Violence by Gilligan James

Gilligan defines pathos as “natural disasters or “acts of nature” – sometimes called acts of God – over which we have no human agency or control” (Gilligan 6). Despite the advanced nature of science and technology and the increase in knowledge, human beings cannot prevent natural disasters from happening. Advances in technology have enabled people to estimate and know when natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, storms, floods, and earthquakes are happening, but they are not yet in a position to prevent them from happening. Tragedies happen because of human action?, which can be individual, familial, institutional, or societal (Gilligan 7). Tragedies include actions such as murder and other capital crimes. Violence is understood as a form of tragedy rather than an act of nature or an act of God. It involves the person who commits such an action, who is the victimizer, and the person to whom it has been committed, which in this case is the victim. Thus, pathos differs from tragedy because it is possible to identify the victimizer in a tragedy.

In many situations, people do not agree on the cause of pathos. Rarely do people speak of blaming God or nature when an earthquake happens. Thus, although there are victims and in this case people suffer when such acts happen, there is no victimizer. The two also differ because of the involvement of humanity. Human beings do not have control over pathos, while they have full control over tragedies. Human beings decide the actions that they are going to take regardless of the consequences. They know what they will do, the impact that their action will have on the person, and the consequences of engaging in that action. A person who has committed murder or any other crime such as kidnapping does so with an agenda in mind. He/she might be doing so for vengeance or for the purposes of getting a reward such as money. The person knows how such an action will affect the victims. Moreover, the person knows that he or she is not above the law and will end up facing criminal charges.

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Tragedies involve people. The National Geographic documentary “Science of Evil” examines evil as a spiritual force and a neurological reality. It is not possible to blame natural factors such as people’s genetic composition for the crimes they commit or for violence. Violence is not hereditary. Genetic make up is a form of pathos. It is a natural occurrence or something determined by God, and a person cannot decide his or her genetic composition. Some people may claim not to have any authority over their spiritual beliefs and may choose to consider religion as a form of pathos, meaning that they do not have control over it. Such people will work towards ensuring that they fulfill the duties as their religion stipulates. People involved in religious wars base their justification on their religion. However, this is a human action, and people have a choice in what they do.

Morality plays are concerned with the pronouncement of guilt or innocence, based on people’s sense of morality. They are concerned with issues of good v bad. People who experience their world and interpret it in terms of good v bad or innocent v guilty seek to distinguish between the perpetrator in question using their own definition and understanding of justice and morality (Livingston 40). Their perception of the issue or person in question differentiates the victims and the victimizers. They believe that the victimizer should be punished for his/her action towards the victim as this will ensure justice. For someone to understand the difference between morality plays and tragedies, one has to understand the meaning of justice according to the victimizers and the victims. Those who commit acts of violence do so as a way of seeking justice. Their perception of justice is different from that of the victims or that of other people. The victims do not understand why the victimizer has to seek justice through violent means since this defeats the very essence of conventional justice. Gilligan defends the victimizer’s act of committing violence stating that the victimizer is seeking justice for himself/herself or for another person.

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Many people base their morality on their religion or on their laws, most of which are taken from religion. Laws concerning murder and theft have religious backgrounds. People do not expect others to go around harming people, so that they can benefit from them. The difference between morality play and pathos is determined by people’s perception of the nature of their religion. Religion, no matter how strongly some people may want to consider it, is a matter of human control. People have control over which religion they choose to belong to and the practices they choose to follow. Morality plays are not natural occurrences, but they are human actions. Based on this, morality plays are often closer to tragedies, than they are to pathos. Both recognize that there are victims and victimizers. They both happen because of human nature, which means that they are controllable. People control their decisions and thoughts when they declare whether a person is guilty or innocent. Morality, like violence, is a learned experience. People get their sense of morality from different sources. Children grow up knowing what is right and wrong from their families. When young children grow up, they attend different formal and informal institutions, which include schools, churches, and other religious institutions. While here, they continue learning more about morals based on different laws, which they have to follow. This makes morality plays more common to tragedies.

It is easy for one to understand the victim and condemn the victimizer. This is because many people fail to understand the motives behind the violence. Life is complex, and understanding the victimizers and understanding the reasons why they perpetrate violence will help people in understanding this (Mazarr 235). Violent people are mostly victims of violence. They are violent because they have been taught how to be violent. Had they not known violence in their lives, then they would not have committed acts of violence because they would not have had the knowledge. If nothing is done to stop the violence in the homes, then the cycle of violence will continue. Violence, like most things in life, is mostly learned. People are social beings and their interactions and relationships with others are learning experiences. They learn from their families, schools, the society, and other institutions. The legal and political systems in a country provide some solid grounds for people’s education. Therefore, a society that is violent towards its people cannot expect the people to behave peacefully.

Prisons advocate another form of violence when they hold the aggressors and deny them a chance to stop committing violence. They are not a way to understand the perpetrators of violence, but they are a way of punishing them. If the authorities take the time to understand the perpetrators of the violence, then they will seek ways to help them, and in this manner, they will have served their purpose of rehabilitation. On the other hand, when the authorities fail to understand the perpetrators of violence and regard them as guilty and bad criminals, then they will punish them, and they will have failed to fulfill the objective of their existence, which is rehabilitating the offender.  

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Many people tend to associate violence with those who are disadvantaged, especially economically. A closer view of the world reveals that this may not be the case. There have been numerous wars over the years in different parts of the world. All of them seek to satisfy the self-interest of a few. In the Science of Evil documentary, the soldiers fighting in Africa are doing so because they are following orders of a few. Their leaders have convinced them that engaging in violence is the only way that they can get what they desire. However, these are not the soldiers’ ambitions, but the ambitions of their leaders. Many support the prison systems because it helps them feel safe. They view violence in terms of morality plays rather than tragedies. For them, the perpetrators of violence ought to be locked away because they are the ‘bad guys’. They are the guilty people. Nonetheless, the people who hold such perceptions do not seek to understand the root of violence. Were they to do so, then they would realize that violence is not a case of innocent v guilt. They would find that most of the victimizers are also victims. With such revelation, it is possible that people would not advocate for prisons as a form of correctional facility. This is because many people are not innocent. They contribute to the hurt of others, either consciously or unconsciously.  

According to Gilligan, most people fail to understand violence because they fail to see it as something that can be controlled if understood well. They have a tendency to focus on violence as a form of morality play, which means that all they do is see the victimizers as guilty. They fail to recognize that the victimizers are sometimes the victims. Pathos is different because they do not require the participation of human agents. There are innocent victims of nature. People have no ability to control pathos, even if they want to. Morality plays calls on people’s sense of judgment concerning right and wrong. People learn their moral values based on their interactions and relationships with different people, institutions, and the society. Categorizing people as good or bad is oversimplifying life. Tragedies can be controlled. Violence, like moral values, is learnt from different sources. Therefore, morality plays and tragedies are similar in most cases.

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