Violence and the State: A Prelude

September 8, 2017
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Lambert here: We might add the deindustrialization of the heartland to the bill of particulars on elite violence adduced by Gaius, given the tens of thousands of deaths from despair among “the many” as identified by Case-Deaton. Since neither party establishment has addressed this issue, one can only assume they support the lethal outcomes, which goes for every other lethal outcome that Gaius adduces. If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. Jackpot!

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny.

Every national instance of Rule by the Rich is accompanied by a great deal of violence, inflicted on the many by the few. —Yours truly (paraphrased)

As you ponder the criticism of the Antifa (“anti-fascist”) movement for engaging in violent tactics in Berkeley, consider the following.

This is violence.

“The scene in Berkeley on Sunday” (source). Photo: Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

This is violence.

To justify Bush’s numerous rights violations, at home and abroad, James Comey turned Jose Padilla’s brain “to jello” (image source).

According to Rick Perlstein:

James Comey, currently sailing smoothly through Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for confirmation as chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was … in charge, and proudly so, of a “terrorism” case that began with a detention without charges, continued with made-up and spurious charges, and ended with a conviction won against an American [Jose Padilla] whose treatment during confinement (on the American mainland) turned his brain to jello

This is violence.

“The 350-acre Horse Prairie Fire is burning outside of Olalla [Oregon] on Saturday night and is zero percent contained” (source). Photo courtesy of Kyle Reed

A look at the headlines:

Los Angeles wildfires: City battles ‘largest fire in history’

British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

After burning for months, Montana looks like a fiery apocalypse.

Rain in Seattle is normal. Raining ash, however, is not.

We are in, to quote Randall Amster, a “new normal of destabilization,” created by a political world in which both parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, out of service to fossil fuel billionaires and the companies they control, refuse in varying degrees to treat global warming as already a national emergency, one that requires, first and foremost, a transition to zero use of fossil fuels at the fastest possible rate if we hope in any way to alter the deadly and destructive path of what’s already started happening to us.

▪ And this is violence.

“An alternate transportation network of private buses—fully equipped with wifi—thus threads daily through San Francisco, picking up workers at unmarked bus stops (though many coexist in digital space), carrying them southward via the commuter lanes of the 101 and 280 freeways, and eventually delivers them to their campuses” (source).

According to the SF Examiner, “Right now the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency charges companies serving multi-billion dollar technology companies $3.67 per stop event, what some critics have called a ‘pittance.’”

The city gets a pittance for each “stop event” by these private busses, while the city’s non-high-tech-connected citizens get no right at all to ride them. A two-tiered world of transportation, in other words, sanctioned and welcomed by government and financed in large part by tax dollars.

One more wealth transfer among a great many. A gift given to the few (our “future-seeing” high tech billionaires) to sweeten their bottom lines by making their jobs as attractive to their workers as possible. A gift paid from the pockets of the many to whom the service is unavailable.

The Violence of the State

Every national instance of Rule by the Rich is accompanied by a great deal of violence, inflicted on the many by the few.

Consider just the examples above.

The violence of torture and death, inflicted at home and abroad, by the state on the innocent, all so the state can appear to be something it’s not, all so its ruling elites can stay in power.

The violence of climate chaos, inflicted by a national government which for decades has refused to act in any real way to lessen the coming costly horrible climate blows. (Of all major candidates, only Sanders was serious about climate mitigation.)

The violence of near-slavish service to increasing income inequality, again by both parties, a service that brought us the failed revolt we now call the 2016 election and its disastrous aftermath — a revolt, by the way, which is not going away no matter which party takes power.

Consider all this as you ponder the critics of the Antifa (“anti-fascist”) movement and the call by those same elites (example: Nancy Pelosi in the quote above) for a return to the state-only violence they call “order.”

Whose hands are clean? Whose violence does greater harm?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered.
To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

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