Conflicts, different sorts of violence and insecurity

What is the origin, the causes of insecurity? Insecurity appears associated to a diversity of sorts of violence that emerges from poorly resolved or unresolved conflicts. So, in order to appropriately face insecurity it will be necessary to effectively face the more serious conflicts every society has so that, in the course of their resolution, criminal, systemic and ideological-cultural violence can be taken down. In contemporary societies insecurity is perceived as a threat that increases over time. It is debated whether insecurity in fact grows as a large share of the media argues and political interests usually from the opposition seize, or if what increases is the sensation of insecurity promoted by those political interests, the media aligned with them, other sensationalist media that focus their coverage on violent facts and a significantly grown industry of private security. Each side presents arguments, statistics and episodes to sustain its perspective. This is an issue that deserves to be rightfully elucidated so as not to fall into the error of a false perception; however, it is not the purpose of these lines.

In this article we are interested in exploring the origin, the causes of insecurity that, in most cases is associated with violence, actually with different sorts of violence since there is a wide variety of violence types. On their part, different sorts of violence usually emerge from unresolved or poorly resolved conflicts often due to abuses of power from one of the parties.

The individual reaction facing insecurity: protecting ourselves

The most common individual reaction when feeling insecure is seeking to protect ourselves. This can include a diversity of measures that go from adopting preventive behaviors (not circulating carelessly through areas that are considered dangerous, not displaying valuables or cash, etc.) up to building walls- material or immaterial- to isolate ourselves from contexts we consider threatening (living in gated communities, hiring private security, only frequenting areas of the city that are under surveillance, avoiding meeting new people, etc.). These measures limit our way of living and relating with others; we think we are more secure this way despite that the forms of violence that originate insecurity can always find ways to overcome the protection we adopt. There will not be enough protection to eliminate insecurity if the different sorts of violence that generate it (not only criminal violence against people) are not tackled and, therefore, as long as the diverse conflicts that lead to violent episodes are not properly resolved.

Types of violence

While all forms of violence emerge in a same economic and socio-cultural context, each type of violence presents singularities that distinguish it from the rest. There are very diverse ways of classifying violence depending on the perspective they are considered from. This article proposes differentiating (i) a criminal violence exercised by organized groups or isolated individuals against people and their belongings, (ii) a systemic violence that emerges from society’s own way of functioning and (iii) an ideological or cultural violence exercised by those who hold economic and social hegemony. As mentioned earlier on, these types of violence emerge from conflicts that have been poorly resolved or unresolved. Moreover, when situations of violence burst, authorities deploy actions of containment that if surpass certain limits become a fourth type of violence: repressive violence.

Criminal violence

Criminal violence against people and their belongings manifests as robberies, assaults, kidnappings, killings, drug, guns and people trafficking, among many other modalities. Its existence is direct and visible, it involves one or several aggressors and one or several victims of that aggression; this unlike the systemic and cultural violence whose effects are devastating for vast population segments and are perpetrated through subtle mechanisms and procedures.

There is a significant distinction within criminal violence between crimes committed by organized crime and those executed by individuals with or without accomplices. Organized crime operations present extremely serious problems since its scale and economic power enable complicities in the State apparatus, financial entities [[[They have stolen even spring from us->].]] and within repressive forces themselves. Bringing down these criminal organizations is not simple but the longer it takes to face them, the more they will become consolidated.

Crimes carried out by individuals have diverse levels of violence and their appearance is caused by a wide diversity of situations. Some people who commit crimes are extremely dangerous and their recovery is very uncertain while others are less dangerous and could fully recover if they were properly assisted. Therefore not all people who commit crimes can be dealt with the same way. However, repressive actions and judicial sentences tend to fall on those who cannot hire good criminal lawyers. There are plenty of cases where incarcerated people remain under custody for several years without conviction and others who without being guilty make a settlement with the court to receive lighter punishments.

Facing criminal violence against people and their belongings, prevention plays a preponderant role; so does the dissuasive presence of security forces. The complement of police repression is essential as long as it is exercised correctly within the margins and principles set by the law and regulated by the protocols of police intervention.

Systemic violence

Systemic violence refers to the violence generated by the way of functioning that is adopted or imposed in a society. Each way of social functioning imposes conditions in favor of some groups and at the expense of others. Systemic violence is a concealed violence whose nature needs to be disguised to minimize resistance from those who are affected and to protect the interests of those who are favored by it. Its effects can be dramatic on the human, political or economic rights of large majorities subdued to minorities who profit from the status quo; it can also happen that certain minorities are the ones to have their rights cut back.

Once they become aware of what is going on, those burdened by the prevailing way of functioning resist the conditions they consider unfair or illegitimate to which they are subdued and seek to transform them. If there were peaceful or democratic ways available to achieve the sought transformation, the conflicts inherent to the institutional dynamic that needs to be removed are resolved without violence: systemic violence is tackled and violent resistance is avoided. In turn, if democratic paths of transformation were blocked by traps and mechanisms controlled by privilege [[[Democratic traps: solving them by deepening democracy->].]] , sooner or later there comes a point of no-tolerance regarding the hegemonic logic that punishes and subdues. That is when episodes of social resistance emerge which can involve different degrees and forms of violence used to face systemic violence.

When social violence is added to the systemic one spreading beyond sporadic episodes, society faces even greater insecurity. This affects those who suffer from the status quo but also those favored by the prevailing order. The ones who hold privileges count with a better level of protection but they cannot evade the consequences of being part of a society with higher degrees of violence. In any case, since they understand that the transformational action threatens their interests, they seek to block with all available means those seeking to remove their privileges. Thus, sectors’ seeking to transform a way of functioning that concentrates economic, political and media power in few hands must face not only systemic violence but also repressive and cultural violence, as analyzed further on.

Let us see an example (and there are by the hundreds) to illustrate what was exposed as systemic violence. It is the case of the recurrent and extended tax evasion or tax avoidance –not isolated episodes that can be faced from the judicial economic crime orbit- practiced by large corporations almost with ensured impunity thanks to the contemporary financial licentiousness that operates in complicity with regulators and tax havens everyone knows and affluent countries shelter. This tax evasion of systemic nature is materialized through different mechanisms of extraction of value [[[Differentiating generation, redistribution and extraction of value->].]] ; one of them is the under billing of exports that uses triangulations with subsidiaries based in tax havens or jurisdictions of lenient regulations and controls. Quite a few corporations sell, let us say, for 100 to their subsidiaries what is worth 150 in the international market, this way avoiding to pay taxes (or significantly reducing their amount) in the producing country. It is a subtle mechanism, obviously not made transparent in annual tax depositions nor before the public opinion, but instead well masked as not to be caught (it hardly ever is). Its effects and the violence they exercise are, among others, the following:

– Huge and permanent tax evasion due to which the State of the producing country has less resources to finance social services and productive infrastructure or, if it would seek not to affect the level of public services provision, would need to increase its indebtedness or fiscally burden other sectors that are not responsible for the evasion. Thus the systemic violence falls on enormous low and medium income sectors since they do not receive the benefits of the public expenditure that was deprived from financing, on the contributors who abide by the law and do not evade, and on the entire country that is subject to greater pressure to increase its sovereign indebtedness.

– Capital flight of an important segment of national saving that compromises the national capacity of investing in its development and exercises violence upon productive chains, inputs suppliers and those who stay unemployed or underemployed.

– Evading tax payment, corporations that exercise it get a higher profit margin than those who take full responsibility for their fiscal obligations, so there is a greater accumulation of economic power precisely among actors who ravage fiscal sovereignty, practice disloyal competition and devalue corporate responsibility within the business world. That higher economic power is projected on media and political control.

– In order to materialize the recurrent evasion felony they count with the complicity of public officers and local professionals that become part of illegal networks, enlarging the sectors that support public policies aligned with the interests of the corporations they serve.

Ideological-cultural violence

Ideological violence, better referred to as cultural violence, is expressed through values and attitudes imposed by hegemonic sectors upon the rest of society. Those who are subdued to such cultural violence are burdened by it although they do not necessarily understand the magnitude of the damage it causes to their identities, interests and capacity to react.

Cultural violence complements and intends to rig systemic violence through ideas, symbols, expressions, regulations, media messages, educational contents, that value the prevailing way of functioning, the presumed merits of those exercising economic and media power, the consequent status quo. At the same time, cultural violence devalues certain values, behaviors and attitudes of large population majorities that are poorly considered in cultural and labor terms. By imposing ideas and statements the aim is to legitimate the established order and concealing the true existing power relationships.

This way cultural violence makes individualism prevail above the interests and trajectory of the social conglomerate, praises profit as the motivation to embark on economic activities instead of considering enterprises and market as mechanisms to fulfill human needs, supports manipulated democracies instead of full democracies, masks the environment´s exploitation instead of promoting its care and preservation.

How to face insecurity?

This is the subject of an upcoming article but it is worth advancing some general criteria that, at the same time, serve as a conclusion for these lines. It has been said that insecurity, felt or real, does not respond to a single type of violence but to diverse forms of violence of very different nature. We would be falling into a dangerous reductionism if we narrow down the causes of insecurity to the mere existence of criminal violence against people and their belongings which, as it was pointed out, is the one that is most perceived because aggressors and victims are easily identifiable. Contrarily, there are other sorts of violence that over-condition and overlap with criminal violence; those are the systemic violence derived from a society´s own way of functioning and the cultural one which legitimizes systemic violence. It is that complex interaction of different sorts of violence what constitutes situations of insecurity.

In short, more and more people with experience in this subject step away from the ineffective hegemonic approach employed to face insecurity. It is emphasized instead the need to identify insecurity´s underlying causes, starting at a first level by distinguishing the different types of violence that create insecurity and progressing, at a second level, upon severe poorly resolved or unresolved conflicts which is from where the different forms of violence that burden contemporary societies emerge. Obviously insecurity is not an inexplicable fact that emerges untimely and without cause; it is a traumatic fact whose genesis is associated with how economic and cultural relationships among people and organizations in each of our countries and the world as a whole are established.

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