Violence Always Escalates
Last week I mentioned a saying that my sensei used to drill into us at the dojo. “Violence always escalates,” he said. Once violence begins, it doesn’t stop on its own. Violence only ends for three reasons.
- Violence ends when one party loses the ability to continue.
- Violence ends when one party loses the will to continue.
- Violence ends when one party makes a conscious effort to deescalate it and the other party is amenable to deescalation.
That’s it. Violence never ends for any other reason. Even one party achieving its objectives can’t end the violence on its own. If the other party still has the will and ability to fight, conflict will continue. Worse, as my sensei noted, it will escalate.
Retaliation is never equal. It is always greater. In the immortal words of Sean Connery, “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”
If it seems like 2016 is going off the rails, that’s because it is. There are many ongoing conflicts in the world today: Palestinians vs Israelis,ISIS vs the west, Black Lives Matters vs Blue Lives Matter, Russia vs Europe, the US vs… well, everyone it seems like. All of these conflicts are escalating. At times we’ve had leaders willing to make a conscious effort to deescalate. At times we’ve had leaders on the other sides amenable to deescalation. We’ve never quite managed to have both at once. Given that, escalation is inevitable.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing special about the modern age. We like to believe that we have evolved, but we have not left conflict behind us. There is no right side of history. History is riddled with pockets of peace as long as the one we’ve recently enjoyed. Some have been even longer. They inevitably end and conflict returns, as it is now. And when it comes, it always comes faster than people believe possible.
All of the conflicts I’ve listed are going to get worse before they get better – because violence always escalates.