18 Mar 2023(3 Comments)

i’m listening to judith butler

Judith Butler isn’t new to me, but neither am I acquainted in any real depth with the ideas they’ve developed or been attached to. I listened to the recorded conversation of a couple of years ago, below, last weekend, and thought the closing comment on the problem of nonviolence — problem I think about a good deal and am far from having an idea of straightforward resolution to — worth bookmarking here.

Now I think if we’re to be nonviolent, we include everyone as important relationships, as constitutive of who we are, even those who live very far away from us or whose names we do not know and whose languages we do not speak. And to say that I value those relationships is to say that . . . to do violence to another is actually to break that relationship. And to break that relationship, even if I don’t know them — I still have an ethical obligation to them, we live in an interdependent world and my ethical obligation is based upon that interdependency, so if I do violence to somebody, I break my tie . . . . But I also attack myself. Because I am not just this person over here, I’m also my relationship to that person. I have refused to acknowledge that I am as a living creature bound to this other living creature. And if I attack that creature, I attack the bond between us, the relationship between us.

That very likely isn’t the clearest expression Butler’s given to this thought. It’s good for some reflection nevertheless. I’m not sure it holds up in entirety. Discussion’s warranted, certainly, but will have to be for elsewhere.

Quote above is part of the brief treatment of the first point, about relationship and obligation. The remainder of this bears listening to, as does the the second point, touching the question of violence and pursuit of a better world.

3 thoughts on “18 mar 23: two points on nonviolence from Judith Butler”

  1. Mennonites love non-violence. We also love calling the cops. If someone else is meting out the violence it’s okay.

  2. It’s not so unusual of course — the preference for leaving violence to the cops, I mean. But the progression of various Mennonite groups on various lines of development to being not so unusual in this way, with time and generational shift, that’s an interesting item for discussion for sure.

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