In case it wasn’t clear in the last post, I’ve given up. I intended it to be the last post but I feel the need to elaborate. So this will be my opus for this site.
The world is burning. Let it burn.
Hold tight wait till the party’s over
Hold tight we’re in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house
Part of my frustration is that I’ve spend countless hours and years studying political theories only to have people who have nothing but strong convictions tell me how and why I am wrong. There are times I am wrong and I’m more than willing to discuss these things with anyone. What I’d really appreciate is some theoretic basis on why I am wrong. Not because you read Animal Farm 15 years ago.
A constant theme in the US is to point out that “socialism” has failed, even in Western Europe. This came up this morning. Someone basically told me to go to a country like Germany if I disliked the neoliberal policies of the United States. Not only is this common, but it is common that most Americans have no idea what they are talking about in this regard. Germany’s government is a multi-party parliamentary system. It was designed in 1949 with safeguards preventing any single party from capturing total control of the government. The German Parliament is called the Bundestag.
The Bundestag has 631 seats. The main party is the Christian Democratic Union, which is a Liberal-Democratic party. This is Germany’s “conservative” party. The main opposition to the CDU is the SPD. The SPD is the Social Democratic Party. (The smallest party is the CSU which is the Christian Social Union in Bavaria. It’s the sister party to the CDU and only represents Bavaria.) The opposition parties in the Bundestag are The Left and the Greens. The Left is a far-left party that is a mixture of social democracy and anti-capitalism. The Green Party is the Green Party… they exist in almost every Western Democracy to some degree. They are center-left. The point here is that Germany does not have any “conservative” party like the US has… in fact, their conservatives are equal to the American left.
When looking at Western Democracies, we see certain patterns emerge. One of these dominant patterns is that countries with truly conservative parties in prominence that have enacted policies of austerity have seen economic contraction, increased poverty, and growth in income inequality. If there is any political persuasion that is full of ideologues, it’s those that propose neoliberal economic policies. And yet, we see the growth in support for neoliberal economic policies. Why? Because people are more concerned with being punitive to those they dislike rather than encouraging growth for themselves and those around them. (Paul Krugman recently wrote about how neoliberalism and austerity are contributing to a rise in fascism. It’s not like I’m alone in pointing this out.) Krugman isn’t a socialist or Marxist. He’s still a capitalist. One would have to be an ideologue to impose policies that benefit no one. The insistence on applying failed social-economic policies is nothing more than ideology. There’s no other reason to implement these policies.None of this really matters when the entire frame of reference for political theory is 1984 and Animal Farm. Orwell was a socialist. He wasn’t writing about the evils of left theory. He was writing about the dangers of authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is not privileged to one political theory. Stalin’s regime was brutal. So was Hitler’s. So was Mobutu Sese Seko’s. The issue of authoritarianism is about political systems, not economics. Volumes upon volumes of theory have been written on this topic. One could really go back to Plato and prior to examine theories of power and structures of society. It’s a lot more complex than an allegory about pigs leading a revolution on a farm.
It’s not just conservatives that have me going insane. It’s everyone in the US. If we look at the Germany example: Bernie Sanders is considered to be the “Far-Left” in American politics. In Germany, he would be in the SPD. These are the center-left in Germany. This means even Elizabeth Warren would be considered part of the conservative party in Germany. This is where the far left is on just the practical political spectrum. No one today would claim Germany is some socialist state. They are still a capitalist entity. Even if we were to make the comparison with the UK, the Democrats in the United States are more similar to the Tories than any other political party in the UK. (There’s room to argue that Labour has moved to the right as well.) What we really have in the United States is a moderate conservative party and an ultra-conservative party deciding on how conservative the policies we possess are… and as I’ve stated in the past, “conservative” means to maintain the status quo.
This brings us to the point I brought up in the last entry I posted. Continue reading The World Is Burning
I had an online discussion with several people a few days ago. It was mostly Liberals and Progressives. I don’t even remember the topic. It was really an unremarkable conversation. What really stuck with me was the realization that every reference made was a work of fiction. They referenced 1984, The Minority Report, Animal Farm, and various other texts. All of these stories are allegorical. That doesn’t change the fact they are all fiction. It’s highly representative of where our discourse has arrived. We now discuss everything on anecdotes and metaphor. There is no longer any appeal with a normative argument or analysis.
I’m quite often charged with being an elitist or just being arrogant. I can understand why that may be the case. But the truth is that people that know me often claim the opposite. I honestly believe that anyone is able to understand the things I’ve come to understand with enough time and energy in accumulating information. Maybe I am wrong with that, maybe not. The fact that is important here is the time and energy spent in actually learning.
Americans, in particular, espouse the “value of hard work.” That typically only applies to what they define as hard work. This is especially true when it comes to what is “productive.” There’s a combination of factors that shape this perception of “hard work.” First, there is the Puritanical view that if you enjoy something, it’s not hard work. The Puritanical view is that hard work is supposed to create misery (and in return, that misery gets one “closer to God”). Second, there’s this idea that anything that is not productive has no value. “Productive” in this society means “creating profit value.” There’s not a great way to turn knowledge into a commodity to generate profits (though the American educational system is doing a good job at trying to do that).
The truth is that I have worked hard for my social political knowledge. It’s really great that you read Orwell’s Animal Farm in ninth grade. It’s nice that you saw Minority Report with Tom Crews. But have you read Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism? What about Fromm’s Fear of Freedom? What is your opinion of the Hegelian Master-Slave dialectic? What about Weber’s tripartite theory on authority?
To get where I have gotten, I have had to read (and study) texts from Arendt, Althusser, Adorno, Aristotle, Barthes, Croce, Derrida, Engles, Fanon, Foucault, From, Gramsci, Hegel, Kant, Heidegger, Lacan, Laclau, Lenin, Lukacs, Luxemburg, Marcuse, Marx, Montesquieu, Nietzsche, Plato, Rawls, Rousseau, Spinoza, Voltaire… and so many more. And, to be honest, there are areas with most of these philosophers I often need to differ to others. Adorno is not in my wheelhouse, for example. I often have to ask people I know to explain Adorno to me. (And does anyone ever really understand Hegel?) None of this is easy.
So, when a person tries to support their entire argument from a work of fictional allegory, such as 1984, is it not understandable why this is really a one sided discussion? There’s nothing wrong with fiction and use of allegory. Quite often I am fond of throwing out a Vonnegut quote here and there. But to base your entire argument on such a work is just insanity.Insanity is where we have come. How long can we spend being outraged before this outrage turns to indifference? I don’t know, because I didn’t keep track… but I have arrived. I’m so fed up that I’m just indifferent now. As the year ends, so does this journey. I’ve maintained this site for quite some time. I’ve spend a significant amount of time trying to engage in political theory, but it’s not part of the Fifth Estate… pretending to be the Fourth Estate. I use first person to not even try to pretend to be passing my opinion as news. It’s all opinion editorial.
If I were a reactionary conservative and posted offensive and outrageous things… my posts would have been all over social media. Everyone would be sharing them and visiting my pages. The reactionary conservatives would then rush to defend me. Because I actually take a calm and rational approach and apply theory to normative arguments I get nothing. The outrage is always at everything except the very system that exploits us all.
Conservatives: It is a bit confounding. Why anyone but the people at the very top would support conservative policies and politics is confounding. Conservative itself means to preserve traditional society or traditional social order. Conservatives seek to maintain the status quo. I don’t even feel the need to explain why anyone but those at the very top of the social order would seek to preserve the social order.
Libertarians: (US Libertarians/Anarcho-Capitalists) This is basically conservatives without the basic theory behind the conservative agenda and just some bat-shit crazy nonsense supporting it. The heart of the An-Cap philosophy is some insane belief that completely unregulated, free-market capitalism will somehow create some utopian society when the markets reach equilibrium. It’s pure fantasy… dressed up in a suit of “freedom” and “liberty.” The truth is that the equilibrium will be reached, but it will not be one of equality. It is basically trading rule of law and government for rule of oligarchy. Libertarians cannot claim to want liberty for everyone and then claim to want the ability to discriminate and exploit others. It’s just idiocy.
Liberals/Progressives: This is really the most frustrating of the lot in the US. The Libs think they are “far Left.” They tend to try to claim that Keynesian economic levers are some form of socialism. In a nutshell, they just seek to make neoliberal capitalism more palatable. They don’t seek to radically change any aspect of society.
This has come to a head today where we have Liberals and “Champagne Socialists” telling protesters against police brutality to “remain peaceful and law abiding.” They are telling Black America they are wrong for breaking bank windows, smashing cars, and tearing down businesses in response to the daily executions of unarmed Black people in America. The very same people cheering the protesters in Egypt and Tunisia and LIbya are telling the people faced with brutal oppression in their own country, “Fight the system… but don’t break anything.”
Even the darlings on the Left, like Elizabeth Warren or Robert Reich just want to put in mechanisms that smooth over the inequality and make society more tolerable. They don’t want to end exploitation or oppression.
A few days ago I was watching MSNBC and some Democrat in the US government was complaining about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In part of his condemnation he pointed out that Vietnam “uses slave labor.” I read that report, too. The slave labor he is referring to is prison labor. The United States has the largest prison labor population in the world! Where do these Libs get off condemning other countries for doing exactly what they are doing?
On the same program, there was a spokesman for the International something Workers… who went on to rail about how he was against international agreements that give more wages to workers overseas. What part of “International” did I fail to understand here? This is another issue with the Libs that show they really aren’t all that radical or far left… their nationalism. The far left doesn’t feel bound by national boundaries or racial exclusion.
There is no Left in the United States. The Left that the US has is moderate at best. They would be Tories in the UK – which are the Conservatives in the most conservative nation in Europe. Literally, the Conservatives in the most conservative nation in Europe advocate for better health care and better wages for the working class than the American Left.
And then we look at how this society really works:
A wealthy person has $1 million. They put it in a low yield bond with a 6% return (that’s a lower interest rate than my subsidized student loans) and they get $60,000 a year in interest. Owning a million dollars can give you $60,000 a year just because you own a million dollars. If you own $100 million, you can use that same low yield bond and get $6 million a year in interest. Of course, then you can buy a company for a few million… and we’ll get to that in a minute.
The working class in America sells their labor. Their labor produces revenue for their employer. The employer pays them a fraction of what they generate. The profit, for the employer is the unpaid labor of the worker. So, how this system works for the working class is that they sell their labor for a fraction of what they produce, and they earn less than the wealthy generate by just being wealthy.
And the wealthy buy businesses. Those businesses employ workers that generate revenue and then they take home a fraction of that revenue and what is left over is the profit for the wealthy person that owns the business.
This is fair? That’s what even the Liberals and Progressives say. This is fair. And wait… it gets better.
We are told that people on “welfare” are the problem. That those who don’t have enough income from selling their labor are dragging down the entire society. But let’s parse this for a second:
Say I just want to write political theory. I just want to read books and write my own theories every day. I don’t want to sell my labor to anyone. So the government gives me money to live on because I have no labor to sell. Say they give me $2,000 a month. I spend $300 a month on food, $900 a month on rent, $100 a month on my cell phone, $300 a month on utilities, $400 a month on gas, clothes, cigarettes, booze, and condoms… or whatever. Who sells me that food? People that own grocery stores, that get food from farms. They pay employees to harvest and stock that food and then they get the rest back as profit. Same with every other expenditure. So, for every $2,000 the government gives me, all of it goes into the profits of the wealthy and the labor they pay to produce these goods and services.
In this whole scenario, we are told that the people who are given money that ends up going back to everyone else are the parasites and those who earn revenue from having wealth are the benefactors. But when you really look at it, who are the parasites? The wealthy earn revenue just for being wealthy… It’s just a big pile of shit.
Finally…with the current situation of unarmed Black people being shot in the street by police, massive incarcerations in the United States, defunding of education, all of these situations just amount to making the working class be productive, where productive means “generating profits for the wealthy.”
For this reason, I’m just going to silently support the conservatives from this point out. The only way that anything is going to change is when things get so uneven that people are forced to accept reality. As Lacan pointed out, The Real is too painful, so humans live in the Imaginary. The lies we believe about it making sense that things work this way are the imaginary that make the Real tolerable. Only when the imaginary becomes such complete and utter nonsense will people be able to deal with The Real.
People believe all kinds of conspiracy theories, but believe it’s so far fetched that capitalism exploits them. There are theories that there is some Jewish cabal trying to rule the world through some sort of intergalactic banking. There are theories that secret groups are conspiring to create a “one world government” to enslave mankind. Then there’s just insane things, like alien invaders, Satanic conspiracies. It really all amounts to tilting at windmills while you are being exploited right out in the open.
I’m not even going to go into the fact that property isn’t freedom, but servitude. (More Marcuse than Proudhon for me.) Or that alienation and anomie in the working class are by-products of capitalism. I could, but why bother?
It’s ok though. Keep going. Keep shooting people in the streets like the Gestapo. Keep torturing enemies. Keep exploiting the working class. Keep being lapdogs for the wealthy. The rest of the world is watching and the global hegemony of the United States is being eroded every day. With all of this, there’s no need for any revolution… the US is doing a fine job of self-destructing all by itself. Wake me up when you are ready to pick up the pieces. Enjoy your neoliberal nightmare.
Associated Press announced on Sunday, December 7, 2014 that President Obama conducted an interview with BET that will be aired on Monday. The video is said to address the current outrage towards the racial disparities in unequal treatment in the United States. These disparities have been highlighted by the deaths of unarmed Black men and teens with no indictments.
Not two weeks ago, Dr. Cornell West issued a blazing criticism of President Obama on Twitter:
Obama’s empty neutrality, moral bankruptcy and political cowardice is now undeniable to even his most loyal cheerleaders and boot-lickers!
Dr. West appeared on CNN the following day to discuss his comments critical of the President and declared that Ferguson signified “the end of the age of Obama.” West cited the “Jim Crow criminal justice system” as the heart of his discontent with President Obama. He claimed that this system does not deliver justice and that police are allowed to murder Black and Brown children with impunity. He states that “there’s been a kind of class war, and a kind of racial war, against Black and Brown youth.”
When pushed on as to why Dr. West himself is so hard on this president, he stated that he has a duty to speak for the suffering of “the wretched of the earth.” Among those he points out that need a voice are the poor and working class in America. He states, that “President Obama chose a Wall Street presidency rather than main street … and he chose not to even give one speech that focuses on the Jim Crow criminal justice system that’s been targeting Black and Brown youth, saying the era of police impunity is over…We never got that at all…”
Now we are getting an interview from President Obama concerning this very topic. We are told that in the interview, President Obama discusses the conversations he has had with the protesters from Ferguson in the Oval Office last week. In the excerpts released, President Obama does admit that racism is something deeply rooted in this society. He points out that there has been progress made in the past 50 years in the area of diminishing racial oppression. He also states that he wishes for people to be patient as something “as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you’ve got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time and you just have to be steady so that you don’t give up when you don’t get all the way there.”
President Obama has stated in the past that he is not a king or emperor and cannot legislate in any way he desires. (Mostly regarding immigration policy.) Although Dr. West was correct that we have not heard a speech regarding what Dr. West refers to as the “Jim Crow criminal justice system,” now we are about to hear the president speak on this topic. It is possible that due to the increased and growing public outrage the President can no longer avoid speaking on this issue.
Dr. West also seems to forget (or ignore) the level of hatred and animosity this president has faced since he has been elected. One only has to look at the Minute Men article on the story of this interview excerpt to get a hint of it. It did not take long for President Obama to be called “the great race divider” and be accused of “inciting violence against the nation.” One commenter claimed that BET was a “fascist network” and another claimed President Obama’s plan was to “find new ways to subdue whitey and destroy the nation he built.”
Reading the YouTube comments under the Associate Press excerpt is more disheartening and warrants nothing worth reprinting, except to note that it is pretty much all hate speech. It’s quite odd that the president who has not given on speech on the topic is responsible for inciting so much of a response. Will we hear what Dr. West claims to want to hear in response to Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner and the Jim Crow criminal justice system? Probably not. But we can no longer say that President Obama has avoided or has fallen silent on the issue. Is this part of Obama’s elaborate ruse to subdue Whitey? Probably not. To see on what level this president takes a stand on these issues, we will have to wait and see the full interview. We have seen the President come out and take a stand on several issues at the end of his second term. We can hope that he will take a stand closer to what Dr. West desires that we might traditionally expect from a sitting president regarding an issue that has become a primary concern for the nation, and the world.
It’s not easy being White.
Today, I left work early to go to the bank to see why they declined my car loan financing. I work as an executive in the middle of the city, so I had to get enough time to catch the bank before they closed. It was easier to do that than go to the bank where I live, because I live in a White neighborhood and there’s not banks there. My boss told me I could leave early, but I’d have to make up the time later. It was a little frustrating because they let my coworker who is Black take off a half a day to spend more time with his children, but I had to beg to actually run errands.
Anyway, I left work an hour early and I get to the bank to ask them why they declined my auto loan when I have no collections on my credit report and a fairly high credit score. The bank told me I was too big of a risk and if they raised the interest rate to cover the risk, the minimum payments would be more than I could afford on my salary. (Which is also frustrating because I earn $20,000 less a year than my non-White colleagues.)
Feeling somewhat dejected and depressed that I’d have to spend another indefinite amount of time relying on public transportation, I decided to get some groceries. It was easier because, in my predominantly White neighborhood, there are no grocery stores. My neighborhood only has liquor stores and convenience stores (and fast food).
I wanted to the grocery store to get some time to myself and clear my head. I went in and picked up a hand basket to get the few things I needed. It was a little frustrating that store security followed me through the entire store. They even kept watching me while I was watching two Black teenagers putting liquor bottles in their purses in front of a security camera. There’s really nothing I can do about that, though. I got all the food I needed and went to the register.
As I waited in line, the cashier was ringing out the items for the person in front of me in line. She did the typical cashier talk with him: “Oh, pizza and chips? Someone having a pizza party tonight? These cookies are so good, aren’t they?”
When it was my turn at the register, the cashier did not speak a word to me as she worked very hard not to make eye contact with me. The only thing she said to me was the total of my purchase, “Forty Nine Ninety Five.” I swiped my Chase Sapphire card in the card swipe and it said “Error – please see cashier.” The cashier then said to me, “You have to press EBT and not CREDIT for that to work.”
“Why would I press EBT for a credit card?” Continue reading It’s Not Easy Being White
I wrote a piece yesterday that felt a little rushed and sloppily thrown together. I’m going to attempt to write a more cohesive and coherent piece for today.
There has been a lot of commentary on the reaction to the verdict to the grand jury trial in Ferguson Missouri. The commentary has ranged from support to condemnation to just racism. What concerns me is the lack of true understanding of the current situation.
Cause everybody in the hood has had it up to here
It’s getting harder and harder and harder each and every year
Some kids went in a store with their mother
I saw her when she came out she was getting some Pampers
They said it was for the black man
They said it was for the Mexican, and not for the white man
But if you look at the streets it wasn’t about Rodney King
It’s bout this fucked up situation and these fucked up police
It’s about coming up and staying on top
And screaming 187 on a motherfuckin’ cop
It’s not written on the paper it’s on the wall
National guard??! Smoke from all around
Let it burn, wanna let it burn
Wanna let it burn, wanna wanna let it burn
~ Sublime, April 29 1992
Let’s look at this for what it really is in the United States. The US has the largest prison population in the world. 40% of that prison population is Black Americans. Meanwhile, Black Americans make up 13% of the entire US population. A Black person is killed by a police officer in the United States once every 28 hours. Add to that the social and economic disenfranchisement of Black people in the United States and you have the description of the persecution of an ethnic minority.
If any other country had these exact conditions, the United States would have sanctions on it at the very least. George Bush would have invaded it by now (and given Dick Cheney no bid contracts to extract all the natural resources). And the American people, even the conservatives, would have been cheering on the protesters that were burning down Walgreens and laundromats.
Instead, we hear this constant mantra that “they should be peaceful.” I read one comment someone made on Twitter that read something like, “MLK was peaceful and you all shot him, too.” In no other country would we be telling an ethnic minority to remain peaceful in response to this level of persecution.
It’s bigger than this, though. It’s more than just this situation. I have pointed out repeatedly that it goes against my grain when I see/hear Americans chastising the People’s Republic of China. And this is exactly why. The United States Congress has a 9% approval rating among the American people. The government of the People’s Republic of China has an 81% approval rating among it’s people. The United States keeps passing economic and social policy that only benefits the top marginal percent. The economic recovery for the United States in the past half a decade has only been a recovery for the wealthy. The rest of the population is left with decreasing opportunities, decreasing living standards, and decreasing income. China is seeing increased living conditions and increased living standards and increased opportunities for it’s people… yet, Americans still feel justified calling the People’s Republic some type of “repressive regime.” Glass houses.
It was only a footnote in the news reports that in the first night of the Ferguson “riots” that there were no deaths. But it’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal. The damage was property. How is this not an appropriate response to a society that dictates that the “free market” is the way in which we regulate society? This neoliberal ideology claims that without regulations a truly free market allows people to find an equilibrium in which society is balanced by market forces. What is a better market force than saying, “If we are not treated as equals we are going to burn all your profits to the ground”?
There have been comments that the people are Ferguson are “burning down their own community.” Let’s really parse this idea for a moment. The people of Ferguson have an average income of $19,000 a year. That’s less than a barista makes at Starbucks in San Francisco. These aren’t small business owners. $19,000 a year in a country that has a national average around $52,000 a year is poverty. The unemployment rate in Ferguson is more than double the national unemployment rate. This means this is a community that is largely unemployed and those that are employed are underemployed. The jobs they are losing because of this are jobs that pay a pittance. Basically, saying these people should not react in this way is saying, “accept the constant brutality and gross inequality or you can’t even have the scraps we let you have.” It’s insulting.
We live in a society where we are inundated with advertising that shows us products with the message: “You want this.” “You need this.” “You have to have this.” Followed by the message: “You can’t have this.”
And then when people just take it, we blame them and call it “looting.” We never blame the system that has put in the minds of the people that they have to have the things they are taking. We create an environment of materialism in which the obtainment of items equals liberty and freedom. Then we chastise people for taking these items that they cannot afford. (I’ve written previously on wealth as freedom. Claiming that “[i]f one claims to promote equal liberty for all individuals, then one cannot turn a blind eye to poverty. Wealth does not really grant liberty, it just restricts liberty for those that do not have it.”) Basically, when those who support the idea of property as liberty also condemn those who are “looting,” they are actually supporting the continued oppression of liberty for those individuals. To those people: These people are not “looting,” they are claiming their freedom.
Similarly, as I pointed earlier to the destruction of property. What does that really mean? We hear talk that destroying these businesses is destroying economic opportunity (or various claims that amount to the same thing). As I pointed out also, the people of this city are economically disenfranchised. Walgreens is a corporation that sells the people of this community things they need or want and then takes the profits from those sales and puts them in the pockets of the wealthy that don’t even have to live in that community. But what about the small business owner?
The small business owner is the petite bourgeoisie. The petite bourgeoisie is nothing more than a proletarian that is allowed to pretend to be a bourgeoisie in return for support of bourgeois control of the dominant hegemony against the proletariat. To put this in American terms: The small business owner is nothing more than a working class/middle class individual that is allowed to act like the wealthy in return for support of policies that allow the wealthy to continue to exploit the working class/middle class. The petite bourgeoisie/small business owner gave up their protection from the rage of the working class/proletariat when they decided to side with those that seek to exploit the working class. Our sympathies for the small business owner should not be dissimilar to those of the wealthy corporations. I say dissimilar, because they are technically not part of the upper class. They are middle class/working class and should see that they are our allies and not our enemies. But as long as they continue to exploit the working class for profits, they will never have a full allegiance to the working class.
I mentioned that this neoliberal society wants to claim that a free market without regulations will create a social equilibrium. Boycotts and divestments are common tactics attempting to hurt the business owners financially. Why is it so wrong to take this one step farther? We’ve tried boycotts and divestments. They did create some progress. The Civil Rights Movement did make many accomplishments. But what hurts a business more economically than burning it to the ground? It could be looked as though, this puts the fear of retribution from the people on a whole new level. If there is an injustice, it would behoove the owners of businesses to seek justice lest their assets become ashes. The next time an unarmed Black person is shot and killed in Ferguson and there is not even a trial for the perpetrator, are the businesses in Ferguson going to sit back idly? I doubt it. They are going to be enraged and terrified. For this reason, I don’t think we can really condemn the destruction of property.
That’s what it is: The destruction of property. It seems Americans are more outraged at the loss of an Advanced Auto store or a beauty supply store than they are towards the death of an unarmed person. The difference is that the person is not property. It’s a living, thinking, breathing human being.
There has been a lot of talk about the nature of Mike Brown and the incidents that transpired just prior to his death. My first response is that this is bigger than just the death of Mike Brown. While it is tragic that he is dead and there is no intent here to downplay his death, the real issue here is the perception of continued and heinous injustice. My second response is one which feels that all of these claims are extraneous. Even if Mike Brown was a horrible person and a thief and resisted arrest and fought back against the police officer, none of these things are crimes punishable by death. A street execution, no less. Again, if this occurred in any other country, there would at least be sanctions.
We have seen, in the course of human history, societies that have police officers that act as judge, jury, and executioner. We called them “Death Squads” in Honduras. We called them “Gestapo” in Germany. There are various incarnations of this type of social policing. All of it is universally deplored by contemporary society. The number of police shootings in Germany and France for the last year the data was available was 0. In 2011-12, there were 5 incidents of police using firearms on civilians in England and Wales. This contrasts quite starkly with the daily incidents in the United States. Even in China, the country Americans seem to like to describe as some repressive state where the population lives in constant fear of the government, and where 1/3 of the entire human population resides, there are a substantially lower amount of police shootings. There is a bit of intersectionality here. The United States has more guns per capita than any developed country. The amount of gun violence in the United States is relative to countries with unstable governments. This, indeed, is bound to lead to more incidents of police using firearms more frequently, just for survival. With a population this heavily armed, police being unarmed would undermine any authority to enforce the law.
The issue of an armed society is also particularly relevant to the situation as well, though. In the past year, we have seen a quite explosive response to the “Second Amendment,” gun rights issue. We have seen supporters of the “right to carry” publicly display their support by carrying firearms in public, gathering in town centers and going to shopping areas with guns strapped on their backs or holstered on their shoulders. And yet, just a few days ago, police responded to a call that a 12 year old may have a gun. When they arrived, they ordered him to put the gun down, in which the 12 year old refused to comply and within minutes (seconds?) he was shot and killed. Not so long ago, we had another incident where a Black man entered a Walmart and picked up an air rifle and continued shopping. Someone thought it would be amusing to call the police and report there was a Black man with a gun in the store (in an open carry state – where it is legal to carry a firearm publicly) and the police responded and shot the man to death.
The situation is one in which White people are free to walk about in public carrying shotguns, AR-15s, handguns, and other such firearms, but Black people carrying fake guns are killed for being suspected of doing the very same thing these White people are doing. This is a blatant example of a double standard that is a violation of civil and human rights on a paramount level. This is simply nothing short of Apartheid in the United States.
This is more than an issue of racism or racial injustice. This is an issue that should concern every American in the United States. The U.S. has invaded and supported the overthrow of more than a half a dozen nations in the past decade for doing this exact thing. It completely undermines the global legitimacy and standing of the United States. With this situation continuing (and actually expanding), the United States is being seen as nothing more than an international bully manipulating other countries for their own benefit. (This is not an argument on the validity of this or not, because that’s an entirely separate issue.) It’s more critical at this juncture for the United States because of the current situation the U.S. is in.
Just before the Great Depression, robber barons had managed to use manipulation to control a majority of the US government. They had managed to lower their marginal tax rate to a level below 30%. They controlled the economy and pillaged it for personal profit. The result was the Great Depression. In the beginning of the early 2000s, we saw this same predicament manifest again. The wealthy had managed to lower their tax rates to a nominal rate and continued to pilfer the government for every economic advantage they could achieve. One vast difference between the recovery of the Great Depression and the recovery of the Great Recession is that the Great Depression saw the emergence of World War II. WWII was a total war. Every major nation in the world was physically devastated, save for the United States. When the US emerged from the end of WWII, it was the only major economic power left intact. At the same time, the top marginal tax rate went to about 91%. This led to the largest economic growth ever seen in the United States.
The US today is not in the position it was in the post-War period. Today we have economies growing (thriving) in China, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, and many other developed nations. The US is not making leaps forward in the political, sociological, nor economic frontiers. Being seen as a bully that is persecuting an ethnic minority could lead to economic sanctions quite easily. How will the United States fare against such a situation? It doesn’t seem like it would be a very positive experience. And this is not hyperbole. I have not seen one instance of anyone outside of the United States siding with the government against the people of Ferguson, Missouri. Not one. (If you find one, you’ve found a fascist.)
The United States set this precedence. It was fully expanded by the invasion of Iraq, the support of protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. If the United States does not live up to the standard it set for itself, the impact could be devastating to the United States. To quote Chomsky, (which is rare for me):
[I]f we adopt the principle of universality: if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us. Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others—more stringent ones, in fact—plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil.
This is why it is in the interest of every US citizen to side with the rage we are seeing in Ferguson. The same rage we saw in Los Angeles starting on April 29, 1992. The same rage we saw in Watts in August of 1965. The same rage we saw in Newark in July of 1967. It is a rage from an ethnic minority sick and tired of living in fear and subjugated by their oppressor. So, make a decision, do you value property or do you value your freedom, because you can no longer have both. This neoliberal system has reached it’s tipping point. Any response from this point that does not support reform and equality for the people in the United States is a response that undermines the credibility and legitimacy of the United States.
You cannot continue the mass incarceration and execution of an ethnic minority, shut off the water to your citizens, redistribute wealth to the wealthy, and pursue policy that only serves the elites and have any moral standing on any political issue on earth. To continue this insane political path is to become the most hypocritical path. Any claims of military action outside of the United States with these conditions from within will be viewed as nothing by imperial conquest. And let’s be fair here, the United States cannot afford to ignore geopolitical situations at this time. There is far too much blowback for the US to remain ignorant.
Also, I am making an official notice: The United States and the citizens therein have officially lost any right to criticize, condemn, or chastise the People’s Republic of China. Clean your own house.
Continue reading The Loss Of Global Legitimacy