Is Care the Antidote to Violence?

“Care is the antidote to violence”, stated Saidiya Hartman’s. This quote made me think of everything we’ve discussed throughout this course. Is care the antidote to violence? This question can be answered in so many different ways. I can concur that the quote “care is the antidote to violence” is both truthful and is not.  Care refers to the feeling of concern or interest that is attached to the importance of something. Whereas violence refers to the use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community. However, the word that is of most importance is antidote. Antidote is something that relieves, prevents, or counteracts. Hartman suggests that care can counteract violence. And while it can, it also cannot, as Davina Ward, a Geneseo alum, argues the point that, “violence can exist in care”.

            During this course we wrote a collaborative essay referring to a cyclone or typhoon of our choice. My group chose Cyclone Fani. The formation of Cyclone Fani began on April 26th, 2019, in the Indian Ocean, where it was originally labeled as a tropical storm. This storm was due to extreme global warming, as well as depressions that developed in the Bay of Bengal. The storm made landfall early Friday, May 3rd, with winds equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane (Reid). During this catastrophe, the Odisha government took leadership. Leadership as one of this class’s course concepts, refers to the ability of an individual or a group of people to influence and guide followers or members of an organization, team, or society. The Odisha government not only prepared for Cyclone Fani to the best of their abilities, but they assisted their people during and after the cyclone proving that care can be an antidote to violence. Although the types of care the Odisha government performed didn’t stop the cyclone from hitting, the care performed helped their people and state in many different ways. “Roughly 2.6 million text messages were sent to locals in clear language before cyclone Fani hit, keeping those potentially affected alert. Regular press briefings were made by officials to update people of the approaching cyclone. People were repeatedly advised over all forms of media not to panic and given clear do and don’ts” (Quartz). Clear communication was key to India’s record-breaking evacuation, 1.2 million people were evacuated in just two days. In addition, these people were not just evacuated and left to fend for themselves, seven thousand kitchens and nine thousand shelters were made available overnight for survivors. Although Cyclone Fani was proving to be very powerful, the control the UNDRR (the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) had over the disaster relief was able to minimize the damages and casualties of the storm. During cyclone Fani, government authorities in Odisha, along India’s eastern flank, hardly stood still. India’s coast guard and navy deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations on Friday. Air force units and the army are also on standby in vulnerable states (CNN). The Odisha’s government took as much control as possible while the cyclone was striking their home. After cyclone Fani hit, the Odisha government announced financial assistance for families that were affected and relief packages (Outlook India). Their government’s priority was to assist the people affected and then fix up their state from the aftermath of cyclone Fani. This supports that, “care is the antidote to violence”. The Odisha government counteracted Cyclone Fani by caring for their people and their state. They prevented as much hardship as they could. 

During this course we watched, When the Levees Broke, which is a documentary film, directed by Spike Lee about the devastation of New Orleans, Louisiana following the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina. Throughout the film, residents of New Orleans discuss how they were impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. They also discuss how New Orleans is rising from the ashes after such a tragedy. We also read excerpts from Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, which also refers to Hurricane Katrina. “…Unfathomable City plumbs the depths of this major tourist destination, pivotal scene of American history and culture and, most recently, site of monumental disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill” (Solnit). When the Levees Broke and Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas shows many ways in which “care is the antidote to violence” through the actions of Hurricane Katrina. Compared to the way Odisha’s government prepared and reacted to Cyclone Fani, the United States government prepared and reacted to Hurricane Katrina in a way that show how violence is the antidote to care. The violence that struck New Orleans was not just from Hurricane Katrina but also from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who didn’t take the time to properly mantel the levees. The residents of New Orleans felt very passionately that the U.S government wasn’t doing much to help in the first few days and weeks. “Imagine that even though the levees failed, and people were left behind, everyone in a position of power had responded with urgent empathy so that one was left to die on the roof of the attic, and the dehydrated elders, the hungry children, the stranded population of New Orleans’s poorest neighborhoods were rescued and protected” (Solnit, 130). Many residents that were part of the documentary, expressed the feeling towards the fact that if the levees were made and installed properly, most of the damage done on New Orleans could’ve been avoided. If the United States government took the time to care and to fix the levees before Hurricane Katrina hit, the aftermath would not have been so crucial. 

Davina Ward countered that “violence can exist as care.” Their essay, “Metropolis Final Paper”, does a fabulous job implying that violence can exist in care and care can exist in violence. They used an example from When the Levees Broke. Ward discusses that in the third episode Kimberly Polk is introduced. Kimberly was the mother of a little girl named Serena who was killed in Hurricane Katrina and later found in the Lower Ninth Ward. “The documentary also shows scenes of Serena’s funeral in which the audience is forced to confront Kimberly’s suffering” (Ward). This act refers to our course concept of memory, the faculty of encoding, storing, and retrieving information. Kimberly buried her daughter in an act of preserving her memory and because she cared deeply about her daughter. However, Ward discusses that this form of care was also a form of violence. Burying her daughter was a violence that she had to inflict on herself due to the performance of the horrific Hurricane Katrina. This act of violence was also an act of care.

            Ward gets me thinking of another scene in When the Levees Broke that reassures care is a form of violence. Days after Hurricane Katrina hit, the United States government and FEMA still had done close to nothing for the people of New Orleans. Due to this, there was a scene of people looting the stores. Some people were looting for necessities while others were stealing valuable items, they might later be able to make money off of. After Hurricane Katrina hit, many people in New Orleans needed their medications, families needed formula for their babies, and everyone needed water. The people that stole for necessities were committing a crime however most of them had no other choice. My first reaction was that looting is bad no matter the circumstances. But after thinking about that scene and watching the babies cry because they were hungry, I may have done the same thing as those baby’s parents. These acts of looting for necessities prove how care can be a form of violence. 

As discussed in one of my previous essays, Violence and its Aftermath, I allude to the fact that sports are activities where people perform acts of violence which ultimately causes waste. Using Ward’s way of thinking, sports can connect to the idea that care is a form of violence. In my previous essay I shared that people play sports for many different reasons: they may love the game, they make a living off of it, are able to support themselves and family, and/or they play because they have talent. Whatever the reason may be, people ultimately have some sort of care for the sport. Whether that be the sport itself, the way it makes them feel, or the people around them, their teammates, coaches, or fans, most sports include some form of violence. That violence may cause broken bones or possibly lifelong physical impairments. Therefore athletes care for their sport but in a way that could cause a performance of violence. 

This course and Davina Ward’s “Metropolis Final Paper” essay demonstrates that Saidiya Hartman’s quote, “care is the antidote to violence”, is both factual and nonfactual. There is no one way to define how care is the antidote to violence or how care is not the antidote for violence. I am still unsure if I could sum those both up in just a few sentences. However, I have learned how care counteracts violence and how care is a form of violence/violence is a form of care. Its everyday occurrences that allow us to see how care and violence work hand in hand. 

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