"Structural violence is often invisible. It becomes so naturalized that it is no longer even perceived to be violence."
As a class, we've been analyzing the AIDS epidemic during and after apartheid in South Africa. We read ethnographies full of testimonies from the women, men, and children affected by the disease and you can hear the fearful grief in their words. Tonight we debated their disease: is it the consequence of promiscuity or longstanding structural violence? My classmates spoke eloquently and persuasively on both sides, but I was distracted by the quote on the board. "...invisible...so naturalized it's no longer even perceived to be violence."
My mind wandered to the story of South African Joseph Mahlangu who couldn't articulate his pain and experiences. Or the Burmese refugee interviewed last week about the political violence he'd seen as a teenager. Though fluent in English, all he could say was "I don't know....it was nothing....I can't remember." For both of them the violence they experienced was of a different nature. Oftentimes physical, yes, but there was another, deeper violence pervading daily life, so intrusive it became subtle. Like a loud noise you eventually drown out. People become used to violence, maltreatment, injustice, and pain. And it's once you grow accustomed to it, it becomes invisible.
I've been thinking about it all afternoon. How do people become "used" to violence? Why? And I realize it's not an international phenomenon; it's rampant domestically as well. Why do girlfriends and wives put up with domestic violence? When asked, they downplay it or, even worse, don't recognize it. They don't realize they're being abused. It's a tragic, devastating cycle of invisible violence.
Still thinking about it. Will be thinking about it. Thinking about the cause, the consequences, the impacts...the cure? What intrigues me is the silence in people's narratives. Why don't people realize it? Why can't they remember? Does blocking or subconsciously ignoring it become a survival mechanism? A way of coping?
"...it is no longer even perceived to be violence."