Friday, May 2, 2008

Would we have Violence without Fear?

I commented on how violence is a form of enclosure, but is fear even more enclosing? A couple of years ago, my partner, Stephanie, and I were robbed by a couple of men while we were walking down the street. I was pushed to the ground and had some scratches and Stephanie lost her purse and all its contents. They ran off. We didn’t even see their faces, and the whole thing lasted about 15 seconds. In the world of crime, we were lucky, and more inconvenienced than anything else. But for weeks after, every time a large man was walking quickly anywhere near me, I felt scared. I tried to talk myself out of being afraid by using phrases like, “Don’t be ridiculous” or “Get a grip on yourself.” That didn’t help. I played the robbery over and over in my mind, with me incapacitating the robber with ever increasing violent images. Finally a friend gave both of us a refresher course in self-defense. My fear and my fantasies went away, and I was once again able to walk down the street, aware of and enjoying my surroundings.

As a commons activist, I resist enclosure as much as I can, and I find I can do a lot to resist being enclosed by fear, and I like to think that this serves to also resist the enclosure of violence. For starters, I forgive myself when I feel afraid. It was not helpful to yell at myself for being afraid, and it just made me frustrated.

Also, I notice that when I watch violent TV shows I feel more both more violent and more scared, and I allow violent images into my head more easily. There is no conclusive evidence that adults watching TV violence are either more violent or more frightened, so I don’t think everyone has to give up “Law and Order” or “CSI Miami.” But I do.

When I see an altercation in the street, I walk toward the people involved or make a point of staring at them. I want them to know they are being witnessed. This includes watching police arrest someone. I keep my eye on children that seem unattended by an adult and in general, I am a little bit of a busybody.

I also research just what kinds of violence are most common in the places I am living or visiting. Most places are way safer than we realize, and most violence is between people who know each other.

Reducing violence in our communities would reduce our fears. But reducing our fears will also reduce violence.

1 comment:

Rona Fernandez said...

i love these posts on violence / fear (they're really twins) as enclosure, Kim. i wholeheartedly agree with you, and see violence and fear as two of the main options often available to many oppressed people (poor folks, immigrants, people of color, youth) who lack other ways to express themselves or their power. Unfortunately, of course, that fear and the violence it breeds is most often inflicted upon people who are just as if not more powerless than they are.

Profoundly important ideas and words during this day and age.