No healthy person would ever desire to experience violence in any form. It is one of the underlying threats shaping our behaviour and which we have to adapt to. Though humans have a tendency to seek danger, we avoid violence by nature. But how come there is so much violence in this world? How come there are so many atrocities and wars? Well, these questions are so central that many different accounts have emerged to answer them. Most prominently, many religions pull these questions into their focus. Legal systems are designed to prevent violence and countless civil society movements are concerned with ending violence. All of them are widely unsuccessful, leading many to believe that violence is an inevitable evil and an integral part of our nature. However, this, too, is partially correct at best. In this article, these questions are answered by putting forward a rather mechanical argument.
First of all, it is important to analyse the causes of violence. Here, violence is used as an umbrella term, comprising physical violence as well as psychological, verbal and financial violence. Though they unfold in quite different ways, the underlying dynamics are the same. Thus, it is possible to treat them under one overarching term. This underlying dynamic is the discrepancy of power. It means that violence only exists in constellations of actors where a significant power imbalance is existent. Whether the said actors are individuals, groups, societies or states is of no importance to this analysis. Also, the number of involved actors is not relevant to understand why violence emerges. The discrepancy of power is something that urges an actor to take action. It is a situation so pressing that we overcome our inherent tendency to avoid violence, which leads us to expose ourselves to great dangers. There are two modes of power discrepancy: Positive and Negative.
Positive Power Discrepancy
Positive power discrepancy is a situation in which an actor is significantly more powerful than other actors. This can mean that the said actor is either physically stronger, wealthier, more intelligent or has a better social status – the examples are countless. It just means that there is a glaring power advantage of an actor towards another actor or a group of actors. Of course, this does not hold true in all constellations as one is unlikely to be more powerful than all existent actors and in all aspects thinkable – at least not for an extended period. It also does not follow that every relationship with other actors is relevant. This relevance is determined by how close those actors are within that very category that is being looked at. For example, let us imagine a positive power discrepancy, in terms of intelligence, between actor A and actors B, C and D. Let us imagine that B is the neighbour of A. C is living somewhere far away but works at the same job as A, where this intelligence is essential to success. Actor D lives far away and works in a very different sector. Naturally, actor D’s power discrepancy towards A is least relevant. Because of the physical (and probably also social) proximity of B, this actor’s intelligence is of some relevance to A. However, since A and C are competing for the same goals within the same environment (work), the power discrepancy between A and C is most relevant to A. This means that power discrepancy is not universally valid but also dependent on the factor of relevance.
To have a positive power discrepancy towards another actor or a group of actors of relevance implies desirable advantages. Those advantages can be as many as fields where power discrepancies can emerge. Sticking to the example of intelligence, it means that actor A can more easily advance at work, which secures a number of additional advantages, such as higher pay and social status. Again, I would like to underline that this can be applied to any field of power discrepancy. We could also think about a state that is financially very advanced, providing its society with vast material wealth. Or a very famous person who attracts the attention of many others. Whatever it is, once used to live with those advantages, actor A will not want to forgo those advantages. Accordingly, the main focus of actor A will be to uphold this positive power discrepancy. It will be the sole focus of this actor to ensure that the power distance towards all relevant actors is maintained or, ideally, extended. There is no such thing as resting in such a situation since the other relevant actors also seek to obtain those advantages. If actor A manages to maintain the positive power discrepancy by focusing on herself through constant development, then no violence emerges. This is also fully in line with and a central thought within Devletism. However, if actor A does not concentrate on extending the positive power discrepancy through maximum self-focus and disciplined advancement of its power position, she will resort to violence. In order to uphold the advantages of the acquired positive power discrepancy, while not furthering it through genuine knowledge production, the only way is to use violence. Regardless of whether it is physical violence, coercion, psychological pressure, insult or financial harm, violence will inevitably happen.
Negative Power Discrepancy
It is not hard to follow from this what negative power discrepancy means. The same rules are applied to the inverted relationship between two or more actors. Where negative power discrepancy exists, an actor is significantly less powerful than other relevant actors. Again, this can be applied to many different settings of power relations. The main difference between positive and negative power discrepancy is the nature of the motives that force us to act. While people subject to a positive power discrepancy are keen to uphold this imbalanced situation towards relevant actors, people who experience a negative power discrepancy seek to reduce and eliminate the imbalance. In the first place, they want to catch up with the people who enjoy the advantages that arise from their positive power discrepancy. Surely, people are seldom reflective enough to analyse their situation and say that their action is a logical consequence and enshrined in the laws of nature. Accordingly, the more tangible explanation for the motives of action is grounded in the relativity of power. People experiencing a negative power discrepancy are not inherently worse off, they just feel worse in relation to other relevant actors.
But here again, there are two options: Either this person works intrinsically on her self-development to eliminate the discrepancy or she resorts to violence. This form of violence is as common as the one resulting from positive power discrepancies. I have no inclination in terms of which form of power relation produces more violence. What I do contest, however, is that this is the only reason why violence exists. Violence only exists because there is a too-stark difference in power between actors within a common realm and this discrepancy is not altered through genuine knowledge production. Equal, or almost equal, actors do not resort to violence because the risk-reward ratio is not a favourable one. The victory over the other is not guaranteed and the potential reward from such a confrontation is not worth the risk. The only exemption is that violence can also exist where radical mental illness is present but even there, I believe that the roots of violent behaviour can be tied to some sort of imbalanced power relations.
So, if the discrepancy of power, certainly not without the abovementioned additions, is the sole cause of violence, then the reduction of this discrepancy must be the only solution to ending violence, right?! False. It surely is one of the two main approaches to end violence but, unfortunately, the rather impractical of those two. The reason for that is neatly described within the Game Theory. Such a situation of reduced power discrepancy requires cooperation from all relevant actors. However, all actors know this and the incentive to defect and, again, secure a better power position towards other relevant actors is simply too great. It might work occasionally, but unlikely over an extended period. For example, we could say that every nation in this world receives the exact same number of nuclear warheads. Since everyone has the same capacity to eliminate every other actor on the map, no one is willing to risk confrontation. However, the temptation to produce further nuclear weapons, in order to quickly gain a better position, is big and with such a large number of actors, of them is at some point going to exploit this situation.
A much more sustainable approach is genuine knowledge production, which is explained in much detail in DEVLET. In this context, it would mean the sole and full focus on personal development, in order to reduce the power discrepancy towards better-situated actors and extend the power discrepancy towards worse-situated actors. It is the only means to gain access to all desired advantages without resorting to violence. Pure self-focus and undivided attention to furthering the own cause will never interfere with other actors’ affairs and will never require the use of force to achieve the desired ends. It does not follow that violence and force are never to be used because other relevant actors might not go the path of genuine knowledge production and inevitably resort to violence. However, one would then only be in the defensive situation and not actively initiate violence. It would be purely necessary in terms of self-preservation. Though ending violence altogether is rather utopic, the above-explained way is the only feasible way to significantly reduce violence while achieving unprecedented progress. The more people choose this path, the more the discrepancies will be levelled out.