In the wake of the tragic shootings in Atlanta, the internet has responded in a similar way to the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. We’re angry, sad, confused, hurt, and looking for answers.
We want to know how to interpret what happened. We want so desperately to find a story that makes sense. We want to have a theory that puts everything together in a nice little package for us so we can feel like we understand it.
This makes sense in a time when there’s so much confusion, so much uncertainty, and so much insecurity that we all feel. We cast our hands out into the dark abyss of the world, feeling around for explanations that seem plausible. Anything to give us a little bit of control over a crazy world that’s pumped through our feeds every single day, twenty-four-seven, should we so choose.
The violence of the world erupts before our very eyes. We replay it over and over again. We watch with a mixture of fascination and horror. It conjures up a hodge-podge of uncomfortable feelings within us, challenging our deepest notions of what life should be like.
As the French philosopher, Michel Foucault suggested, violence may very well be the normal static backdrop of human affairs, the way of the world, upon which brief interludes of peace are the true irregularities. Power is merely sublimated violence and power discrepancies are inactive forms of violence.
This is a hard pill to swallow.
Over the last two days, I’ve watched the internet fall into a state of chaos, the kind described by philosopher Thomas Hobbes when he described the state of nature as being the war of all against all. “Bellum omnium contra omnes,” he wrote in the original Latin. Feels very Foucaultian. And now, as people cling to their belief structures, they’ve begun fighting with one another over which interpretation of the tragic events that unfolded that day is the “true” interpretation.
And in doing so, we may be seeking answers so we can return to the notion that violence is abnormal and peace, in fact, the…