Religion can promote violence. For instance, in the Aztec region in Mexico religion was used to promote barbaric acts of violence against people captured in wars and slaves. The people of Aztec celebrated a religious feast called ”Tlacaxipeualiztli or the Feast of the Flaying of Men’ in the honor of Xipe Totec- Our Lord the Flayed One”(Carrasco 140).
The main ritual in the ceremony was flaying and sacrificing of war captives and slaves. The people would dehumanize the captives and slaves by transforming them into sacrificial images. The transforming would make it easy on the conscience of the people killing innocent victims in cold blood because they were now considered as sacrifices and not human beings.
The candidates for the sacrifice would be dressed as teol ixiptla in the image of god Xipe Totec. On the sacrifice day the slaves and the captive warriors would be paraded before the people accompanied by their captors. The captors also adorned ritual gear as a sign of honor. At the climax of the ceremonies the victims would be given new names and required to dance together with the captors.
Eventually the victims would be sacrificed in a grisly manner either on the gladiatorial stone or on top of Xipe’s temple. Their hearts would be pulled from their chests and their blood sprinkled into a ceremonial bowl called cuauhxicalli. Then the skins of the victims would be flayed to be adorned by individuals who would go around the city engaging in mock battles as they collected gifts from the people. The Aztec people saw no wrong in committing the acts of violence because they were fulfilling a religious obligation.
Cultural ideals also lead to violence in a society. In medieval Europe honor was very important for a human being. According to chivalry literature, people believed that the way to gain honor was by displaying prowess.
Those who possessed this quality were highly honored. Honor separated great men from ordinary men because all men were born equal thus the only way to distinguish oneself from the crowd was exhibiting prowess in battle. Those who exhibited prowess and courage, strength would be selected as knights. To this community honor was considered highly than life (Kaeuper 130).
The ideology concerning honor was that it could be earned and increased by sword in hand. Thus a knight was more honored if he killed many people in battle “ a knight’s nobility or worth is proved by his hearty strokes in battle” (Kaeupe131).
Knights received more honor for their prowess in sword “to be the best knight in the world … means not to be the greatest landlord but to show the greatest prowess” (Kaeupe133). Thus the knights had a license to perpetuate violence in their societies. Knights who had succeeded in battlefields would be willing to kill more to crown their day with more honor as a large number of victims showed just how much prowess a knight possessed.
Prowess was synonymous to life and thus it was a core chivalric trait. The trait defined chivalric knights. For example, Lancelot was a great knight because he managed to kill many men through the blows of his swords “he was very skilled in doing all that a great knight must do” (Kaeupe136).
He killed up to four knights in a single blow and nearly cut their horses into two. The violence promoted by Lancelot earned him great admiration for his marvelous deeds of killing many knights in little time. Other knights also enjoyed killing as it defined who they were as knights.
The chivalric literature gives accounts of many deaths brought about by knights who enjoyed practicing violence as was expected of them. The knightly battles determined a knight’s self worth and admiration from women. In essence hacking fellow men to death in the most violent manner was taken as a gift from God and it gave meaning to life.
Politics can fuel violence in a society. In Ming China a man called Zhang Mao was able to amass wealth because he could bribe anyone who needed too be bribed. The local authorities left him alone because they might have been intimidated by his wealth and status in the society.
Zhang had access to the emperor and befriended his eunuchs because he liked to be with powerful people. The eunuchs had political influence and give posts to their nephews and brothers. This is nepotism, which is often practiced by political leaders in order to protect their own personal interests. The eunuchs used their positions and power to amass wealth as they willed. Zhang also enjoyed power due to his connections with the powerful people in the society (Robinson 101-103).
Leaders could use their political power to unleash violence at will. For example, Ning Gao used terror to scare the people. His forces would go to the countryside, make arbitrary arrests for banditry, kill the seized men, and hang their heads on poles in display for the other people.
Ning Gao would also butcher some men by cutting open their stomachs and dismembering them. The political leaders allowed bandits to reign terror in the country by accepting bribes from them (Robinson 108). Thus politics can lead to violence if power is misused and abused for personal gains.
The society that experienced the most violence was Aztec in Mexico. The sacrifices made in the religious ceremonies led to the killing of many people including women and children captured during battles. The higher the number of victims killed during the festival the better because it sent a message of the prowess of the Aztec warriors. The Aztec individuals needed human skins to wear and parade as they received gifts from the villagers. The killings were so brutal and merciless as innocent men become victims of religion.
Politics leads to violence on a greater scale than religion and cultural ideals do. Leaders in many parts of the world use their power to suppress their challengers and those who threaten their political survival.
Leaders use their positions for personal gains at the expense of the people. Many countries in the world have experienced violence as a result of disputed elections for example over a thousand people lost their lives in Kenya during the post election violence that resulted from the 2007 disputed election. In Darfur many people lost their lives and many continue to suffer due to bad politics. Political leaders are able to mislead the masses because they yield so much power.
Their loyal followers more often than not listen and do as they are directed. Bad politics explains the reason why they are many refugees in the world. In addition, some leaders use their power to amass wealth for themselves and leave the country impoverished and such a country is likely to plunge into violence due to poverty as people fight for scarce resources. Therefore, politics if managed in a democratic manner can lead a country to prosperity. However, a country with bad politics is vulnerable to violence.
Carrasco, David. City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and Role Of Violence in civilization. Boston: Beacon Press, n.d.
Kaeuper, Richard. Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, n.d.
Robinson, David. Bandits, Eunuchs and the Son of Heaven. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, n.d.