Violence as Writing

We live in a violent world. Human violence seems to be moving towards our own annihilation. We seem to have become monstrously bloodthirsty. Violence and terror have robbed us of our peace and harmony. The blood of innocent victims of our violence is on our hands. We have lost sensitivity and seem to have become heartless and do not seem to hear the cry of the people who suffer violence for no fault of theirs. Although we like to forget our wicked acts of violence, they remain imprinted on the sands of time. The residues of the bodies that died in violence carry the imprints of our horrific acts. We cannot erase these marks. The bones of the victims of our violence carry these traces. Our violence is written into them and is waiting to decipher. This means we can think of violence as a form of writing. Maybe Jacques Derrida might enable us to understand how we record our cruelty with the ink of blood. Writing is not just inscribing words on a blank page. Derrida teaches that it not merely the inscribing of the words on the piece of paper. Beyond this possibility of inscribing words, Derrida calls writing the possibility of inscription and representation in general as well as the possibility of something can represent or stand-in for something else. This means the marks on the bones of the victims stand-in/ represent the act of cruelties that they suffer. Violence is written on the bones of the victims. Like any representation, it is merely standing in for something and thus, fails to let the reality be fully present to us. Writing of all shades and hues becomes open to several readings. The bones that carry the marks of human violence, therefore. remain under erasure and are open to multiple readings and cannot be pinned down to a singular meaning.

Derrida brings to light that there cannot be any pure representation. All representations are castrated. They leave something unrepresented and excluded. There is a structural gap in every form of representation. Derrida thinks that this necessity of exclusion introduces the possibility of confusion, dissemination and misrepresentation within every act of signification. This is why Derrida locates originary violence in the very act of writing. This is because writing fails at several levels. It cannot fully stand-in for something. The marks that we inscribe do not call things into being. We are not like God who said, ‘let there be light and there came the sun and the moon.’ Our writing is just a copy and is standing in for something that it calls/ represents. This impossibility of vocation is marked into the traces of writings. All writing is a vocative mark that is a representation of things and as such is only a counterfeit. It cannot fully represent the signified. This means writing fails. But the fact that writing fails reading succeeds. The very failure of writing is productive. It makes multiple readings possible.

All modes of signification are marked by this originary structural violence. It is the violence of pure possibility which allows all acts of violence as well as non-violence to follow. This also means all acts of violence and non-violence can be thought of as writing. What we have called originary violence opens the possibility of all forms of writings. It also means that originary violence can appear only by its disappearance. But this disappearance is disappearance without disappearing. An alert reader can read it as a possibility that opens possibilities of inscribing violence. We may need an example that imperfectly represents the above. Writing on the blackboard is inscribed on a blank black slate of the board. It is the condition of the possibility of writing on the blackboard. Paradoxically, the blackboard has to disappear without disappearing to allow us to read the marks/ text inscribed on it.

This means the originary violence is the condition of possibility of inscribing/ writing of acts of violence and non-violence. The openness of the originary violence is fore-closed by our acts of violence and non-violence. This is why we can see not just traces, residues, left-overs, marks of violence that are inscribed on the bones of the dead victims of violence, but also all acts of violence and non-violence as acts of inscriptions or writings. They do leave their traces and marks that we can decipher and read. The fact that we reduce writing to only its verbal form, we are unable to read our acts of violence. Perhaps, we need to learn this ability to read the traces left behind by our acts of violence. It will sensitise us to violence in all its colours and hues. It might open us to morality. We may be enabled to read the consequences of our own acts of violence. It can enable us how we write our egocentrism, narcissism and ethnocentrism into our acts of violence. Violence, therefore, is ethnocentric and self-preservatory.

Violence is inordinate self-love. We paradoxically try to preserve our life by destroying the life of others. This is a kind of production by destruction or destruction that is thought to produce. Violence is employed as a mode of destructive production. We remain blind to our acts of violence because we are living under the drive of ethnocentrism. Perhaps, we need to come to understand violence as a form of writing. It may enable us to read and understand our violent acts that inscribe our inordinate self-love and self-preservation. But to achieve these ends, we do not need to be violent. We can preserve ourselves through peace and harmony and without violence. We need to educate our hearts to read the marks of violence that we leave on the sands of time. It might educate our hearts to love. It may enable us to stand for the victims of violence and set us on the path of peace and harmony. We do not really need destructive violence to produce peace. We do not need violence of war to bring peace to the world. We can inscribe acts of love and peace. We can write love and reap peace for all.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao