Another curfew has been announced for tonight. I’m afraid this weekend has established habits of policing and response that could become normalized. What if the pandemic and the policing become for the 2020s what the Patriot Act and Homeland Security were for the period following 2001? Are we all going to become habituated to new policing regimes the way that we now instinctually shed our shoes at airport security?
When there are no politics and no program for achieving a goal, people are left to collectively congregate or individually post on social media—shouting their or desires into the void. Let’s march this way. No let’s march that way. Did you post this in Instagram? Is this a live stream?
Who is listening? Who will act to achieve what? We want justice. There is chaos because the US has no large functioning institutions of civil society that can channel a diverse collective. Churches have lost their central role in American life as many have been corrupted by celebrating prosperity as individual virtue. Politics are corrupted by money, profit and self-interest. Media have been infected by the economy of likes that generate profit from suspicion and rumor often at the expense of accuracy and validity.
“We want this!” The people yell and the leaders reply, “We hear you, and things will be different from now on. Now settle down!” But this thing takes representatives to do the work. It is built on trust in institutions and willingness to compromise. None of this is in the offing.
With no direction and no program and nothing to unite across differences, policing can become an end onto itself—the goal being security and a return to normal. Of course, normal means business-as-usual and business always has a program ready, a plan for generating profits and for budget for next year.
Historically the plans of capital have always profited from racism, division and distress. Chaos is a great angle for extraction, especially when it is the rationale for new kinds of control.
I feel angry and sad about what has happened to my neighborhood and city over the past week. Certainly things must change, on this we all agree. But, if I’m being honest I have seen two novel things that I am concerned will spread virally: a news reporter for a
major news channel arrested on live TV by a nameless authority in police armor, and a pack of similarly-clad troops marching down a neighborhood street who “lit up” a group of people sitting on their front porch. The anonymity of the attacks as an aspect of militarized policing cannot become normalized.
And, I’m perhaps even more disturbed by my neighbors and friends who respond to these incidents with, “Well then, people should listen to the police!” This is how many quickly respond to the news of the deaths of black lives at the hands of police.
The police are not a proper subject. There are people and there is policing. People need structures and institutions of civil society to connect across their differences. Without them I’m worried that the only structure left will be the one so many failed states rely on, the army—a collective that does act as a proper subject on behalf of the state.