Structural Violence Definition
A majority of persons always thought of nothing other than the direct forms of violence such as gang violence and homicide, which was present in their daily lives. Actually, most people hardly paid any attention to the actuality that the greatest harm in individuals’ lives surfaced from structural forms of violence include the caste system in India that exhibited systemic discrimination against ‘the untouchables’, thus leading to the death of a majority of persons who were denied access to basic requirements such as proper healthcare (Bond & Smith, 1996, p. 113). Poverty is believed to be one of the most devastating and powerful form of violence. Even that there is no particular person or group that could be considered to cause poverty, poverty harms people to a large scale and in ways individuals did not expect in their societies.
Overall, it could be proclaimed that episodes of violence are in most cases personal, intentional, instrumental and at certain times politically motivated. In line with this, most people engaged in violent acts due to the need to conform to the values and belief systems of their groups or cultures (Bond & Smith, 1996, p.119). This is in the same way that soldiers engaged in killings on the pretext that they were merely following orders. Conversely, structural violence would often surface based on how institutions were organized. Structural violence would also occur depending on how people attained material goods as well as representation and a voice in issues that affected individuals’ wellbeing, while other people being deprived of the same basic requirements in their lives.
Cultural violence would transpire in cases whereby the symbolic sphere of individuals’ subsistence supported structures of violence and episodes. The belief systems developed as part of individuals’ cultures specified when it was okay for individuals’ to engage in direct violence. Persons were usually made to believe that they were fighting a just war in order to encourage them to go to war more so in the case of soldiers sent to war (Bourke, 2006, p.28). Cultural narratives were in particular cases used in support of structural violence. For instance, the thought that persons were considered to have a personal responsibility to work their way up the social ladder could be used in explaining the huge gap that existed between different groups of people in the society when it came to individuals’ personal wealth and health care requirements. One way through which individuals could work towards limiting incidences of violence in the society was instigating cultural practices that propagated peaceful coexistence as opposed to violence.
Examples of Structural Violence: Analysis of Conflict and Violence at Multiple Levels
In the areas highly characterized by increased incidences of violence such as war zones and the neighborhoods that were under the dominion of gangs, violence that occurred within the family unit often spread out into the streets (Bourke, 2006, p. 30). Nonetheless, it is believed that the violence that occurred in the streets propagated family violence because most people brought back to their homesteads the violent habits that they learned in the streets. However, it is important to note that violence that transpired at the individual level had a major influence on violence at national and international levels and vice versa.
For quite some time over the years, incidences such as exploitation, cruelty, violence, oppression and several other outrageous acts have been part of individuals’ lives in different states globally (Baumeister & Campbell, 1999, p. 210). Such occurrences have left people astonished concerning how individuals could allow or bring themselves to commit various atrocities in their surroundings. However, when individuals allude to the notion that people would bring themselves to commit outrageous acts of violence it would mean that the perpetrators of such acts recognized their acts as violent and heinous. Therefore, the perpetrators are the people with the power to overcome their acts of violence. This assumption is wrong now that perpetrators may perceive their violent acts quite differently from the way the victims would perceive their acts of aggression at the time of execution. While perpetrators may show no remorse in their actions against their victims, the victims on the other hand may perceive the perpetrators’ acts as violent and acts that should never go unpunished.
Spouse abuse and homicide are considered two of the most prominent forms of interpersonal forms of violence. Spouse abuse occurs due to the misconceived notion that men are superior to their female counterparts. Therefore, violence was used as a means of making sure that the men were able to exercise control or dominion over the women in the family unit. In a majority of societies, men were considered to hold a greater power than the women did. Similarly, the cultural values and practices that were adopted in most societies depicted men as the primary decision makers in any kind of situation. Men in most societies considered themselves to have dominion over their households (Berkowitz, 1999, p. 250). Therefore, any acts that challenged their authority in the family unit were met with utmost violence. It is believed that the men who witnessed their fathers beat their mothers or men beat up their wives for one reason or another grew with the mentality that violence could be used as a means of resolving some of the problems that individuals encountered in undergoing their daily life activities. In war torn areas, the men who did not have jobs, thus losing their status as the sole providers in the family, used violence as a way of venting out their frustrations and ensuring that they retained dominion over their wives in the family unit.
Other than gang wars, violence in the community could also involve conflict between individuals in the community. Both individual violence and gang violence could be influenced by individuals’ cognition of events in their surroundings. For instance, people who experienced anger always resorted to violence in the hope that their acts would help in relieving them of their anger. Instrumental violence would predominantly be influenced by the manner in which individuals perceived themselves in relation to their social environment. For instance, in poverty stricken localities persons would resort to using violence as a way of acquiring some of the things they desired yet they did not have in their possession, such as food, expensive clothing amongst several other social amenities. Likewise, the poor members of the society who resorted to using violence in order to attain various items believed that by doing so they would be able to attain power and respect from the progress they would make out of all that they would have violently attained in the society. In a bid to retain their power and influence, persons would always be on the lookout for any signs of disrespect that they would respond to with the highest degree of violence if need be. However, persons would always have their own understanding of respect and acts that could derail the level of respect they enjoyed, thus deserving a certain course of action.
Scholars have failed to reach a common point of agreement over the factors that drove people to engaging in killings in their societies. This is despite numerous debates on the issue. One thing that makes it difficult for individuals to understand the true nature of the atrocities that other people in their surroundings experienced is that most people did not witness different forms of violence themselves (Waller, 2002, p. 9). Several theories were developed to explain the social psychological origins of intergroup violence. According to the realistic conflict theory, it is believed that conflict between two or more groups was bound to emerge in situations whereby individuals competed for particular resources. Such types of conflicts would be fueled by the thought that one group was bound to lose while another group wins from the struggle for the few available resources. For quite some time, different groups of people all across the universe have struggled over resources such as oil, timber and diamonds. Furthermore, there were struggles over land possession amid different countries such as India and Pakistan, Turkey and Greece, Israel and Syria, and Armenia and Azerbaijan. With the global increase in population, it has been projected that people would struggle over the diminishing resources in their surroundings. It has also been foretold that increased competition for oil reserves would escalate violent episodes in the localities such as the Caspian Sea Basin, the Persian Gulf, and the South China Sea, which are regions that are known to have large oil reserves.
One thing that most people fail to understand is that differences in status was never significant. This is such that whether the ingroup or outgroup had equal or different status what was important was how individuals could learn to live with their differences in life (Leyens et al., 2000, p. 810). Nonetheless, conflicts were bound to arise even with it being that the successes of one group were not at the expense of another group. Just like the differences that existed between different groups of people in reality, the thought that members of a particular group were deprived of status, jobs, money or other coveted items escalated the rate of violence between different groups of people. The thought that there was a discrepancy in the standard of living of a particular group compared to another could propagate intergroup hostility. Persons would always want to enjoy the same kinds of privilege as other groups in their surroundings, even if that would be at the expense of other groups. Wide spread capitalism and democracy have always inculcated increased rates of intergroup prejudice. In line with the proclamations above, East Germany’s advancement towards capitalism after the Cold War propagated increased resentment in the middle of young people who felt like they were being sidelined or left behind by their government.
On most occasions, people were most concerned about the identity and community of their group, which most likely would be different from that of other groups (Leyens et al., 2000, p. 814). This may or may not lead to rivalry between different groups of people. However, it is crucial for individuals to understand that social identity alone did not bring forth incidences of violence (Browning, 2010, p. 23). This is something that could be elaborated from the distinction that existed between patriotism, which was an individual’s love for his or her country, and nationalism that held that an individual’s country or the people in a particular country were superior to those who originated from other states. Elements such as National Anthems and state flags played an important role in boosting cohesion and self-worth in the middle of the citizens of a country. As opposed to moderate patriotism, nationalism would always bring forth incidences of hostility and violence directed towards individuals from other countries also known as the out-group.
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