Thinking in Terms of the Whole

One of the questions I face on an almost daily basis is, “how can we bring about change?” I will always answer this question by simply stating, “we must begin to think in terms of the Whole.” What this means is, we must begin to look deeper than surface level problems. For example—when violence strikes close enough to home that we must recognize it, what if we didn’t focus on the agent [perpetrator] or ‘subjective’ violence, but instead, began to look at ‘objective’ violence.

Objective violence has two separate forms, symbolic and systematic. Neither is “visible” in the sense that we can see it, yet, like subjective violence it’s very real. Symbolic violence takes place in the language we use to describe broad terms like oppression and terrorism. So what this means ultimately is that, an American from Florida will have a very different understanding of these terms, than say, someone from Syria. Systematic violence is what lies beneath it all, it’s the ideology that guides us.

For example—if you speak with people living in the States about Capitalism, and how our need for consumption creates immense subjective violence, oppression etc. most will dismiss this as non-sense. Of course there is denial, but seeing our role requires thinking in terms of the Whole. Another example we see is in the mass slaughter of the Jews during the Holocaust, which to this very day responsibility is largely denied. All this seems just to have just happened as the result of an objective process which nobody planned or executed.

What if we looked at poverty in the same way? So instead of creating more ways to “donate” to those ravished by poverty, wouldn’t it seem more logical to look at why the need for donations exists? Just as in violence, we must begin to see the non-visible underlying issue. The problem here is that we would be forced to look at ourselves, and this is something we’re reluctant to do.

Thinking in terms of the Whole should create in us, an existential crisis. It will force us to realize that even though we may not be an agent of violence, we certainly live inside and mold that which creates violence.


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