Today I woke up to news of another shooting in the USA.
As far as I understand it now, two black people were shot dead by police and without cause. This lead to #BlackLivesMatter protest in hundreds of cities around the country.
At the protests in Dallas several people decided to steer away from the peaceful protest and engage the police with gunfire of their own.
So far 4 police officers have died and another 11 are injured. I have read many articles on the internet giving their opinion on this event and watched reports on youtube (both citizen reports and corporate media).
I would like to offer my own view on this event and what might have caused it. I want to remind you that I disapprove of shooting anyone, police officer or citizen. Yet the response that this action has been getting is enormous and no doubt the backlash will be felt in the American political arena, possibly influencing election results. Because of these reasons I feel the need to express my personal thoughts on the matter.
A crash course in maintaining authority.
I might shock you with this, but I believe the USA to be an authoritarian state bordering on fascism.
With this I mean that I do not believe it to be a democratic country in the least, not in the true definition of a democracy nor in the sense that is used for its self-identification.
It centers its power around the corporate economy and I would argue it qualifies for almost every single one of the Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism.
Whether this is actually the case is a matter of debate but I hope you can agree that, as a state, it depends heavily on policing the public. People are made to feel they have little room to choose differently than the system they are embedded in.
Divide and conquer is used to separate people on the basis of sex, race, beauty standards, the political spectra, sexual persuasion, ages, religion and who knows what more. Much violence is used in the process of this separation. Without the power of the people unified in one voice, it is easy to rule.
When catching rainwater is outlawed because it belongs to the state and police consistently get away with shooting people in cold blood, you have to wonder what makes an authoritarian state.
Unshaking belief in hierarchies.
One of the ways you can see the hierarchical system at play is in the way that people respond to the shooting of police officers.
In a system with a strong class division, police are the ones to stand between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. Or, as George Carlin liked to say; “the owners of this country”.
The police act as the protective layer and when faced with a choice between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ they ubiquitously choose the ‘haves’. As such, they are considered higher on the hierarchical ladder than those they are made to police.
Hierarchies are maintained by both outspoken and unspoken rules. Outspoken rules are those that we all know, stealing is illegal, dealing drugs gets you in prison, etc.
The rule that comes out when police get shot is the unspoken rule that violence is only allowed to flow down the hierarchy.
The system indoctrinates us with these values through media, politics, the results of court cases and every day life. When police officers get shot as happened here, violence is sent from someone in the lower classes up the hierarchy. And the resulting commentary is one of abject terror that someone even tried such a hideous act. But when a police officer shoots a citizen, especially those of minorities such as black people, no such abject terror is shown. It doesn’t require a 15 minute speech by the president of the USA and 24/7 live coverage by almost every major news outlet.
Another example of this violence is only allowed to flow down rule is the recent mass shooting in Orlando. A person that is pledged to IS shoots dead 49 US citizens in a gay bar. Even though the LGBT community is generally not allowed into the fold of mainstream US culture, here the exception is made because an IS fighter that is considered ‘low on the hierarchical ladder’ attacks US citizens which are deemed ‘higher on the hierarchical ladder’. In accordance with this rule, they are supported and there is the abject terror I spoke of.
When the USA bomb and kill innocent civilians across the globe there is no such outcry. Torture in military prisons goes on almost without question and even when these enormous atrocities do come to light the violence still only flows down, in that the soldiers in those situations are blamed, imprisoned or fired. Military personnel stands higher on the hierarchical ladder than Arabian civilians, but not as high as the military command that put these soldiers in the position of power to begin with.
These unspoken rules are taught by society at large, and as permaculturists we need to make up our minds as to where we stand in this debate.
Where do we stand?
With this unspoken rule explained lets see how this might play into the current shootings.
First of all, a shooting such as this can never, ever be called ‘justified’ in public. Justified violence is held, as a tool, only by the state and only it can send that violence flowing down.
Violence flowing up is always deemed either mentally unstable, terroristic or criminal.
To say that the people that shot these police officers might have been acting out of a genuine feeling of self protection or justified outrage is to back them up and therefore send violence up the hierachy yourself. By saying that these humans might have acted out of desperation or conviction, one would humanize them to a point that people might start to question the unspoken rules of the hierarchy.
Why is one human allowed to shoot another, but not the other way around?
When people act independently and send violence up the hierarchy it goes against these unspoken rules, these people are vilified and made up to be mad-men or women. The same is happening now in the media and on social media.
You become a dissident of the system by objecting if the shooters are criminalized.
I would argue that no human is ever mentally unstable without reason, neither do humans join terrorist organizations out of nowhere, and criminals are also formed by their society and surroundings. With this concept of violence flowing down in our minds, it becomes obvious that those at the bottom of the ladder receive the most violence.
This ranges from precarious work and housing situations with the associated poverty to racist policing, rape, incarceration and outright killings.
We have to take into account the human aspect of how someone came to pull a trigger and shoot at police officers or gay people.
The emphasis always lies on the violence done towards the victims, but what of the violence done to the shooters?
How would it be to grow up in a society that has made up classes through which the color of your skin prevents you from participating?
How would it be to grow up Muslim and find out that you are gay?
What background and lack of support could a person have to walk into a church full of black people and start shooting?
To condemn a shooting as this without fully taking in the humanity of the shooters is to have failed in the People Care aspect of the Permaculture ethics.
I have no doubt that in the coming days we will continue to see a spectacle of police victimization and criminalization of the shooters. I can not predict how this will go and what will be said.
But in an effort of permacultural reflection I would like to leave you with two questions to ponder:
- What could have moved these people to shoot at the police?
- Can I see the pattern of violence only being allowed to flow down?
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