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General Paper Essay Outline : Is violence ever justified ?

Disclaimer : This is just a set of broad ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or the best to the question.

warning handle with care

Learning Point : Achieve a wide-ranging response

Stand : Violence is justified with very strict conditions — as a last resort in self-defence or in defence of victims of violence, as well as for the sake of maintaining order, provided precautions are taken to prevent the abuse of authority.
BP 1 : Violence is justifiable if the victim of an aggressor has no other choice but to defend himself
— individuals against assailants
— countries/groups under attack should fight back e.g. Kuwait had a right to defend itself against Iraq
— it is his or their right to self-defence
BP2a : Violence can be said to be justifiable as a kind of help in situations that have turned violent
— riot police during riots e.g. In the Ferguson or Baltimore riots, even though people were rioting over police brutality, the police cannot do nothing if the rioters become aggressive.
— but even in their use of force, they have guidelines to prevent them from abusing their authority e.g. restrictions on the use of firearms. This is due to their ultimate role of protecting the people e.g. Egypt has been criticised for the way the Arab Spring protests were handled because of the fatalities caused when the police or military open fire at the crowds
— military intervention to rescue a group of people who are subjected to violence – preserve the rights of the victims

BP2b : On the other hand, the argument in support of  violence becomes untenable when it comes to cases of military intervention in this day and age
— expensive and extremely politically troublesome to go to war
— Today, democracies need approval in their congress or parliaments to wage war against another legitimate leadership who will see this as an invasion that they have a right to put up a fight against
— As such, military intervention is usually taken with other motives that serve the country, not just to rescue a people
e.g. US democratisation of Iraq, Afghanistan also done for economic reasons
— it is difficult to justify wars when good motives have been coloured or hijacked by other self-serving goals
BP3 : It is also absolutely unjustified to use violence against others in order to hurt them or take from them
— attack other people or countries
— domestic abuse, rape e.g. Delhi gang rape, mass shootings e.g. Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook;
— genocides e.g. Bosnia, Rwanda; invasions e.g. WW2 etc
— “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once wrote
— The quote implies that the violence was the outcome of the failure to discuss, rationalise, persuade, cooperate, win others over, achieve aims by legal means, compel using more intelligent or less brutal ways
e.g. of competence :  6-party talks over N Korea’s nuclear programme, US sanctions against Russia, Russia mediating in Syria (as opposed to just declaring war)
BP4a : Some may argue that violence is justifiable if it is for the greater good
— violent punishment now as a deterrent to potential criminals (death penalty, corporal punishment e.g. Bali Nine)
— torture for those who are detained in order to extract information from them (terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay; waterboarding)
— pre-emptive strike

BP4b :  While some would empathise with such acts of violence, each of them can also be argued against
— death penalty goes against the right to life, reduces the moral credibility of the govt that uses it, goes against the moral ideal of compassion
— in the case of torturing suspects, detainees may actually be innocent and clueless; gross injustices to individuals have been committed in the name of the “greater good”
— who does a pre-emptive strike actually hit ? e.g. US in Afghanistan
BP5 : In relation to the above, violence is unjustified because it regrettably leads to a Pyrrhic victory — too many pernicious consequences
— war : pain for the families of soldiers, needless loss of lives of non-combatants; potential for backlash reprisals in the future; loss of property and all other things that were achieved through hard work; loss of cultural artefacts; loss of dignity of an entire people
— domestic violence : psychological, emotional trauma due to loss of dignity, promotion of chauvinism, effort needed to rebuild relationships, if this is even possible
— even projections of violence in the name of artistic realism become indefensible because these make the malleable mind more receptive to gratuitous violence e.g. GTA, films (Art wins but society loses)
— too little good comes from violence for it to be justified
Resolution :  A violent world is not what we wish for, but the violent tendency is already inherent in Man. In fact, we need this instinct for our own defence. Yet, what we also need are ways to suppress violence at the individual, community and even the international levels with approaches that appeal to our sense of humanity. We cannot callously accept attempts to justify violence without thinking of its consequences.



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