President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to bring back waterboarding and the recently leaked draft of an executive order that proposed to reopen “black site” prisons may seem extreme to some; yet, a recent poll by the International Committee of the Red Cross showed that almost half of Americans believe torture is justified when used to extract information from “enemy combatants.” This approval of state-supported violence by the population is not exclusive to the United States, however. Growing trends of condoning violence, specifically state-supported violence, can be seen in countries such as Russia and the Philippines as well. In both of these cases, the increase in support can be seen as a depiction of the normalization and acceptance of violence by the countries’ citizens.
On January 27, 2017, Russia’s Parliament voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where no “substantially bodily harm” is caused and when it only happens once a year. Despite the fact that 40% of all violent crimes are committed within the family in Russia, amounting to 36,000 women being beaten everyday and 26,000 children being beaten every year, the law to decriminalize violence passed overwhelmingly in the Parliament. This move, while decried by liberals and women activists everywhere, is highly supported among the increasingly conservative political class of the nation. In fact, conservatives went into an uproar in July 2016 when Russia first passed the law that made beating relatives a criminal offense. The support for the decriminalization of domestic violence by both the Russian Parliament and the nation’s conservatives demonstrates the growing acceptance of violence within Russia.
The Philippines is another example of the normalization and acceptance of violence by a country’s citizens. Since President Duterte took office at the end of June, 2016, almost 6,000 people have been killed in his “anti-drug campaign.” President Duterte has not only ordered police “death squads” to murder drug addicts, but he has also publically encouraged civilians to kill people addicted to drugs. President Duterte has actually stated that he has taken part in these extrajudicial killings, saying, “In Davao, I used to do it personally.” Yet, despite the massive loss of life due to government officials and vigilantes, 76% of respondents to a survey by Social Weather Stations said they were satisfied with the President’s performance in his first 100 days in office. The approval for President Duterte clearly depicts the trends of the normalization of state-sponsored and state-supported violence within the nation.
It is hard to determine from where the acceptance of violence originates in a society. The media may be one answer since the media plays a key role in shaping and constructing public opinions on a variety of issues. Perhaps the depictions of violence that constantly bombard citizens in advertisements, movies, and daily news broadcasts cause people to think of violence as a normal and reasonable part of everyday life. Perhaps instead it is the influence of political leaders who articulate the need for acceptance of violence either for the betterment of the community, as is the case with the Philippines, or for the conservation of the value of the separating “state” and “personal” issues, as is the case with Russia. In both cases, a trend is forming regarding the normalization of violence within nations that is supported by the government. The time has come where we will soon need to answer the simple question: should state-supported violence be acceptable in our societies, and to what level?
At Grieboski Global Strategies, we seek solutions to world problems through a fundamental understanding of human rights. Noticing the trend of normalizing state-supported violence across countries, we stand as an advocate for a democracy based on human dignity where due process is given to all citizens. By working with media organizations and strategically collaborating with state officials from around the globe, GGS is able to influence societal perspectives and laws internationally in order to create a more just and equitable world.