Structural Violence

Lately, I have been wondering why the numbers of street beggars rising in the past years. Yogyakarta, a fast-growing-population city of students witnessing the increasing numbers of less fortunate people.

The first time we encountered by the street beggars, in the common sense of most of us, we will experience dual and yet contradictory feelings: pity and dislike. We pity for their economic (less) well being, but also dislike the method used to earn some pennies. Regardless of the feelings, there are not so many people who reconsider why are those people end up in the streets?

The numbers of people becoming street beggars are increasing as the numbers of inequality and economic growth also increasing. Why is this happening?

The blame will be pointed to the existence of what we called structural violence. What is structural violence then? Wikipedia define it as a form of violence based on the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution “kills people” by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. The term was used by Johan Galtung to explain the deprivation of human rights by the governments. Under this condition, people who are consider to be poor will end up in a vicious cycle that will put them tend to be inside and repeating the cycle. Education is believed to be the gateway to unleashed the people from the cycle. But consider the cost of education, the poor and living in remote area will hardly find an access to the exit door. Giving this condition, they will forever remain in the poor cycle and the stories continue for their heirs. How can we called this a just world?

The reason why we need to comprehensively inform about the case of structural violence is due to the “utopian” goals set in 1997 Summit known as Milennium Development Goals in which one of the goal is to end poverty. Understanding the nature of structural violence is the first step to find a way to “help” the governments to end poverty.

Recently, however, the numbers of street beggars are mostly children who supposed to be in the school at such young age instead of helplessly hope for some pity passers by to give them some pennies. The fact that children innocent-ness is used for this “strategic” violence against children in order to gain some money for whoever mobilised them is a threat to humanity, in my opinion. The governments and city administration is putting the issue of child street beggars as threat to development instead of threat to the child’s future. Therefore, the way government official addressing the issue is like an Anti-Virus quarantining the virus that edangered the system. This approach has to be opt out from the preferrable policy in the government.

The issue of structural violence is embarked upon the lofty plan of economic development in the spirit of Smith’s Wealth of Nations where gigantic corporate is more favorable by government rather than the least fortunate society whom under Constitution is the subject to be pretected by government, in Indonesia case.

If we agree that the issue of poverty is consider structural violence, then the ultimate way to resolve the puzzle is to redefine the structure for the society to a form of more socially sensitive.  As this problems stem for years, the resolution to end or reshaping the structure of society is a continous struggle worth fighting for where social awareness of the issue also needs to be present in the heart and mind of most of the people. In this condition, democracy can be functioning in the favor of the “demos” rather than the “elite” politicians.


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