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Leigh M. Johnson

Thanks for this, Eric. I especially appreciate your highlighting the violence at the heart of patriarchy.

I’m not totally convinced that lex taliones presupposes a form of moral equality in the way you suggest, whough. And I think this is especially evident in hierarchical societies. Consider the following:

You and I live in a hierarchically-organized society in which you are a member of the empowered group and I am a member of the disempowered group. One day, you poke my eye out. Then, I invoke lex taliones and poke your eye out in return (for all the reasons you mention in your post, but most esp “to have equal standing with the perpetrators of violence”). It will remain the case that neither our actions, nor our eyes, nor our persons are equal.

My eye is gone because of the way our society is hierarchically organized, i.e., in a way that empowers, emboldens, or excuses (or all three) your violence. Your eye is gone (justly or not) because of your prior violent actions. (I think we have to make a distinction between violence and retaliation.) That is to say, had you not poked my eye out first, you would still have your eye. I, on the other hand, exist in a society in which my eyes are *always* vulnerable; they are perpetual targets of violence.

Now, replace eye-poking with sexual assault.

The fact of the hierarchical organization of our society, which empowers some to commit violence and relegates others to the always-precariously-situated position of potential-victims, remains unchanged when lex taliones is invoked. The disempowered are not asserting their equality in that invocation; they are affirming their inequality. This is what I take to be the point of the the MLK excerpt you quoted—“I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results… But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.”

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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