The Causes of Violence in Contemporary Society

by Doru Costache

I just read an interview with my dear friend, Marcello La Matina, Professor of Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language at Università degli studi di Macerata, Italy. In this interview, “Violenza e invidia,” he explores the causes of violence in contemporary society and how to counteract this dark side of human psyche. Here is my summary of his amazing analysis:

Apart from envy, which is a pathological form of manifesting desire, what causes violence against people, especially elderly, women, and strangers, is the reduction of the personal to the amorphous abstraction known as species, and to defaced individuality. For the perpetrator, the victim has no face; it is an object to do with as one pleases. The anonymity of the victim excuses abuse and violence. In turn, behind anonymitybehind concealing the personal face of peoplelies the contemporary culture of pointless, devalued imagery, where all is about colour and excitement, and where people’s uniqueness dissolves in the background. La Matina speaks of the virtues of black and white photos, which draw our attention to people’s faces, to their personal dimension, but his solution comes from somewhere else. He refers to Virgil’s hero, Aeneas, who refused to leave Troy without his father and his son. For La Matina, Aeneas’ attitude is profoundly symbolic. It denotes the need to save not just the idea of Troy, but Troy as embodied in its people. Against this backdrop, of concern for people, not just for ideas and images, the personal can no longer be hidden. If people become more and more aware of othersacknowledging them for who they are, together with their personal featuresthen their reduction to the species and to faceless individualitywhich breeds violencebecomes increasingly impossible. Interestingly, La Matina speaks of the need to reveal the personal latent in all things, so that we also develop a respectful way of interactingI believe that this is what he meanswith our environment in its entirety, including with its nonhuman populations. Violence, indeed, is what we inflict on all beings, not only on one another. The ascetic potential of the perspective La Matina presents is immense, for ascesis begins in the mind, in the way we represent life, people, animals, values, everything. His thoughts open new horizons before our eyes, connecting the dark abysses within our own selves, together with our culture of unchecked superficiality.

For more on Professor Marcello La Matina, here is his account.

24 September 2020 © AIOCS