New year, new beginnings. Time to start fresh. Throw the old ‘you’ into the trash fire from whence you came and rise like a new, slightly-less-trashy phoenix. That’s what we all seem to want: not just a new beginning, but to be rid of the mistakes of the past. We are no longer that horrid person who doesn’t eat well or doesn’t call their mom. We are better, and it’s best that we just forget that jerk we used to be.

DumpsterFire2

Rise from the ashes!

How do you measure a beginning? Is the beginning of a house when the lot is cleared or when the first nail is driven? When the architect completes the design or when they first dream up the idea? What about World War II? Did it start with the invasion of Poland or China? With the machinations or the election of Hitler? Or was the stage set by the end of the first War, simmering for decades? What about the current tensions with Iran? There are those alive today who have lived through the assassination of Suleimani and the coup of Mosaddegh. Sometimes we long for the simplicity of a beginning because it gives us the convenience of dismissing everything that has come before.

The truth is there are no firm beginnings. Our world is beset by temporal gradients. History is a long series of blurred events bleeding into one another. So it goes with our own lives. However, we try desperately to reject this reality. The question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is a repudiation of evolution in favour of enforcing a concrete origin. The Sorites paradox offers a much better reflection of reality for acknowledging the ambiguity of beginnings.

egg came first

It’s just inconsiderate

If we want to change, we need to take into account, not just the entirety of our lives, but the context of the history around us. We would need to accommodate our previous habits, the caliber of our will, the willingness of our surroundings to accept our change, the conditions that shaped both our selves and our environment, and then the maintenance of that change in the face of the constant flux of both our selves and our environments.

Who do you think has a better shot at overcoming trauma? The person who accepts that it happened, recognizes their triggers, and has developed the necessary skills in the face of those things, or the person who chooses to begin anew? The problem is that whether we believe in starting fresh or not, the reality of the world around us and the psychological history within us will carry on regardless. What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, that would be absurd; it just adds another drop to the soup of our collected experiences.

The alcoholic who relapses after 10 years of sobriety is not starting from scratch, just as the Resolutioner at the gym is not a tabula rasa upon which a lifestyle of fitness can now be engraved. We shouldn’t live our lives denying the gradual evolution of our selves. We shouldn’t accept yearly incremental distinctions as any more valuable than our astrological signs. Make change by growing out of who you’ve always been, not because some doomed-to-fail tradition tells you it’s time.

There once was a champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, who came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear.

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.

And thus began the proud tradition of calling yourself the morally righteous underdog, despite having superior weaponry, killing an unprepared competitor, and brutalizing a fleeing population.

 

The traditional motto of the police department is to “Serve and Protect.” The police are supposed to protect the innocent from the criminal, so it might come as shocking that the Hong Kong protesters are calling for the abolition of the Hong Kong police department. Of course, Westerners might read this and think, “Well, obviously they would want to get rid of the police! They live under the tyrannical regime of COMMUNISTS!” No one would bat an eye at someone wanting to abolish the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Not in a modern context, anyway. The police becomes the arm of government oppression when the system is rigged against the people (or a specific demographic of people). Whoever dictates what is legal and what is criminal uses the intrinsic violence of the police (to either restrain, detain, or attack) as the power to enforce its decision.

fascit police

Don’t look at me, I just enforce what’s right and wrong. Who decides what’s right or wrong? Stop asking questions.

For added nuance, the Black Lives Matter movement made a similar call to abolish the police in the United States. When white supremacy is the systemic norm, black people become viewed as criminally-inclined compared to their white counterparts, so the police become the manifestation of that racist imbalance. When race is criminalized, when poverty is criminalized, when mental health is criminalized, when drug abuse is criminalized, then intrinsic police violence becomes directed at those demographic. Getting rid of the cops, in theory, would force us to confront the problems within these demographics non-violently.

If drug use was no longer illegal, then we would need to help drug addicts instead of locking them up. Treatment would become the default. If we could no longer lock up the poor, we would have to find them stable housing and make sure they had enough to support themselves so they would no longer need to game the system in order to survive. Mental health would somewhat ironically become a health issue, and those whose underlying issues causes them to act out in anti-social behaviours could only be helped instead of punished. We would probably have to shift our cultural view of violence as being the solution to all our problems so that those who commit violence to solve their problems would do less of that, too. We would need to refocus on rehabilitation as a solution, on help as a solution, on compassion as a solution. Cuz if we didn’t, society would collapse into a miasma of inhuman chaos and brutality!!

And that’s the thing about abolishing the police. If the monopoly on “legitimate” violence dissolves, a power vacuum appears. It’s why libertarianism is a terrible idea: if the government is abolished, then those with the most power (corporations) would step up and dominate with their unchecked and unregulated sovereignty. If the police disappear, then those currently with power, and this could be as little power as an abusive husband to as much power as a drug kingpin, will be able to execute that power without regulation.

emot-ab

Quick! Call the BLM movement to remove him from the house!

This isn’t to disregard the absolutely solid arguments that both the Hong Kong protesters and Black Lives Matter movement make. The police, without a doubt, are the arm of systemic oppression within the state apparatus. The goal should always be anarchism. The issue is always the method of achieving that. The problem with libertarianism (or anarcho-capitalism) is that it wishes for anarchy within the cultural context of today. If we cede police power to anarchism within our current societal context, the violence that exists within our world now will continue to manifest itself; simply in new, unchecked ways.

I believe in a more incrementalist approach: similar to social workers whose goals are ultimately to end the apprehension of children from families, the goal of the police should be to work themselves out of a job. We obviously need to work on cultural transition, poverty reduction, race relations, mental health issues, and so on, but so long as power imbalances exist, then having a police force that is even minimally under popular control (in that we in the West have a small say in who writes their paychecks and holds them accountable) is better than allowing the unchecked power of some other violent agency to shape our legal and social framework. What we need is a new world. In order to reach that new world, we should no longer look at the police as a static necessity, but as a dynamic institution geared towards its own demise.