Conversations on Tap at Notre Dame

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 27-8-2010

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



Social justice, political violence and the motivations behind war were just some of the issues discussed at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s recent Conversations on Tap series at its Fremantle Campus.

Peace and Social Justice Lecturer, Associate Professor Richard Matthews, of King’s University College, Western Ontario, was invited to examine the underlying justifications for political violence and to consider if there was a justifiable difference between defensive and pre-emptive action taken by States when held up to closer scrutiny.

Discovering an appreciation of the importance of social justice issues following international reactions to the events of September 11, 2001, Associate Professor Matthew said various outrages at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Diego Garcia, Bagram AFB and many other sites convinced him of the need to learn and understand ongoing political violence.

“I started with a project on torture, but I have gradually been led to appreciate the significance of economic and colonial factors in ongoing violence,” he said.

“There are many causes of violence, including past historical grievances and individual and cultural trauma, but in my view, economic and geopolitical interests are the main causes.”

In examining whether political violence was ever justifiable, Associate Professor Matthews said it was important to explore the motivations behind the action to gain a better understanding.

“Wars are fought to secure State interests, and non-State interests, increasingly, whatever moral mask gets attached to a given situation,” he said.

“I don’t believe Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought for the sake of women and human rights. They are really about transforming societies in a way that their architects believe are beneficial to their interests.”

In answering questions regarding any possible exceptions to the rule, Associate Professor Matthews said he was highly dubious as to whether political violence was ever justified.

“I do not have a developed position as to whether it might be justifiable in some circumstances,” he said.

“In saying that, we construct a wide range of myths to justify our past participation in violence, as well as to ensure our continued support for, and participation in, contemporary and future violence.”

Associate Professor Matthews said his anti-war stance informed his belief that all ongoing conflicts, particularly those occurring since 2001, were unjustified.

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