Charles Manson sits in his cell, wherever it is, and he cackles, saying, “I told you so…”
Only in the armed madhouse of America can a madman tell you anything at all. Manson’s drug-addled vision of the race-war, one that he alone saw predicted in vague lyrics of a Beatles song, and used to justify the murderous rampage of his tiny cult, rears its ugly head again in Dallas, Texas, site of another famously newsworthy shooting. The voices of media blabber about ‘inexplicable slaughter’ and ‘the cold-blooded murder of innocent men’. A day earlier, we heard of yet another incident where it was police who were the perpetrators of a lethal rage. Too many such incidents have dotted recent broadcasts, with, too often, nothing tangible done about so-called rogue cops. The slaughters are very far from ‘inexplicable’. The prophetic voice of those first sixties Afro-American rappers, The Last Poets, is heard:
Wake up, niggers, or you’re all through…
Maybe the niggers are waking up – and what then, what next? But maybe we should all wake up.
Here’s the formula:
Poverty=Crime=Justification for a Police State.
There is, and has been for years, a problem with the police everywhere. This problem has been exacerbated by the metamorphosis of a domestic peacekeeping body into a paramilitary wing of government, now far more relied upon than the army ever will be. As Plato observed 2,500 years ago, who guards the guardians of civil peace?
We all have our problems with the police, most us just aggravated by traffic tickets for piffling non-offenses. Yet there is still the officious attitude of officers, the pretense that not wearing a seatbelt in a 30-zone is a serious issue. And there is the question of quotas. Everyone knows quotas exist, yet their existence is denied, since it implies an impossible foreknowledge of the day’s infractions, a pre-crime prophecy. We accept these irritating tickets – the cop lurking with radar-gun by a stretch of road where everyone speeds because it’s clear or the sign isn’t obvious – we accept them like the cost of doing business, perhaps idly wondering why the cop isn’t fighting all the real crime we hear so much about. Those who try arguing with their cop soon discover who they’re dealing with, however: the foot-soldier of an organization entirely unconcerned with its own motto, Serve and Protect. They may well serve and protect someone else, but it isn’t you. The police demeanour is very much us and them, and we are the ‘them’. The major purpose of traffic offenses is fund-raising – hence the quota system. You don’t want a cop sitting by a roundabout all day and not making a dime. He or she has to seek out malefactors, and if it’s for trifles, then so be it. The reckless aggressive or hopelessly drunken driver – the only real road-menace – is unpredictable. Other drivers will eventually nail him with smart-phones. The lurking cruiser is there to persecute the relatively innocent, the man hurrying home, the woman heading to daycare before it closes. It wasn’t always like this, with everyone a potential criminal. We all break minor laws every day – jay-walking, smoking weed, turning on a prohibited right – and we do it without criminal intent, like Hilary Clinton – except now we are vulnerable to the officer with a short quota. Theoretically, the police work for us, to serve and protect us – except they don’t. They work for a paramilitary outfit increasingly independent of all civilian control, a state within the state, answerable to none but themselves.
Who becomes a police officer? We like, and are encouraged to think it is people concerned about protecting us. But experience and common-sense tell us it is mostly a certain kind of person. To simplify matters: take the high-school jock, the bully, whose glory-days are behind him, whose future no longer looks so triumphantly prepossessing. It is a thousand shades of that kind of person. It is someone who wants the protective shield of a uniform and the power it confers to provide them with the mantle of an authority they either once had as school-bully or else always felt they should have. It is not unfair to say that people attracted to the police force rarely have the mental agility to be doctors, lawyers, or practitioners of the more lofty and lucrative professions. Police-work pays relatively well. Though, and it offers far more than that. It takes a certain mentality to police our cities, a certain intractable mind-set. In my experience, decent individuals who join the force are soon relegated to desk-jobs, where a gentle, forgiving nature is acceptable. On the swarming, dangerous streets a different character is required. Sure, the job can be deadly. At any moment of any day you can be sent into a potentially frazzling lethal situation. But usually you aren’t. Usually it’s dull and quotidian, your day taken up partly by red-tape and tedious reports. But this work too requires or creates a certain type of individual. Never is it explained to them that poverty and hopelessness equal crime, and thus that they should expect this amongst a certain demographic. That demographic is, of course, mainly black, because we are still a racist society. Hence the evil of racial profiling is endemic, with few cops understanding the cause of disproportionately high crime-stats in specific areas of society.
We don’t have the problems in Canada that America faces, the scale and frequency of them, yet we do have problems, and they grow annually. The root cause of these problems is invariably the character and temperamental proclivities of police officers. In the gangs and drugs squads, you have cops who steal money and drugs, becoming indistinguishable from the criminals they pursue. On the streets you have people convinced that black men are always up to no good. What to do?
Policing is too vitally important a job to be left to the police, to people whose dubious calling is to boss-around, to strut and harass. It is indeed a job we should all share, since we all share in its properly-conducted virtues and rewards. In Switzerland, everyone has to undergo military training, and to serve in the army for a few months every three years, until they are too old to be useful. A similar idea ought to be thrashed out for our police forces, with policing reduced to its essentials – no fund-raising or needless harassment – with erstwhile civilians far more capable of telling right from wrong than people trained only in spotting wrongdoing. We would avoid the officious authoritarianism as well as the knee-jerk racism, with men and women responsible for ensuring the peace is maintained because it is their own peace they’re maintaining. Such a force should not be armed either. During my childhood in England the police were not armed, and neither were the criminals – and we had one or two gun-murders a year. Even today most British police are not visibly armed, and they have to summon in a special squad of shooters if an incident with weapons arises. As a consequence the incidence of questionable police shootings is minimal if not zero. Guns provoke guns – it’s a fact. And armed police create a threatening force which elicits fear and insecurity. It also conjures up the idea of a law only enforceable by strength of arms. That is not policing; that is warfare.
In Dallas the shooter was an ex-army man – big surprise! The army is a magnet for many poor blacks, and many poor whites too. One of the dead cops had also served in Afghanistan. Military training lasts a lifetime, and a trained sniper is always a trained sniper, whether or not his civilian career has any use for sharp-shooting. With the grotesque inequality in most American cities, many an angry Afro-American is now thinking that guerrilla sniping is an ideal form of retribution; and many a cop must be feeling as nervous on patrol as the depressed people in those sweltering desolate ghettos he patrols. All struggles are class struggles, and a race-war will be a class-conflict. The path to a peaceful resolution only lies in a tearing-down of class barriers and a sharing of the immense wealth whose braggardly existence is, in itself, the root of all discontent, all human misery.
A militarized police force thinks like an army in battle: us and the enemy. But there is no enemy in our domestic situations. There are only fellow citizens. The wretched of this earth are not an enemy, unless we make them into one. And an enemy always retaliates, always resists – often until death. The potent menace of terrorism – the suicide-bombers, the IEDs, the guerrilla attacks – ought to warn the US status quo that a poorly-armed minority can still be a devastating force. But America never seems to learn the lessons of its own history – the subject isn’t taught in those lousy schools – so I hold out little hope. Although the message is clear: black lives do matter, and they matter more than the white lives sacrificed in order that the message is heard loud and clear.
And Justin Trudeau sends 4,000 of our poor children into Latvia to fend off a million Russian soldiers for NATO. Admirable? Patriotism: it’s the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. Wake up, wiggers!
Paul William Roberts