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Chapter 1 Making Misery Angela Leisure lost her son, Timothy Thomas, on April 7, 2001, after Cincinnati, Ohio, police officer Stephen Roach shot him to death in a dark alley. Roach and fellow officers gave chase after discovering that Thomas had numerous outstanding arrest warrants. Thomas was the fifteenth African American man killed by the Cincinnati Police Department in the space of six years, and his death galvanized many in the community to protest police abuse as never before (M. Singer 2002). The most sustained protest took the form of an economic boycott, launched in July 2001, whose purpose was to hurt the city economically and thereby force city leaders to respond to demands for accountability for the murder and to implement government reforms such as improved citizen oversight of the police. Joe Santangelo, promoter of Cincinnati’s annual Jazz Festival, lost more than five hundred thousand dollars when that event was cancelled in 2002 due to the boycott (Nager 2002). These two harms are markedly different from each other: one a killing perpetrated by state agents against citizens, the other a financial loss organized by citizens against commerce. Do they have anything in common other than their historical connection? I propose that certain deep and collectively shared logics pertaining to self and Other are common to both actions. These shared logics include a claim of occupational or moral warrant to do the harm, a declaration of having no nonharmful 1 alternatives, and a reduction of the victim to a problem group— fleeing suspect or Cincinnati business. This book is devoted to an understanding of the logics that promote human-instigated harm.1 I can and do say little about the various actual experiences commonly linked with harm, variations on temptation, deprivation, and constraint or lack thereof. I take the view that experience is always already structured by interpretation. Some (most) aspects of “what happens” are always relegated to the background. My attention is on cause-and-effect relationships imputed to events, self, and Other characterized in particular ways. The relegating, imputing, and characterizing—and not experiences as they might conceivably exist prior to these cultural practices—promote harm. I define harm as trouble caused by another. Harm differs from suffering or loss, which are its effects. The diversity of such harms and the intellectual puzzles that diversity creates inspired my analysis. Humans harm other living beings with alarming frequency in a variety of ways and have done so for as far back as historical records go. Harms include the sort of crimes typically handled by local police (e.g., murder, rape, assault, and theft) and the white-collar crimes handled by regulatory agencies (e.g., price fixing and insider trading). They include organized collective actions such as war, genocide, terrorism, torture, slavery, colonization, displacement, and human trafficking. Harms of political repression, such as election fraud, deprivation of civil liberties, the imprisonment of activists and journalists, and other abuses by state officials, like police brutality, appear to be common, although their documentation is unreliable. Other harms—including corporal punishment, incarceration, execution, abortion, environmental pollution, the manufacture of dangerous products, insults, discrimination, employee layoffs, sadomasochistic sexual activity, genital mutilation, enforced pregnancy, and animal flesh consumption—are regular events, although some are not regularly called harmful. Some harms, W h y W e H a r m 2 such as poverty, are not events at all, but rather states of being endemic to social structures, hence sometimes called structural violence. We do harm out of desperation (e.g., fending off an attacker) and for entertainment (e.g., football). Many harmful actions are solutions to problems, and some such solutions do obvious good. The most successful surgical procedure cuts and thereby injures the body, albeit for a greater ultimate benefit to said body. Kill bacteria and you have caused harm to a living being. Even the most dedicated vegans are complicit in the extermination of microorganisms to nourish themselves. Still other harms have no obvious instrumental purpose, such as so-called senseless killing. Harms are premeditated and spontaneous , legal—even legislated—and illegal, conscious and unconscious. Harms include actions that are considered both mundane and shocking, and actions that are both praised and condemned. Harms include both taking action—firing a weapon, for instance—and failing to take action, such as neglectful parenting and tolerance of genocide. Agents of harm are individuals acting alone and groups such as governments, corporations , terrorist organizations, and gangs. Harm agents have vast resources at their disposal...


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MARC Record
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