Corporately Organized Murder – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice

by Mark Votava

download (12)1. The crucial problem of violence

“Theology today needs to focus carefully upon the crucial problem of violence.  The commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill’ is more than a mere matter of academic or sentimental interest in an age when man not only is more frustrated, more crowded, more subject to psychotic and hostile delusion than ever, but also has at its disposal an arsenal of weapons that make global suicide an easy possibility… “

2. Outwardly ordered and respectable

“The population of the affluent world is nourished on a steady diet of brutal mythology and hallucination, kept at a constant pitch of high tension by a life that is intrinsically violent in that it forces a large part of the population to submit to an existence which is humanly intolerable.  Hence murder, mugging, rape, crime, corruption.  But it must be remembered that the crime that breaks out of the ghetto is only the fruit of a greater and more pervasive violence: the injustice which forces people to live in the ghetto in the first place.  The problem of violence, then, is not the problem of a few rioters and rebels, but the problem of a whole social structure which is outwardly ordered and respectable, and inwardly ridden by psychopathic obsessions and delusions.”

3. White-collar violence

“We tend to judge violence in terms of the individual, the messy, the physically disturbing, the personally frightening.  The violence we want to see restrained is the violence of the hood waiting for us in the subway or the elevator.  That is reasonable, but it tends to influence us too much.  It makes us think that the problem of violence is limited to this very small scale, and it makes us unable to appreciate the far greater problem of the more abstract, more global, more organized presence of violence on a massive and corporate pattern.  Violence today is white-collar violence, the systematically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man.”

4. Death and even genocide as big business

“The theology of violence must not lose sight of the real problem which is not the individual with a revolver but death and even genocide as big business.  But this big business of death is all the more innocent and effective because it involves a long chain of individuals, each of whom can feel himself absolved from responsibility, and each of whom can perhaps salve his conscience by contributing with a more meticulous efficiency to his part in the massive operation.”

5. Corporately organized murder

“Modern technological mass murder is not directly visible, like individual murder.  It is abstract, corporate, businesslike, cool, free of guilt-feelings, and therefore a thousand times more deadly and effective than the eruption of violence out of individual hate.  It is this polite, massively organized white-collar murder machine that threatens the world with destruction, not the violence of a few desperate teen-agers in a slum.  But our antiquated theology myopically focused on individual violence alone fails to see this.  It shudders at the phantasm of muggings and killings where a mess is made on our own doorstep, but blesses and canonizes the antiseptic violence of corporately organized murder because it is respectable, efficient, clean, and above all profitable.” 

Which quote do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.

51DJfJVBpBL (1)