Archives for posts with tag: Violence

Riots and looting get a bad rap. The additional violence on top of a protest is seen as opportunistic chaos for amoral folks who are taking advantage of tumultuous times, or, for the more cynical, as the underlying and unstated value system of the entire protest movement despite their presented goals of social change and justice. In either case, rioting and looting is seen as delegitimizing protest movements; peaceful demonstration and presumably drum circles are the only valid forms a protest can take. Despite the long history of violence (even random, directionless violence) being associated with well-celebrated social change, today such ghastly displays are tut-tutted by the pearl-clutching among us.

pearl clutching

Oh goodness! Another police killing / school shooting / poisoned water supply / pointless war? I sure hope nobody has any strong emotional reactions to this!

Protesters are told to follow the example of Martin Luther King Jr., who once said:

“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

Or Gandhi, who said:

“I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honor by nonviolently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor.”

The use of violence is ghastly, and has problems of its own, but to deny its history is to deny the history of protest.

Why might that be? Well, effective protest serves as a disruption. ‘Normal’, as in the status quo, is deemed as harmful by the protesters, so a disruption of that normal is required to challenge it. Blockades, boycotts, and marches all serve to disrupt the economy, trade, and traffic respectively. Peaceful, non-invasive protests like holding signs on the side of the road while shouting slogans disrupts the normal routine of our day; we have to see and hear them when we otherwise would pass an uneventful commute.

pepsi protest

Let’s disrupt society’s ability to drink Pepsi! Oh, God dammit Kendall Jenner, you ruined it!

While certainly a reasonable link between the problem with normal and its subsequent disruption brings greater clarity to the protest in general, it is not out of the question for a little randomness to be thrown in for the same reason that blood feuds are a thing. A blood feud is a form of collectivist justice: if one member of a family commits an infraction, everyone in that family is guilty because they exist as a collective rather than as distinct individuals. Society has become more individualistic since the times when blood feuds were more prevalent, but the idea has not gone away. Consider this: George Floyd was not killed because he was George Floyd, and Derek Chauvin didn’t really kill him as Derek Chauvin. George Floyd was killed because he was a black man, and Derek Chauvin killed him because he was an arbiter of normal. This then is not an individualistic murder, but a collectivist crime. A crime against all of black people by the enforcers of normalcy. The response then, makes sense as the collective of black people and those who stand in solidarity with them lash out at all of normalcy in response. Normal kills black folks, so normal is to blame. Let’s smash up normal: hence, riots and looting. And obviously it doesn’t help that the police continue to brutalize protesters which then exacerbates the blood feud further.

It’s worth pointing out that the size of disruption seems to have a golden mean of effectiveness. A small disruption doesn’t really affect much change (for example, changing your social media profile), but blowing up an Ariana Grande concert is clearly too far. Blood feuds tend to demand blood for blood, but I believe we’ve moved far enough beyond that ideology that we’re no longer moved by this bloody level of disruption. Are riots and looting too far? Well, considering that this is a response to many on-going deaths at the hands of police, we then have to ask, how much property damage is equivalent to the life of a human being? Trump put the number at around $450 billion when refusing to provide any kind of consequences for the Saudi dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, and, while I haven’t seen any numbers, somehow I think the looters have a long way to go before they reach that ceiling. Trump, of course, is using harsher language to describe even the peaceful protesters than he used for MBS after the Khashoggi dismemberment, but I suppose that’s because he’s not personally profiting from the BLM movement. Or maybe he just needs vapid flattery, who knows?

orb

Could have been something to do with this orb. Remember the orb? I don’t think that mystery ever got solved…

The point is, the riots and looting are not separate from the peaceful protests, but are an extension of the same disruptive motivation that propels all protest. When these things happen, ideally we would reflect on normal. How does normal impact or harass others, or maybe how does normal benefit us, or even just leave us alone? Those who are impacted or harassed are quite familiar with the problems of normal; it’s those who are not who typically need to reflect. Once the justifications are assessed, then we can reflect on whether the level of disruption is appropriate to the level of impact.

Reshaping normal is thus the goal, and normal is not individual. Individual transgressions do not result in riots because riots are by definition collective, which requires collective response, and not the reprimand of “a few bad apples.” Ibram X. Kendi suggests focusing on policy changes, and the individuals will follow. What are some policy changes that might reshape normal into something less destructive towards people of colour? Well, they’ve already made some suggestions; we can start there.

Sometimes I like to peruse opinions that don’t align with my own. For example, I recently searched on Breitbart to see how ardent Trump supporters viewed his glaring and impeachable conflicts of interest. The comments mostly centered on the Clinton Foundation, and how if Hilary did it then it must be okay(?). I guess they forgot that they were chanting to lock her up just a few months ago. It was adorable. However, there is the odd occasion where oppositional opinions can make solid points. It was one such video from a Men’s Rights Activist on Youtube that brought together a lot of issues I have been mulling over into one cohesive package that really stuck out to me. It was the idea of the disposable male.

Men make up 95% of all victims of police shootings. For a point of reference, according to the US Department of Justice, 86% of all sexual assault victims are women. Black Lives Matter should in theory partner with MRAs to address police shootings, but somehow I don’t think they will. MRAs would have to admit that fighting for social equity makes them quite literally “Social Justice Warriors,” and BLM would have to admit that victimhood lies beyond their narrowly-defined spectrum. In any case, as far as gendered crime is concerned, this would seem to be a significant issue. However, in reality, it’s not a significant issue and mostly gets ignored. Men dying is essentially inconsequential.

Think of how we describe war. There are many tragedies in war, and when our side loses someone, it is described as the death of a soldier, or a loss of our troops. When tragedy befalls others, its victims are women and children. Despite their majority presence in war (men make up 98% of military deaths in the US), men seemingly do not exist in conflict. At best, soldiers are defined as boys or our sons, hoping to infantilize them to the point where sympathy becomes possible. Emily Cousens in my first hyperlink there describes the impact of intersectionality within masculinity, as men of colour become more hidden in the language of war casualties. We will at least hear about terrorist attacks in Brussels or Paris, whereas the ones in Arab countries are harder to find… unless of course an inordinate number of women and children are killed.

The expectation for men to be soldiers, with all that implies, carries over back home. Canadian men make up 72% of homicide victims and 87% of homicide accused. Men make up the majority of non-sexual victims of violent crime, and though my source doesn’t specify, I can reasonably assume the perpetrators are mostly male as well. These “bad” soldiers must be dealt with, and so men make up 85% of those suffering under the criminal justice system. Given that they were bred to be disposable in the first place, it is downright encouraged to discard them when they prove to be defective. Or rather, the wrong kind of effective since we’re essentially teaching boys to become this type of man in the first place.

There is more than just the obvious examples of crime and war statistics. In the US, men make up 92% of fatal workplace injuries while in Canada it’s 95%. Even in the workplace, it is just assumed that men ought to die for their employer. Men take up 73.6% of beds in homeless shelters in Canada, the very personification of being discarded. Even absurdities like having to be the one in a relationship to kill the spider or to investigate the weird noise at night shows that when faced with a threatening situation, the man is the one who has got to face it and bear any and all consequences from that encounter. Women typically seek a powerful partner to ensure as best as possible that when he is inevitably forced into a disposable situation, he comes back, but he is still expected to enter that situation.

How does one construct a disposable man? The best way to do so would be to deaden his connection to other people; the less attachment he has to others, the more he is willing to give up. bell hooks goes so far to describe the socializing of men as criminally neglectful, as the world rejects the boy’s emotional advances until he learns to avoid expressing them at all. Platonic human touch, one of the most powerful ways of expressing human connection, is forbidden to men which causes intense psychological damage. Since connecting to others is gradually beaten out of them, male friendships tend to decline as they age, completing their isolation.

Men must put on a mask of invincibility because that is the only way they can be respected as men. They must be seen to be able to survive their disposability. This means avoiding treatment for physical and mental well-being, avoiding help of any kind, even when it is clearly needed. It means acting reckless to prove they can endure any danger. However, feeling disposable and isolated means that a chip in the facade can throw men into a chasm of vulnerability. Vulnerable men join the discarded, and men in this pit make up the majority of drug addicts and suicides. Why seek help when you are inherently worthless? Why be vulnerable when depression is a weakness of character? Instead we must be pretend immortality.

The video that ultimately sparked this article advocated abolishing feminism in order to redress these issues, but fortunately this is where we part ways. Men’s rights have been fought for long before third-wave feminism was even around to be abolished: unions to improve working conditions, prison reform to rehumanize our discarded, or the anti-war effort to stop sending men to their pointless deaths. All of these could be considered examples of a Men’s Rights movement because they all promote the well-being of men against a system that treats them as worthless cogs and cannon fodder.

I think we need to look at abolishing feminism too. Not as a serious solution since identifying problems in masculinity does not negate any of the problems in femininity, but why people would even suggest that in the first place. I think part of it comes from feminism’s cry for equality, even though that is clearly a bad idea. Do women want to give up their friendships and spend more time in jail? Somehow I doubt it. It shows the picking and choosing of privileges, leading some to believe that women are gaining at a cost to men. This is why I argue that feminism isn’t about equality but about abolishing gender roles. Unfortunately, not everyone is me, so a lot of men who feel isolated and disposable are insulted by women who refuse to acknowledge and occasionally even deny that damaging and dangerous issues could even exist for men. They then become alienated from progressive gender movements, and become radicalized into your typical MRA misogynist.

We must love boys even as they grow into men, and allow them to love us in return. We must allow the mask behind which men hide to come off. We must abandon the oppressor and oppressed binary that clouds how we perceive men’s problems. We must allow our men to be who they are, whoever they choose to be.

Post-Script: I have seen several criticisms that since men are the ones predominantly perpetrating violence against other men, then the conversation must be discarded since only homogeneous collectives can be responsible for oppression, and the social whole is blameless: whites oppress black, men oppress women, and so on. This  mentality would interpret my blog as suggesting that if two men get into a fight, only the one who loses was disposable. The entire premise of being disposable is what started the fight in the first place, and victory is irrelevant. Soldiers don’t stop being soldiers if they manage to come back from the war. That’s not how it works. Social forces drive disposability, and we are all a part of that machine.

Consider the high rate of black-on-black crime that right-wing propagandists like to spout off on. They’re really the only ones talking about it, and they use it as evidence for the inherently violent nature of black people, since, you know, racism. However, the Disposable Male theory predicts this, since intersecting race with masculinity would create hyper-disposability in this population, which, when internalized, would lead to increased violent behaviour.

I figured that since this blog was going to be closer to a summary of some of the points from Resist Not Evil by Clarence Darrow rather than new ideas formed from within my own brain, I might as well plagiarize Megadeth for my title. Working title: the blog where I use meaningless but flowery prose to distract from the fact that this is a wholly unoriginal post.

We typically associate the successful use of the criminal justice system with the implementation of punitive measures used to disincentivize miscreants from following the glamourous and heavily lucrative criminal vocation so many of us are dying to pursue. It’s why many people shrug off prison rape; it is simply considered another variable to ponder over when your friend invites you to toke up in his van. If you didn’t want to be raped, maybe you shouldn’t have inhaled. You were pretty much asking for it.

Perhaps the reason that so many people end up in jail is because this disincentive remains only an abstraction in their minds. Why not have prisoners raped in glass boxes in the middle of the downtown, for all to see? If we want to use punishment as a means for sober second reflection, obscuring it in any fashion is really detrimental to that practice! Perhaps rape isn’t enough of a deterrent, and we ought to waterboard petty drug dealers, or flay them alive, or boil their testicles in hot oil. Quite frankly, if we wish to use punishment as a deterrent, the death penalty ought to be reinstated, brought back in a triumphant renaissance of the medieval period, so we can properly draw and quarter criminals the way that God intended.

We clearly don’t resort to such barbarity any longer. We are far more dignified, and prefer to hide our savagery in humble abashment. We lock people in tiny little boxes, far from the prying eyes of the public who may be quite reasonably repulsed by what they see, because we still prefer to feel self-righteous in our abstractions rather than agape in horror at our reality. The reality is that punitive “justice” has never deterred anyone, even less so the abstractions. People didn’t crowd around the gallows because they were eager students awaiting a lesson from their strict but beneficent schoolmaster. If anything, it was because they reveled in the show and cried out for more. Punitive measures, enforced by a brutal state, doesn’t deter crime; it degrades the value of human life, numbs us to shame, and ultimately dehumanizes us.

Darrow references the medical profession as a somber contrast to the legal one, “If our physicians were no more intelligent than our lawyers, when called to visit a miasmic patient, instead of draining the swamp they would chloroform the patient and expect thus to frighten all others from taking the disease.” When we consider how many illnesses and mental conditions were ignorantly attributed to demons and wild spirits back when we believed that public hangings were good for social order, and then compare how we perceive criminals today as being possessed by equally malignant souls, Darrow’s metaphor is quite apt. This is especially illuminating in regard to the contemporary research that shows striking resemblance between violence and a contagious outbreak. Vilifying the criminal element ignores the social, economic, and environmental conditions that lead to its spread, and is just as dangerously obtuse as a doctor not washing their hands after finishing up in the washroom.

The thing is, to continue my theft from Darrow’s work, “The parent who would teach his child to be kind to animals, not to ruthlessly kill and maim, would not teach this gentleness with a club.” At what point did we decide that abuse was the best option toward rehabilitation? By clinging to this obsolescent relic, we maintain an irredeemable and futile paradigm that fails in every task it sets out to achieve, and succeeds only in destroying the foundations of our moral legitimacy.