Violence Isn’t Always Wrong

BEN GLINIECKI doesn't like getting kicked in the balls. But that doesn't mean that nicking a TV is always wrong.

Ben Gliniecki responds to Alice Eccles:

Trying to argue that violence is always bad in a democratic society is like trying to argue with a woman that getting kicked in the balls is more painful than childbirth. In both cases you’re biased, hyperbolic, and ultimately probably wrong.

As a man I might think that getting kicked in the balls is the most painful thing in the world. But as a man I’m biased because I never have and never will experience childbirth. If, somehow, I was able to really understand the pain of childbirth I might change my mind.

If I were rich, owned property, had a stable job and enough food I may think that stealing is morally wrong, that laws protecting private property are just and that a political system that requires both time and money to engage with is perfectly democratic. But what if I had none of those things and had instead spent the last four years watching my government ignore mass peaceful protest while cutting my job, education and healthcare to save the bankers? I might question that morality and that justice. And I might question how democratic all this really is.

To make my point I might insist that getting kicked in the balls is about a million times more painful than childbirth and recount an incident when an unfortunate friend of mine was kicked so hard that he threw up (admittedly he was very drunk at the time). That’s how painful getting kicked in the balls is. Beat that, childbirth.

Similarly I might insist that violent protest can never really be about politics. Just look at the London riots: a load of feral hooligans running about nicking TVs. They obviously don’t have any real problem with society or else surely they’d stand for Parliament, write a strongly worded letter to their MP, or have a peaceful wander through Westminster waving a banner and go home knowing they’d made a real difference. Their violence shows they have no real point to make.

Exaggeration and distorted examples are both dangerous and useless additions to any argument. If the London riots are an example of anything, it must be the stupidity of the Tories to think they could get away with blaming a “feral underclass” of “criminals” for social unrest which happens in the midst of cuts and recession.

Ultimately, if I say that getting kicked in the balls is more painful than childbirth, I’m probably wrong. A few minutes of pain probably can’t really compare to a few hours of pushing a human being through a fairly small part of your body.

And ultimately, if I say that violence is always bad in a democratic society, I’m probably wrong. Modern parliamentary democracy probably isn’t compatible with non-violent protest because the idea itself is based on violence. It was first thought up in societies based on the violence of slavery. It now exists in societies based on the violence of wage-slavery and private ownership of property.

This isn’t to say violent protest is desirable or even inevitable. But before we condemn it outright we should ask ourselves: is our democracy really all sunshine and rainbows? Are we really able to have our voices heard through peaceful protest? And in whose interest is this “democracy” really working?

  • MacFarlane

    here's a good fight! me vs your ears

  • Good Title

    Badly argued

  • Examiner

    Full Marx, but zero attachment to reality.

    • Philosophical Guy

      Just because society encourages certain values, doesn't mean they are the only ones that are right. Current reality is not necessarily symbolic of truth. Reality changes according to circumstance.

      • congratulations

        on passing constructivism 101

      • Yeah, but…

        Fuck off.

  • Burke

    ffs i pissed in molly's bed again

  • Daily Mail


  • Keanu Reeves

    Fitz beat Johns at rugby.

  • Daily Fail

    Calm down, Comrade.

  • Bobo

    Great article.

    And destroying innocent people's property is a protest how, exactly?

    Champagne socialists hijacking it as political propaganda and calling it a 'protest' doesn't make it acceptable to engage in wanton looting.

  • Man

    "[my] friend of mine was kicked so hard that he threw up (admittedly he was very drunk at the time). That’s how painful getting kicked in the balls is. Beat that, childbirth."

    Women often shit themselves when giving birth.

    • OneBornEveryMinute

      Yes, but that isn't an indication of pain.

      The vast majority of women do, however, vomit as a result of the pain of childbirth. Some several times.

    • Spoony

      Well it is quite easy to shit yourself when your vagina and anus have torn into a single hole. Also hard not to shit yourself if you've been in stirrups for 6 hours. I wish I was joking. So happy to have a penis.

      • Also…

        sometimes after all that the baby has an elephant head.

  • Here's an idea…

    If you're not a fan of conventional, peaceful protest, you might give this method a try?

  • Meh

    Wow, such a balanced article. It's not like it's obvious where your political allegiances lie.

    You could have written a perfectly good article about violence in democracies without going into tory/banker bashing. Instead I was just bored by the perennial sniping.

    • shocked

      Quite right, writing an opinion piece about politics and revealing your political affiliations is a shocking outrage

      • A liberal

        … I take it?

  • Logic Friend

    Violence is only appropriate when political systems and state institutions are so irrevocably broken or corrupt that they have to be pulled out root and branch, and the nature of the problem has to be sufficiently serious to justify the action.

    If you are, with a straight face, arguing that the UK has reached the point where the only recourse of its citizens is to resort to violence against the police and against each other, then I fucking despair, I really do.

    It's not the politicians or the bankers who suffer when someone decides to burn down a furniture store in Croyden, or takes the opportunity to run down a few of their least favourite minority in Birmingham. And you'd do well to remember that before you write such an irresponsible article.

    • Spelling Friend

      it's Croydon

      • S'All Good…

        Dans l'Hood.

      • Skream & Benga

        Correct – the birthplace of Dubstep

    • Reality Friend

      No, you're right, the people who suffer are the people in the local area. They're clearly not doing it for kicks. They must perceive there to be something seriously wrong to even consider doing what they did, given that this doesn't happen on a daily basis like it would if the "Oo-er moral decline" explanation held any water at all.
      And you'd do well to remember that before you write such an irresponsible comment.

      • Logic Friend

        They may indeed perceive something to be seriously wrong with our country. Which is fine.

        They may perceive that the way to address those wrongs is to smash up their neighbour's business and assault fellow citizens who have little if anything to do with the problems they are supposedly reacting against. That is NOT fine. Because it's absolutely wrong on two counts: morally and pragmatically. It won't achieve anything, and your community suffers for you giving inappropriate expression to your outrage.

        To defend violence by interpreting it as reaction against real grievances, without ANY kind of judgement on whether violence is the appropriate response or even particularly effective is asinine. And that's putting aside whether that characterisation of recent events is even accurate.

        If you're going to borrow my structure for a rebuttal, then at least make sure your comment is going to come off better by the comparison.

  • Commifesto

    Is this Ben's call for a communist uprising given the failure of the electorate to elect him as the rightful CUSU pres?

    Damn democracy, always giving the wrong answer doesn't it Ben!

    • Ididntvoteforben

      This is WHY he's not CUSU pres

    • true pedant

      "always giving the wrong answer doesn't it?"

  • Painhurtz

    The childbirth/kicked in the balls analogy made this less clear if anything

    • Dead than Red

      I also interpreted the constant juxtaposition of childbirth vs. ball-smash/ women vs. men as a tacit acknowledgement of the validity of anti-looter/ anti-communist revenge attacks. Which is 'justified'? Which is worse?

      By advocating that some violence is tolerable as long as it is (what Ben see's as) morally right, then he opens the door to attacks on his property and his kind in the light that others will see this as equally morally permissible. That is surely the unconscious debate here.

  • Landed

    Love me some private property, don't want the rabble rampaging over my stuff

  • umm

    this is a joke right? srsly it's got to be

    • Armchair Critic

      Your spelling is a joke.

      • umm

        I didn't spell anything wrong apart from seriously which was shortened.

        • Spelling Police

          Seriously 'shortened' is still incorrect spelling.

          • umm

            .. it's just the internet. Stop being such a twat


    Perhaps the author needs to realise that maybe just maybe democracy doesn't serve his views because his views are so far from the majority?

    Democracy isnt a system to please everyone. As far as I know none exists.

  • WeTheStudents?

    EXACTLY right!

    The problem is people seem to ignore the simple fact that the failure of communist theories to convince any significant number of people is NOT the result of obvious inherent flaws in those theories, the clear evidence of tyranny in every socialist dictatorship from the USSR to the present day, or the natural human urge for liberty – it's simply because the damn SYSTEM means people don't accept the obvious truth!

    Comrade Ben is hitting the nail on the head; the only way to make the voice of socialism heard in a country which has democratically rejected our ideas is to DESTROY DEMOCRACY. The easiest way to do this is by SMASHING EVERYTHING. Especially windows.

    Students of the University, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Credibility!

    • Friendfilled Isle


    • Wikipedia knowledge

      'every socialist dictatorship from the USSR to the present day'

      Always enjoy a well-informed answer.

      • Let's play a game

        Spot the sarcasm?

        • Fine, I'll win

          The author's facile sarcasm (less well-done than the real 'WeTheStudents', by the way) aims to show that communism is discredited by 'the clear evidence of tyranny in every socialist dictatorship from the USSR to the present day'. Hence the really loud 'NOT' beforehand.

          So obviously that bit is what the author actually thinks, and the 'sarcasm' would have been sharpened by these examples being more precise. But it's clear from his 'USSR to the present day' that he actually doesn't think, and knows fuck all about the history of socialism.

          If I were a meaner soul, I'd point out the parallel between this and your understanding of sarcasm.

          • Perhaps I win

            You might notice they specified socialist dictatorships in reference to communist theories. Not socialist governments more generally…

            Well done.

  • Pseudophilosopher

    This is ridiculous and the whole article just takes some form of egoism as the only possible ethical theory. Have you ever considered that some things can arguably be right or wrong irrelevant of your standpoint?; if I somehow benefitted from the the blood diamond trade that doesn't mean that I necessarily think it's a moral course of action. Likewise if I am a lazy sod who can't be fagged to work, that doesn't make meritocracy immoral.

    The most effective way for me to save money may be to start stealing stuff from shops- this does not change the fact that stealing is immoral.

    • Agreement

      ^ this

      • The thumbs up button

        It's there for a reason

        • As is ….

          The thumbs down button …

  • Hmmm…

    When you discuss our voices not being heard are you trying to imply that the government should always respond to every protest that happens. it was clear that the cuts wouldn't be popular and the government put them in place anyway thinking that it was the best thing to do knowing that people would respond badly. Why should you expect the protest to have any effect? And would you want a government who never imposed any policy that wasn't universally approved of?



  • Gina Finch

    So if the advocates of violent protest are the women in this analogy, and those who condemn violent protest are the men, you're saying that neither side has any chance of truly understanding the views of the other, and that if you hold an opinion then you are probably wrong (unless that opinion is the same as yours)?

    So you're argument comes down to "I'm right, but you wouldn't understand why so just trust me."

  • Speaking of pain

    Right now, I'd really like to kick you in the balls.

    • House of Pain

      Ben strikes me as the sort who would just 'chunder everywhaaaar' if you did

  • Extremist much?

    It's one thing not to like the tories or the cuts. But now you don't like democracy? What would you advocate as the alternative?

    • Logical Progression

      Democracy gave the Tories the largest vote share.
      Democracy gave the Tories the most seats.
      Democracy gave the Coalition a clear majority of votes.
      Democracy gave the Coalition the only possible Parliamentary Majority.
      Democracy gave nearly nine out of every ten votes to the major parties, ALL THREE of which wanted cuts.

      Thus if you don't like the Government or it's policies then it's perfectly legitimate to not like democracy. The Government has a democratic mandate for what it's doing.

      • More Logical

        Replace 'Democracy' with the people and enjoy the slide in to misanthropy.

      • Extremist much?

        Democracy gave us a Labour government
        Democracy gave us equality for people regardless of race or gender
        Democracy allowed us to abolish 12 hour working days for children
        Democracy allowed us to abolish slavery

        need I go on?
        The POINT of democracy is that it's only ever as good as its people.

  • RON

    The problem with advocating violence in a "just cause" situation, is that everybody's perception thereof is inherently biased, and scapegoats abound. Furthermore, people tend to go for the easiest victim, meaning that, far from seeing the wealthy (who can afford private security &c.) under attack, chances are there will only be more unrest along arbitrary criteria such as race or postcode. I would rather not have another Brixton riot.

    I understand your point that some people in society have nothing to lose, but that does not justify violent behaviour.

  • Ben Gil: US patriot

    God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.

    What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

    – Thomas Jefferson, 1787

    • T-Jeff

      Brb, having sex with my slaves.

    • Bloke

      Dunno what country existed w/o rebellion…maybe, like, one which wasn't shit?

  • Onlooker

    "If I were rich, owned property, had a stable job and enough food I may think that stealing is morally wrong, that laws protecting private property are just and that a political system that requires both time and money to engage with is perfectly democratic. But what if I had none of those things and had instead spent the last four years watching my government ignore mass peaceful protest while cutting my job, education and healthcare to save the bankers?"

    How good of you Ben, educated at City of London Freemen's School (est. 1854), to talk to us about how we can't understand.

    • Mouse

      Fees range from £3.7k for Junior school, to £7.9k for sixth form, boarding, and that's per term. So for a single year of sixth form, boarding; almost £24,000 would need to be paid, excluding ancilleries – approximately my entire student debt.

      I think stealing is morally wrong, and that laws protecting private property are just. But it's great having Ben Gliniecki to explain to me how wrong I am, and that it's OK for me to violently attack and rob someone because they have more money than me.

      I wonder if Ben appreciates that in a violent Communist revolution, he'd be one of the first lined up against the wall. Man needs to pull his head out of his self-indulgent arse.

      • Ben is a moron

        but the fact that he went to a private school does not forbid a socialist stance. Why attempt to understand other socioeconomic groups if you can only advocate the one that you experienced during childhood?

        • Common Man

          Because people like me will never take you seriously because of it… duh.

        • A Nony

          Because it's patronising.

  • Gina Finch

    How is violent protest "fair" in any sense? Destruction and violence do not represent the validity of the arguments of those who resort to them. Debate and demonstration may not have as much power as you would like, and some voices will always shout louder than others, but words have power and meaning independent of who utters them, and so represent a far greater equality then smashing shop windows like toddlers throwing a tantrum. AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS YOU CAN ALWAYS TRY WRITING WITH CAPS LOCK ON. UNLEASH THE FURY!!!11!1

  • not being glib

    Violent protest = terrorism

  • The 100%


    1. Get into Cambridge. – Complete
    2. Become JCR president. Ferment anti-cuts sentiment. – Complete
    3. Become CUSU president. Lead CUSU against government, make name for self in trade union circles. – Damn.
    4. Become NUS president. Announce general strike, call for workers to unite and overthrow the government.
    5. Head up revolutionary committee announcing end to private property.

    3. (amended) Perhaps now instead get a real job to actually try out this 'wage-slavery' so I know what I'm talking about.

    P.S Some confusing analogy to childbirth.

    • Track Record

      Never been much of a fan of democracy – anyone remember the time Ben's policy opposing cuts failed to pass, so he re-ran it until he got the 'right' answer?

    • ghhrrgiiji

      Ironically, Ian Bone would hate Ben Glienecki

      • NeitherPlaceNorTime

        Sssh, stop complimenting Ben!

  • The Voice of Reason

    When Aladdin stole a loaf of bread, it was because he was going hungry. When a kid with a BlackBerry stole in a riot, it's because he was a moron. Yes, there are lines, but violence and disorder in today's society is objectively wrong.

    • Jaffar

      I thought we'd seen the last of that Street-Rat!

  • Pun guy

    What a laboured metaphor.

    • So many layers!

      Labour is a left-leaning political party…

  • Mrs. Gliniecki

    I'm not sure which was more painful; childbirth or reading this article.

  • Stupid

    Violence means the strongest people win. The strongest people don't necessarily deserve to win. This is stupid.

  • Charlie

    Best response to this article summed up here

    [youtube C6YfJZ9hxLQ youtube]

    • The internet

      Except then he actually gets it all…

  • Don't be Jeal…

    Socialism is just the politics of envy.

    Haters gonna hate, then loot Fortnums.

  • Procrastinating

    Though violence in any society is not necessarily always wrong it should be used sparingly. The reasons which you have cited for it are at best petty. To claim that violence should be used because you are unhappy with the use of your funds is a bit silly. If you dislike it to that extent then you shouldn't be smashing windows to show your displeasure, instead you should move to a place in which your system exists because the sad reality for you is that most people do recognize the need to 'save the bankers' as you put it, particularly in the UK which has one of the worlds main financial centers.

    Violence should really only be used as against violence itself or decisions which truly are unjust to a whole segment of society and not for causes like yours which create discord amongst your own peers (even if all other segments of society are ignored).

    Through this article you claim that the violence which you wish to exhibit is for as worthy of a cause as that which has been exhibited in the 1992 LA Race riots (due to institutional hatred for a specific set of people and violence and uncaring exhibited towards them), or like in Palestine (due to widespread segregation and discrimination), or the 8888 Uprising where people fought for freedom of conscience or expression…….the list goes on.

    To claim that your cause (protesting cuts which benefit bankers) is equivalent to any of those listed is insulting not only to those whose property you would destroy for the sake of a cause based on a relatively petty matter and your own lack of understanding as to how the economy.

    I suppose in your case you assume it doesn't work, despite it performing better through the years than the economic systems of countries which went for the same power structure and politics you would have us all be under.

    To use an example which I'm sure you hold close to your heart, dear comrade, the Russian revolution occurred not due to 'CUTS' or 'BANKERS' but rather due to oppression, poverty and working conditions which you would not subject your worst enemy to. Do not take it out of context, a slight cut to a certain service or a slight rise in fees which are already quite low is not equivalent, and never will be, to 12 hour work days all week long and destitute poverty. What you are complaining about is a first world issue, not any oppression.

    Though modern democracies are inherently undemocratic for the most part (to those who would oppose this I suggest you look at the life stories of most MPs and other leaders and note the similarities) it is not a valid response to the public's choice of representative which should be changed through education, not violence.

    The London riots were not because of cuts, claiming they were is a ridiculous spin, rather they were due to disenfranchisement and a largely racist regime which gives more opportunities to whites still and which enjoys using the power of police to subjugate those which are not. Disenfranchisement was the issue, not bankers or cuts.

    Violence does have a place in every society, however it is a small place, not like what you would describe. So again, your claim that your cause is similar is insulting and absurd, their causes warranted violence, yours does not. Also I really do suggest comparing your life and that of those around you to serfs in 1900, I think you may notice some differences which may suggest that your desires are largely unfounded.

    • Too long

      Didn't read

    • yep yep.wait….WHAT

      was with up until you claimed we lived in a "largely racist regime" what happened there? Did you suddenly time-drop back in 1940's America? I mean sure it's not perfect equality but "largely racist"?

      • Procrastinating

        Should have clarified, meant that as from the POV of the rioters and those at its genesis & the death of Duggan.

        I suppose I should have added a disclaimer that the views are not necessarily endorsed by me.

  • i agree

    sometimes I like to slap my woman around when she steps out of line

  • You Idiot

    'Exaggeration and distorted examples are both dangerous and useless additions to any argument.'

    What the fuck do you call this then?

  • ISpeakForTheStudents

    Hey Ben, buddy! Totally with you on this one! Pfft, I really hate hypocrites, just look at all these losers in the comment field. Good thing you and I aren't hypocrites! See you after exams, don't know if you got the CDE memo but we're meeting up at the Rainbow Café on Suicide Sunday and will be jerking each other off as we discuss how much we hate Cambridge, you're most welcome!

  • Economist

    The Tories aren't to blame for the recession…

  • Ruth Graham

    The fact of the matter is that anybody who does not violently protest against the cuts is a male chauvinist pig and a rape apologist. Even though the terrible state of this Tory-led economy has resulted in a massive fall in male, rather than female, employment it seems clear to me that WOMEN ARE BEING DISPROPORTIONATELY EFFECTED BECAUSE SOCIETY IS SEXIST.


    • Pedant


      • actually, …

        "effected" is correct.

        "affected" means deeply effected in an *emotional* manner.

        A common misconception.

        • OED

          Affect and effect are quite different in meaning, though frequently confused. Affect is primarily a verb meaning ‘make a difference to’, as in their gender need not affect their career. Effect, on the other hand, is used both as a noun and a verb, meaning ‘a result’ as a noun ( move the cursor until you get the effect you want) or ‘bring about a result’ as a verb ( growth in the economy can only be effected by stringent economic controls).

      • Marxist-Feminist

        Forcing women to conform to masculine ideals of 'correct' word use is an act of patriarchal oppression.

  • a correction

    "have a peaceful wander through Westminster waving a banner and go home knowing they’d made a real difference."

    *wasted their day

    • Sarcasm

      duuuh I think that was the point

  • Bursary Boy

    Why does no-one like me ever write an article defending scumbags?

  • Better Causes

    Though violence can sometimes be useful it is never *NEEDED*. Certainly not for your crap. <<— They managed without violence to make a point against a regime far more unwilling to listen. What have you managed other than to make people think you're a complete chav?

  • Al Mcfarlane

    I'm secretly gay. shhhhh.
    I love shit and bumholes

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