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April 26, 2003

What? Violence is Everywhere?

Dr. Rob Fisher recently sent out an announcement of The Cultures of Violence: 4th Global Conference: Diversity within Unity, to be held on 26th to 28th September 2003 at St Catherine's College, Oxford, United Kingdom. The announcement read:

"This multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary conference aims at identifying and understanding the prevailing extent of violence in contemporary life. It likewise aims at probing the representation of violence in media, art and literature."

The announcement ends with the incredible assertion that:

"Violence has been part of societies purporting to unite people, e.g., totalitarian regimes. It has been no less part of societies that set great store on diversity. It remains a horrifying feature of today's world."

No less? Societies that set great store on diversity, which must include democracies, have no less violence than regimes like those of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? What?

True, violence is a horrifying feature of today's world, but mainly of totalitarian regimes. For example, they accounted for over 134 million of the 174 million murdered by governments in the last century, the worst form of violence. Authoritarian regimes murdered far fewer--around 26 million. Democracies committed very little such domestic violence. Generally, liberal democracies, which most pride themselves on diversity, commit virtually no domestic genocide and mass murder. They do not make war on each other. They have little domestic collective violence.

Thus, the world is divided into two regions. One is an oasis of non-violence, of peace, of the democracies. The other is of turmoil, repression, collective violence, and democide (genocide and mass murder), and comprises the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.

I will, of course, be reminded of the aggressive wars of democracies, the latest being against the Saddam Hussein's regime. These are most often preemptive-defensive by the democracies, and are in any case against nondemocracies. But overall, even including such democratic vs. totalitarian or authoritarian wars, among all nations democracies have the least foreign violence by orders of magnitude.

Why? The explanation lies in democratic culture itself, and this should have been one of the subjects, if not the subject, of this Cultures of Violence Conference. Sadly, given what we have learned about violence and war, the organizers of this conference still live in the distant past.

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