Archive for the ‘ Societal ’ Category

The Supreme Court and Marriage

Is there anything more pathetic than having a panel of geriatric neo-scholastics as society’s self-proclaimed ultimate arbiters of right and wrong?

We should be immediately suspicious of this black-clad gang as they are supposed to use sane first principles, the facts of reality, and reason to arrive a just decisions, and yet not one of them is an atheist. In fact the currently represented religions (6 Catholic and 3 Jewish, I think) are demonstrably expert and ginning up internally consistent bullshit whirlwinds that can avoid, dismantle and adapt to any reality based objection–other religions aren’t slackers in this department either, but certain religions have truly raised this nonsense to an artform, or more aptly, an academic pursuit.

Supreme Court deliberations also sound remarkably similar to the early-bird dinner hour at Luby’s.

Reading the court transcript has much in common with reading a sci-fi forum about who would win in a fight between the Enterprise and a Star Destroyer. In both instances, the participants have powerful intellects that can make coherent, compelling arguments about anything, no matter how fanciful the context. In both instances a baseline fantasy story is held by all the participants, each then adds a few individual fantasy premises and then the reasoning process begins. In both cases, the conclusions are meaningless outside of their fantasy settings and nothing about reality has been decided at all. To be fair to the sci-fi folks, only the Supreme Court has millions of armed brutes enforcing their arbitrary conclusions.

As a quick demonstration of what a reality-based court transcript might look like (courtesy of a friend’s Facebook post):

I don’t know what kind of vaguely legitimate arguments anyone could make in defense of the DOMA. I take an adult’s right to enter into a contract of any kind–marriage or other– with another adult as so much of a given that trying to explain myself would be like trying to explain why slavery is wrong. If you’re still one of those people who believes that a Bronze Age collection of stories justifies you imposing your hangups on others’, I got nothing for you. Please go fuck yourself in the most hetero way you please.

Case closed.

Freedom of Conscience

I’ve had an idea bouncing around in my head to little effect. I’m going to disgorge it here just to see what it looks like written down and also to drop a March post for my weird Archive column length vanity thing.

I don’t know the origins of the concept of “freedom of conscience.” I associate it with 17th/18th century enlightenment authors writing about religious freedom. The topic was hot after hundreds of years of “religious” warfare based on the premise that a monarch or government could discern which of a number of unprovable, highly subjective religious experiences were true and which weren’t. I haven’t heard the phrase in use much lately, but it is a good stand in for a whole category of problems/decisions that belong in the hands of the individual–which is all of them.

You should be able to believe any ol’ crazy thing.

Nobody really knows *exactly* how dangerous Waziristani goat herders are to the health and well being of a westerner. My estimation is that I endure nearly 0 risk from said goat herders. My conscience says that it’s wrong to kill somebody like that–somebody who poses absolutely no risk to my well being. If I were allowed the freedom to follow my conscience, I would spend 0 dollars attempting to kill the goat herders and their coreligionists on the far side of the planet. However, I am not allowed such freedom and my future labor has been used as leverage to incur trillions of dollars in debt (well, not just *my* labor) by people who supposedly believe they’re protecting me from some awful menace. On the flipside, other than denouncing you for a dangerous lunatic, I’ll not stand in the way of your spending however many 10s of thousands of dollars you wish trying to exterminate the muslim menace on your own.

Nobody knows how important a building-code compliant structure is to a given person. Sure, it’s nice to live in a safe structure with modern electrical and plumbing, but there are costs associated with doing so. I might find it more important to eat healthier food and save money for my child’s education than to spend money ensuring that my windows are the appropriate distance off the ground or to build a fence around a camper in my driveway. Maybe another person would prefer precisely the opposite for their own reasons. We should both/all be granted the freedom to follow our own consciences in these matters–the idea that a rule can be made that enforces the correct priorities for thousand or millions of people is laughable on its face.

Nobody knows when life begins, there’s a near consensus that, after being born, a human should be given a shot at living. Except under situations of extreme large scale deprivation, there are people willing to take custody of a child that would otherwise die. Before birth, however, this is a matter of debate and each person has their own opinion about “when life begins.” Each person should be allowed the freedom of their conscience in this matter. Nobody should be compelled to give birth or to abort a fetus against her will. It seems silly to even have to say it.

Always remember the alternative. I can honor your freedom of conscience in a matter, or I can compel you to go against it through force or threat of force. Of course there are circumstances, however rare, when I my conscience may dictate that I violently intervene to override your freedom of conscience (maybe you’re walking drunk into traffic, maybe you’re sleepwalking with a loaded gun). Currently, our rulers intervene as soon as we choose to purchase beverages that are too large, or to buy unpasteurized milk, or to visit a un-permitted wilderness camp. People who are brave/foolhardy enough to attempt to withhold their resources from the imperial prison/surveillance/warfare state can have any or all of their possessions taken from them and spend some or all of the rest of their lives in cages.

Of course there are complex and mind-bending rationales for all of these and other crimes against humanity carried out by those calling themselves “government”–just as there are complex and mind-bending rationales for an omnipotent, yet omniscient, god that allows humans free will. The simple truth is, no such god exists, and “government” is simply a group of humans who wish to rule over other humans. A simple litmus test of whether a human relation is just and equal or unjust and hierarchical is whether the freedoms of conscience of all the participants are being honored.

Selfishness, the Individual, and the Collective

This post was inspired by a conversation with Jim Rigby who I follow on facebook. It started with a short conversation-provoking post, and the follow up highlights the resulting discussion. I recommend following Jim (on facebook, not in real life) and/or reading his blog, he’s a thoughtful and stereotype busting guy and never shies away from debate.

“We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”

I recently learned of this old quote from Hillary Clinton (circa 1993). At first glance, it seems to follow the aesthetically pleasing moral’ish guideline of “don’t be a greedy bastard, there are other people to think about.” Reminders to put perspective on one’s own wants and desires and to balance them with the wants and desires of your fellow human beings are all to the good, in my opinion.

But notice, that’s not really what’s being said. The quote doesn’t read, “stop thinking of yourself and start thinking about what is best for society.” The purpose of the quote isn’t to check the listeners greed, it’s to check the listeners concern for other individually recognizable people.

All of us humans have a subjective experience of being part of a larger whole. In a physical, this is clearly the case. Every physical part of our body is interacting with every other material object in the universe; we absorb and exchange material from all around us; we are literally composed of star dust; and every physical speck of each one of us will exist until the end of . . . well, existence.

On a social level, we belong to a species whose every advance is based on collective action, peaceful cooperation. To quote Jeffrey Tucker slightly out of context:

Without it, our world would fall apart. All progress is due to it. All order extends from it. All blessed things that rise above the state of nature are owed to it…. [W]e need ever more . . . to make the world a more beautiful place.

Speaking of “society” or “community” or “humanity” is entirely reasonable as a shorthand for the collection of individuals being discussed. The politicians trick which perverts the concept (and, secondarily, turns non-violent people into seeming lunatics stuck on the idea of individuality) is to talk about the collective concept–I’ll use “society”, but all have been used–as if it were an actual entity apart from the individuals that make it up with its own measurable level of well-being.

Once that fiction is in place, any number of individuals can be harmed in pursuit of the good of the society–as if there’s something somewhere that’s doing better even though the individuals that supposedly comprise it have been hurt.

As a quick, concrete example, 1 in 3 African-American men are entangled with the criminal justice system–mostly as part of the war on drugs. Thousands of people have been murdered on the border. Thousands more are threatened by various armed agencies, kicking down doors (sometimes even the intended ones), breaking up families and shooting anyone who resists or is slow to comply. Millions of individuals have clearly been aggressed against in a whole variety of ways. No individual can be identified as a beneficiary (other than the prison-industrial-complex and police state). The political argument is that drug suppression is for the greater good. It benefits society. We should, after all, stop worrying about the individual so much.

Another great example is the “liberation” of [name of American occupied country here] where whole civilizations have been destroyed, countless persons killed, millions of refugees created, in the name of improving the state of the social abstraction that is supposedly comprised of the victims of American aggression.

It’s possible, of course, that there’s some citizen who is better off because of the drug war. There are certainly people better off under one political regime than another. It’s impossible to coherently argue that the “greater good” is being served, or not served. It doesn’t have a physical existence and it’s well-being can’t be measured.

This makes talking about abstractions an ideal way to manipulate people into supporting aggression against other people. Part of the politician’s trick is to speak for the “greater good” the way the Pope speaks for God. We’re meant to believe that we common folk can only access our own subjective state, while political leaders can calculate any number of weighted sums of millions of individuals’ subjective experiences and then determine which weighting to maximize with each policy decision.

It’s nonsense on the face of it. Politicians do what they want, or what their patrons want, and call it the “common good,” just as the Pope does whatever he and/or his patrons want and call it the “will of God.”

When you hear somebody lamenting collectivist thinking or championing a world-view where the individual is exalted over the collective, it’s possible you’re listening to some selfish asshole who just wants to do what he wants and to hell everybody else.

It’s also possible that you’re talking to somebody who has noticed the pattern by which individuals are being harmed, on an epic scale, in the name of some abstraction and always for the gain of the advocates of said abstraction.

One more caveat and I’m out: there are obviously good people in the world who would self-describe as serving the common good/greater good/society. This doesn’t bother me at all, though they may be adopting political language beyond the convenience of using collective nounts–I have no evidence of this at all, mind you.

The litmus test for whether or not someone is using abstractions manipulatively is whether they are advocating violence against certain individuals in the name of the abstraction. If not, they may still be trying to manipulate you personally (into donating money, time, etc), but they’re certainly not violating any core moral principle. If their devotion to the “greater good” *does* require the harming of individuals, then they’re either delusional or criminal; they should be shunned by all good people and their duplicity should be exposed as far as possible.

More Things We Should Know By Now

In a post from last month (probably the post from last month), I was thinking about ignorance as an excuse for poor and/or immoral choices. There’s a category of ills (racism, homophobia, misogyny) that have become decreasingly acceptable by society at large. While we might excuse the racist ramblings of great-aunt Edna, a member of our peer group with the same beliefs is willfully ignoring the evidence against 19th century theories of racial hierarchy; or is aware of them but wants to be a racist anyway.

The main thrust of the previous post: only a willing dupe still believes in government as a force of positive social change. Given a goal, no matter how universally laudable, writing it down on paper and handing it to a pack of unaccountable and heavily armed goons to carry out will never go well. It will rarely turn out otherwise than awful.

The same principle applies to police, military, and other members of the enforcement arm of the United States government. I’m not sure if it was ever the case that people trusted in the police or if Mayberry and Officer Friendly are just straight-up 1950s post-war propaganda. In any case, nobody in their right mind trusts in the police now.

This has several important ramifications (that we should all know by now):

1. Unless you want someone shot or in jail, do not call the police. Since we live in a largely disarmed and submissive society, there are many time and places where a person’s only recourse against violations of person or property is a government thug. In those instances, by all means, engage the police.

Necessary or not, it’s often a terrible and lifechanging ordeal. If you’re lucky, the casualty will be a family pet–either yours or one belonging to a neighbor. Otherwise, you may have unintentionally called in a hit on someone–maybe a member of your own family.

To reiterate, I’m not passing judgement on anyone who calls the police in self-defense. It should be an absolute last resort and you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself, a loved one, or a neighbor shot or put in a cage. That’s what police do. Everyone should understand this by now.

2. If someone signs up to be an enforcer today without the full understanding that they’re accepting money to obey orders, no matter how immoral; they can’t reasonably claim to care about the possibility of having to murder, torture, or imprison innocent human beings. That’s what the job of law enforcement *is*.

If you sign up to “enforce the law”, you are not a hero. People don’t respect you, they are afraid of you. If you find yourself in harms way, it’s probably because you’re employed to be a thug who orders people around at gunpoint–or would if they didn’t comply with your barked orders. Some people don’t have the right psychological makeup to debase themselves and submit when bullied[1].

The time has past when anyone who wants to be police can be considered anything other than a brute. If you really want to help or protect people, there are a million other avenues that will fulfill those needs. The only reason anyone is police today is that they are willing to do anything to anyone in order to get a paycheck. Most probably, they enjoy doing it–the pay isn’t *that* great if you have any marketable skills at all.

3. The same thing goes for “our troops.” Soldiers are mercenaries who will kill anybody they’re ordered to regardless of context. Sadly, for those who acting out of financial necessity, enough people still exist who blindly “honor the troops,” to provide a shadow of moral sanction. Countless souls on the margin have been tipped to the side of obeying evil for pay by the omnipresent message that their “fellow citizens” will “honor their sacrifice”.

The true nature of the United States military is willfully ignored by a huge number of Americans. As with all of our above examples as well as the the effects of smoking and the theory of evolution, the evidence is ample, universal, and unequivocal. 40 years of incontrovertible evidence plus an additional 180 years of less mainstream history indicates that the purpose of the military is to kill for the advantage of bankers, plantation owners, mineral extractors, and weapons manufacturers.

It’s time we stopped pretending that there’s anything positive about being a gang enforcer. Even if the gang is the biggest one on the planet.

  1. [1] For the record, I totally do. Don’t shoot me.

Excerpted David Brooks Describes A True Civilization

I don’t think I’ve ever been able to agree with a higher percentage of physical content in a David Brooks article than today. With just a few minutes of editing, his words describe the conditions under which all of humanity could live and thrive in a state of cooperation and peace.

We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power.

Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal.

Those “Question Authority” bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.

The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Those people at the top are [not] smart or as wonderful [or] pure.

The World War II memorial is a nullity. It tells you nothing about the war or why American power was mobilized to fight it.

The Vietnam memorial is about tragedy.

You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.

[It’s understood that] power is built on a series of paradoxes . . . Democratic followership is also built on a series of paradoxes

Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions.

Not bad, eh?

I recommend against reading the original (and yet I link to it. Yeah go read it, and understand he wrote it at the behest of power). It’s literally the worst, over the top, lick-spittle toadying I’ve ever read from an adult. Or a child for that matter, unless they’re talking about their favorite comic book characters.

The Law, She is Simple

Law, along with economics and politics, is a relatively comprehensible subject about which the ruled are systematically kept ignorant. It’s an intuitive subject made ridiculously and artificially complex.

Here’s a necessary axiom of any civilized legal system: if there’s no victim and/or nobody complaining, nobody can be charged with a crime. To put it positively, if an action doesn’t hurt anybody else, it can’t be illegal.

That leaves room for complexity–situations where there it’s hard to tie together bad actors and victims, like, for example polluters or financial criminals.[1]But let’s put those aside for the moment and talk about the cases in which there is clearly, inarguably no victim at all.

If we were to go prisoner-by-prisoner and ask everyone in the country: “Did this person ever harm you in any way? If not, we’re letting them go,” somewhere north of 80% of people would walk free.

Those 1.5+ million people are typically in cages for one of two reasons. Most frequently, they’ve done something that is “wrong” in someone’s opinion, usually to do with buying or selling non-patented drugs. The second category of prisoner are those who someone (usually the same someones from the first case) thinks might engage in an actual crime with actual victims in the future–usually poor people with BAC higher than .08 or those who don’t enthusiastically follow orders from a cop.

That’s over 1.5 million people in cages in the US because nobody–at least not enough people–understand the most basic legal premise: no victim, no crime. I’ve never had a discussion with a lawyer about this subject that made any sense to me[2] That in itself doesn’t disqualify the legal-system-that-is as being something that does make sense, of course–I don’t understand quantum physics or space-time either. I feel like I’m willing to admit what I don’t know.

But when an expert in the field tries to help me get my mind around 4 dimensions or particle physics, I can see–usually via analogy or some simplification–the gist of what they’re trying to convey. It also helps that their explanations start with universal principles that are veritably true, or at least are very probably true.

When a legal expert attempts to explain why actions without victims (again, putting aside fringe cases) are crimes, things get absurd very quickly. There is no analogy or model or motivating example that leads to even a glimmer of sense. Yet every lawyer, every judge, and most politicians are trained in this way of thinking; this notion of the law as opinion given violent force. If you manage to stay in the conversation long enough, the rationale usually disolves down to: “it’s the law,” or some twist on the social contract–a fantastic unseen document that seems to under-gird most of the gawdawful things that rulers do to everyone else

And so, men, women and children are locked up. Their lives are destroyed based on legal principles that can’t be clearly explained other than to say that they exist because they do or because magic.

Not unrelated, but for another post: most of the people whose actions *do* have thousands or millions of victims–bailed out bankers, polluters, violent cops, “private abusers”/rapists, mercenary/imperial armies, etc.–are never held accountable. And so the law as we experience it is sort of the opposite of how law is supposed to function, which is kind of a pattern you may have noticed around other apologies for violence.

I am optimistic that 10 or 20 years from now, and increasingly as I age, I’ll be able to talk about law with people who weren’t raised with physical punishment or by parent who thought “because I said so” was a reason for anything. With more and more children being raised in safe, sane and loving households the nonsense that currently passes for a legal system doesn’t stand a chance.

  1. [1] two crimes with tons of victims and almost no one held legally accountable are polluting of the environment and financial fraud.
  2. [2] Granted, I don’t hang out with lawyers that often.

The Straw Man of Collective Guilt

In response to a previous post:

“Women are oppressed by men” is so large and grandiose and vague as to be useless.

That may be true, but then so are: “taxation is theft,” “The police have always been thugs who protect the moneyed,” or “Any unarmed people are slaves, or are subject to slavery at any given moment.”

Most taxpayers self-report as willing; most police want to serve the public and very few unarmed people (in the United States) feel like slaves. To note the abstract relationship isn’t to express a universal as expressed by each and every individual, it’s to highlight the fundamental dynamic. The core truth of taxation is that, if one were to resist it, one would find oneself mugged. Any policeman who wants to be a thug won’t likely be stopped and anyone who attacks the infrastructure of wealth will find themselves fighting police. Unarmed people every day find themselves fighting heavily armed state agents and are forced into an obedient role (or find themselves dead).

Most men don’t rape women, many men may not ever use their physical presence to dominate a woman. The fundamental reality of sex, however, is that almost any man can physically overwhelm almost any woman at any time. Importantly to the day-to-day reality of women, that worst-case scenario plays out more frequently than the federal take-down of tax resisters, instances of police brutality, or the rounding up of disarmed civilians.

Show indicia of THIS MAN oppressing THAT WOMAN and you begin to show clarity.
I’m not shouldering blame for what some other man did to a woman I don’t know.

Indicia? You have furthered my education with your comment, sir! This is, I think, the crux of the issue. The conversation about the realities of existing power dynamics does not damn or entitle any individual. We’ve been conditioned to believe:

Wherever human beings engage in direct discourse with one another about their mutual rights and responsibilities, there is a politics. I mean politics in the sense of the public sphere in which discourse over rights and responsibilities is carried on, much in the way Hannah Arendt discusses it. …. The force of public opinion, like that of markets, is not best conceived as a concentrated will representing the public, but as the distributed influence of political discourses throughout society.
Johnson and Long, Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

That refusal doesn’t make me a co-oppressor.
It merely makes me someone who will accept blame when it is accurately placed


Certainly no one should be blamed for the actions of a third party and refusing to “shoulder the blame for what some man did to a woman I don’t know” is absurd. In discussions about the crimes of government, kindergarten teachers aren’t widely considered to be co-oppressors. The state can be the object of critique without everyone who is in some way connected to state power feeling the need to come screaming in to stop the discussion. The same should be true of critiques of other power disparities.

At issue is not the need for collective guilt, but rather to honor the subjective experience of people giving their account of oppression. To return to the parallel, anarchists bristle when their subjective accounts of state oppression are dismissed and when they are chided to remain within the cultural confines of “their place in society” in order to remain unmolested by state agents. We, of all people, should stand in solidarity with others whose experiences are similarly dismissed–those who are told to fit sex, gender, and any other social norm in order to remain unmolested by whoever claims the authority to trespass against them. That solidarity should be extended no matter who the claimed oppressor is, even if it’s not the state.

The State and Other Oppressors

I’ve said it before, and I doubt you’ll be spared me saying it many times again: for most people on this planet, the state isn’t the primary impediment to their freedom and happiness.

Not to downplay the millions of victims on the receiving end of US “foreign policy,” or caged in global or domestic gulags–the withering away of the state will mean life instead of death or imprisonment and that is, of course, a very good thing.

A component of that withering, both underestimated and inestimable, is the recognition and dismantling of systems of oppression besides those enshrined in state institutions.

While the parallels between the violent nature of the state and the violent nature of other power structures are striking, they’re hard to address because, like state violence, their pervasiveness makes them difficult to identify. Highlighting the true nature of these systems to someone who has grown up within them is nearly impossible. Enlightenment, if and when it happens, usually comes when the “violence inherent in the system” manifests itself on the soon-to-be-enlightened, or perhaps a loved one thereof.

The other path to seeing the previously unseen is repeated exposure to the idea that the system is based on violence, founded on inequality. This requires profound patience on the part of all involved and a waiting out of the bluster and bombast and whatever other defense mechanisms are in place to prevent one seeing what is in front of one’s nose.

Anarchists get that the state relationship is based on violence: not just the wars and the prisons, but every law. The proof of this is trivial and it’s an axiom, literally, of all post-highschool political science, yet most Americans refuse to see the violence in the system. They believe that they are voluntary participants in institutions necessary for civilization when the truth is actually the opposite.

Outside of the persistent targets of state violence: immigrants, the poor, and racial minorities, only the disobedient get a taste (or more, depending on how quickly they relent) of what stands behind every law, every ordinance, every statute.

I have some rudimentary insight into a particular non-state parallel that I’ve written about before. Prepare to detect in yourself the defense mechanisms that will attempt to force your mind away from a very clear and obvious truth: women are oppressed, not primarily by the state, but by men.

Yes, there are exceptions; yes, the state historically supported the dominance of me; no, not all men are violent oppressors; no, not all women are victims of physical violence. Neither are all citizens victims of state violence and neither are all state agents perpetrators of violence. As Charles Johnson and Roderick Long point out in their must-read paper, Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? regarding a common non-feminist reaction to the claim that we live in a rape culture:

Libertarians rightly recognize that legally enacted violence is the means by which all rulers keep all citizens in a state of fear, even though not all government functionaries personally beat, kill, or imprison anybody, and even though not all citizens are beaten, killed, or imprisoned; the same interpretive charity towards the radical feminist analysis of rape is not too much to ask.

The analogy I’ve used is the experience of being approached by a policeman. In a given encounter, it’s very unlikely that the cop will beat, cage or kill you. The anarchist analysis, felt in the gut of virtually everyone even if it can’t be put into words, is that the policemen could beat, cage or kill you and would almost certainly get away with it.

If he wants your name or ID or for you to disclose the contents of your pockets, it’s considered by most to be a normal social interaction. Your resistance to his desires is considered unnatural and potentially risky. Anything that happens to you if decide to break with the social norm is going to be seen by most people as your own fault, by one twisted rationale or another.

Women are in an analogous position vis-à-vis an encounter with a man. A woman is expected to make conversation and be cordial if approached and can reasonably be asked her name, phone number, and what she’s doing this weekend. None of this is considered socially invasive. It place in a context where violence could very well be the result of refusing to participate. In most cases, barring sufficiently enlightened witnesses, alot of people will bend over backwards to blame the woman for whatever ills visit her as a result of the encounter.

Denying that this is the case, especially denying it to people who have had that very subjective experience, is, well, fucked up.

I’ve got alot more to say about this, but in the interest of actually posting something, I’ll break it off here. This feels rambly anyway, so I’d be happy if somebody focused my thinking on some aspect of the above.

Happy Birthday Bradley Manning

Today is Bradley Manning’s second birthday in a cage. His “crime”–still alleged, speedy trial and all that–was illuminating the pervasive brutality of the U.S. occupation. While he spends his 20s locked away in a gulag, the exposed murderers, rapists and torturers, along with their bosses and their bosses’ bosses right through to the commander in chief remain free–celebrated even, on occasion.

Manning highlights the impossible nature of reforming “the system.” Besides being one of several million human beings spending the holidays–and every other day–confined in a cage, he’s also a declaration to anyone seeking reform. The price of revelation is being disappeared, joining the non-persons whose lives are openly erased. Any attempt even to shed light on the actual functioning of the imperial state will be met by the full might of the state.

It’s very sad, and infuriating. At the very least, nobody can reasonably say the beast he exposed is an institution with a human well-being as its purpose.

Happy Birthday, Bradley.

You Are the Security Threat

If you concede that sound weapons may exist, may be permitted to exist, then sorry, but you must also accept and understand that they may one day be used against you, just as satellites and drones peer through your curtains as readily as they peer through the curtains of Kabul, just as the Total Information Awareness machine minds read your blog as happily as Vladimir Putin’s tumblr. . . You will often hear civil libertarian types say that the police should not act like soldiers. Why not? They are. —IOZ

This has been on my mind alot lately. There’s a growing awareness of the secret that is foundational to the existence of violence-based social systems: that the technologies and techniques of state power will be used against all enemies of that power–foreign or domestic. Additionally, the enemies of power aren’t limited to armed foreigners, but include anyone who calls into question any aspect of the corporate-state system and its various crimes against the wider population.

Glenn Greenwald has a good piece up related to the topic

It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.

At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.

To take this thought one step further: at the root of this view is the ability to compartmentalize violence and the moral schizophrenia that enlightenment philosophy has only just begun to disassemble. The idea, with humanity since the beginning, that violence in general is harmful to society; but violence carried out by the leader, the patriarch, the king, the parent, the husband, the police, is a necessary part of social order.

Enlightenment philosophy, at least for the purposes of this post, is premised on the equality of human beings and opposed to the various magical hierarchies that have historically been used to divide human kind into dominant and submissive classes. Its growth has pushed back against the general acceptance of slavery, oppression of women, non-personhood of children, and even against the unchecked power of the ruling class–though these last checks have proved temporary and fleeting.

With growing coverage of the state’s response to peaceful protest, both here and abroad, it seems that we’re on the cusp of grasping the universal nature violence. Militarized police forces are leaving America’s ghettoes and the drug war for awhile to beat and cage the white and middle class enemies of the corporate state. For the first time in 40 years, we’re being reminded that the “average citizen” is no safer from the state–should he/she decide to challenge its power– than the urban poor and “illegals” against which the police state was supposedly constructed.

“Austerity measures” combined with the corporate strangle-hold on any avenue of independent, decentralized wealth creation will push increasing numbers of people into direct opposition to the existing system. The state response is escalating in brutality and frequency and will prove asymptotically similar to the tactics previously used to occupy foreign countries.

The mainstream response to this process, repeated endlessly by state licensed broadcasters, will be continued excusing of any and all abuses. Hopefully, enough people will have been exposed to a framework of non-violence to form a critical mass of discernment which can demand a final and total dissolution of the instruments of centralized violence.

The majority opinion, I imagine, remains that no penalty is too great to inflict on those who push back against authority. My hope is that within the growing minority who understand the irrationality and danger of that view, a complete understanding of violence can be fostered; reform of violent institutions isn’t the answer, abolition is what’s required. Anyone who tries to carve out an exception for armies, parents, spouses, or police, is–perhaps unintentionally–an ally of the forces that prop up the historical and existing dominance-based social paradigm and an enemy of civilization.