Fri Jun 9 18:13:24 MDT 1995
>Leo is also about the only cop I know well, and I imagine that while there
>are relatively few like him, he's far from the only socially-aware cop. To
>respond to that Pasolini quote, I'd take sides with decent, down-to-earth
>and caring cops like Leo in the blink of an eye over screaming student
>revolutionaries on their imaginary barricades, assholes who are going to
>make the David Stockman Port Huron-to-Reaganaut-to-Wall Street transit and
>live in the liberal/conservative (take your pick, it doesn't matter)
>comfort of youthful romantic political memories. We've seen this sort of
>political turnover and class sellout since Wordsworth and before. But cops
>are stuck on the nitty-gritty side of life without career prospects as
>stockbrokers, and the ones who remain humane, decent public servants in the
>midst of social violence deserve our respect.
>If there's need to spend much time rehearsing why "Kill the pigs" is bad
>rhetoric and worse politics, that says a lot about why the American left is
>so far from even a ghostly hope of political power.
The manner in which you set the question leaves us hardly any
choice but to side with the police. Screaming asshole students on their
way to Wall Street or Leo. Who wouldn't take Leo? The contrast isn't
necessarily universal, though. Here in Japan, the students fought a
paramilitary unit equipped with helicopters (kind of like the LAPD), not
A couple things about this. First, the characterization of the
students hinges on the spoiled brat trope, which comes straight out of the
mainstream press. Of course there is some truth to it, otherwise it
wouldn't be as effective and popular as it is. However, since we do live
in conservative, capitalist societies, all of us must adjust. Some adjust
better than others, but everyone compromises in one way or another.
Moreover, the New Left has no monopoly on sell-outs. The PCI -- oops make
that "Democratic" Party of the "Left," Japanese Social "Democrats," British
"Labour," and French "Socialists," to name just a few, have all more or
less joined the Yippy Yuppies. I'm quite down on '68 myself, but it seems
to me that the spoiled brat trope transforms a political and strategical
issue into a less interesting debate over personal ethics.
In Japan and France, with a potential revolutionary situation
produced mostly by students, the old left sided with the state. Of course,
Algeria and the US-Japan Security Treaty demonstrations are even better
examples, '68 being somewhat of a rehash. At the very least, the left has
to be able to respond postively to revolutionary situations -- either that
or call it quits. (Which in fact, many have done. Let's credit them with
honesty.). To identify with the police because the students were out of
place, out of time, or out of class hardly makes for a leftist response.
Secondly, in a society which in some ways is the world's foremost
police state, I think one has to criticize US infatuation with police and
the military. No doubt in today's US the police have become a screen upon
which class struggle plays itself out. This helped people like Nixon and
Bush emotionally mobilize the population against the students and Iraq.
However, that social conflict plays out on this particular screen is itself
ideological. For instance, why
Dirty Harry or Rambo and not on the pages of a left wing press? In other
words, it's not just a question of siding with the police, but a question
of the ideological framework that poses the dilemma in the first place.
Injected into the US pop cultural police state, Pasolini's quip plays only
a reactionary role.
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