State Sanctioned Violence Has Prevailed- So Far

A sad reality of world history is that as a culture grows to encompass more members, the nation state almost inevitably emerges. Although there are numerous benefits of nation states in terms of resources and opportunities for innovation, the formalization of governing has led in most instances to serious problems. Problems like a rise in an acceptance of state sanctioned violence, corruption, violence in the pursuit of acquisition of more resources or “empire” and the banalities and incredibly harsh realities of social stratification and hierarchies based on arbitrary qualities.

Native populations have been decimated, genocides were (and continue to be) state sanctioned and encouraged due to blind (and undeniably fear based) beliefs of superiority. The reinforcing of a sense of superiority has often been encouraged in no small part by the unfortunate co-opting of religious beliefs.

As humans we are social and need to feel we belong to some group(s). The nation state has been a group entity with the resources to protect itself. When the psychology of that group feels threatened in some way, many nation states have time and again shown a willingness -almost a compulsion- to leave reason behind and trample blindly upon and oppress others who are different, whether their differences are due to skin color, language, anatomy or other attributes, including those who look similar, but simply do not share the same beliefs.

Fear based xenophobia born of unprocessed trauma, and the trauma based responses it produces is a major player behind all these senseless acts.

It is not an overstatement to say that the historical success of the major nation states (past and present) have all come at a cost of an enormous fatality rate for people who differed in beliefs or appearance from the favored look, anatomy, skin color or ethnicity of the ruling members of the nation state.

So, that’s quite an indictment of the nation state, and it is one I have made without many sources cited, but common sense shows it to be true. The question is: Is this progression inevitable? Is there room in the nation state model for a rejection of state sanctioned violence? It’s clear that violence has not yet produced peace, and that mitigating violence by the use of violence is a grossly inefficient and primitive tactic which creates yet more harm, so I think there must be.  The specifics of how to create a nation state that does not rely on state sanctioned violence may be beyond the scope of this piece, but it is most definitely a question worth asking.

We Don’t Think To Question

But it simply does not occur to us to ask this question in our day to day living. We have blindly assumed that violence is a necessary means, just as children from violent homes generally assume that violence is a given, until -or unless- they are shown that others don’t live this way, and that it is quite possible to live successfully without resorting to violence.

As a 5’6″ female who has worked with literally dozens of psychotic felons in their homes and communities, as well as having endured numerous freeways with innumerable bad drivers, I’ve gone all my adult life without resorting to violence or owning or carrying a weapon. I think a mighty nation not caught up in the grips of unrecognized trauma based responses could do so as well.

As individuals become aware that they have untested assumptions and learn of of other ways of living, we start to naturally question our previously held assumptions. This is also true of cultural assumptions. Again, becoming aware that we are being ruled by trauma responses (that came about in completely understandable ways) is a necessary component of transcending that paradigm.