Can There Really Be an Antidote to Violence?

Saidiya Hartman’s claim that “Care is an antidote to violence” leaves me with mixed emotions. While I see where she is coming from, especially in the cases of Bresha and Marrisa, I believe that people who care are still powerless in the long run. In a society run by people who don’t care violence is rampant and no change is administered. This causes me to ask myself if care is really an antidote when it comes to the lives of other people. Wanting to save a life is something that is inherently created from a place of care, and while saving a life is always important, that life only becomes more difficult when there is no plan of action afterwards. An antidote is a cure that has no lasting negative effects, but when there are situations where a lasting negative effect is so apparent, I do not believe I could agree that care can be an antidote. 

In Beth McCoy’s Hurricane stories class there were many pieces of literature we consumed throughout the semester, the stories of disasters we’ve researched, and the images we’ve seen and put stories to, I’ve seen an abundance of “violence” characterized in these works and true stories. Whenever I think of violence in the sense of this class my mind automatically goes to Hurricane Katrina and the victims of the whole situation. Whenever my mind goes to Katrina I think of how when the people of New Orleans were struggling the people in charge let them struggle, they did not offer help, compassion, or understanding. In one of the pieces, we read called, “Unfathomable City,” by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, the narrators wrote, “Oil spills have also continued. From September 2010 to September 2011, more than 2,300 offshore incidents occurred, resulting in the release of more than 2.5 million gallons of fuel and oil into the gulf.” This oil issue caused many issues for the people who lived off of what they caught from the bay and one of the citizens they interviewed said, “There’s no work. No Jobs. No Oysters. Maybe once in a while they may get a good day where they can go out and, you know, catch a few sacks, and it’ll keep them going.” If the government had cared more about what was happening in New Orleans, if they didn’t delay the rebuilding of the levees when they first broke in 1995 and actually build them to withstand even a category one hurricane, or if they even had a system they knew wouldn’t make the city more vulnerable, I wonder if it would have turned out differently. When reading, “Unfathomable City,” the authors touched on that, “In the name of “public safety,” politicians and power brokers have sought to contain the longest river in the United States by building levees, regardless of known flaws in the systems that leave the city increasingly vulnerable to flood waters.” It astonishes me that the people in power that are supposed to have our best interests in mind could even implement and keep in place a system that puts the people there supposed to serve at a disadvantage. 

 Though this situation was disheartening I will not lie and say that there was no ounce of care. Within the documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” we were shown people who risked their lives to save others when the government wasn’t doing anything. From what I remember of the film the coast guard and even troops from Canada coming to offer aid when the government was offering no support themselves. This, for what it is, is a good example of care but even when they were no longer in immediate danger some people had nowhere to go, no money to spend, and no one that was there for them in their time of need.  “From the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund to Common Ground to Emergency Communities; in the local and faraway church groups that organized demolition and reconstruction, from Mennonites to Baptists to Catholics; in the big-name groups such as Habitat for Humanity that came to salvage the city” (Unfathomable City). Even when there were attempts to restore the city, there’s not much incentive for people to return, especially when the city itself has shown a lack of care for the residents’ well-being consistently. 

In our viewing of, “The Day After Tomorrow,” I noticed a similar lack of care when it came to the people of the United States. Within the movie, Jack Hall, the protagonist’s father and a scientist, tries to warn people in the U.S. government that if they don’t do anything to prevent the rise of global warming then it will have negative effects in the future. Instead of heeding his warnings they brush him off and not to long later natural disasters such as tornadoes and a new Ice age start to ravage the country. Due to the U.S. government’s unwillingness to listen to a professional, many people die in this movie or are forced to quickly evacuate the country. 

Jack Hall is one of the only few people shown to care in this movie along with his son Sam Hall and some of Jack’s friends/ coworkers. Jack does his best to make it to his son throughout the movie when everyone else thought the people left in New York City were a lost cause. Though he ends up saving some of the people left there they still have a global issue to solve, without any plans to work off yet. Sam tries his best to stop people from leaving the library but ultimately fails in the long run, only managing to keep very few people in the long run. While he does keep them safe, when they are finally saved these people have nowhere else to go and no idea what to do. Lastly, one of the father’s coworkers who had volunteered to go help find his son ends up sacrificing himself when he fell through a roof in order to prevent the other two from falling with him. Though he sacrificed himself for the greater good I believe that the loss of one life for the sake of care is still inherently violent in its own right. 

When reading Shakespeare’s, “The Tempest,” I noticed it seemed to be a book full of only violent acts. Prospero, our lead character, seeks revenge throughout most of the play and does things that only benefit him in the long run. He uses his own daughter’s love for a man for his own benefit and shows no remorse for a good chunk of the play. Even by the end of the play Prospero doesn’t forgive his brother or anyone else because he necessarily truly cares for them but because he cannot throw away his own “noble nature” for the sake of revenge. In the beginning of the pay we discover that Prospero has promised Ariel his freedom as long as he is loyal to him, “I prithee, remember I have done thee worthy service, told thee no lies, made no mistakings, served without or grudge or grumblings. Thou did promise to bate me a full year.” Prospero however keeps delaying Ariel’s freedom as he feels he’s still of use to him, willing to bend his words to suit himself even if it sacrifices his own integrity. While he does grant Ariel his freedom, he doesn’t grant Caliban that same kindness, instead Caliban once again resigns himself to Prospero’s authority. In the moments where Prospero can be argued to be at his “kindest” he treats Caliban as if he is less than him in every way as he and Alonso speak of him as if he is not there. “ ALONSO: This is as strange a thing as e’er I looked on. PROSPERO: He is as disproportioned in his manners as in his shape.” “The Tempest” is a play with very few acts of care and yet when care is shown it is muddled by another violent act that is committed. 

Through reviewing some of the work we have carefully explored through the course of this semester I feel confident in my belief that care is not an antidote to violence. I think care can help heal wounds that have been left by a system that keeps failing its people over and over, but I don’t think it’s able to solve all problems. While I’m unsure what an antidote to violence can be, it may start at being in agreement. For true healing to take place I think everyone needs to be in agreement that there is a problem, but even that isn’t a guarantee that violence won’t persist.  

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.