In Praise of Violence

There is a tendency sometimes among certain of us radical cranks with our weird views, to be generally ‘against violence’, defining ‘violence’ very widely. In particular, I’ve known some radical feminists to be unhappy at the idea of children learning to play fighting or wrestling games, play with toy guns, watch programs where people get kicked in the head by the main characters, etc.

It occurred to me that I might at times give the impression of endorsing such a view, what with my generally negative attitude towards violence and aggression, and my tendency to diagnose most of what I disagree with as involving ‘the psychopolitics of domination’ or some such phrase.

So I thought I should make clear that I don’t, and that moreover I think such as view can be easily refuted with a single observation:

Kittens fight each other all the time, and nobody is opposed to this.

In fact, it’s not just kittens. Puppies too. Ferrets. Bear cubs. Young and adults of hundreds of species. In fact, I would suggest that among all the world’s species, the predominant form of play is play-fighting.

This, I think, suggests that any general opposition to violence or to a violent culture needs to be moderated by an acceptance that something, perhaps not best labelled ‘violence’ but maybe just ‘fighting’ is a pretty basic part of what makes life fun.

This isn’t a complicated point. It’s just a particular application of the more general observation that challenge and resistance is quite important to us – indeed, arguably it’s the world’s resistance to our actions, more than anything else, that gives us a sense of its very reality. And things accordingly seem more real, more important, and more rewarding when there’s a challenge – to the point where we actually set ourselves challenges for the pleasure of grappling with them. That is, we play.

And usually one of the easiest ways to set up challenge is by having someone else oppose our will and struggle against them. Hence, fighting. It’s a lot of fun. We just have to make sure that the pleasant resistance that makes life interesting stops short of the unpleasant resistance that makes life stop. Which isn’t really all that complicated.

In other news, supposedly feminist bloggers seem to be increasingly finding excuses to post pictures of kittens.

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