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Is Violence ever justified

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The debate about the use of violence has been on going for the last decade. Violence, the act of causing physical harm to another person willingly, has often been categorized as being an uncivilized, unjustified act. It is mostly known, and commonsensical knowledge that attacking or inflicting harm upon another person is “wrong”. Most of us frown upon people who resort to such violent acts, and they are punishable by law.

However, as we progress into the 21st century, the line of when the use of violence can ever be “right” or justified is getting increasingly blurred. The need for war, punishment, and even domestic violence can be said to deter further violence or stop present violence from exacerbating. However, the use of violence to stop violence is debatable. Some people feel that such methods just proliferate “an eye for an eye” mentalities, while others see it as a necessary evil. In my opinon, these situations are morally complex, and can be considered grey areas, there is no right or wrong where these situations are concerned.

One form of violence is capital punishment. This is a call for execution of criminals that have carried out the most severe crimes such as murder or drug trafficking. In a way, such violence is justified because it prevents dangerous beings from being free in their society. Eliminating such a person who has caused grevious harm to the society would surely make it a safer and better place for other citizens to live in. It also serves as a deterrent to other potential criminals. Singapore’s harsh laws of capital punishment for drug trafficking, while receiving much criticism from other countries, have allowed the country to remain relatively drug-free as compared to other countries. In this way, violence can be seen as justified as it serves the greater good of the community.

Yet, to compare the killing of a murderer with that of his victim is difficult. Taking the life of the perpetrator does not bring the victim back to life. To right a wrong with another wrong seems to be irrational. It also goes against basic human rights as the choice to live is being taken away from the criminal. Thus, some feel that such violence is not justified and lifelong imprisonment should be meted out instead. However, some criminals have committed crimes so heinous, such as the planning of the September 9/11 attacks by Osama Bin Laden, that people have hailed and celebrated his killing, and have seen this as just and fair. Thus, it is difficult to draw the line where capital punishment is concerned.

A parent or schools disciplining a child can be also considered violence. As the saying goes, “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Many parents, particularly in Asian countries, deem it fit to discipline their children with violence, namely by hitting them with their hands or canes. By inflicting such harm on their impressionable and vulnerable children, parents wish to give them a stern warning not to do certain things again. Schools also carry out disciplinary actions to students who have committed offences such as cheating or stealing. As parents and teachers play an integral role in shaping the moral character of our young ones and in a sense, have the duty to bring up children well, such violence can be justified if it prevents children from carrying out certain undesirable actions, and learn from their mistakes.

However, there is a thin line between discipline and abuse. Some parents have gone so far as to lash at children with belts and hangers, sometimes in a drunkard state. They hit them, not with the intention to discipline, but to take out their anger or frustrations on them. When such actions are clouded with alcohol, or not done in a rational state of mind, this violence cannot be justified. Such disciplinary actions can also inflict adverse effects on children instead. For example, children may start to be afraid of their parents, or be even more rebellious. It is also in the belief of some parents that it is wrong to lay a finger on their children, regardless of whether disciplining them in this way can correct their actions.

Another instance when violence can be justified is when one is protecting himself from another person’s attacks. It is only human nature to protect oneself, in the only way one knows how to. For example, if one was held at gun-point and given the chance, one would definitely rib his attacker and proceed to inflict harm on him in any way, to make an escape. In times of desperation, violence is seen as the only way out and thus can be justified.

A gray area in using violence as an act of self-defence has recently been challenged in the Trayvon Martin incident that happened in Florida, USA. George Zimmerman, a 28 year old Hispanic, fatally shot 17- year -old African American Martin, as an act of self-defence, although the teenager did not carry any lethal weapons on him. The fact that Zimmerman could have made an error in his judgment, yet proceeded to assault and shoot the teenager has brought up questions and protests as to whether violence is justified when merely assuming another to be a threat to one’s safety. In this case, where other factors play a part in the use of violence, it is difficult to determine clearly whether the use of violence was right or wrong. In the spur of the moment, humans can make mistakes, and in unfortunate turns of events, cost another human’s life.

Therefore, there is no clear distinction as to whether violence can ever be justified. To some, capital punishment is not justified; yet they do not make a peep during the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Different parents have different ideas of what is best for their children and how to best discipline them. Humans are after all flawed, and where the use of violence is concerned, many other things such as the state of mind and prejudice come into play. Thus, it is difficult to determine when violence is ever truly justified. Each situation is different, and it differs according to a person and what they believe in.

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