Yves Michaud

Changes in Violence An Essay on Universal Goodwill and Fear Publication date : March 1, 2002

“For better or for worse, violence has accompanied humanity throughout its history. It is consubstantial with history, technical knowledge and even culture, and it is unlikely that it will disappear. Human beings are inhabited by darkness — great darkness — and they must have the courage to confront it. It is the darkness of cruelty and brutality, the darkness that revels in murder and the pain of others. It is also the hypocritical fascination with the spectacle of violence. Then why are we so frightened and shocked by each flare-up of violence on the international stage and in our own streets? Why do such explosions of violence take on apocalyptic and scandalous dimensions? Could it be because violence has become the object of constantly improved security systems and technical expertise, that its exercise is increasingly skilful and its repression ever greater? Could it be because, in spite of increasingly categorical moral condemnations and heightened surveillance, violence continues to rise up to the surface, creeping up through the cracks and holes in the system? Everything appears to be calm and quiet, everything seems fine, when, suddenly, the intolerable occurs, bringing fear and panic in its wake. We feel that there is both more and less violence; that life on our planet has become easier and yet more ruthless; that although benevolence is the universal law, hate is equally strong, if not stronger; that feeling safe may be a right but that fear reigns. And then, aren’t we gradually forgetting that the surveillance, mastery and psychological repression of violence may result in an even more terrible type of violence — because it is rampant — than the one that our society is trying to rid itself of?”
Yves Michaud.

Yves Michaud, a philosopher specialising in Hume, Locke and empiricism, teaches at the University of Paris-I. He formerly headed the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in Paris. He is the moving force behind l’université de tous les savoirs and the author of Violence et politique, La Crise de l’art contemporain and Enseigner l’art?