Getting to the heart of the matter - those of us concerned with the well-being of society (from the health of its body politic to the sustainability of its social and economic structures) ultimately confront a basic question of political philosophy: is society based on violence or peace? We draw our conclusions from a wide array of sources - media information, statistical research, anecdotal encounters. None of these sources is accurate or complete. How do we understand what the dominant framework of society is, when our assessment is so entrenched in our own psychological or emotional outlook for a given moment?
In policy schools, there is talk of "stakeholders", "the commons", "inefficiencies" and the ways of minimizing the violence of our existing systems through study and implementation of new practices. But it seems that all collective effort to minimize suffering is misconstrued. We don't have the benefit of future information, future ways of thinking. We seek to uplift one group by detracting from another, to serve the interests of the general at the expense of a few, to limit predatory behavior through punishment. Physical infrastructure (running water, electricity grids, roadways) must come at the cost of environmental degradation. British colonials thought they were civilizing the darkened world. The "white man's burden" they called it. But colonization enacted unspeakable violence on societies, land, and belief systems of the colonized. Was the "white man's burden" argument justification, self-delusion, or earnestly believed?
Is society violence or peace?