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The Worst Form of Violence

Klienenberg’s description of the Chicago heat wave of 1995 as “a structurally determined catastrophe” is an important one because it offers a deeper explanation of the correlation between inequality and poverty as well as the “institutional and social mechanisms” that contribute to suffering. Much like other natural disasters and epidemics, the heat wave did not affect all people equally. Some were more susceptible to death not simply because of demographic factors such as age (although those did contribute), but also because their social position led to a lack of access to adequate care.

A similar correlation between poverty and violence exists and has been demonstrated in various studies across a variety of situations. This article from The Economist is an enlightening look at the relationship between conflict and poverty and how these forces contribute to the cyclical nature of this association. Not only is poverty itself a form of violence, but violence is exacerbated by the circumstances of poverty. This relationship has been demonstrated in many environments across different nations, and it has been recently been brought to the spotlight regarding Nigeria. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said that the income gap and overwhelming poverty of the country has contributed to the violence and despair. Poverty is the fuel to the fire that creates a breeding ground for violence.

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2 responses to “The Worst Form of Violence

  1. mcneildc

    I do agree with you and I believe that the effects of conflict and poverty could be interchangeable. After reading your link from the Economist I feel that one quote could explain Klienenberg’s point on the Chicago heat wave as well as yours. “Poverty trap” it is a never ending cycle that has negative effect on all aspects of life. When you are poor everyday tasks can seem impossible. The light down the tunnel never shines bright for you. Poverty, violence, hardship and lack education keep this cycle spinning. Hurricane Katrina is also a good example of this never-ending cycle of human rights disparities.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your article. looking at poverty as a cycle of violence shows the systemic character of violence waged on some segments of society. unfortunately, certain members of society are often seen as a drag-down who serve to burden the lives of the well-off and richer counterparts. instead of helping one another and making society better as a whole, often times we shy away from people who actively seek out help and blame them for their own misfortunes. i really like how you stressed that in cases of massive destruction and natural disasters, these people who we shun all to often are the ones who suffer the most. it remind me greatly of hurricane Katrina, and how the most affected by the disaster were those who had no hope, no shelter, or were already living in mass poverty.

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