of self-interest alone, is more violence, more resistance, more force really what you want?
“Rhetorical, again?”
I hope so.

Another problem for violence is normalisation.
Violence normalises violence.
Again, that makes sense. If you live in a society which brutalises kids, you’re more likely to see this as normal… and if you see it as normal, you’re more likely to treat your kids the same way.

But who wants violence or coercion or force to be normalised in their communities or in society as a whole?
Isn’t cooperation and engagement and kindness considerably more appealing?

Even for the perpetrator, violence offers little benefit. The violent are brutalised by the violence they deliver. Executions brutalise the executioner. Invasions brutalise the invader.
Justify your brutality as much as you wish – it will always do you harm.

A last pragmatic drawback of violence is its counter-productivity. It doesn’t work.
Do violent overthrows result in happier nations? I’ve yet to see the evidence. Coercive prohibitions? Without relentless state violence they invariably fail.

The ‘War on Drugs’?
You might as well rename it the ‘Forever War’.
The ‘War on Terror’?
It’s a recruiting ground for terrorists.

Violence, coercion and force, it seems, rarely do societies any good.

Want to know why?

It’s simple enough.
We live in a complex world. A world of complex humans, complex social and biological networks, complex technological and economic systems.

Understanding and foresight are needed to navigate our way in such a world.
If we want to change our world for the better, we need planning, intelligence, good data & sensitivity. Violence or force?
They’re f*** all use when it comes to complexity.

“But surely there are times…?”
I thought you might try that one. And I agree. Surely there are times….?

See how those who defend violence dig deep for extremes! They summon the masked intruder, the wicked invader. Asking, “Surely violence is ok for self-defence?”

But that’s not the moral question.

The moral question is, “Surely you can defend yourself without violence?”

Humans are geniuses of creativity and invention. Look at what we’ve achieved in our amazing technological world! We have the capability to circumvent violence, to make the need for force, against humans or any life form, vanishingly small.

Violence is always preceded by failures of imagination, planning and intelligence.
Violence is what happens when we’re incompetent.
As Asimov says, it’s the incompetent’s last refuge.

Our civilisation is in desperate need of change.
We’re immersed in a world of self-harm, enmeshed in a web of destructive narratives, concepts and lies.
We need rebellion.
But not violent rebellion.
Not incompetent rebellion.

We need ethical rebellion.
A rebellion by the competent.
A rebellion infused with empathy, foresight, intelligence and love.


While violence against other living things is broadly both stupid and immoral, violence against objects is another thing entirely.

Objects have no inherent value. They should never be treated as more important than people. If violence against an object is required to make precisely this point, to say that people matter more, then that violence is moral.


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More from @EthicalRenewal

23 Apr
Occasionally we glimpse the foul cesspit of Johnson's mind.
How he must scorn climate activists if ‘bunnyhuggers’ is how he sees them....
How he must scorn gays if "tank topped bum boys" is his description of choice....

1/3 Image
How he must scorn Africans if he can write of picaninnies with water melon smiles…
How he must scorn the British public if he feels able to so easily lie…
How he must scorn women if he thinks only “feeble” men can’t “take control of their women”….
How he must scorn nurses if he’ll applaud them then cut their pay….
How he must scorn school children if he’ll send them home hungry….
How he must scorn anyone other than himself – a man whom he holds in the highest regard!
3/3 Image
Read 4 tweets
18 Apr
I don’t suppose you’ve ever made a mistake?
“Why would you ask that?”
Because I’ve just made one.
“Ah, I see… And you don’t like making mistakes, do you?”
“Want to tell me?”
“Are you sure?”
I’m sure.

It’s something you said.
You made me realise something.
“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have intended–”
You said, “Is it ethical to have so many enemies? Is it ethical to see so many people as ‘enemies of the people’?”
“I said that–but that doesn’t mean– ”
But you were right.
I like to think I’m strong on ethics… So what you said was quite a challenge. It hit me where it hurts. Right on target.
A kill shot.

Read 37 tweets
6 Apr
I’d like to talk about the enemies of humanity. The people who brought us to the state we’re in. The people who run our economy, own our corporations and control our media. The 0.1%.

“The 0.1%?”
“Not the 1%?”
The 1% are disproportionately wealthy, disproportionately influential and disproportionately polluting, it’s true… But the 0.1%... They’re another ball game entirely.

“I’ve always wished I was one of them.”
The 0.1%?
Me too. So I could self-immolate.

Read 36 tweets
7 Mar
“Taking Back Control!”
So what was that all about?
A few tycoons and Old Etonians getting more control over the rest of us?
Hedge funders escaping higher EU taxes?
Foreign corporations given the freedom to asset-strip the UK?

Let’s take a look.

04 MAR 2019
Now the UK is flying solo, its companies have low valuations, becoming rich pickings for foreign owned vulture funds.
“For the average firm, Brexit is associated with a value loss of 16.4 per cent against a hypothetical no-Brexit scenario.”

08 OCT 2019
UK companies are weighed down by additional red-tape which makes it difficult to compete unless they move to an EU base.


Read 43 tweets
2 Mar
Let’s talk about the economy.
You agree: “A logical next step.”
Would you mind if I’m blunt?
“Fire away.”
It’s shit.
“The economy?”
“Well, that is blunt.”

You ponder for a moment, then ask, “Is this another of your enemies?”
The economy?
An enemy to humanity and the biological world?
I hope, by the time this thread is complete, you’ll tell me.

We’re talking about the supply-and-demand, producer/consumer, deregulated/lightly-touched, invisibly-handed, limited-resource-distributing, market-based economy that prevails across much of the world.

“And it’s all entirely shit?”
Well, perhaps I need to qualify that.

Read 54 tweets

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