Someone told me a story about their family dog that I found really upsetting. We think true violence is an extreme act and that our personal anger and bad moods are simply normal, accepted human behavior. We think if someone else does something we don't like (whether we misunderstand and misinterpet whatever they did or not) then we have a right to react however we choose (within limits) and they deserve whatever they get for making us mad in the first place.
Violence is physical acts, words, or even thoughts that are based in anger or in the desire to cause hurt or harm or get even regardless of whatever percieved justification. There are not acceptable levels of violence, saying rude or hurtful things is not less violent than yelling and swearing at someone. Hitting someone with an open hand is not less violent than using an closed fist. A bat is not less violent than a gun or a bomb. I think until we recognise this, we will always think that we can get away with what may be little forms of violence, but violence just the same.
I told the person who told me the story, that how we treat every single human and animal, child or adult, has to be the very same way we feel a newborn babe should be treated...if it is violent to roughly or unkindly, or hurtfully touch or speak to a newborn babe then it is violent to treat any other creature the same way for whatever reason. It is not ok to treat a 12 yr old boy or a family dog or a co oworker or a man living on the street or a person from a different culture or lifestyle with any less care and respect than you would an innocent infant.
How come we have such a heard time figuring that out?
Good post Carol! I would probably take it one step further: I don't think violence (in all its myriad forms) is always connected to anger or the intent/desire to harm another. For example, leaving one's dog tied up on a chain outside for hours at a time, even when not done in anger but out of ignorance, is also a violent act in my opinion - depriving the dog of safety, company, and sometimes even shelter endangers them both physically and emotionally.
The point about violence not necessarily being physical is well taken. In my paid work, I often do presentations on violence against women, and also on child socialization. It is hard to get people to understand that verbally bashing someone, the put downs, the threats, the intimidation, can be just as devastating (or more so) than physical abuse. The person with broken spirit has been as violently abused as the one with the broken jaw.
The one thing in your post that I might take issue with (and perhaps I have misunderstood you) is your statement that even angry thoughts are violence. I think anger is natural and healthy, but if we fail to recognize that we are angry (or if we recognize it but fail to address it in nonviolent ways) then those angry thoughts hurt us - so our anger becomes violence toward ourself rather than toward the person with whom we are angry. The challenge for human society is to learn how to address things that make us angry in helpful, nonviolent ways. It's when we don't address those angry feelings that we are more likely to act violently and/or to become a victim of violence.