Irrelevant Answers to Wrong Questions

The ongoing events in Ferguson, MO, illustrate Thomas Pynchon’s point that “if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” Like the Rodney King, and Trayvon Martin cases, the killing of Michael Brown by a white Ferguson policeman provided the state and its sycophantic media an opportunity to reinforce the popular mindset that social disorder derives from the inherently divisive nature of human behavior; that violent conflict is inevitable among people; and that only the authority of the state can protect us from a “nasty, brutish, and short” fate.

From a statist perspective, Brown’s killing confirms that categories of people grounded in race, religion, gender, lifestyle, economic interests, and numerous other abstract divisions, define humanity, and make social conflict an inescapable outcome of human nature. “White man kills black man” is a sufficient statement of fact to reinforce racial explanations of violence. When a white man kills another white, or a black man kills another black, the stories will be reported – if, indeed, at all – on page 12 of your local newspaper. Neither CNN, Fox News, the NYT, WSJ, nor other loyal tribunes of the established order will devote coverage to what is an equally devastating tragedy as that experienced by Michael Brown’s family. White police officers do kill or torture white people without much attention devoted to the fact. If you doubt this, read some of Will Grigg’s thoroughly documented – often with video of the attacks – reports.

Every political system thrives on the legal use of violence. Each requires our separation into exclusive groupings who can then be manipulated into warfare with one another, thus allowing the state to coercively intervene to reconfirm its violence-based powers over us all. If you doubt this, recall as much detail as you can from last night’s events in Ferguson. Can you identify a single response from the state that did not involve violence or the threat of violence? That local thugs – caught up in the statist mindset of racially-defined conflict – were, themselves, being most destructive, was a consequence of state violence (i.e., white policeman kills black man). Such rioting was but another example of the “blowback” that arises from so-called “terrorists” reacting to the violence that inheres in American foreign policy practices.

As long as we succumb to our statist conditioning by which we define one another as “enemies” against whom the state promises to “protect” us, we shall continue to help generate the kinds of tragedies that occurred in Ferguson. If we can learn to see our problems not in terms of “white man kills black man,” but as the consequences of our embracing institutionalized violence, we may find a solution to what our thinking has created.

What if we began to see violence – a power for which the state insists upon having a legal monopoly – as the real threat to human well-being? What if events in Ferguson had begun with a report that “state employee shoots and kills young man”?


11:28 am on November 25, 2014