We also have to recognize that when oppressive power is thoroughly well established, it does not always need to resort openly to the “methods of the beasts” because its laws are already powerful – perhaps also bestial – enough. In other words, when a system can, without resort to overt force, compel people to live in conditions of abjection, helplessness, wretchedness that keeps them on the level of beasts rather than men, it is plainly violent. To make men live on a subhuman level against their will, to constrain them in such a way that they have no hope of escaping their condition, is an unjust exercise of force. Those who in some way or another concur in the oppression – and perhaps profit by it – are exercising violence even though they may be preaching pacifism. And their supposedly peaceful laws, which maintain this spurious kind of order, are in fact instruments of violence and oppression.
an extract from “Faith and Violence” by Thomas Merton (1968)