Dirty work at very crossroads
r the past week and more the appropriate iplinary people of the University of have been considering the cases of the ty-odd known students who were among larger number of students and others held captive members of the Senate in
committee room for several hours earlier term. On that scandalous occasion, the
ending students only dispersed when a
or police officer in uniform made it clear
them that if they did not allow the Senate bers to be released then sufficient police- would be called in to arrest the recalci- t students.
The Essex University problem is small- le, although far from trivial. It is—and it this which makes it of something more local interest—symptomatic of two
ly related conditions of social living, ditions which most men would regard as thological. The first condition is that of se who very swiftly and often eagerly
t to one or other form of physical lence, not to rob a man or rape a woman, rather to further some vague purpose.or er. The second condition is the inability, r one cause or another, of those in author-
effectively to restrain the resort to 'lence whether through punishment or tency. Thus it very often seems that the lent people do not know what they are ng, and the juridicial people do not know at to do about them. And even the man the street, who undoubtedly will say that knows what should be done about them, eh would be to incarcerate the violent in the last resort kill them, may as a her be himself as lenient or as nonplussed the authorities he castigates for softness. The louts and the hangers and floggers ye one quaint belief in common: that the t way to cure society of its endemic
ase of violence is to inject some more knee into it. This homoeopathic approach characteristic of the cranky, almost mind-
credent, jargonising twitterings of most olutionaries and reactionaries. There is k of reason. No Pinkville killer will ever able to say, clearly and cogently, why he ted as he did. Were he to be able to say. . he would either not behave so. or would far higher up the cham of command. Intelligent revolutionary students know asonably well that the revolution they seek ust be violent. Lenin said so. So did Marx
d Engels. In a rather more sloppy but aracteristically contemporary way, Daniel hn-Bendit says to them: The type of organisation we must build n neither be a vanguard nor a rearguard, must be right in the thick of the fight.
at we need is not organisation with a Pnal "0". but a host of insurrectional IIs, be they idealogical groups, study oups—we can even use street gangs . . . cry group must find its own form, take its n action, and speak its own language.
en all have learnt to express themselves, harmony with the rest. we shall have a
e society. Reader . . . between us we can ange this rotten society. Now, put on your at and make for the nearest cinema. Look their deadly love-making on the screen.
Isn't it better in real life? Make up your mind to learn to love. Then during the interval, when the first advertisements come on, pick up your tomatoes or, if you prefer, your eggs, and chuck them ..
There will be student leaders who know what they are about, continually striving to provoke violence and violent reaction: but, like the Auschwitz guards and the Pinkville butchers and the Dresden bombers, most students, the crass majority which is led, if they demonstrate and then become violent, will not rigorously ask themselves, 'What exactly is this that I am doing, and why am I doing it?' Instead, they will vastly prefer to chant slogans, mindless repetitive phrases, witlessly. Every face you see on television, if it is occupied only with chanting such phrases, or with screaming abuse, or grimac- ing with sweaty hatred, is a face which has for that moment become faceless, anony- mous, the mask of a mind that has become vacant, the captive flesh of a man who has given up by giving himself up.
The difficulty is that most people like to give themselves up, to surrender. The last thing most people, including students, want to do is to think for themselves, or for any- one else for that matter. Thinking is onerous and painful. Better to go along with the crowd: and if the crowd is having itself a demo, or a ball at Pinkville, then who's to argue? If you don't like it. then stay away, man. Or, alternatively: I'm tough, I'll do your dirty work for you, mine will be the secret glory. The game of Follow my Leader leads normal men and women to perform guard duties at Auschwitz, to ritualistic and orgiastic murder in California, to revolution in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and to the suppression of revolution in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
Violence is not done for its own sake, or for immediate reward of pleasure or goods, but as a member of a group with a creed, the membership entitling and the creed justi- fying the individual's violence against those outside. There will always be individual predators, criminals who steal and rape for the sake of it, but the far larger amount of violence comes from those who kill and steal and rape for the sake of something else, which is usually a group with a belief.
Although traditional dispute has been about the merits of each belief or set of be- liefs. I do not myself think that the violence of men belonging to groups will ever be eradicated by criticising or altering the beliefs of their groups. It is the belief in the group's real existence. rather than a group's particular set of beliefs, that causes the trouble. This is the belief, unhappily, that is almost universally held: it is held as unques- tionably by the naughty students of Essex as by the naughtier soldiers of Vietnam; it was held as unquestionably by the Jews of Ger- many as by their German slaughterers. ft will take a long time to eradicate, this uni- versal faith, this perennial philosophy.
Meanwhile, what can we do? Not much. Scrutinise ourselves and our activities. Hope that a reasonable, which is usually the most quiet and peaceful, solution to each problem of violence will be met. Mind our own busi- ness, or. if we cannot do that, at least neglect to mind other people's businesses, unless their incapacity endangers the rest of us. We would do well to act in such a manner as to reduce the amount of physical violence. If. to take the minute example I started with. the amount of violence at Essex University and outside would be reduced by the re- moval, violently if necessary, of the ring-
leaders of violence, then, senators of Wiven- hoe Park. mind your own business and get shot of them. But if you think not, then do not. If. to revert, as one cannot but revert, to Vietnam, the amount of violence there and elsewhere would be reduced by the re- moval of United States troops. then, Presi- dent and Ministers and Senators and Con- gressmen of the United States, mind your business and pull them out. But if you think not, having made the best calculations of which you are capable, and having purged your minds of as much cant as you can excrete, then stay. Such calculations, in Wivenhoe as in Washington. can be made without benefit of propaganda, for the good of most.