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Radical Love is More Than a Noun
The fight is against violence, not hatred
Yesterday, I interviewed lisa minerva luxx about violence, resistance, dignity and love. luxx is a poet and political activist who has been an active member of Palestine Action for many years, witnessing the impact of direct action, handing their body over to the movement fighting for what they call the frontier of all liberation movements everywhere. The conversation was deeply moving, invigorating, saddening and brutally pragmatic. luxx, quoting the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine during the episode, said “the only language that the enemy understands is the language of revolutionary violence”.
Violence must be the centre of any conversation that dares to face the brutality of this world. The global economic order demands extraction from the earth and exploitation of the people. Our geopolitical order consists of military powerhouses, their allies and their enemies. States police their own citizens first by weaponising precarity and then with force. Companies build fortunes while selling us health epidemics. Warring political factions sow mistrust between groups of civilians so as to distract us from what we all have in common: their violence.
Stories of humankind’s capacity for violence equally sow mistrust in our own nature. We consider ourselves to often be cruel and selfish, capable of murder, of torture, unrivalled abuse. The “veneer of civilisation” is said to hold back the savagery underneath, humankind’s beastly self; we are animals, waiting to be unleashed.
This is a ridiculous lie. Humankind has only achieved its cultural evolution by doing what we do best: collaborating, empathising, nurturing and creating. In this, we outstrip all other creatures, even our fellow mammals, who show such high levels of care and empathy for many of their kin that they debunk the savagery attributed to animals.
Indeed, animals do not mirror the atrocities found in our human species. They do not abuse one another, they are not violent in the way the most compassionate species on earth can be. Where does our violence come from, then, if not from savagery?
Humankind’s unrivalled capacity for violence is only possible thanks to our unrivalled capacity for organising. Barring the lone psychopath who is thrilled by hurting others, it is under the banners of ideology that violence is unleashed, often by those who sit in safety, far from the battlefield. It is in the names of kings, of gods, of resources, that violence is deployed. It is in the name of nation states.
Could there be a more violent creation than the nation state? Dialects eradicated, lands taken, borders raised, enemies slaughtered, resources thieved, power wielded, all in the name of an abstract noun. We seem to have confused humankind’s nature with the history of state-building; greatness is matched by terror sewn into the colours of a flag.
So many lost in the name of a few.
As I said to luxx during the interview, this is what makes the violence in Palestine so gut-wrenching: In a world of eco-colonialism, where people are subdued through financial mechanisms, treaties, trade agreements and tariffs, here we see the reality of colonialism, how it was wrought in centuries past. Here we see how all nation states were built. Here we see the violence of the coloniser. Here we witness the terror—and I mean fear—of the indigenous. And, despite this, their grace.
Here, also, we witness the hypocrisy of the West, in particular members of the G7 who financially and militarily support the destruction of an indigenous people despite having recently gotten into the habit of shaking their hands at climate conferences. This is subtler violence of gaslighting masks the brutality of reality. How can one ground down in reality if the tectonic plates of perception keep shifting?
We live in a violent world. We must confront this if we are to win the war against violence (and yes, we must admit we are at war, for violence will be used even on unwilling victims—it is not the victim who chooses violence, only their response. Denying reality helps no-one.) We equally cannot win against violence with abstract nouns alone, such as peace, light and love, all words I have heard thrown around as solutions to violence, as if the words themselves hold the secret to strategy, a strategy to unlock the minds and hearts of the bitter and open their eyes to a better world. This often goes hand-in-hand with the claim that the best thing to do is focus on “raising humanity’s consciousness”. Such statements deny reality, offsetting responsibility for horror by suggesting those who inflict violence are not conscious of the destruction they leave in their wake.
Such destruction could not happen without a conscious effort, not without years of political allyship, weapons manufacturing, funding and lobbying. People don’t sleepwalk into war. They consciously justify their desire to go to war. Unless consciousness levels impact the functionality of drones, we will need better strategies. Whilst the problem is, indeed, the paradigm of power, run on statehood and capitalism and extraction and fossil fuels, we must resist that violence as much as the system itself resists new ideas. Revolutions are not won by those bleating love and light, not when the coloniser kills with impunity. Peace may be served in the afterlife but for now there is a world to protect.
We discuss this in the episode, with luxx referring to a “radical love”. A love that acts, a love that dares, a love that fights. Radical love is putting one’s job on the line to speak up against injustice. It is a mother shielding her child with her own body. It is blowing up a pipeline. It is mutual aid networks. It is engaging with the reality of the world, and staying strong in one’s convictions no matter how those tectonic plates shift beneath us.
Radical love may be staying close to the family you hate so you can protect a child. Radical love may be paralysing a serial rapist with a bullet. Radical love may be aborting a child because you cannot provide for it. Radical love may be offering your body up to the judicial system because you dare stand in the way of what is wrong.
This kind of love cannot be compared to the love of passivity, a love which claims apartheid states are won through “light and love” rather than struggle. Such a love doesn’t want to do the real work. It is a performative love, fitting to our superficial culture where intimacy is lost to pixels on a screen. It is a thin kind, which claims love will always win out over hate. I believe in this statement, I do. But we are not fighting hate. We are fighting violence.
Hatred is weaponised to foment civic agreement for national policies. But violence is committed in the name of expansion, greed and fear. Hatred is the cloth that binds a skeleton of violence so it may walk among us because whilst we are all prone to the extremes of emotionality, most of us are not wired for violence. Not in the way the nation-state project is.
Love can protect us from hatred so that our own hearts may not harden. But it cannot protect us from violence unless it is a mother shielding her child’s body, for violence is material. Violence is torture and guns and bombs. It is real.
This is the bloody reality of state-building, colonialism, extraction and exploitation. A radical love that dares stand against it is not inherently violent, but it does inherently resist. In the face of death itself a radical love does not crumble, it does not hide behind another. It stands tall, straightens its clothes and faces the truth with dignity. Radical love dares to exist. It dares to exist and move towards, whatever way it can, resisting a violent world up until its very last breath.
© Rachel Donald
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