Opposing all forms of violence, from direct, physical violence (mass murder, terror) to ideological violence (racism, incitement, sexual discrimination), seems to be the main pre-occupation of the tolerant liberal attitude that predominates today. An SOS call sustains such talk, drowning out all other approaches: everything else can and has to wait … Is there not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about this focus on subjective violence – that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true focus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them? According to a well-known anecdote, a German officer visited Picasso in his Paris studio during the Second World War. There he saw Guernica and, shocked at the modernist ‘chaos’ of the painting, asked Picasso: ‘Did you do this?’ Picasso calmly replied: ‘No, you did this!’ Today, many a liberal when faced with violent outbursts such as the recent looting in the suburbs of Paris , asks the few remaining leftists who still count on a radical social transformation: ‘Isn’t it you who did this? Is this what you want?’ And we should reply, like Picasso: ‘No, you did this! This is a true result of your politics!’
There is an old joke about a husband who returns home earlier than usual from work and finds his wife in bed with another man. The surprised wife exclaims: ‘Why have you come back early?’ The husband furiously snaps back: ‘What are you doing in bed with another man?’ The wife calmly replies: ‘I asked you first – don’t try to squeeze out of it by changing the topic!’ The same goes for violence: the task is precisely to change the topic, to move from the desperate humanitarian SOS call to stop violence to the analysis of that other SOS, the complex interaction of the three modes of violence: subjective, objective and symbolic. The lesson is thus that one should resist the fascination of subjective violence, of violence enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds: subjective violence is just the most visible of the three.Zizek, Slavoj (2008) Violence, pg 9-10.