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Sunday, November 20, 2011day link 

 Order and violence
picture The governments and the culture of many countries will enforce order, no matter what amount of violence is necessary. United States is noteworthy among them, as most of the rest are non-western dictatorships, like a number of middle eastern countries such as Syria, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, and countries such as China, North Korea, Iran, etc.

In countries that are ruled by violent enforcement of order, even the most innocent offense will escalate to deadly force, if the offending party fails to succumb and comply. As an example, let's pick a quite innocent event like a parking violation, and as the stage, let's pick the United States. Most Americans will vehemently deny that a parking violation would ever escalate to anything violent, but that just shows how well conditioned they are to accept such a system without question.

Let's say I park my car in some annoying spot, like on a corner in a busy intersection. People can just drive or walk around it, so it isn't like it would stop traffic, but many people would be irritated about it. A cop will probably be around to leave a ticket on the windshield rather quickly. If I simply drive away and pay the ticket, nothing else happens. If I choose to stay, a tow truck is likely to show up. It it really was a very annoying spot, it will show up quickly, otherwise it might take days. The tow truck will try to move the car away. If it succeeds, nothing much more happens, other than that I would have to come up with quite a bit of money to get my car back. But imagine that I take steps to make sure my car stays there. Maybe I drive steel pylons into the roadway under my car, welded to the frame. The police will command heavier equipment into operation. In case I'm still inside the car, they'll break open the doors or smash the windows, and put me in handcuffs and drag me away. But say I passively resist them doing that, insisting on staying there. My car might well be armored, equipped with bulletproof glass. They'll get more creative and bring bulldozers and they'll inject teargas or similar stuff into the air supply. Imagine that I've taken steps to still stay exactly where I am. Sooner or later, and it won't even take long, they will bring in tanks and there will be snipers on the roof tops. Remember, I'm still not doing anything other than staying in an illegal parking space and failing to be removed. Along the way there will be a continuous stream of opportunities for me to do something that would be interpreted as being worse. If I stand up on the roof of my car and yell and wave my arms, that would be a sufficient excuse for one of the snipers to take me down. Let alone that I had the thought of actively defending myself against one of the assaults they would think up, such as throwing the tear gas back to them, or disabling the bulldozers that try to remove my car. But even just by staying there, successfully not being removed, I become guilty of more and more serious crimes. Resisting arrest, destruction of public property. Won't take long before it is considered some kind of terrorism. And sooner or later, either I succumb and obey, or they win and force me to obey, or they kill me. No other outcome is likely, unless I somehow became very popular and public opinion starts supporting me very loudly. If not, I either obey or I'm forced to obey, with deadly force if necessary.

A typical law-abiding citizen will say that this is a really stupid example. All I'd have to do at any time would be to do what the police tells me to do. The escalation stops the moment I obey. So, if I don't, it is surely my own fault. I've been given every chance to comply, and if I then still don't, I'm obviously an idiot and a criminal and I deserve anything that happens to me.

I should note, for the sake of my American friends, that this kind of escalation is not what would happen in any European country. And, sure, in some countries it would happen much faster, and they might just shoot you up front to get it over with. But in most Western countries, there's no system of automatically escalating violence used against regular citizens. If you really can't be moved, even after reasonable measures have been put into play, you'll obviously be giving a big problem to some kind of governmental agency. But that will most likely lead to a lot of talk and negotiations and thinking. It would be much more likely that they would move the whole street than for anybody to consider using deadly force.

This is a very current subject, as police forces all over the U.S. currently are using excessive violence on peaceful protesters that are guilty of no other offense than not moving when they're being asked to. They're beaten up, subjected to chemical weapons, acoustic weapons, their property is being destroyed, they're arrested for charges made up on the spot. And the consequences are only this "mild" because the police manages to drag these people away relatively easily, because they're unarmed and not actively resisting. If they actually were able to stand their ground more effectively, however non-violently and passively, they would be subjected to much higher degrees of violence and deaths would be inevitable.

The point is that this is a very bad system. Not the specific laws and punishments. Not the particular local police chiefs. They might or might not be bad too, but the problem is the overall principle. The basic idea that there MUST be order, that people MUST do what they're told, and if they don't, an increasing and limitless amount of force will be applied to make them comply, even if the force is totally out of proportion to the initial offense.

Luckily, these things attract a lot of attention. No, not my fictitious parking violation. Police brutality against peaceful protesters attracts a lot of viewers in a variety of media. A woman being stoned for adultery in Afghanistan, that easily attracts international attention as well. The world is indeed watching. Lots of people still think that the victims of such brutalities should just have "done what they were supposed to". But a growing number of people think otherwise. If clear attention is focused on the central model that is at fault, it can be changed.
[ | 2011-11-20 23:39 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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