Violence Can Exist as Care: The Harshness of Turbulent Emotions

I would like to illustrate some gruesome, ghastly consequences of August 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and its subsequent relief response inflicted on the proud, passionate denizens of New Orleans. The waterlogged bodies of cherished loved ones meander and dwell in swamped, putrid city streets rife with rot. Said streets have been unrecognizably mangled and uprooted into jagged, desolate landscapes, filled with the anguished cries of those with fervent enough will to return. Countless exhausted, defeated citizens confined to dwelling in their ever-accumulating filth in a shelter whose resilience and competence as such crumbled too many weeks ago. They are assured by a visiting former first lady Barbara Bush that due to their “underprivileged” state, “this is working really well for them”, conscripted to play the role of pitiable supernumeraries appreciative of any morsel of aid the government graciously extends their way. Spike Lee deliberately highlights these abhorrent glimpses into carnage in his documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. I believe some of his intentions were to convey how negligence towards the strife of others and an apathy towards care can precipitate rampant violence among the recipients of said apathy. Violence never fails to manifest and fester in society in an abundance of ways. I feel as though this can be attributed to the intrinsic amorphousness of which the concept of violence can cultivate and proliferate as. Violence can be as macrocosmic as pertaining to an entire society being thrusted into turmoil over a geological catastrophe or a series of fervent civil protests. It can relish on a more microcosmic scale as well, injecting heaps of torment into an individual’s emotional health. Spike Lee offers fruitful insight and perspective through his documentary into how a lack of care facilitates violence to flourish. However, Lee does not abstain from demonstrating an inverse, how a wellspring of care and passion can prove an impetus for emotional violence as well. A woman and her son return to their home following the aftermath of Katrina to assess the structural state of their home, only to be stricken with intense despair and lament while looking upon its ravaged, defiled state. Out of care for oneself and family, violence becomes rife throughout stores and streets to protect the vestiges of their home and community they invested so much labor and passion into. A turbulent marring of emotions swells within those who are compelled to confront the loss of cherished loved ones. While I am not insisting that these emotions and passions are bad or unwarranted, I am proposing that it is entirely possible for violence to exist as care. Saidiya Hartman’s assertion that “Care is the antidote to violence” fails to recognize these prospects, only accounting for how an utter lack of care can exacerbate the influence of violence. I believe this course provides ample evidence to propose that violence can exist through the intrinsic intensity of which an individual’s passions erupt into when said passions are threatened or tarnished in some manner. 

Violence can exist due to the ardent extent of someone’s care. This notion is affirmed in Joseph Roach’s “Echoe in the Bone”, an intensive discussion and reflection of Circum Atlantic performance. In his writings Roach proclaims that “Violence in human culture always serves, one way or another, to make a point”. If Roach is affirming that violence is seldom acted without intent or conviction, then I believe it is reasonable to suggest that a substantial catalyst of care is an intrinsic necessity for violence to thrive or act. Roach additionally posits that “all violence is excessive, because to be fully demonstrative, to make its point, it must spend things–material objects, blood, environments”. Here, Roach further fortifies the assertion that the presence of care invested into an obstacle can often precipitate violent situations. I believe that humanity’s need to “make a point” through their passions or beliefs can inflict collateral consequences onto unwilling victims if this passion breaches into gratuity. Roach himself states that to fully demonstrate one’s caliber of care, they may resort into expressing their sentiments in tumultuous, violent ways that come at a deficit of “material objects” and “environments” around them. If Roach affirms that “violence is excessive”, then I believe it is plausible to propose the degree of care that fuels said violence must be corresponding to that same measure of excessiveness. “Echoes in the Bone” also explores the roles effigies play in violence. Roach explains in his writings that Effigies are surrogate constructs whose sole existence serves to be the target of someone’s anger or fierce emotion. It is a common practice to burn and scorch these effigies, acts that are both inextricably associated with violent or forceful sentiments. I affirm that this demonstrates another way for violence to exist due to an abundance of care and passion. Anger itself exists solely due to an overflowing torrent of emotion within one’s psyche, an excess of care for a given topic or situation. The existence of effigies demonstrates it is a desired practice to purge this tremendous tumult of emotion through violent activities. I believe through his rumination on the intricate components of violence Roach can fortify the notion that violent situations flourish when individuals desire an outlet to relief or express an overflow of fervency and investment towards another entity, whether it be a person, place, or belief.

            The various readings throughout our course effectively demonstrate mankind’s penchant to cultivate violence from their flourishing surplus of care and fierce sentiments. This is additionally evident throughout William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, wherein Prospero, a former Duke of Milan, conjures up a ruthless, colossal torrent of a storm to sink his brother Antonio’s shift out of fervent revenge for deposing him during a coup. Prospero is willing to contort and submit reality itself to his will to acquire a sufficient medium to exert his violent, adamant emotions regarding this treachery. His violent deed fuels further unrest on the vessel his contempt has fixed upon, with the crew frivolously hurling the blame onto others for their misfortune and recklessly insisting someone “lie drowning the washing of ten tides” as punishment. I believe this demonstrates the infectiousness of which one violent deed fueled by impassioned wrath can inflict similar heedless, destructive emotions onto others. Prospero’s actions here jeopardize both the physical state of those he possesses scorn for and pollute their emotions as well. The crew begins lashing out in a violent manner to manage their influx of sentiments towards a turbulent situation. Prospero’s fervent, furious response at an opportunity to express his scorn for this treachery is further fueled by his love for his daughter, Miranda. I believe it is evident that Prospero vehemently desires to support his daughter and provide her with the lavish life of leisure that she has been robbed of. He mentions that she has been the pillar of which his resolve has been fortified upon throughout their remote plight, declaring to her “(T)hou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile, Infused with a fortitude from heaven.” Prospero’s adamant care he expresses for his daughter and pride in his deprived prestige is what compels him to unleash violence at the expense of others’ safety. If Prospero’s anger and resolve were not as fervent, I affirm he would not have needed to express his scorn in such a colossal, calamitous fashion. His fierce compulsion to demonstrate his impassioned sentiments in such a violent manner he is willing to warp both his environment and surrounding fellow man in a manner of magnitude that transcends the confines of a normal man. This demonstrates the drastic, destructive measures one will take to appropriately convey the scale of their care and sentimental investments.

            An excess of care can manifest itself in violent, emotionally turbulent ways. This is a notion explored in Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler, a compendium of poems conveying the tumultuous agony, betrayal, and wounds imposed upon the people of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. One poem, “Voodoo V: Enemy Be Gone”, encapsulates the harmful ramifications fervent investment into one’s community can inflict upon their psyche. The speaker in this poem laments about the various ways Katrina damaged New Orleans, reflecting in a wistful, yet bitter manner about how Hurricane Katrina “took with her a kingdom of sax and dream books”. I believe this line makes it explicit that the speaker possesses considerable passion and investment in their environment, their community, that was so mercilessly marred by Katrina’s force. Exclaiming that this storm “took” with it a kingdom suggests the speaker feels scorn over being robbed of the bountiful, vivacious culture they have come to cherish so greatly. The notion of Katrina robbing it from them adds a deeply personal component to the loss, as if it were a deliberate act of malice by Katrina. The speaker additionally mentions how “the storm left a wound seeping” because of its catastrophic deeds. This confirms that the speaker’s emotional well-being has indeed been lacerated and devastated because of Katrina. I believe the tremendous care and passion they exhibit for their city’s rich artistic culture instigates their sorrowful frustrations of loss, a violent and tumultuous emotional state that leaves the speaker discontent. The brimming passion they exude for their city is consequently susceptible to curdling into emotional wounds if the object of their passion becomes threatened or marred. This leads to the speaker harboring harsh resentment towards the storm, personifying its damage as thievery to make the wounds and vitriol feel like a more personal slight.

            I confidently affirm my belief that many of our readings throughout this course offered evidence into the various ways violence can often exist in or become exacerbated through care. The intense emotions and convictions teeming within individuals have the capacity to be expressed in ways that may be harmful or detrimental to themselves or others. Roach affirms that no violence is executed without conviction, thus positing care is a core component of violent expression. Prospero disregards the safety of dozens for the sake of expressing his passionate pride and care for his daughter with spectacle. A speaker from Blood Dazzler is stuck dwelling with resentment over forces that challenged the culture and community he cares immensely for, far from a mindset free of discontent. I understand that this essay may have come across as cynical, that I believe caring is a deficit to human behavior. This could not be farther from the truth, however. I ultimately hope this serves as a dirge, reflecting on the bad, to contrast to a flourishing second line, the reward, as everyone looks around at all the people who exercise care so wonderfully in their daily lives. A lack of care, after all, would lead to widespread apathy throughout society. If no one possesses care then that negligent aid afforded for Katrina survivors, as seen in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, would be the status quo. No one in our society could be bothered to lend a hand to a struggling neighbor or tirelessly work to improve conditions for those in need because of natural disasters. Care is indeed crucial in combating the spread of violence through negligence, but it is not the antidote. I believe it is important to have passion and care towards many attributes of life. However, it is equally important to reflect and tend to this care so that one can elevate others through its expression as opposed to risking others through a more outwardly destructive expression of these feelings.

Leave a Reply

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