JB: I wrote a book called the Identity of Man. I never saw the cover of the English edition until the book reached me in print. And yet the artist had understood exactly what was in my mind, by putting on the cover a drawing of the brain and the Mona Lisa, one on top of the other

The Face of Violence
by Jacob Bronowski

AT THE HEART of our violence, in act or in feeling, lies the wish to show ourselves men with a will. Since society is an instrument for controlling our chaotic wills, the gesture of violence we make is anti-social; we invent a symbol for the forces of society, obscure and impersonal, which shall be our scapegoat. But the symbol is only a mask for the fear of each of us that society thwarts what is best and personal in him. We fear that society disregards us. In the wilderness of cities, we look for respect.'

'The slave has become extinct because he had no skill to give, and we can get his mere muscular energy from nature. The two hundred years of discovery from which the convolutions of our societies have grown have steadily increased the importance of the individual and with it his standing. But we have failed to find the forms which acknowledge this standing. This is why our world always seems to be on the edge of crisis. We have to try to fit the forms of society to what men do. I live by the skill of the bus driver and the sewer man, the chemist and the stenographer, the butcher and the mill hand; and over all these, I live by the lively minds of my readers. Here is a world in the making and moving, for which each man is a fulcrum. The difficulty is not that society must find him a worthy place; he has one. Society must find out how to recognize his place to his face.'

First Published by Turnstile Press, London, 1954.

This is the preface to Bronowski's radio play of the same name, and which won an Italia Prize in 1953.

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 2000 The Estate of Jacob Bronowski. All rights reserved.