It seems like rioting (or the threat thereof) has become a form of participatory democracy. Nothing reveals the disintegration of authority and the common good so much in our society as the more and more frequent resort to violence. That this is particularly connected to police and the use of force, undue or otherwise, is a political problem with philosophical implications.

Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish-American philosopher who wrote much about social issues, published a book fifty years ago called On Violence. She was alarmed at the “glorification” of violence among New Left thinkers and campus radicals, and much of what she said sounds particularly applicable to 2021.

 “The more dubious and uncertain an instrument violence has become in international relations, the more it has gained in reputation and appeal in domestic affairs.” She decried the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface to Frantz Fanon’s book on revolution, The Wretched of the Earth. The French intellectual wrote that “irrepressible violence,” as advocated by Fanon, “is neither sound and fury nor the resurrection of savage instincts, nor even the effect of resentment: it is man recreating himself.”

Praise the Lord

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