Friday, 16 January 2015

Exploring the State of Violence - by Zena Edwards


The new Shake! Course is nearly here! Monday 16th February, we begin unpacking one of the most contentious subjects our species confronts: Violence. We will be exploring what makes violence, physical and ideological, a seemingly imherent part of modern day life.

As a poet I think about the word violence as  anything that is excessively detrimental  and its with this thought that the Shake! team will create a safe space where participants can interrogate the States of Violence that seem to plague the planet. We will question if physical violence is our natural disposition or if it is a nurtured trait. Many are calling for alternatives to fatally destructive and violent deconstruction of current imperialist governments, minimising bloodshed. We will ask is that possible.

We will question the role of violence and the State. What ways are the government and its machinery violent towards its citizens    the implementation of  long working hours with minimal pay, rampant gentrification of culturally diverse and poorer areas with unaffordable housing  breaking up communities, the privatisation of the British National Health Service, cuts to education and benefits with biased and convoluted conditions placed upon them, further leaving the less well off in even more dire predicaments.

We live in a time where the global economy forces a climate of uncertainty and fear upon the majority of the earths population, mainstream media thrusts distorted journalism upon poly-cultural societies, encouraging and perpetuate attitudes of xenophobia and sexism, discrimination and judgement. The female body is hyper-sexualised, the male body is hyper-masculinized, black and brown bodies are stereotyped, demonized and attacked, while religion is a manipulated tool to promote homophobia and child objectification. Nobody and nothing feels sacred leaving us all feeling vulnerable to seemingly unexplainable and inexcusable acts  abuse and violence. We are forced at unexpected moments to question which parts of our human psyche are activated, provoked to violate the bodies of those who are considered "other",  different to "the norm", and framed to be viewed as inferior and are stigmatized. This brings about a mainstream thinking that this  "other" is a threat and must be suppressed

In the last 20 years, in activist circles, there have been many urgent discussions about institutionalized racism and a sinister growth of the prison industrial complex and millions watched and condemned the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Mike Brown, unarmed black males, who are among the one killed every 28 hours by the hand of US police. Theirs and many other tragic stories of unarmed black deaths sparked the global #BlackLivesMatter campaign echoing the oppression in many western ex-colonial countries with history of migrants, immigrants and home-grown "others". The conversation exploded on social media and there were many who deemed US police action as blatantly excessive, while by others thought it justifiable, because of a pervading fear within the police force of violence being done unto those in service to preserve and protect. We just want to get home to our families. 'The law' upheld these justified deaths throwing in to deep question the integrity of a justice system seen to be the central principles of a brand democracy which provokes conflict in other richly mineral resourced countries across the planet.
 
This is a recurring story across the face of Western civilisation and each country's power state has devices to ensure that its status quo is preserved with a multitude of means of attack on ordinary people coming from many directions, creating an atmosphere of '#ICantBreathe. But what about those who are perpetuating state violence? They are just people after all.

"C├ęsaire demonstrates how colonialism works to “decivilize” the colonizer: torture, violence, race hatred, and immorality constitute a dead weight on the so-called civilized, pulling the master class deeper and deeper into the abyss of barbarism. The instruments of colonial power rely on barbaric, brutal violence and intimidation, and the end result is the degradation of Europe itself.” - Robin D.G Kelly, from the article, "The Poetics of Anticolonialism."

This is an idea of some of the subjects we will cover in Shake!s States of Violence intensive course in February.
But what do us, as individuals feel we can do about the world we live in where violence seems to be everywhere - on our TV screens, in the news, online.  Participants will also unpack notions of change through non-violence  when the systems we live under are founded on ruthless colonial and capitalist violence in the name of progress. So does this mean that  progress and change can only happen with  forms of archaic and technologically enhanced violence? Is the process of deconstructing society to reconstruct and alternative one only a violent  process? How do we break cycles of violence and how do we navigate through a seemingly terrifying world while maintaining a sense of self and well being?

We will ask all these questions and more, and in their own language, through discussion, film and spoken word poetry, participants will respond to these question to explore and reflect on the current human inclination for violence, while seeking  to create new paths to living more peacefully and compassionately. Beyond violence.

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