Myths We Live By

American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths

studiostoks / Shutterstock

Our society should’ve collapsed by now. You know that, right?

No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.

Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.

So … shouldn’t there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn’t it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren’t on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone’s going to work at gunpoint? No. We’re all choosing to continue on like this.

Why?

Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.

I’m going to cover eight of them. There are more than eight. There are probably hundreds. But I’m going to cover eight because (A) no one reads a column titled “Hundreds of Myths of American Society,” (B) these are the most important ones and (C) we all have other shit to do.

Myth No. 8—We have a democracy.

If you think we still have a democracy or a democratic republic, ask yourself this: When was the last time Congress did something that the people of America supported that did not align with corporate interests? … You probably can’t do it. It’s like trying to think of something that rhymes with “orange.” You feel like an answer exists but then slowly realize it doesn’t. Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy: A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control.

Myth No. 7—We have an accountable and legitimate voting system.

Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, black-box machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates and two corporate parties that stand for the same goddamn pile of fetid crap!

What part of this sounds like a legitimate election system?

No, we have what a large Harvard study called the worst election system in the Western world. Have you ever seen where a parent has a toddler in a car seat, and the toddler has a tiny, brightly colored toy steering wheel so he can feel like he’s driving the car? That’s what our election system is—a toy steering wheel. Not connected to anything. We all sit here like infants, excitedly shouting, “I’m steeeeering!”

And I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s why you have to vote. We have to vote in such numbers that we beat out what’s stolen through our ridiculous rigged system.

Myth No. 6—We have an independent media that keeps the rulers accountable.

Our media outlets are funded by weapons contractors, big pharma, big banks, big oil and big, fat hard-on pills. (Sorry to go hard on hard-on pills, but we can’t get anything resembling hard news because it’s funded by dicks.) The corporate media’s jobs are to rally for war, cheer for Wall Street and froth at the mouth for consumerism. It’s their mission to actually fortify belief in the myths I’m telling you about right now. Anybody who steps outside that paradigm is treated like they’re standing on a playground wearing nothing but a trench coat.

Myth No. 5—We have an independent judiciary.

The criminal justice system has become a weapon wielded by the corporate state. This is how bankers can foreclose on millions of homes illegally and see no jail time, but activists often serve jail time for nonviolent civil disobedience. Chris Hedges recently noted, “The most basic constitutional rights … have been erased for many. … Our judicial system, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets and secret prisons in the name of national security.”

If you’re not part of the monied class, you’re pressured into releasing what few rights you have left. According to The New York Times, “97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.”

That’s the name of the game. Pressure people of color and poor people to just take the plea deal because they don’t have a million dollars to spend on a lawyer. (At least not one who doesn’t advertise on beer coasters.)

Myth No. 4—The police are here to protect you. They’re your friends.

That’s funny. I don’t recall my friend pressuring me into sex to get out of a speeding ticket. (Which is essentially still legal in 32 states.)

The police in our country are primarily designed to do two things: protect the property of the rich and perpetrate the completely immoral war on drugs—which by definition is a war on our own people.

We lock up more people than any other country on earth. Meaning the land of the free is the largest prison state in the world. So all these droopy-faced politicians and rabid-talking heads telling you how awful China is on human rights or Iran or North Korea—none of them match the numbers of people locked up right here under Lady Liberty’s skirt.

Myth No. 3—Buying will make you happy.

This myth is put forward mainly by the floods of advertising we take in but also by our social engineering. Most of us feel a tenacious emptiness, an alienation deep down behind our surface emotions (for a while I thought it was gas). That uneasiness is because most of us are flushing away our lives at jobs we hate before going home to seclusion boxes called houses or apartments. We then flip on the TV to watch reality shows about people who have it worse than we do (which we all find hilarious).

If we’re lucky, we’ll make enough money during the week to afford enough beer on the weekend to help it all make sense. (I find it takes at least four beers for everything to add up.) But that doesn’t truly bring us fulfillment. So what now? Well, the ads say buying will do it. Try to smother the depression and desperation under a blanket of flat-screen TVs, purses and Jet Skis. Nowdoes your life have meaning? No? Well, maybe you have to drive that Jet Ski a little faster! Crank it up until your bathing suit flies off and you’ll feel alive!

The dark truth is that we have to believe the myth that consuming is the answer or else we won’t keep running around the wheel. And if we aren’t running around the wheel, then we start thinking, start asking questions. Those questions are not good for the ruling elite, who enjoy a society based on the daily exploitation of 99 percent of us.

Myth No. 2—If you work hard, things will get better.

According to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey: “80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs” and “[t]he average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.” That’s about one-seventh of your life—and most of it is during your most productive years.

Ask yourself what we’re working for. To make money? For what? Almost none of us are doing jobs for survival anymore. Once upon a time, jobs boiled down to:

I plant the food—>I eat the food—>If I don’t plant food = I die.

But nowadays, if you work at a café—will someone die if they don’t get their super-caf-mocha-frap-almond-piss-latte? I kinda doubt they’ll keel over from a blueberry scone deficiency.

If you work at Macy’s, will customers perish if they don’t get those boxer briefs with the sweat-absorbent-ass fabric? I doubt it. And if they do die from that, then their problems were far greater than you could’ve known. So that means we’re all working to make other people rich because we have a society in which we have to work. Technological advancements can do most everything that truly must get done.

So if we wanted to, we could get rid of most work and have tens of thousands of more hours to enjoy our lives. But we’re not doing that at all. And no one’s allowed to ask these questions—not on your mainstream airwaves at least. Even a half-step like universal basic income is barely discussed because it doesn’t compute with our cultural programming.

Scientists say it’s quite possible artificial intelligence will take away all human jobs in 120 years. I think they know that will happen because bots will take the jobs and then realize that 80 percent of them don’t need to be done! The bots will take over and then say, “Stop it. … Stop spending a seventh of your life folding shirts at Banana Republic.”

One day, we will build monuments to the bot that told us to enjoy our lives and … leave the shirts wrinkly.

And this leads me to the largest myth of our American society.

Myth No. 1—You are free.

And I’m not talking about the millions locked up in our prisons. I’m talking about you and me. If you think you’re free, try running around with your nipples out, ladies. Guys, take a dump on the street and see how free you are.

I understand there are certain restrictions on freedom we actually desire to have in our society—maybe you’re not crazy about everyone leaving a Stanley Steamer in the middle of your walk to work. But a lot of our lack of freedom is not something you would vote for if given the chance.

Try building a fire in a parking lot to keep warm in the winter.

Try sleeping in your car for more than a few hours without being harassed by police.

Try maintaining your privacy for a week without a single email, web search or location data set collected by the NSA and the telecoms.

Try signing up for the military because you need college money and then one day just walking off the base, going, “Yeah, I was bored. Thought I would just not do this anymore.”

Try explaining to Kentucky Fried Chicken that while you don’t have the green pieces of paper they want in exchange for the mashed potatoes, you do have some pictures you’ve drawn on a napkin to give them instead.

Try running for president as a third-party candidate. (Jill Stein was shackled and chained to a chair by police during one of the debates.)

Try using the restroom at Starbucks without buying something … while black.

We are less free than a dog on a leash. We live in one of the hardest-working, most unequal societies on the planet with more billionaires than ever.

Meanwhile, Americans supply 94 percent of the paid blood used worldwide. And it’s almost exclusively coming from very poor people. This abusive vampire system is literally sucking the blood from the poor. Does that sound like a free decision they made? Or does that sound like something people do after immense economic force crushes down around them? (One could argue that sperm donation takes a little less convincing.)

Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers—most of the time—don’t need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults.

It’s time to wake up.

If you think this column is important, please share it. Also, check out Lee Camp’s weekly TV show “Redacted Tonight” and weekly podcast “Common Censored.”

Lee Camp
Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for…
from:    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/american-society-would-collapse-if-it-werent-for-these-8-myths/

Cops or Military? On Police Militarization

From Warrior Cops to Community Police: A Former Chief on How We Can Turn Back the Tide of Militarization

Police in America belong to the people—not the other way around. Former Seattle police Chief Norm Stamper on how we can turn war zone occupiers back into friendly neighborhood officers.
Police in Riot Gear photo by JPL Designs/Shutterstock

You’re in the kitchen. It’s a Saturday morning, still dark outside. Your partner, three-year-old son, and the family dog are all sound asleep at the back of the house. You’ve put the coffee pot on, are making sandwiches—a trip to the lake is planned, your son’s first fishing trip.

Without warning, the pre-dawn quiet is shattered as your front door flies off its hinges, followed by back-to-back explosions and blinding light. Your local police department calling, decked out in cammies, ballistic helmets, and full-body armor, brandishing M4 and M16 rifles.

“Knife!” shouts a cop. “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” roar his nine fellow officers, each pointing a rifle or a pistol at your chest. The knife in question? A standard, dullbladed utensil you’d been using to slather mustard and mayo on the sandwiches.You drop the knife.

“Hands behind your head!” belts out the uniformed chorus.

You slap your hands behind your head. As you’re being shoved to the floor, your partner rushes from the bedroom, screaming your name, demanding to know what is happening. Your son follows, wailing hysterically.

Finally comes Boomer, the family’s gentle seven-year-old Golden Retriever, bounding down the hall, voicing his own concern about the invasion. With a Glock semiautomatic, one of the cops silences Boomer: a .40 caliber shot to the head, another to the chest.

To say the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) raid was the most astonishing, traumatic experience of your life is an understatement. Nor was it comforting to learn, once the gun and grenade smoke had settled, that the cops had hit the wrong house. (Slumbering across town, occupants of the “right” house, including a suspected low-level, nonviolent drug offender, were shortly after awakened by the same occupying force.)

As Radley Balko points out in his superb book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, SWAT incidents of the type fictionalized above are proliferating at a frightening pace. In the ’70s, the nation’s roughly 18,000 municipal, county, and state police forces conducted a few hundred such operations a year. By the ’80s the number had grown to approximately 3,000. And in 2005, the last year of collected data, there were more than 50,000 SWAT operations. Today’s count is surely much higher.

The police in America belong to the people, not the other way around.

Balko’s book offers a depressingly abundant supply of all-too-real examples of city and county police officers shooting innocent citizens, getting shot themselves, dispatching beloved family pets, doing major damage to private dwellings, shredding the Constitution, souring relations between police and community, and scarring families for life.

Like the family of Bounkham Phonesavanh. After their home in Wisconsin burned down, the Phonesavanhs moved in temporarily with relatives outside Atlanta. On May 28, 2014, Habersham County Sheriff’s deputies hit the house in a drug raid, battering down the door and tossing in a stun grenade—which landed in “Baby Bou Bou’s” crib. The beautiful 19-month-old child’s face and body were severely burned, his nose blown off in the blast. (Habersham County announced in November that it will not pay the baby’s medical bills, a sum of $1 million and counting.)

How is it that so many of today’s police officers have come to resemble—in appearance, weaponry, and tactics—infantrymen in the U.S. military? A retired army combat sergeant, recently returned from Afghanistan, was interviewed on CNN during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. He was shown footage of a St. Louis County police officer sitting high atop an MRAP (mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle) and pointing a sniper rifle at the crowd. The soldier was astonished and appalled. “This shouldn’t be happening in America,” he said.

The first SWAT team was fielded by Chief Daryl Gates of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1967 (though some say the term originated in Philadelphia in 1964). The first high-profile SWAT operation was against armed and barricaded Black Panthers who had decided to shoot it out with LAPD officers executing a search warrant. Highly publicized SWAT operations in 1974 against the Symbionese Liberation Army and again in 1997 in the “North Hollywood Shootout” (in which two heavily armed and armored bank robbers held LAPD officers at bay for 45 minutes) solidified the popular image of SWAT, and spurred police agencies across the country to adopt the concept.

At the heart of community policing is a demonstrable commitment to a problem-solving partnership between the police department and the people it serves.

There is a time and place for military-style tactics, carried out by police officers who do, in fact, look more like soldiers than cops. Think active shooter situations, or armed and dangerous suspects who’ve taken hostages and barricaded themselves. Think service of warrants accompanied by a reasonable suspicion that the suspects are armed and poised to do violence. Think terrorists.

But it is the routinization of police militarism that ought to concern us all. America’s police departments—aided and abetted by the federal government’s “1033” program, which allocates to local law enforcement military surplus, including armored vehicles, weapons, even aircraft—have gradually morphed from images of “Officer Friendly,” neighborhood-oriented cops to those of war zone occupiers.

Balko’s book and the ACLU’s first-rate new report, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” offer irrefutable evidence of the trend; both publications ought to be required reading for all Americans who value both freedom and safe neighborhoods.

But how to reverse the militarization trend? As Seattle’s police chief during the World Trade Organization’s 1999 “Battle in Seattle,” and acutely aware of my own unwise reliance on militarized tactics, I realize just how difficult the task will be. But that should not stop us. Here are five steps that can help us turn things around.

1. Residents of cities across the country must rise up and reclaim their police departments.

The police in America belong to the people, not the other way around. An organized, mobilized citizenry is essential to the kind of structural and cultural reforms necessary for reasoned, responsible, and responsive policing.

2. Sustained social and political pressure for demilitarization is essential.

Mayors, city council members, sheriffs, and police chiefs should be elected or selected, in significant measure, on the basis of their dedication to authentic “community policing.” At the heart of community policing is a demonstrable commitment to a problem-solving partnership between the police department and the people it serves. Citizen-police partners must work together to identify, analyze, and solve crime, traffic, and other neighborhood problems—including the nature and quality of the relationship itself. Indeed, police officers and their “civilian” partners must act in unified fashion on agency policies and procedures, program development, and crisis management. No more unilateral decisions about what’s “best for the community.”

3. Local political jurisdictions must implement independent citizen oversight of police practices.

Currently, no single model works flawlessly, and many flounder. But successful approaches in the future will incorporate investigative authority, including subpoena powers, for oversight bodies. Professionalism, competence, and cooperation between police management and labor are essential. It won’t happen by Tuesday of next week. But the hard, thorny work must begin, urgently.

4. It is vital that all law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with their communities, set and enforce rigorous standards for the selection, training, and systematic retraining of SWAT officers and their leaders.

Also crucial: a similarly demanding definition of what justifies a SWAT mission. Emphatically not part of that definition is the use of chemical agents on nonviolent, nonthreatening protesters or the conspicuous presence of military weaponry (including sniper rifles, as seen in Ferguson) at political protests.

It is the people of America…who can bring an end to those horrifying pre-dawn raids and to the specter of a military-like occupation

5. End the drug war.

Eighty percent of all SWAT raids are in service of search or arrest warrants, the vast majority of them aimed at low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Indeed, it was in the early prosecution of the drug war that we sowed the seeds of police militarization. Certainly, in the aftermath of 9/11 we witnessed a dramatic expansion of police militarization (as well as a deeply troubling attack on our civil liberties). But it has been the “War on Drugs,” with its reliance on the thoroughly bankrupt policy of prohibition, that has done such terrible damage to individuals, families, and neighborhoods, and to the community-police relationship. Ending the drug war, replacing prohibition with a regulatory model, will do much to demilitarize our local PDs. The federal government can and must play a significant role in setting and enforcing national guidelines to end excessive police militarization. But it is the people of America—organized, mobilized, and motivated—who can bring an end to those horrifying pre-dawn raids and to the specter of a military-like occupation of U.S. neighborhoods.

Norm Stamper wrote this article for Together, With Earth, the Spring 2015 issue of YES! Magazine. Norm is a 34-year veteran police officer who retired as Seattle’s chief of police in 2000. He is currently a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com). He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

On Popular Uprisings

People Rise Up: The Streets Are Alive with the Sound of Movement

Protesters on Dec. 5 in Boston.  (Photo: Tim Pierce/flickr/cc)

In an era rife with pop-culture trivialities juxtaposed with escalating calamities, we find ourselves at a remarkable moment that poses profound existential questions for the soul of the nation. Systems that have claimed the mantle of “justice” (while practicing little of it) are being exposed to an unprecedented level of scrutiny, demonstrating in stark terms that tragic episodes from Ferguson to New York are not exceptional but instead constitute the baseline norm of official behavior. The message is not that this system is broken, but rather that it is working exactly the way it was designed. The primary difference now is that people are paying attention.

To make sure that this moment of collective scrutiny doesn’t get lost in the woodwork of an attention-deficient culture, people have been taking to the streets and public places to remind us all of propositions that shouldn’t even have to be said, let alone agitated for, in a healthy society: #blacklivesmatter. Still, one is likely to hear the common retort that this emerging movement is incoherent, inconvenient, incomprehensible. “What do these people want, anyway?” utters a bystander. “I’ll run them over if they get in my way!” tweets another. “It’s terrible that they’re so violent,” laments many a liberal friend. The narrative of the mainstream response reads as a combination of confusion and contempt, simultaneously rapt and repulsed by the spectacle.

Most significantly, analytical consternation has focused more on the seemingly uncoordinated mayhem of the demonstrations than on the coordinated violence of the systems they oppose. The “flash mob” and “pop-up” protest ethos of today’s cutting-edge movements may be as confounding to the “old guard” of movements from a bygone era as they are to the entrenched powers. Still, if we go back a mere half century or so, for many Americans the appearance of a coordinated movement seeking an end to legalized discrimination in schools, transportation, and other places of public accommodation may have seemed like the beginning of a threatening revolution. Notwithstanding that this movement has been cast historically as more reformist than revolutionary in its aims and outcomes, in real-time the widely disseminated images of lunch counter sit-ins and street demonstrations were generally taken as radical in their implications.

The lessons we can take from this are instructive. Just as legislative brushstrokes were incapable of ending institutionalized racism in the nation, we can surmise that contemporary reforms such as police body cameras and civilian review boards will not sufficiently address the deep-seated issues being raised in the aftermath of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. More pointedly, today’s demonstrations ultimately are asking us to confront the realization that “business as usual” in itself is inherently unjust and reflective of a deeply rooted racial and socioeconomic caste order that persists despite decades of ostensible reforms—and that as long as this order remains intact, there in fact will be no business as usual.

In this sense, what is often taken as the American mythological “norm”—i.e., a level societal playing field defined by equal opportunity, mobility through merit, and justice for all—is undeniably inflected with our unchecked historical baggage and a set of unquestioned values that reflect the requisite power, property, and privilege of an entrenched ruling class consciousness. Those of us who are able to resemble that ruling cadre in certain manners, even superficially, can acquire some of the perquisites attendant to the elite strata—even as the reality is that we are not “them” at the end of the day. Those who lack the elite indicia or the capacity to emulate it sufficiently are left as little more than prey for profiteers, militarists, and wardens, with the double-edged construction of their identities as something to be feared by the elite emulators.

The police, oftentimes appearing as modern-day equivalents of the “palace guard,” are on the front lines of enforcing this racialized socioeconomic order. Somewhat ironically, many of them actually come from the “other side” of the line than the one they’ve been hired to defend; in fact, joining the force may be viewed by some as one of only a few available pathways to try and cross the class divide. This renders the trope of “police versus protesters” particularly problematic, but also suggests a point of leverage if that latent consciousness can be aroused within the ranks of the police themselves. Indeed, it is hard to envision a movement ultimately succeeding without police defections, or at least accommodations such as those voiced by a police chief in Tennessee last week: “In Nashville, if you want to come to a public forum and express your thoughts, even if they’re against the government, you’re going to get your First Amendment protection and you’re going to be treated fairly by the police officers involved.”

This characterization is complicated by another matter that is beginning to be unpacked in the public dialogue. The police are not merely modern-day Pinkertons hired by the bosses to maintain order in the company towns and terror among the workers to prevent them from organizing. Today, increasingly, they are also trained military alumni, having served tours in America’s imperialist wars (which can be viewed as the exported version of systemic violence), and oftentimes are armed with the vestiges of a bloated military-industrial complex that produces more implements of destruction than it could possibly use for its already anachronistic purposes. The police forces in many American cities function as a burgeoning occupying force that cuts a direct swath from Fallujah to Ferguson and all critical points of engagement in between.

We can choose to skirt around all of this and simply ask for a few cosmetic changes to business as usual, perhaps easing some of the more blatant atrocities for a time and even strengthening the mythological fabric of due process and equal treatment. The momentary rupture of traffic and commerce being disrupted [insert characterization here: by angry young people of color] will soon fade into the background with a Christmas-magic cutaway to a yule log and sparkling ornaments. “The system works after all, order is restored—and now back to our regularly scheduled programming…” will proclaim the voiceover reading the cue cards. The task for engaged viewers is to prevent the impending delivery of this colossal lump of holiday coal.

 

*           *           * 

The pop-up protests in the streets right now present the best opportunity for us to collectively engage the difficult issues that most have chosen to ignore but that are coming home to roost. It serves no purpose to continue denying the convergence of the military-industrial complex, the school-to-prison pipeline, redlining and racial profiling, environmental (in)justice, and the rest of the architecture of a dysfunctional system. Indeed, the recent episodes that have brought people into the streets—typifying cases that have been happening every day for a very long time—almost read like an admission of injustice and the raw power to not even care about appearances: “Your cameras and chants and crowds mean nothing; soon enough, most people will resent the intrusions and long for us to restore the comforts and conveniences of their ordinary lives. Your moment of protest will be a minor hindrance at best, and you’ll be branded as the enemy in the process. In the end, our power will be further consolidated and your subjugation expanded.”

Speculative machinations aside, the history of social change counsels that we tread cautiously when broaching revolutionary demands—not to flinch away from making them, but more so to be clear about to whom they are being presented. The gained experiences of movement actors themselves can be inspiring and transformative, and in themselves are part of the measure of success any time people slip the bonds of conformity and take a stand for a better world. On the other side of the coin, entrenched elite interests are not likely to be persuaded to suddenly embrace the “arc of the moral universe” and abdicate their positions of power and privilege. In the middle is that vast pool of onlookers—sometimes horrified, sometimes amused, sometimes inclined to ignore the whole thing and just get about their lives. These are the folks whose consent is counted on to maintain the present order, and whose conversion a movement seeks.

In addressing those still somewhere between elite detachment and flash-mob radicalization, a few points of consideration might be helpful. First, an inherently unjust system inevitably catches all of us in its tentacles, over time becoming an equal opportunity exploiter; when some are not free none are truly free, since (as MLK said) “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Second, the top tier in society do not actually resemble the masses of people, superficial appearances notwithstanding; the gross economic disparity in America, in which the upper echelon controls the vast majority of wealth while the middle and bottom’s combined holdings are nearly negligible, tells a good deal of this story. Third, the emergence of a militarized controlling force (and its concomitant securitized clandestine apparatus) does not discriminate between “good” and “bad” people in its application, but only between those who are an inconvenience and those who can for the moment be tolerated. Fourth, ignoring the crises at hand, from constant cruelty to changing climate, will not keep them from your doorstep.

And to those looking for a condensable movement message, consider that the preferred method of organizing today—consonant with the tenor of the times—is the decentralized network rather than the top-down “central organization” model favored by more entrenched actors. While this may give today’s movements the look of being incoherent, it also more closely resembles the ways in which many of us increasingly meet the world and process information. The internet appears to us as a decentralized network (even as this masks a deeper form of centralization and authoritarianism), so it is unsurprising that those raised squarely under its ambit would replicate this ethos. But the tendency to “pop up” and “go viral” reveals a more subtle consciousness articulated by today’s movements, namely that the most effective response to systemic injustice is one that meets it wherever it is found and that uses its own conveyances to undo its worst aspects. In particular, these disruptions yield great impact (via the conduits of real-time dissemination) at the day-to-day level, where oppressive structures often operate unabashedly yet are unnoticed by the masses: spaces of consumption and transportation, the habitus of low-wage workers, neighborhoods beset by police violence and other deprivations, urban and rural spaces of environmental despoliation. In other words, in the ordinary course of our “business as usual.”

“No Justice, No Profit” isn’t merely a protest chant; it reflects an emerging sensibility that, in many respects, the appearance of justice at all is wholly incompatible with the drive for profit. As a nation, we have blithely ignored this for too long, having become “comfortably numb” (as the Pink Floyd song opines) in the process and failing to recognize that the struggles of oppressed people must become the struggles of all people if any of us are to flourish … or perhaps even survive. As Howard Zinn wrote four decades ago in another moment of upheaval:

“As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience…. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

Noncooperation with oppression and injustice is a crucial first step; the next one is perhaps even more challenging: articulating and manifesting a vision to strive toward. Sustaining a movement will require the creation of alternative institutions, new models of distribution and collective decision-making, spaces of both diversity and equality. In today’s parlance, we come to discover that the movement itself is part of this message, constituting both a means and an end. On the cusp of pivoting from protest to resistance, movements for justice can sustain by leveraging resistance into persistence, and ultimately prevail through persistence for the continuation of our very existence. Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke of the perils of “sleeping through a revolution.” Today, the alarm bells are ringing in town squares and city streets everywhere, urging everyone still holding out hope for a more just world to rise up and get busy making it.

Randall Amster, JD, PhD, is Director of the Program on Justice and Peace at Georgetown University, and serves as Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. His recent books include Peace Ecology (Paradigm Publishers, 2014), Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012), Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness; and the co-edited volumes  Exploring the Power of Nonviolence: Peace, Politics, and Practice (Syracuse University Press, 2013) and Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action.

from:    http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/12/06/people-rise-streets-are-alive-sound-movement

Ferguson, MO – New Activity?

As Always, DO YOUR RESEARCH.

State of emergency declared for Ferguson, MO; National Guard activated; FBI warns of nationwide violence

(NaturalNews) Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard yesterday afternoon, in anticipation of the mass riots and social unrest expected to begin as early as today. Ferguson is ground zero for a wave of mass social unrest expected to unfold after the grand jury there decides whether to indict a police officer in the shooting of African-American Michael Brown.

It is widely expected that the grand jury will render a decision that exonerates the police officer. This decision will not be acceptable to the frustrated citizens of Ferguson who have already announced that anything other than an indictment would lead to mass protests.

Locals fear that the protests may escalate into vandalism against local businesses as well as violence between protesters and government. Would-be protesters have been training and drilling in recent days, practicing tactics to stand up against police in what they call “militant non-violent civil disobedience.” [1]

The FBI, meanwhile, has warned that the decision could lead to violence. A recent FBI bulletin stated that the grand jury decision “will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure.”

This mirrors the letter sent out a few days ago by the city of Berkeley, Missouri, which warned residents to stockpile food, water, medicine, fuel and other supplies ahead of the expected riots. That letter, covered in this Natural News article, implies that the city’s water supply could be disrupted and that citizens would be on their own. [3]

Many citizens are taking decisive steps to prepare, including purchasing firearms for self defense. Gun sales have skyrocketed over the last few weeks in the St. Louis area as residents arm up in the anticipation of home invasions and other violence coming to their doorstep. As in most U.S. states, it is perfectly legal to own firearms for self defense in Missouri. In fact, Missouri has a concealed carry law which recognizes the right of citizens to carry firearms on their person even when in public places.

Could the Ferguson riots spread? Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles are all likely “spillover zones”

There is legitimate concern that if the riots escalate, they could spill over into other cities. To understand why, you have to realize how African-Americans have been abandoned by the Obama administration, left in a far worse situation than in 2008 when the lawless Obama regime began.

Today, unemployment among black men and women is far higher than six years ago, and the democratic party has largely ignored the real needs of the black community while rolling out the red carpet for Latinos, border crossers and the upcoming amnesty plan. It is precisely this wave of illegal immigrants to be granted amnesty which will displace millions of African-American workers who are already struggling in a depressed economy that offers few legitimate work opportunities for inner city residents.

The level of quiet frustration across the African-American community is the highest in a generation. This frustration and anger has reached such a crescendo that it will only take the government shooting of a single innocent black protester in Ferguson to ignite a firestorm of nationwide protests spilling from city to city.

The most likely cities to resonate with this anger are, of course, those with the highest African-American populations living in difficult conditions. Those cities include Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Houston, Detroit and many more.

Anything less than 100% discipline among law enforcement will spark a disaster

Sadly, a single trigger-happy St. Louis police officer could set off nationwide riots by shooting an African-American protester. The images of the woman shot by police would resonate loudly across the culture and spark something approaching the scale of a citizens’ revolt.

To prevent the escalation of these riots, police and National Guard units are going to have to achieve 100% trigger discipline — a goal that’s impossible to guarantee when dealing with angry crowds. And what happens if an armed protester shoots at police? The law enforcement response would likely be overwhelming — perhaps brutal — causing very much the same anger among the protesters just as if a police officer had initiated the shooting instead.

Trust me when I say this situation is a tinderbox that’s ready to explode at the slightest mistake by law enforcement. Those of you who aren’t cops or who haven’t trained with cops can’t truly fathom the difficulty of restraint when you are outnumbered by a belligerent mob (often throwing bottles and other objects). Cops are trained to respond to threats with overwhelming force. It’s part of the cop survival strategy. So asking cops to sit back and be pelted with flying objects while NOT responding is asking a lot. All it takes is one cop who “loses his cool” and the whole thing explodes into violence.

If law enforcement greatly overreacts and shoots a large number of protesters, it doesn’t even matter if those protesters were violent or not. All that will really count is the photos of bloodied black men and women all over the internet, implying to the world that government police are mass murderers guilty of a massacre. Let us all hope and pray that it never comes to this.

My advice? Stay home and stay safe

When it comes to public protests and social chaos, my advice has always been to stay off the streets if you want to stay safe. Then again, public demonstrations against a corrupt, unjust government are also part of a healthy democracy, and there are times in history when people must take a stand against the corruption and criminality of government gone bad. (Think Gandhi…)

So while I support the First Amendment right for crowds to protest against corrupt government in a non-violent way, I also urge people to think carefully about the risks to your personal safety.

If your intent is to maximize your own personal safety in all this, you’ll want to stay off the streets and defend your home. “Barricade the doors!” might be a better call to action if you live within the riot zone. Crowds of angry people can do some pretty crazy things that none of the individuals would do on their own. If you own a car and park it on the street, get everything valuable out of it because the car might get torched or overturned. (Loot your own car before the looters loot it, in other words…)

For those who live in or near the riot zones: If you can legally own a firearm and keep it in your home for the protection of you and your family, strongly consider doing so. This is a scenario where dialing 911 will be utterly useless. Your self protection will likely fall onto your shoulders alone. Try to avoid mobs and avoid conflict. Don’t bring firearms to a protest scene; keep them safely in your home as a last ditch defense against home invasion aggressors. In other words, only use firearms to STOP violence, not to cause it. That’s a principle every responsible firearm owner already knows.

Battlestar Galactica & Militarization of Polics

What Battlestar Galactica Can Teach Us About the Militarization of Police

“There’s a reason you separate the military and the police. One fights the enemy of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”

william Adama

In Battlestar Galactica there’s a scene where President Laura Roslyn and chief military Commander William Adama debate how to respond to the potential rioting of civilians. In the absence of a police force capable of handling the situation, Roslyn wants the military to police the civilians. Adama tells her the military won’t be her cops.

“There’s a reason you separate the military and the police,” he says. “One fights the enemy of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more succinct warning for what’s unfolding in Missouri right now. The images coming out of Ferguson show police who are militarizing their policing tactics because they believe they cannot maintain law and order through regular policing. Police cars and batons have been traded for armored vehicles, tear gas, and assault weapons.

It is worth asking: Do Americans consider this behavior within the acceptable range of police enforcement?

This unfolding military-style policing highlights how difficult it is to determine what reasonable limits we should expect from our civilian police forces. Police do not possess absolute authority, nor do they wield the powers of the military. Yet many ordinary people are unsure what limits are, or should be, in place to restrict police behavior—or what lines should be drawn to protect citizens from the police.

Recent events have proved Adama is right.

The phrase “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” reflects the growing disparity between what citizens consider acceptable behavior from our police forces and what police forces often consider to be within their power.

For the past two weeks, we have seen images of police in camouflage aiming assault rifles at citizens, arresting journalists, and using tear gas on protesters. It is worth asking: Do Americans consider this behavior within the acceptable range of police enforcement?

Pew recently asked this question, and the response shows a clear division: Among African Americans, 65 percent of respondents said police response in Ferguson has “gone too far,” and 32 percent of white respondents agreed. So there’s no consensus on what the limits of police behavior should be. This makes determining the limits of American policing complicated.

Perhaps this is why popular culture so frequently explores these questions. The militarization of civilian police and the role of protests in police states are subjects that arise regularly in movies and television—especially in science fiction.

Here are four scenes that question the corrupting power of police authority.

1. Battlestar Galactica

In “Water,” the second episode of Season 1, a sleeper Cylon (Cylons are the robots that destroyed human civilization) who is secretly embedded on the central military battleship (Galactica) places explosives near the water tanks. The bombs detonate, the holding tanks explode, and 60 percent of water reserves are lost. The lost water means that one-third of the civilian population will run out of water in two days. Adama, the military commander, immediately orders the civilian ships to begin emergency water rationing.

The second in command predicts this action will create riots. “Civilians don’t like hearing they can’t take a bath, wash their clothes, or drink more than a thimble a day,” he warns. And he turns out to be right.

President Roslyn implores Adama to police the riots with military forces:

President Roslyn: Rioting broke out on the cruise ship when they reduced water rations. We need to demonstrate an ability to maintain order, and we need to do it now.
Commander Adama: We don’t have extra manpower for fleet security.
Roslyn: You have the only armed, disciplined force available.
Adama: Yeah, but I’m not going to be your policeman. There’s a reason you separate the military and the police. One fights the enemy of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.
Roslyn: I appreciate the complexity of the issue, and I won’t let that happen.

Over the next four seasons of Battlestar, the role of the military in civil society is explored in exceptional detail. The show, which debuted in 2004, addresses the rise of terrorism and the control of Homeland Security, a fear of foreign peoples, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, restrictions on the press, and military-style policing.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

In the Hunger Games series, the people of Panem already live in a militarized police state. Order is maintained by “Peacekeepers” through any means necessary, including lethal force and public execution.

On a “victory tour” after winning the Hunger Games, victors Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark pay tribute to a young girl named Rue from District 11, who aided Katniss in the competition before she was eventually killed by another player.

In a show of solidarity, a man from District 11 makes the three-fingered salute, an illegal hand-gesture Katniss used in the Games. Soon, the rest of the district follows suit. The police, recognizing the dissent unfolding, seek to quell any further disobedience.

They drag the elderly black man who sparked the dissent in front of the crowd. Then, the cops shoot him.

The brief moments of rebellion that unfold in this moment are seen through the eyes of Katniss, and her horror of this execution reveals much what The Hunger Games are built on: the abuse of power, the subjugation of the poor, and the division of people by race and employment. These divisions are upheld by a police force with absolute power and enforced on people who have become enemies and slaves.

The Dark Knight

It is hard to imagine a stronger justification for the abuse of power over citizens than the beating and torture of a “bad guy” in custody.

In a very real sense, the central question of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is about the very same question William Adama raises: How far we are willing to let our protectors go to keep us safe?

The Dark Knight Trilogy is filled with scenes that warn against the militarization of police forces. Batman Begins starts with police (paid by the mob) using brutal tactics to patrol the streets; The Dark Knight Rises ends by asking what it means to protect a city and its people from a madman.

But no scene raises the point more clearly than the interrogation (torture, really) of the Joker by Batman in The Dark Knight. It is hard to imagine a stronger justification for the abuse of power over citizens than the beating and torture of a “bad guy” in custody.

The Joker has abducted two people: District Attorney Harvey Dent, and Dent’s fiancee, Rachel Dawes. He has since been arrested by Gotham PD. To find out what the Joker has done with Rachel and Harvey, Police Chief Jim Gordon has locked the Joker in an interrogation room and handed the room over to the Batman.

“You have all these rules,” the Joker says, taunting Batman.  “The only way to live in this world is without rules.” The Joker rightly predicts that Batman will go apeshit on him.

Batman reaches so far beyond the dictates of acceptable superhero behavior (at one point spying on every Gotham resident simultaneously) that even his allies question whether he has lost his moral tether to his position as hero.

Others have noted these themes in The Dark Knight trilogy. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek has considered how the series engages an era of anxiety over capitalism, terrorism, and the Occupy movement. He notes the irony of handing over the protection of society to a mega-rich arms dealer moonlighting as a moral authority figure.

But Zizek also notes the necessary “event” underlying the actions of the series, which is the power of the people reclaiming authority over society, wrested out the hands of villains and heroes.

Minority Report:

In Minority Report, a film based on Philip K. Dick’s 1956 short story, the police have access to a group pre-cognitive psychics who can predict murder. The Pre-Crime unit of the police force uses this information to stop murders before they occur. With absolute authority, they capture murderers before they act, place them into a catatonic state, and imprison them underground.

But herein lies the same old question about the limits of law enforcement: If you arrest a murderer before a murder is committed, did you not just arrest an innocent civilian?

If it didn’t happen, how can you be guilty? What right do the police have to seize an innocent man?

Early in Minority Report, this question is addressed by Detective John Anderton of the Pre-Crime unit, and Danny Witwer, a Department of Justice official sent to investigate the program.

Witwer asks whether the police have the right to arrest a man before his crime is committed. In response, Anderton rolls a ball off the edge of his desk. Witwer catches it.

Anderton: Why did you catch it?
Witwer: Because it was going to fall.
Anderton: You’re certain?
Witwer: Yes.
Anderton: But it didn’t fall. You caught it. The fact that you prevented it from happening doesn’t change the fact that it was going to happen.

Thus the authority of the Pre-Crime unit is established. The question of individual guilt has been determined in the minds of the guilty before they even reach the crime scene.

The police are meant to serve and protect. But here, preventative lock-up is used as a tool to keep the “inevitably guilty” off the streets and away from the law-abiding public, in a justice system that provides police an almost absolute authority to clean up the streets. That hardly sounds like science fiction.

The protests underway in Ferguson have already begun to calm, and the images of dramatic military policing will in time fade from our screens. But the importance of such moments in the public imagination should not likewise disappear.

We are constantly faced with the civic and moral questions surrounding police forces. Anytime, the events in Ferguson could unfold in the lives of American citizens anywhere.

Which makes wrestling with these questions all the more necessary.

Science fiction has long been a place to wrestle with collective social complexities. As we remember what happened in Ferguson, let’s also draw from the stories that caution us against turning our civil rights over to an unrestricted power.

from:     http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/battlestar-galactica-and-the-militarization-of-police