"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 3, 2011

The Fallen Republic

Radley Balko, whose work I respect despite my fundamental inability to reconcile the irreconcilables in political libertarianism, has put up a post which ought to meet with my own third rate, almost anonymous approval.

Ought to.

But, it doesn't. And it's only because he's wrong.

Balko argues, and I summarize, that Osama bin Laden has won. That his goal - to embroil the US in a death grapple with Islam while fundamentally altering who were are - has been met, and all this in spite of his recent battlefield execution at the hands of men trained to sneak, skulk, murder and disappear enemies of the State.

Let's ignore for a moment the national jingo gluttony of self-congratulation which has followed on the mere announcement, sans proof, that Obama Got It Done.

Let's assume that new national narrative is true: two manly patriarchs had themselves a swinging dick off and Father Obama got the better of Badfather Osama by way of the instrumentality of sneaky, skulking, underhanded murder. Oh, and Osama was so unmanned by Obama's instrument that his final moments were spent hiding behind a woman. Mustn't forget that detail.

Anyway.

Balko offers a list of reasons supporting his claim, and at first review they seem a fair catalog of transformative redefinitions of the fabric of American being:

  • We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
  • We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
  • In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
  • We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
  • The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are complicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
  • The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
  • Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
  • The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
  • The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
  • Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
  • American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
  • Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
  • The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.

Seems like a salient, heady and fundamentally true record and indictment of the criminal alteration of the American character.

Seems.

Seems, that is, only in comparison to the wholly fictional national mythology in which some three hundred million persons have had their heads officially swaddled for one seventh of their expected lifespans, under the guise of liberating, standardized and mandatory education.

The myth of the once noble republic. Or, updated most recently by monsieur Balko*, the Fallen Republic.

It's a powerful myth, I'll readily admit. I certainly once accepted its relative veracity, and this despite an inoculation against it, by way of tribal identity and youthful involvement with Native activists, the skeleton remnant of AIM and my own teen aged desire to "be more Indian."**

It's just not true, so to fisk a good man half and half again heartedly, let's have at it:

  • The original Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and countless other Natives were transferred to "black sites" to be detained without trial. Thousands were murdered. They were tortured. Their children were stolen and raised to behave like their mortal enemies. They were coerced into signing away people and land they did not own. Thousands of Natives and black slaves were routinely disappeared to the plantations of the Caribbean, where they were tortured and worked to death. During the Seminole War, thousands of human persons were terrorized in night time raids which culminated in a nearly genocidal pogrom of extermination, all justified by virtue of the protection of good white folks of property and standing.
  • During the heyday of the CIA and United Fruit's cooperative ruling venture in Central, South and Caribbean America, hundreds and thousands of people were handed over to torture regimes and corporate backed petty feudal fiefs. Using US money and operational support, the juntas in Chile, Paraguay and Argentina took opponents of US, regional and local hegemony and made them disappear. They were handed over, in some cases with US assistance, for the purpose of being murdered. 
  • Black men are and have been routinely prosecuted and incarcerated on the flimsiest of evidence, especially in the conduct of the limitless and increasingly over budgeted Drug War. Long after they ought to have been exonerated by exculpatory evidence, the recanting of coerced witness statements, admissions of police brutality and revelations of prosecutorial misconduct - or even after they are executed and can make no more stink about their wrongful imprisonments and judicial murders - they are routinely, literally as a matter of routine, denied the opportunity to clear their names and regain their freedom.
  • Agents and officials of the US government, over its wretched two hundred some odd years of unrelenting and expansive continuity, have abducted tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of slaves, wobblies, unionizers, civil rights activists, Natives, suffragettes, resisters, conscientious objectors and dissidents who were innocent of the charges leveled against them - in the name of security, civilization and better living through compliance.
  • The US government has launched substance criminalization campaigns linking sloth, national betrayal and unsanctioned violence to invasive Mexicans, Blacks and Indians for more than a century. Paiute and the Ghost Dance. Marijuana and the nigger rape of white ladies. Cocaine and the latino plague. Heroin and the yellow peril. Pills and the terrible and unchristian things that sodomites do to each other. Alcohol and the defense of female virtue.
  • The government illegally spied upon its own subjects throughout both "world wars," during the red scare, when fighting unions fought to a standstill and bought a breather for the working class, when women got uppity, when blacks discovered their numbers and strength and when Natives again dared reclaim their heritage, their land, their defiance and the title to Alcatraz.
  • Native leaders and Indian children, escaped or rebel slaves, wobbly and union agitators, foreigners suspected of disloyalty, anarchists, communists and migrant workers have been hunted and capture, held as enemies of the State, subjected to torture and other indignities, and detained and held on the orders of the Executive for the breadth and span of American history.
  • American presidents have ordered the fiat death sentences - off the battlefield and without trial - of Indians and blacks for as long as there have been American presidents.
  • Congress has repeatedly approved, and Presidents have repeatedly signed, various iterations of the Sedition, Alien and Treason Acts, going all the way back to the first term of the second American president.
  • Traveling in America long meant enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual, for anyone without the proper skin color or male chaperon, and which did little if anything to actually make traveling safer. But, that was never the point anyway. The point has always been to intimidate. 
  • The various local, state and federal government enforcement arms have been seizing property, communications and possessions without procedure or warrant for as long as there has been an American government. It's just now that they're doing it to affluent white dudes who have reporter friends.
  • The federal government did not invent targeted grants to police agencies with the onset of the War on Forever. Hello? Drug war. COINTELPRO cooperation money. Red busting. Labor busting. DNA databases. Et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum.

And in summation:

Welcome to the Indian Wars, to Jim Crow, to union busting and to red baiting, you comfortable, educated white dudes. There was a never, ever a noble Republic. The Republic has not fallen. It's the same as it ever was. It's just that now - and we're very sorry to have to inform you of it this way - you occasionally have to deal with everyone else's sloppy police state seconds.





* - but also the mainstay of Birchers, Birthers, Buchananites, Christian nationalists, "classic liberals," most every nationally prominent libertarian, Antiwar.com, redemptionist liberals such as Feingold, Franken and Kucinich, Michael Moore and now the Greenies and the restoration chartists with their fiat sovereign money theories.

** - having not had it revealed to me that my biological father was an Indian until I was half way into puberty, I clumsily and self-consciously undertook the painfully inept attempt to become something I was not, culturally, by way of a feverish adoption of all that I did not know, until that moment, I was or could be. It was a book I bought for my wife's birthday gift that finally allowed me to see myself as "Neither Dog Nor Wolf."  A book. Talk about a characteristically civilized, routinized, acceptable European path to it, eh?

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I just finished reading "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" last night.

Same as it ever was here in America.

Lisa Simeone said...

I liked Balko's piece when I read it yesterday, but you make a good point. Or two, or three, or four, or . . . .

Jack Crow said...

Anon,

I'm asking my teenager to read "Bury My Heart..." alongside a narrative history of Tecumseh, this summer.

Lisa,

That's the why for of the "half and half again heartedly." I think it's easy to lose sight of things you aren't trained to see. Below, Will mentioned Paul Craig Roberts. He's a good example, as well. I enjoy what he writes, and am moved by his honest outrage. But, the adherents of the "lost Republic" can only go so far, for me at least: because their case rests on a blindness to the groundwork laid by the Indian wars, slavery, the second classing of women and colonial or imperial expansionism.

BDR said...

Another take on the "did he win" debate, this time by one of our young bleggal overlords. (It's always astonishing how ingrained our training to judge everything by a win/lose schematic.)

I hope your burst of creativity means you're feeling better.

Lisa Simeone said...

It's not like I didn't already know these things, and haven't been enraged by them all my life, but seeing them all laid out here, one after another, makes a bigger impression.

So then I have to ask myself, will this realization -- for those who are able to absorb it -- wake more people up, or drive them deeper into slumber?

Jack Crow said...

Lisa,

The "you" wasn't addressed to you personally. A fault with how I write, unfortunately. I hear the plural "you" in my head and just assume people will read it that way. I'm working on excising it entirely, because I've landed myself in bad and permanent misunderstandings before.

Jack Crow said...

Mr Red,

You have sullied my house with Words of the Ezra.

Heh.

But in fact, thank you.

Meister Ezra's royal we will carry me along on the power of my own scoffery, through the rest of the day.

*

Feeling a bit better, thank you.

The creativity (and you are being characteristically generous with that word) owes more to a systemic purging of spleeny misanthropy.

Lisa Simeone said...

Ha, ha, no problem! I didn't take it as referring to me personally. I'm just thinking out loud here. Wondering how many of the sheeple are going to wake up to what's going on in this country, even if they never woke up about it before. Alas, signs so far aren't good.

scribblefoom said...

Where did Balko claim a perfect unsullied Republic as his starting point?

senecal said...

If you read Balko's article as about, and as an example of, change of consciousness, rather than a change of fact, it makes more sense. The US is now seen, by many of its own people, as well as the specific others who OBL had in mind, as an illegal state. That's a real change.

Jack Crow said...

Mr. Balko didn't claim a perfect Republic. I stated that Mr. Balko's litany only really seems correct when compared to the national myth of the "noble republic."

And that he's arguing from an update on the noble republic, ie the "fallen" one.

It's the same criticism I've offered - in my comfortable obscurity - of Greenwald, Gore Vidal and Kucinich. That they argue as if the US government is doing anything substantively different from two hundred years of business as usual.

Jack Crow said...

Sen,

I can also read Deuteronomy as a personal guide to wealth and fulfillment, and not the invented narrative of a bloodthirsty priesthood. That's a "change of consciousness," too - for all that it has no value to me.

All the same, Mr. Balko isn't arguing for a change of perspective. He's arguing that the GWoT changed America. It is the argument of someone who's perspective probably has changed, but that doesn't mean his model works outside of its narrow confines. "America" is different for those comfortable and affluent people who never had to wake up black, or Indian or any other kind or type of person long officially to the wrong side of institutional acceptance. Which has fuck all to do with my point.

The Indian Wars never end. And I'm just not inclined to applaud some well to do chap on account of him noticing that they've spilled over into his neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

If your premise is correct, then what is progress?

Jack Crow said...

Anonymous,

That's a question without context. I'll try to respond in good faith, but truthfully I don't know from whence and where you come, in asking it:

I don't believe in progress. "Progress" is an overlay, a filter, a self-contained interface which is subject to its own alterations without reference to changing circumstances.

Events change. People feel that their lives improve, or worsen - doing so within the limits of learned overlays.

But - I see no evidence that the universe improves itself simply because time appears to follow a forward trajectory.

"Progress" and "improvement" are value and judgment laden terms. And I just don't accept that a universal standard exists, can be identified and can be interpreted without error as events alter perceptions, such that people can compare their personal memories and their exosomatic ones and say, "History has progressed, improved."

Which is not a rejection of the experience of joy or release or liberation, or the cooperative undertaking of efforts to reduce suffering.

I just don't think that there's such a pixie as "progress."

Hope that helps. It probably doesn't, but I'm using to being wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jack Crow.

I think you inferred my question accurately: How does one measure "improvement" in the view you express? And you answer that by essentially saying improvement is a construct and does not exist separate from one's personal experience. Which might be correct. I don't know. It certainly is correct that one's mind creates one's sense of reality. But then what of culture? What of memes? What of big and small differences in various group think. What of collective consciousness (ok, that one can be dismissed)?

I dunno -- nihilism is a possible end result. But the idea itself -- that improvement does not really exist or that there is no "arc of a moral universe" leads to the question of "why try"? Try just to have good, happy feelings? It is a conundrum -- applying these internal ideas to the the world of action or setting up societies.

I suppose you would say that the "cooperative experience of reducing suffering" is why try. And this makes sense as long as everyone has the same ideas of suffering and how to reduce it. But, then we get right back to perception.

Sense is not being made here. Meaning, me. Not you. Anywaze, thanks for an interesting post.

Jack Crow said...

Anonymous,

That was a brilliant reply. Plenty of sense made, and with some to spare.

I'm off to take teenagers sneaker shopping in preparation for a meet, so a brief reply for now, if you don't mind too terribly:

If I were being rigorous, I would really being arguing that I reject "metaphysical progress" of the kind which informs certain now common views of history. Progress, as embedded within time itself.

For me, alas, it's just a personal rejection which ends at my fingertips. I see no evidence for it, and so act accordingly. If someone else does believe in progress - or a Christian eschatology sharing the same moral substructure, for that matter - it has no necessary bearing on me, and I'm sure we could work out dozens of ways to cooperate without much hassle.

I carry around any number of unprovable abstractions, fictions and assertions in my own head, and although I am a vain little goblin of a man, it stands to reason that I've little ground to get my haughtiness all oiled up on account of other people having unproven beliefs by which they navigate between the one incomprehensible darkness from which we all emerge, and the one in which we must all end.

Justin said...

I think what Jack is pointing out is that the exercise of state power does not change. Progress is not the act of making the state less ruthless.

There are always two kinds of people from the power structure's perspective. The right kind of people who can be targeted and dealt with by whatever means necessary to remove them as a threat to elite interest. And there are also the wrong kind of people who have to be treated with some respect and are afforded some niceties.

Progress is the act of moving some people from the first list to the second list.

Right now, we are witnessing the moving of urban, educated white people from the second list to the first for the first time, that is what is meant by a loss of the Republic.

Justin said...

I should add two examples.

Indians never made it off the list of targets, they were eliminated. They sort of made it years later, and now some of us lament what was done to them. But they were a problem that was successfully dealt with from the state's perspective. Its why we name our targets and military weaponry after them like war trophies.

Blacks sort of made it off the list, Civil Rights got some cultural-social concessions, but the war on drugs continued their economic and political disenfranchisement. Civil Rights was both a great victory and a stalemate.

Richard said...

"It's the same criticism I've offered - in my comfortable obscurity - of Greenwald, Gore Vidal and Kucinich. That they argue as if the US government is doing anything substantively different from two hundred years of business as usual."

Yes, it is rather odd, isn't it? It is also a recurrent, subtextual theme over at firedoglake as well. I suspect that Hamsher uses it for purposes of political organization, as she must know better.

Jim H. said...

Jack, I think your post is spot on in its critique of Balko's point. The myth of American innocence is so pervasive as to be propaganda.

Like the post BDR points you to, I believe OBL's real strategy was the bankruptcy thing. I posted it, too. I edited out from that post a further Homeric analogy: OBL as Paris who stole and raped the beautiful myth of U.S. innocence. But the post become Iliadically overlong.

My point was that the shift undertaken primarily and practically single-mindedly by the previous admin was from a Clintonian economy of productivity to a Bushian economy of destructivity; an analogy I hope to develop.

Btw: I've never told you this, but I love your Poe's and Crow's law quotes.

rob payne said...

I have thought for some time that one of the best ways to understand just what the government is and how they relate to the population in general is to study the history of the relationship of the federal government to the Native Americans.
You can read speeches written in the nineteenth century by American white leaders and change the names and places and it could be a story written yesterday. The real enemy is the government and always has been.

Quin said...

Great post, as usual, Jack.

Didn't you write a nice post on the issue of "progress" a while back? Or am I confusing you with someone else?

senecal said...

"progress"

Even Marx spoke of of the tehcnical development of capitalism as progress, necessary for the development of society and centralization of the state in a way that produced distinct classes in which one could become aware of its exploitation. I think he was serious and not ironic in this.

However, progress is used by almost everyone else as something uniquely possible, and even inevitable, in liberal democracies, and in that sense it's a hoax and a downright lie.

Cüneyt said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13274176

I love how this new, open White House changes its story quickly to keep us up to date with the latest version of events!

Jack Crow said...

Them's a lot of comments. And fuck me, I've picked up traffic from Balloon Juice.

Justin,

Those replies make we re-up my desire to see you kickstart Americana.

Especially when you write, "Progress is the act of moving some people from the first list to the second list."

That's it. Exactly it. Which doesn't mean that being moved from outsider to insider is all bad. The expansion of material prospects and the decommissioning of official harassment are nothing to sniff at.

Richard,

That's an excellent read of FDL. Or Lawyers Guns and Money. Kos. Atrios. TPM. Klein. Yglesias.

And while I'm a bit iffy on the idea of revolution right now, it's useful to point out that liberal reformism incorporates the evils of the capitalist state in a manner akin to a mythological quest to harness a dragon in order to turn a mill stone (hence, my objection to the rising school of neo-chartism).

Jim,

Thank you. I only wish "Crow's Law" was better worded. But I'm constitutionally phlegmatic, and will never get around to fixing it. You should see "chapter six" of the novel I'll never publish...

I wonder if OBL had a grand strategy. I try to imagine him war rooming a contingency plan, and the image doesn't form. I think - judging from the apparatus he funded, created and set loose on the world - that he was far more flexible than his state opponents. I think, again reading the world as it appears to be, he knew the US leadership well enough to operate upon their desire for a meaningfully profitable war. We yankee dissidents have been saying it to jeers for years: the federal state requires Emergency. Bin Laden seems to have figured out how to lure them into making it permanent. And with remarkable economy.

Plan or not, the consequence is available for review. Three trillion's a figure incommensurate with the experiences of perhaps 99.99% of the world's people.

Rob,

The execrable Robert Kaplan (I write with some shame, since I still enjoy reading "Warrior Politics") used his magnum dopus, "Imperal Grunts" to drive this point home again and again and again. The US military is configured to fight what can be broadly understood as "Indian Wars" in the same way that the Roman imperial military was constitutionally suited to expansionist conquest, bearing always the imprint (especially after Marius) of the Punic and Social Wars.

Quin,

Thank you. It's a bit of synchronicity, but I plan on reviving that post on progress later today or tomorrow, in large part thanks to anonymous' questions.

Sen,

My dispute is with the idea of improvement, as an embedded function of time itself.

Cuneyt,

Sadly, the latest story is already incorporated fact. I don't know if it's the "fault" of modern media, but I'd like to think so.

zencomix said...

Great post, and the sad part is that your list barely scratches the surface. Someone recently posted a long list of US overseas interventions, covert and overt, for the last 70 years, and I wish I had copied the link.

I got into a discussion with a nephew, one of the fantasyland first person shooter video game Christians, who was beating his chest like a cartoon gorilla jumping around on Osama's grave. Long story, short pier, he thinks the US is justified in going to war in Afghanistan because Osama killed 3000 INNOCENT civilians!!! When I ask him if Cambodians are justified in coming to the US and bombing the shit out of the country because Nixon and Kissinger bombed 600,000 INNOCENT civilians!!!!, he of course says "no".

Justin said...

Jack,
How about Americans, huh? Like trained seals, so many of us have latched on to the most irrelevant aspect of the Bin Laden story; asking the almost completely irrelevant questions of; was that really his body? and Did he really die or has he been on ice?

What does it matter? Are people really going to be surprised the government lies to us regularly?

IMO, the important things to notice here are how the government wants us to receive this news, how they are coaching us toward a reaction they want. This is their message: Torture works, if you are against torture you are against getting Bin Laden. Violence/aggressive wars work, we got Bin Laden. It is now patriotic to grave dance on vanquished enemies, even when killing them does not signal the end to a war.

I think those are significant.

Notice also that so many of the ebullient are young people. This generation of people who were in middle school on 9/11, who are coming of age now, are going to be similar to the generation who came of age during WWII, but were not old enough to fight in it. They are completely normalized to perpetual wars in faraway lands, bloody outcomes, debating torture openly as a matter of efficacy rather than morality. They are the heirs to the backroom boys of the 50s, 60s and 70s, who were bloody minded butchers.

A significant difference now is that communism was an egalitarian ideology, so as bad as the culture of fear and paranoia was during the cold war, it was at least tied to an idea. Terrorism is very specifically tied to a religion and ethnic profile. Its literally not allowed to refer to anyone who is not an Arab or Muslim as a terrorist in the media, even when the actions are the same.

Still, I don't have the desire to kick start Americana again. Happier to just let it go in comments or emails. If I started writing regularly again, it would have to be after I've had more distance, and limited to a much smaller segment of my time. After writing all of this, I don't know what the point is.

davidly said...

And while I'm a bit iffy on the idea of revolution right now, it's useful to point out that liberal reformism incorporates the evils of the capitalist state in a manner akin to a mythological quest to harness a dragon in order to turn a mill stone.

I wonder who'll direct.

Justin said...

To finish my thought, the final lie of the OBL grave dancing party is OBL's stature as an arch villain.

More on that
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/04/osama-bin-laden-hideout-worth

How marginalized was this guy? Al Qaeda relevant to the wave of uprisings? We've admitted they aren't relevant in Iraq or Afghanistan. The hologram of our media system has created an image of OBL and Al Qaeda that is completely unwarranted.

It did the same thing with communism, overstating and imagining the threat and coordination of communist movements.

Before that, it did the same with the Indians, imagining great conspiracies, numbers and alliances where there were none, or to a far lesser degree than was warranted.

I think all of that is far more interesting, worth addressing, and deceitful than if it was one of Saddam's body doubles sinking to the bottom of the sea or OBL, or if it had freezer burn as it sank into the briny depths.

Jim H. said...

Jack,

Can't say I agree with your not recognizing the notion of progress. Can't say I know any better though; progress is...in the eye of the beholder,...however you define (or refuse to) it,...merely the passage of time,...everything,...nothing at all.

I'd be interested in hearing about your novel. Finished? Workshopped?

I'm impressed at the way you handle all commenting comers.

Best,
Jim H.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Justin is making a socio-political, historical theory argument (and you are as well in your post) but that in the comments you are making almost a metaphysical argument.

I wonder if your rejection of progress embedded in time denies the existence of cause and effect. To the extent we do not label a desired outcome as good/bad or desirable/undesireable, then do you agree that that actions today have an effect on circumstances tomorrow?

If yes, then is there not the possibility that there is an outcome that might be "embedded" in individuals as desireable (sort of similar to the evolutionary theories of cognition) (w/h qualification of good/bad)?

Of course, it could just be that similar to the discordance between the laws of quantum physics and newtonian physics, there might be some similar discordance between the "laws" of societies and the laws of the individual. Unless there really is a unifying theory of everything. And maybe there is some "system" that does not subjugate the individual to the "institution" (w/h capitalism, board of education, communism, corporatism, whatever -- and yes, even anarchy).

W. Kasper said...

Thanks for posting these 'reminders'. Maybe the market spectacle invites people to find something 'new' in everything - even political atrocity.

It may not be so much a change in the way the ruling class behaves, as much as a change in perception among those previously unaware/uninterested ie. the white educated middle class. For many other people, its always been a recessionary police state. We get people in the UK who talk as though 'capitalism' was invented sometime around 1980. Maybe its just that before then they were cushioned from its more vicious aspects.

Justin said...

I think my list idea is a simplification. Everyone has a measure of vulnerability. Progress is making the mean of vulnerability decrease.

Rich people have almost complete invulnerability, as witnessed by the lack of jail or investigations of the rich after the financial meltdown in 2008.

The rest of us have a different degree of vulnerability, and can be preyed upon by the state or corporate power with very little recourse. The best bet for comfort is to make sure you go unnoticed by either as a threat.

Further down are people who are very vulnerable. This currently describes minorities, especially Latino immigrants and black people.

Even further down are people who are so vulnerable as to be unpeople, they are the foreigners we give little thought to overseas dying in our various wars.

Being an educated white man does not grant the same level of invulnerability it once did.

The exercise of the state's power on the vulnerable remains fairly consistent, and consistently ruthless. What changes is who is an acceptable target.

As I said, progress is found in trying to shield as many vulnerable people from the raw exercise of state/corporate power as possible. But the exercise of that raw power remains remarkably consistent. I think that is how you reconcile Jack's history with the white liberal lament of losing the Republic, and the white working class's laments that they've already lost the country and want it back. These are people finding themselves becoming more vulnerable, in that sense they are right. In the sense that the government has changed in any significant capacity or capability or willingness to tolerate double standards as the enforcement arm of elite interests, they are wrong.

The higher the mean of vulnerability of a population, the closer to an total 'police' state a country becomes, but every state is a police state to someone to some degree.

Jack Crow said...

I'm doing family stuff right now, and that always comes first - but a brief reply to echo what Justin has recently written.

I do not believe the form of power has varied much over time, because I do not believe that the human person has changed.

Too often we confuse an increase in in access to, or retention and use of,technique and data - and the capacity to store it - with progress in human conduct.

More knowledge has not improved our capacity for compassionate existence, especially not collectively.

We have greater knowledge of our worlds. We are more dexterous in applying it. We are better at verifying it. We find it easier to abandon it when it no longer models our reality as well as another version.

But that has not made us any nicer.

That's why power's form remains stable over time. Because human conduct has not substantially altered over the course of recorded history. In fact, since power remains stable while populations change, all that extra data and technique tends to be captured by it.

Power is remarkably consistent. I know this violates Marxist and leftist canon, but I see no evidence which significantly challenges my theory.

The various cultural and political revolutions have altered how the power interfaces with its captive populations, how its members communicate, and how they educate those they would rule.

But those revolutions have never really changed the form of power because power's first function is always to replicate itself.

The President or a CEO may not call themselves kings, and they may not serve for life out of faith in divine right, but they rule over a form of power that has varied little since Hammurabi laid down his laws.

Justin said...

Right, which is where concepts like humane war come into play. All a humanitarian warrior is saying is that they hope as many innocent people are made invulnerable to the states power as possible when it attacks them. Its illogical, it makes no sense, because the premise of the state attacking them is that those people are vulnerable to state power. State power is constant, it is the power to kill, torture, maim or displace. It is never less able to kill any particular person, only less likely to do so based on that person's circumstances. There is no lesser form of this power, one is just made slightly invulnerable to it, meaning less likely to get hit by it. As a white male citizen, I am slightly invulnerable in the sense that some events could occur where the state would infringe upon my freedom up to putting me to death, but given my position and place within the power structure relative to a black man my same age, those events are all less likely for me than him. Similarly, a rich white man is less likely than me to suffer from state power, and a mega wealthy man almost a matter of lottery winning odds to suffer from state power no matter who you compare him to.

Reforming state power does not change the state's power to kill or what that looks like from the business end of its exercise, all it does is seek to make individuals less likely to come under its wrath. We misinterpret this to mean that reform makes the state's wrath milder, or gentler, but the extent of that power to kill remains constant.

W. Kasper said...

On a not unrelated note:

http://www.feralscholar.org/blog/index.php/2011/04/30/why-kings/