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3. Societies Choose Their Dead: A Phenomenology of Systemic Violence

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Chapter Summary

The phrase "systemic violence" may at first sight sound inflationary, perhaps even metaphorical, and in danger of distracting attention from what is construed as real violence, the kind that leaves blood on the floor and on someone's hands. Systemic violence by nature "loves to hide". In order to make life palatable, we train ourselves not to see this violence. There is a great deal at stake in not seeing it, not least our sense of ease in the world, our comfort in our own circumstances in spite of the privileges on which that comfort rests. The level of violence, whether it be the violence of murders, of poverty, of racism, or even of traffic accidents, that one as individuals and as a society tolerate, tells us more about ourselves than anything else one accomplish, such as the monuments one build for ourselves in the form of one's status.

Keywords: poverty; racism; systemic violence



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