When, if at all, is violence acceptable?
We spoke at length in class about violence. Yod, our cyborg character who is programmed to defend, kills four people. He is programmed to use violence in the protection of someone else – Shira. There is this fantastic story of Joseph who kills to protect, and he is told that killing is wrong by his “father teacher,” Maharal. Joseph responds, “but I did protect you” (Piercy, p. 83-84).
This brings up questions about morality and violence. Originally, I had stated that I think this question hinges on violence against what? Is it against a person/innocence, the state or an arm of the state, or property?
For the purposes of the novel, I will focus only on the violence against a person. So, is it defensive? It seems that Yod and Joseph act in defense, yet the people they are protecting still see the violence as wrong. How do we account for that? Is it, like I believe, because killing another person is an assault on our morals? Is this true regardless of a threat? I think Piercy is saying that it is wrong no matter what, and she gives us a few examples throughout to show that. The reason I think she is making it such a point is because we have all kinds of reinforcing messages that tell us that defensive violence is okay. For example, we have “Castle Laws” and “Stand-Your-Ground Laws”. Now, I don’t think Piercy would say that if someone is attacking you, you shouldn’t fight for your life or your safety. However, I think she is making a point about the over-use of violence under the guise of protection. We are such a hyped-up masculine society that as a feminist write, Pierce is critiquing here. I think she wants to challenge us to think about maybe killing shouldn’t be our first option. Is there a less-fatal option? Should killing be our last resort? Is it instinctual? Is it okay to program a cyborg with those instincts? what are some alternatives? These questions come up a lot when we talk about police violence against civilians. Often under the guise of protecting themselves, officers shoot unarmed people, sleeping people, mentally ill people, and the list goes on. There is other forms of violence that don’t involve guns. The point I am making is that, we often ask ourselves when is violence – lethal violence – acceptable? If we say only when defending ourselves, that too can be problematic.
I think Piercy is getting at that point in her novel. She sometimes uses comical examples of the over-extension and readiness to be violent, but she also is using her characters to get at this concept of maybe lethal violence shouldn’t be so “at the ready”.
Piercy, Marge. He, She, and IT. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1991. Print.