Thursday, October 29, 2015

Violence and History

A little bit of military history, to start us off:

Much of today's military continue to follow principles that ancient armies developed and then the Roman Army perfected.  For example, the phalanx and shield-wall, which required extraordinary discipline to maintain the soldiers in tight formation.

Now, this shield-wall is mostly stationary, and only holds together for a short time, but it gives an idea how shields can interlock and be used:


At Disney World's Epcot Center, we took the ride, Spaceship Earth as it described a history of communications. Spaceship Earth, like most Western Civilization courses, traces back from Egypt to Greece, and then Rome. Bypassing most of the Fertile Crescent cities (clay tablets are more portable than cave walls!) and the Eastern Civilizations in India and China altogether.

It's... cognitive dissonance, to think about how Rome is held up as this pillar of civilization (granted, there was literacy, philosophy, mathematics), when we also know that it was cruel and brutal.


The book Resistance and Contemplation (previously discussed here), discusses how the Roman Empire was a cruel, occupying force in the Middle East. That particular book, rooted as it is in Christianity, dwells more on the cruelty of crucifixion, and how the convicts' bodies would be left rotting on the crosses as a warning to the occupied peoples.

But the military personnel themselves were also not safe. The Romans began the practice of decimating one of their own units for certain failures. Drawing 1 in 10 by lots, and forcing the remaining 90% to beat the 10% to death regardless of rank or participation in the previous action.

Military tactics change over time. In middle school history class, my teacher had a group of students march through the classroom like the British Redcoats marched through Colonial America: in disciplined formation.
 She did this to illustrate how the American revolutionaries (those of us who remained in the classroom) used "unfair" tactics, hiding in the woods and shooting from the sides... what I now recognize as early guerrilla tactics.

Still, their cruelty leaves residual affects across our world today. Black Twitter in particular discusses it, and more and more shows it in examples like this video from a South Carolina classroom.

Before I started reading up on intersectionality, I encountered the writings of Starhawk. In her books Dreaming the Dark and Truth or Dare, she discusses some of the principles and approaches that the non-violence movement use in the face of police and military actions.

In those books, she also tries to delve into the early-Capitalist and Fertile Crescent histories. But as I described in Spiritual Feminism, I encourage caution with regards to those "histories". That part tends to merge known history with the plausible and purely fictitious.

Even with such historical fallacies, her understandings of power and psychology align with what I was taught in my cross-cultural communications and business (particularly Negotiations) coursework. While caution is advised, I do not recommend throwing out the baby with the bathwater.