all forms of violence are quests for identity. When you live out on the frontier, you have no identity. You're a nobody. Therefore you get very tough. You have to prove that you are somebody, and so you become very violent. And so identity is always accompanied by violence. This seems paradoxical to you? Ordinary people find the need for violence as they lose their identities. So it's only the threat to people's identity that makes them violent. Terrorists, hijackers, these are people minus identity. They are determined to make it somehow, to get coverage, to get noticed.
So now, adding McLuhan's insight to Arendt's commentary, we can equate identity with power, loss or lack of identity with a loss of power and impotency. Identity not only tells us who we are, it binds us together in common cause, as a group identity. This brings us back to Kenneth Burke's view of rhetoric as a means to foster identification. Through the forging of a common identity, we create the basis for cooperation and consent, and therefore, in Arendt's sense, power.
When group identity breaks down, cooperation and consent go into decline (this sounds chillingly familiar, come to think of it), and the power of the state/government ebbs. Violence then becomes the means to compensate for it. On the other side of the coin, when individuals or groups do not feel that they are part of the larger group identity, and consequently may feel a loss or lack of identity in contrast to the majority, they may resort to violence as a means of compensation.
Bring Kenneth Burke back into play (and, for that matter, Alfred Korzybski), it becomes clear that power and identity are very much symbolic phenomena. Identity typically is established by having and/or gaining a name. When we share the same name, the same surname, or the same nationality-name, we indicate that we have a shared identity. That is why shifts in language and also bilingualism can be seen as a threat to identity (witness the overwhelming resistance to Spanish in the US, and the problem of Quebec in Canada, which McLuhan was trying to address). Power is a function of symbolic order, and identity is a function of symbolic assignment.
Anomie is the sociological term for lawlessness, for being an outlaw, rejecting society's laws and rules and norms. But it also means, in a sense, being without a name. Being nameless grants a license to kill, or otherwise commit violent acts that violate law, ethics, and morality. Anonymity reduces the barriers to violence, and distance aids in anonymity. It is harder to commit violence with one's bare hands than to pull the trigger of a gun, easier still to drop bombs from a plane, and easier still to push a button and launch a missile. Technology creates distance (as Max Frisch observed, it is the art of never having to experience the world), and grants a measure of anonymity.
Violence is a response to a lack of power. Technology is a response to a lack of power. Violence is a response to a lack of identity. Technology is a response to a lack of identity.
Lacking identity, the individual may try to make a name for himself or herself. This may involve achievement, typically through competition and success in surpassing others, which might be understood as a form of symbolic violence. But often enough, individuals make names for themselves through genuinely violent acts.
Violence is a response to loss of power/identity, but violence cannot restore power/identity, that is, cannot restore it to its previous state of being, its positive existence. Violence can produce a new kind of power/identity, but only a negative form of identity/power, e.g., villainy/tyranny.
Technology is a response to loss of power/identity, but technology cannot restore power/identity, that is, cannot restore it to its previous state of being, its positive existence. Technology can produce a new kind of power/identity, but only a negative form of identity/power, e.g., villainy/tyranny.
Violence/technology/innovation is associated with the loss of our name/language/symbolic order. Violence/technology/innovation cannot restore our name/language/symbolic order.
Only we, as human beings, can bestow a name, can employ language. Only we, as human beings, can create an identity, can establish symbolic order. Only we, as human beings, can create power, and we have the potential to create power in a manner that Hannah Arendt would insist on, within an ethical framework, and grounded in peace, justice, and human rights.