Inured to violence
The violence shown in the 2004 film might be too much. Mel Gibson, director, co-writer and coproducer has said that he wanted The Passion of the Christ to show the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice to scenes so shocking as to “push us over the edge (Mel Gibson on ABC News 02.17.2004).”
Gibson, a “traditionalist Catholic” (who believes in the return to many of the customs, traditions, and teachings of the Church before the changes of the Second Vatican Council 1962 -- 1965), created a violent mise-en-scène of Man’s ungratefulness to God in the betrayal and rejection of Christ the God-Man.
But the crowd just cheered the violence and wanted more blood.
Is violence ever justified? The synderesis would be that ideal conduct does not include violence, but is that practicable? Niccolo Machiavelli says that in theory that can be, but considering that in practice people are violent, to try to have a nonviolent behavior will probably fail as a strategy (Treatise on War 1519-1520). The human rights/black rights activist Malcolm X (assassinated 1965), drew an exacting quid pro quo for Americans: “If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.”
Perhaps the fluid considerations of “doing what is necessary” reinforces “the end justifies the means” as the strategy in today’s fiercely competitive politics and economics. America seems to be expiating its participatory role in world conflict (albeit “justifiable”) by having to live out Malcolm X’s threat of internal unrest and violence manifested in rabid civil rights protests, anarchic defiance of police and other authority, and shootings, even massacres by dysfunctional individuals and groups.
Since the Vietnam War (1965-1975), the US has fought in the Lebanese Civil War (1982-1984); the bombing of Libya (1986); the Persian Gulf War (1987-1988); Gulf War (1990-1991); Somalia (1992-1995); Haiti (1994-1995) Bosnia (1994-1995); Serbia-Kosovo (1998-1999); Afghanistan (2001-2014); Iraq (2003-2011); North Pakistan (2004-present); and the War on ISIL/War on Terror (2014-present) in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria.
On April 4, US President Donald Trump ordered “59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to attack the Shayrat Airbase (nearly 90 people killed, AP, 04.14.2017) as a surprise response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons (87 killed, AFP, 04.14.2017) from the base (msn.com 04.08.2017).”
“We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution... the crimes of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad cannot go unanswered,” said US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, chair for this month at the 15-nation Security Council. Russia called down the US for the “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression (Ibid.).”
Again, the question is asked, Is violence for violence ever justified? But the fact is that the world knows the pornographic details of the violence on both sides, and must face the even harsher reality that Machiavelli is proven right again and again in the practical resolution of an ethical dilemma -- we must do what we need to do. Trump shrugs. “U.S. imperialist, number one terrorist!” “No to war in Syria” protestors in the US cried out (Daily News 04.07.2017).
But are there sustained loud protests against violence here in our country? A domestic culture is noticeably firming that accepts that the end justifies the means in alleged extra-judicial killings in the Leader’s “War on Drugs.” Why would the threat “I will kill you/them” be the ready solution to every perceived obstacle to any and seemingly all “wars?” Not only the drug addicts and traffickers will be killed. Business people and individuals who had not been paying correct taxes to the government have been publicly warned, “You sons of bitches, pay up or I will kill you (Philippine Daily Inquirer 02.07.2017).”
To be inured to violence of word and deed; not to shudder at Mel Gibson’s graphic violence in relating the Christ’s last 12 hours of agony and death -- we can do better than worry about the numbing to violence -- by mortification and maybe even actual self-flagellation in the Holy Week. Self-flagellation for allowing violence to numb us.
But Holy Week is over, and Easter is for joy and celebration. Back to spectator sports of violence and snuff videos in media and in the super-reality of Machiavellian survival.
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.