English 24 Formal Essay #1 Pathos, Morality and Tragedy In our daily lives, we are introduced to violence in different aspects. Societies’ view on violence usually involves torture against a person or a group. This usually can be a result of a disagreement upon certain viewpoints or beliefs, or maybe a sense of being evil. In most cases it involves the physical harm imposed upon an individual to cause pain and suffering. This type of violence is most common, but we can be also displayed with acts of violence due to situations that are circumstantial.
We could be put in a situation where it’s apart of the society we’re involved in, and due to the habitat we’re involved in. In the book Violence by James Gilligan, we are introduced to the various types of violence which are pathos, tragedy and morality. According to Gilligan these different aspects of violence, they are what form our ideas of what constitutes violent behavior. He explains Pathos for instance as being natural disasters occurred by Mother Nature, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunami’s. Morality is his explanation of being violent for the greater good for all humanity.
Lastly there is tragedy, which is considered humans being violent amongst on another. I believe evil is an acclimatized behavior, and can be view differently, depending on the viewpoint of an individual. Natural disasters are events that occur beyond our control. They can become extremely violent and cause havoc across a society, making livelihood very devastating. Gilligan describes pathos as “those natural disasters or ‘acts of Nature’ sometimes called ‘acts of God’ over which we have no agency or control. (pg 6) We’ve seen examples of pathos in our American society where our citizens have suffered due to a natural disaster. In August 2005 New Orleans experienced on of the most deadly hurricanes in its cities’ history with Hurricane Katrina. It was mounted one of the most deadly hurricanes in United States history with almost 2,000 fatalities accounted for. According to Gilligan these acts on humanity are done without awareness to the people it affects. I have an antagonistic view on the philosophy of athos. I wouldn’t classify them as acts of violence, but merely the earth carrying out natural processes, which exemplify a violent outcome. I like to make a correlation of the earth being like a human being. The more destruction you impose on you body, the negative outcomes will prevail. In the situation with hurricanes, these are simple acts that have naturally occurred in the earth, meaning the violence imposed isn’t necessarily intentional. In this instance, we cannot view the Earth as being evil.
Although there are innocent victims involved, these are acts beyond our control and we can’t blame nature’s natural occurrences as evil acts on humanity. If we could classify natural acts in nature as violence, then we could call the changing of seasons violent because we tend to get sick more in the colder months. Climatic changes can cause someone to get the flu or perhaps pneumonia, and died, but I wouldn’t categorize them as being violent. Hurricanes occur because of an increase in heat and transfers this built up condensation over a large area of land.
Due to the rise in global warming, and the rise in atmospheric pressure, it in turn makes temperatures hotter, and a means for more frequent and powerful hurricanes. The rise of the overall earth’s temperature rises each year due to carbon emission exerted unbeknownst by human beings. Does this make humans intentionally violent due to lack of knowledge about the correlation of carbon emissions are the direct effect of more frequent and violent hurricanes? I personally do not believe these acts of violence were intentionally malicious, because they are natural processes the earth demonstrates.
Next we see example of how morality plays a role in violence in the documentary Science of Evil by National Geographic. We are shown situation where violence can be subjective depending on the situation. In one instance we are shown a woman hiding in an African village with her family and young child. She has to make a choice whether to let the child cry, and risk the lives of her family, or to smother the child, for the sake of the lives of her village. In the reading James Gilligan argues, “morality plays reduce the question to that of ‘innocence’ versus ‘guilt’ (the ‘good guys’ vs. the bad guys’)” (pg. 8). In this case, the woman decided not to kill her child, but if she chose otherwise, she wouldn’t be condemned for her decision. I believe she made the right decision by protecting her child’s life, despite putting others lives at risk. But on the contrary, if she decided to kill her child to save the village, we shouldn’t be quick to pass judgment for her violent behavior. She was merely fulfilling the moral code of violent behavior. We also see violence in conjunction with morality in the case of the Osama bin Laden decision to bomb the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
In the eyes of American citizens, we see 9/11 as one of the most tragic day in our country’s history. To the Iraqi people this was a day of rejoice and great hope. The suicide bombers are taught that they are fulfilling a greater purpose by dying for their country and by obeying their religious beliefs; they will be blessed for eternity. It instills their Muslim faith by committing these sacrifices and appeasing their god Allah. This is an arguable situation between one nation’s views on what’s tragic versus what’s good for humanity.
People are quick to chose the side of the American people, and ignore the moral sustenance of the Muslim religion. In my opinion, we cannot blame the victimizers for there acts of instilling the moral code of their prospective society. In their eyes, they were adhering to a higher purpose in life as opposed to committing a violent act on humanity. Another caliber of violence exemplified in the book Violence Gilligan exemplifies is tragedy. This form of violence can be classified as any person imposing pain or harm against another without any justification.
We see illustrations of this behavior when it comes to rapes, tortures and even gun violence. One example of a tragedy is in the death of a young black teenager Kimani Gray. He was approached by two undercover police officers and shot 11 times. The investigation claims Grey was armed at the scene of the crime, but witness statements claim otherwise. This was an appalling event that has devastated them African American community. In our culture, we are plagued with a plethora of tragic events that involve victimizing young black men.
Another example is with 17 year old Treyvon Martin who was killed by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman. This young man was unarmed and killed off of the suspicions of his attacker. These young men were innocent in their actions, and became casualties of their respective neighborhoods. On the contrary the reading Gilligan states “…all violence is an attempt to achieve justice”, but in case with Gray and Martin, this definitely was not the case. How could one view the victimizing of young black men as seeking justice?
These two events are blatant forms of violence as a tragedy, not in the case to seek justice. There is an ongoing trend in our American society where we see disputes involving young black men and law enforcement. These authority figures tend to seek these men out as prey, although they claim otherwise. In conjunction with Gilligan statement that “all behaviour is meaningful”, it is blighting that these young black men had to become a martyr in the name of suspicion. The classifications of violence can cast a bevy of opinions, depending upon the person’s perspective.
When we hear the words violence, the first thoughts that come to mind are inflicting bodily harm. Society has been trained to think in this manner for centuries to come. We fail to delve into the deeper meaning of violence, and they manner in which it can be classified. In agreement with Gilligan, I’m convinced that violence has a deeper substructure than what we consider it to be. Moral has a prevalent role in what we consider violence to be. This ideology stems from what we learn in our religion and culture. On the contrary I don’t support the theory of pathos as violence.
There are many natural occurrences that don’t result in violence; hence I can’t consider all events to be classified in that manner. Unfortunatly we are frequently displayed with tragedy in our lives, with this form of violence being one we have more of awareness. Gilligan has given us insight on what his perception of violence, and how it has formed our own opinions of what we consider violence to be. This research has afforded me the ability to distinguish what I believe violence to be and how it can be both circumstantial and behavioral.