May 21, 2008


Image courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme at Goat Rope this week is violence, structural and interpersonal. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

Dr. James Gilligan, author of the 1996 book Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, does a masterful job of looking at the subject at many levels. Much of his career was spent working with violent inmates of prisons and mental hospitals. He draws extensively on his clinical experience but also takes a wide view of related issues, such as the global violence of poverty.

I'm particularly grateful to his work for highlighting the massive scale of economic violence, which is all too little noted across the political spectrum.
"Conservative" politicians sometimes try to cash in politically with promises to get tough on crime and "progressives" may protest wars, but the much larger carnage caused by economic disparities--what Joseph Conrad called "the merry dance of death and trade"--goes largely unnoticed.

Allow me to quote from Gilligan:

...every fifteen years, on the average, as many people die because of relative poverty as would be killed in a thermonuclear war that caused 232 million deaths; and every single year, two to three times as many people die from poverty throughout the world as were killed by the Nazi genocide of the Jews over a six-year period. This is, in effect, the equivalent of an ongoing, unending, in fact accelerating, thermonuclear war, or genocide, perpetuated on the weak and poor every year of every decade, throughout the world.

Structural violence is also the main cause of behavioral violence on a socially and epidemiologically significant scale (from homicide and suicide to war and genocide). The question as to which of the two forms of violence--structural or behavioral--is more important, dangerous, or lethal is moot, for they are inextricably related to each other as cause to effect.

Note: Gilligan's estimation of the death toll from economic disparities is 12 years old, but probably not far off the mark. In January 2008, UNICEF estimates nearly 10 million poverty related deaths per year for children under age five.

MIDDLE CLASS SQUEEZE. Public policies helped create the American middle class. Public neglect has put the squeeze on it. Here's an excerpt from (Not) Keeping up with our Parents.

STIMULUS REVISITED. Here's the Economic Policy Institute on the need for a targeted stimulus package that includes investments in infrastructure, extending unemployment and food stamps, and fiscal aid to states.

YOU'RE NOT JUST GETTING OLDER, you may be getting wiser.

FORGET THE BEATLES. Here's something about a real walrus.


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