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Violence and Freedom- Exploring the Use of Violence to Liberate the Oppressed

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The role of violence in the liberation of peoples from systems of domination is necessarily entwined to the concept of freedom. Herbert Marcuse and Frantz Fanon argue that violence, in various forms, is the only reasonable rebuttal to the abhorrent system of subjugation, whether it is in shape of something as transparent as apartheid to thinly veiled laws that take away the rights of humans under the capitalist system. To even understand the relationship between freedom and violence it has to be established what it is even meant by the phrase “violence” while simultaneously attempting to understand what means are necessary to achieve this end. Furthermore, what does it mean to be “violent” and is it always acceptable to use violence as a device to achieve a certain objective, even if that goal is something as vital as human emancipation? Conversely, the argument against the use of violence, in all its forms, to achieve freedom needs to be explored. The contrary argument that will be explored is from various texts of Martin Luther King Jr. and while our fundamental argument is opposed to King’s his views must still be taken into account if, for nothing else, to add structure to the argument at hand. It must be remembered that while the role of violence and freedom are necessarily bonded to one another this does not mean that violence is the only means to achieve freedom but that violence is the “best” way to achieve the ultimate goal of freedom.

Frantz Fanon states that achieving freedom through decolonization “is always a violent phenomenon” (“Wretched of the Earth” 35) as is the case whenever and wherever peoples live under a system of domination. Under any system that restricts the freedoms of peoples to live their liv...


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...their power willingly. Violence must be utilized to achieve freedom, to pry it from the hands of those that hold it and give it to those that seek it.

While using violence to counteract violence may seem like a contradiction of sorts it is possibly the only recourse for the oppressed. It is impossible to create a formula of what works and doesn’t work in terms of emancipation because it is highly dependent on the particular situation but it is quite apparent that counterviolence is a necessary tool in this struggle. As we have seen, violence is not the only tool in liberation; the reconstruction of human ethics and perceptions is as, or more, important. Furthermore, it has been shown that sometimes nonviolence can create systemic change and that violence is not always applicable. Other times, violence is the only means to achieve true human emancipation.


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