Monday, December 29, 2008

What do "we" need to know about violence?

I just finished Slavoj Zizek's Violence and am wondering where it fits into my thinking war and peace in the global village.

Zizek argues that the correct response to violence is to "learn, learn, learn;" he thinks that language, which is often seen as the medium of reconciliation, is actually the medium of division and conflict (he surprisingly doesn't deal with the Tower of Babel); he thinks that academics put on a good show but don't actually do much, he thinks that "liberal communists" like Bill Gates provide aid with one hand, but only after they have reaped the benefits of the global capital oppressive system on the other hand. He also believes that violence, struggle, revolt are, in some cases, necessary.

As an educator and specifically a professor of "language," I could probably work with Zizek's notion of "learn, learn, learn," but interestingly, both the students in this class (WPGV 2008) and I feel compelled to act, to get out of the classroom rather than just learn, read, propose, etc.. Educators, as many commentators have noticed, are in the awkward position of having to defend learning for learning's sake these days.

I'm trying to figure out, though, where Zizek rubs up against some of the other following people:
1. McLuhan: violence is a quest for identity.
2. Lynn Worsham: we have not brought emotion into pedagogy despite the violence and emotional upheaval of our culture.
3. Letters for the Living: a book about letting students write about the violence in their lives, as well as seek the moments and places of peace in their lives.
4. The Violence of Literacy: a book I need to read ASAP.

What I also need to figure out are the problems / questions I want to address. What do I need to know and think about violence to be a teacher of language? What do I want students to know and think about the violence of language and literacy? This second question might be the key, a question relevant to general composition courses, writing in the health professions, visual culture and language.


Lee S. Tesdell, Ph.D. said...

The language of justice and peace is not the same as the language of war and violence. The latter is perhaps an UNinteractive conversation whereas the former is interactive and collaborative. Both languages could be non-verbal as well. The flower in the rifle is an example. The soccer game on Christmas Eve during WWI btw English and German troops is another. The F16 dropping bombs on Gaza is non-verbal language of violence as is any other use of a weapon.

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