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September 2002 (Deutsche Version)
Violence Leads to Guilt.
Thoughts on the Concept of Violence
(08.05.02) "Violence Leads to Guilt" is the introduction to a philosophical discussion. The standard definition of violence was developed by the sociologist Johan Galtung. He distinguishes physisical from structural violence. Unequality of chance or repressive laws, for instance, belong to structural violence. Later, Galtung added a cultural violence which basically represents a kind of ideological frame.

When I say: violence leads to guilt, people will intervene. There is just violence, they will say, and: violence is not violence. Therefore, only a part of violence will lead to guilt. This may be true. Was the traditional concept of violence well defined, so that, for instance, one could define "terrorism" in a politically relevant way, which seemingly has not happened yet, then it would be useless to think about new approaches in the definition of violence.

There hardly is any controversy about the concept of physical violence, and our legal system would not be able to do without one. Structural violence is quite well defined in theory, but it does not reach the collective consciousness, nor the politicians and the judges. Because of these deficiencies and the international topical need for conflict solutions, I will try a new approach.

There is hardly any doubt about the fact that violence and guilt are somehow connected. And "guilt" in several respects is easier to define than "violence". How is it, if we defined all those things as violence that lead to guilt? Will it bring us away from the violence discourse, or will it bring up new ideas? I don't know that myself, but it seems to be worth a try.

The Philo Forum and its texts are in permanent change and supplementation. If you have good ideas, let me know.

Kind regards
Anis Hamadeh

Some basic thoughts:


Violence punishes itself

The Situation Analysis

First Approach (12.05.02)

Example Erfurt
(Lesson of Erfurt)
Example September 11
(Lesson of September 11)

Example Israel

Article in German: "Terror & Counter Terror" by Professor Georg Meggle (Uni Leipzig) (No longer online)

Review of: "Terror & Counter Terror" by Prof. Georg Meggle

(Sabine Yacoub 24.05.02:) Guilt and Trust

One reason why it is difficult for many people to admit guilt is the lack of trust. Trust in justice, trust in other people. When I admit guilt I show weakness. The other can use the situation to humiliate me, to embarrass me (in front of others). In this case, the situation is not solved, e.g. by a just punishment or a compensation. Instead, the other will reproach me with my guilt, will go on keeping my feelings of guilt alive, in order to gain power over me.

If, on the other hand, there is a relation of trust and confidence and the wish of the concerned people to install justice, then I can admit my guilt. Because then I know that the confession will help to clear the situation and to overcome my feelings of guilt.

(25.05.02) What is Guilt?

"What is guilt?" is the fundamental question of ethics. We need an answer in order to then ask further: "How can guilt be avoided and decomposed?"

When a perpetrator X kills, injures, robs or cheats a victim Y, then X becomes guilty. There are proto-typical cases where a judgement is easy about whether or not it is a guilt situation, and there are cases of doubt.
- An act can be violent, even when the perpetrator has no sense of his or her guilt.
- Non-acts can also lead to guilt, for example the ignoring of facts like UN resolutions, or, on the private level, the ignoring of feelings.
- Typical violence is only the case, when the victim did not want the act. This is not always clear, especially, when the victim is silent during and after the act, when he or she does not want to put pressure on the perpetrator, or, when he or she does not really know what they want.

Also to consider is that we all are only human and thus make mistakes and gather guilt. Guilt is not the end of the world. If, anyway, guilt is not decomposed it grows bigger. In order to decide whether something is a deed of violence we need principles. The national law, for example. Or the Christian commandments. Or the Sharia. In each case, jurisdiction has been massively influenced by cases of precedents and real, actual cases. To get closer to the question of guilt I will take some actual case studies and will construe some other cases from everyday life. While doing this, I will develop those factors of the situation analysis which seem relevant to me. I will choose examples out of politics as well as out of private life, because I assume that there are generally valid mechanisms and possibilities of analysis.


Definition of Terrorism

Out Group Behavior

Appeasement Policy

The Logic of Violence:

Control Thinking

Camp Thinking

Victim Thinking

Guilt: (12.05.02) Guilt leads to feelings of guilt. Feelings of guilt aim to dissolve. The process of dissolving feelings of guilt is the natural way of avoiding and settling violent situations. In order to reach that aim it is necessary to sensetize society for guilt. Society likes this about as much as tax raises. Still it is important to create a sensetized climate and a self-critical mind. What is guilt, to begin with? When are feelings of guilt justified, and how can we reduce them in order to deescalate situations? These are the central questions in the discourse. (back)
Violence: (12.05.02) The consciousness about having exerted violence on somebody has negative influences on the psyche. The accumulation of guilt brings about internal barriers which prevent the realization of wishes. Job of a progressive definition of violence it must be to show that the punishments of violence in our world often are violent themselves. This can only be successful, if we talk about guilt, atonement, and the quality of punishments. If we punish in a wrong way - i.e. in such a way that the violence situation is not solved - we must ask ourselves how a right punishment looks like, and if punishments are necessary at all (which I think). This discourse has to be self-critical and strictly measured by its results. "Violence punishes itself" is a facet, a partial truth. It is karma thinking. (back)
The Situation Analysis: (12.05.02) Every violence is connected to a situation. To a situation belong elements like to a sentence. We need this frame in order to come to moral judgements, and a violence discourse without a moral claim would be ridiculous. Every violence situation has a victim, somebody, whose right was taken away. More difficult is the matter with the perpetrator, for sometimes - like in structural violence - he cannot precisely be located. Next to victim and perpetrator there is the act. And the people who know about the act. Also to the violence scenario belong guilt and its solving. I would also count the judge into the elements of the stuation. When a violence situation is sufficiently defined, and defined by the appropriate criteria, then it can be closed. The idea of the situation analysis is to provide frameworks in order to close violence situations, i.e. to end violence. A special regard is to be given to the consciousness of victim, perpetrator, and witnesses, for example in the questions of repression and the people's capability of guilt (Schuldfähigkeit). (back)
First Approach: (12.05.02): In the "violence leads to guilt" definition things which we normally would regard to be physical violence, are not, if there is no guilt involved. In a sado maso situation, for example, in which all concerned people agree on e.g. physical hits, there is neither a victim, nor are there any perpetrators. In my test definition this is not violence, rather it is injury. "Violence" in this definition is closer to "forced pressure" (Zwang) than to "injury of physis" or even "injury of psyche", simply because the injury alone has no moral relevance. In this discourse we want to understand what violence is and not what physical or psychic hits are. These are completely different things. Still, I am using Galtung's concept of structural violence, as I at this stage only notice without further being concerned about it. The aim of this analysis is to find practical results for politics and private life by bringing unconscious action patterns to consciousness and by providing suggestions for socio-political strategies which can prevent violence on the one hand, and help to deal with current violence situations, on the other. The guy who writes this is in an open learning process himself and has neither the claim to be the first to formulate these theses, nor does he wish to create a waterproof or ideological construction. (back)
Example Erfurt: (10.05.02) After that a pupil had committed mass murder in a school in Erfurt, immediately followed by his suicide, political consequences seem inevitable. Up to now the politicians agreed to tighten up the weapon law, to more thoroughly control violent movies, and to tighten up what is called the youth protection (Jugendschutz). This includes the renunciation of the lowering of the minimum age for visiting discotheques from 16 to 14 years. The consumption of cigarettes and related matters also seem to be involved here. So actually those groups are punished to which the perpetrator belonged, that is riflepeople and juveniles. This policy is as consequent as it is helpless, for it has only little to do with the issue of countering violence. It is consequent in that it tries to copy the act in a way, without being conscious about the fact that with this it is already creating a completely new situation. By bringing in repressive (zwanghaft) behavior it can only produce the same kind of behavior. The opposite way, i.e. to do without repressions, would - on the other hand - lead to a relaxation, for it is the presentation of non-violence and will be answered so. This strategy is not the one of the politicians, most of all, because the system with its monopoly on violence does not realize that it can become guilty itself, or that it is afraid of this thought and thus represses it. This criticizm concerns, before all other social sectors, the politicians and the media. (back)
Lesson of Erfurt: (10.05.02) Erfurt was a violence situation. There was a perpetrator and there were innoscent victims. The case is clear. The perpetrator judged himself with a punishment that lies beyond any kind of punishment of the German law. There cannot be any compensation for the grief of the relatives and friends of the victims. A compensation in respect to the perpetrator is given with his geath and thus his acknowledgement of guilt. Differently from the mourning situation, the violence situation is closed or over. The justified questions of violent videos and violence in general were there before Erfurt. Thus, every restricting political measure which immediately refers to the Erfurt situation, is wrong. Politically right is to sincerely attempt an understanding of the causes of this act. (back)
Example September Eleventh: (24.05.02) The measures of the so-called domestic security as well as the ones for the capture of the terrorists and the destruction of terroristic organizations have up to now hardly brought about any serious positive results. On the contrary, we can witness an increase of violence for example in Israel, Palestine, and Kashmere, and political assaults in the Netherlands, in Tunesia, in Pakistan, in Dagestan, and elsewhere. The language of highest officials in the world is becoming rude and rough, other crises - i.e. in Iraq - are being provoked, the culture struggle takes shape (for instance in the conservative German press), and the political situation in the world is unstable despite the measures of the struggle against terrorism. The question must be allowed why we are living in an age that in some respects resembles the situation shortly before World War I, and, whether it is not our own social mechanisms of violence, misunderstood as rational policy, which in fact are factors that leads to escalation. (back)
Lesson of September Eleventh: (24.05.02) September Eleventh was an act of violence with thousands of victims. It was so grave that violence became the top subject in the whole world. In this constellation we can see a polarization between those people, who are kept in camp thinking and thus want to end "the violence of the others", and those, who want to stop violence in general and who ask themselves about their own role in the different situations and about what the proper actions are to reach that aim. Concerning the lesson from September Eleventh I have the two statements: FOUR LEVELS OF TERRORISM and THE WORLD AFTER SEPTEMBER 11. (back)
Example Israel: (15.05.02) The world public lacks orientation and feels insecure, when single politicians can with deadly results and in a massive way disregard the human rights and the UN resolutions without being punished, and before all: without being prevented from doing it. Why shouldn't there be a Le Pen, if there is a Sharon? The West is covering Israel's extremes, because its values are based on camp thinking. Thus the West is setting the same bad example. Israel in return actually has or had to expect less criticizm in the world than other countries because of the Holocaust. It is the not digested horrors of World War II which are coming back on us now everywhere in the world and with everywhere the same mechanisms. (back)
(20.05.02:) Review of the article "Terror & Counter Terror" by Prof. Georg Meggle (Leipzig 2002):

After having supposed in the introductory text of the Philo Forum that there is up to now no politically utilizable defitinion of terrorism, I am looking for evidence to prove my thesis wrong.

On 06.12.01 already, the TAGESZEITUNG wrote about an official EU definition. Hence a terrorist is somebody who is destabilizing the order of the state. The EU's working basis is the definition of terrorism as an act which has the aim "to intimidate the population is a severe way, to blackmail official and international organisations, or to destabilize or destroy the political, constitunional, economic, or social order of a state or an international organisation." To make clear that we are still living in a democracy, they added, "that basic rights like the right of assembly, the freedom of opinion, and the right to demonstrate are neither to be lessened nor to be undermined." (see
Ozzy 42.1 - in German).

It can be assumed that there are a lot of definitions of terrorism, and I want to present here the important ones that I come across. To those definitively belongs the article by Professor Georg Meggle from the University of Leipzig "Terror & Counter-Terror. First Ethical Reflexions", published in: Dt. Zeitschrift für Philosophie, Berlin 50 (2002) 1, pp 149-162. Prof. Meggle's article was held as a lecture at the end of 2001 at different German universities. The pdf file from which I cite, has 22 pages and falls into two parts. The first one deals with a general defintion of terrorism (T), the second with concrete political assessments concerning the Afghanistan war and the war against terrorism in general.

Meggle's definition of terrorism reads: "T acts are acts of (attempted) causing of aims by means of violence-induced terror against random innoscent people."

The most interesting part for me seems to be part 1, and of it point 1: "What is terrorism?" In the following here are the titles of the other points:
2. The ethics of violence and the ethics of war (Criteria for the just war) (pp 7-10)
3. The ethics of terror (pp 10-13)
4. The ethics of anti-terror (pp 13 - 15)
Part 2: Afghanistan, USA, UNO (pp 15-22)
Let us take a closer look at the pages 2-7: Meggle devides the question of terrorism into three sub-questions: the semantic question (What is T?), the verification question (How can we recognize T?), and the evaluation question. He states that the concept terrorism is biased and often is used in battle. Concerning the perpetrator, Meggle sees three levels of his T action: the violence calculation, meaning that the perpetrator takes violence against innoscent into account, the terror calculation, meaning that, for example, the public gets intimidated, and the horror function, accoding to which a government, for instance, is seen by the perpetrator as being a possible object for blackmail.

In order to define the criteria for T acts, Meggle refers to the situation analysis, and this seems to be the only workable approach to me. The terroristic act is central to him, and that is the situation. As elements of the situation he enumerates with an example (p 5):

Act a (e.g. Ignition of bomb)
Actor X (Separatist)
Addressee of violence Y (cafe visitor)
Addressee of terror Z (Population)
Final adressee F (Government)
Aimed result R (Release of prisoners)

My evaluation: the article is an important step on the way to a politically utilizable definition of the concept of terrorism. Many aspects in Vieles in Meggle's article are, to my mind, also indicating that the definition of "terrorism" is not really failing because of questions of classification, but rather because of the politicians who seem to feel obliged to follow practical loyalities rather than philosophical definitions. The central question of argument still remains: when do we call something a freedom fight or a defense fight, and when terrorism? This concerns the by Meggle so-called "light T acts", for there is a broad consenst about the heavy T acts.

Concerning Meggle's political visions, I can only subscribe to them: An international court of justice and an unlimited priority competence of the UN. This in my view also is the best solution. In this discourse, the term "collateral damage" should not be used, which is dehumanizing humans (viz. Ozzy 23.12 - in German).

In the Philo Forum, the situation analysis will be elaborated, because there is a lot to say about that, as is the case with the distinctive criteria of "violence" and "terror".

Victim Thinking: (12.05.01) In each violence situation there is a victim and a complementary guilt. The victim's behavior is involved in shaping the further course of the violence situation. His claim on compensation - and where this is not possible, on the acknowledgement of the situation - is legitimate. Victim thinking starts where the victim leaves the situation and demands the acknowledgement of his ego. This demand is as usual as it is illigitimate. It is aggravating the closing of the violence situation. When the victim becomes an ego victim, it is clinging to the violence situation. But a violence situation can only be ended, when the victim is prepared for that. The perpetrator normally is not ready to finish the situation, because he does not view it as such, or refuses to acknowledge it. In order to close a violence situation a decision from outside is often helpful, if it is accepted by all sides. The UN, for example. By overcoming victim thinking we also gain new possibilities to close violence situations without a judge. See "Faked Interview (4)" (back)