Officer Friendly (was Violence and Revolution)

Matt Davidson afn02065 at
Mon Jun 19 14:48:15 MDT 1995

I wrote:

>>Because the
>>police (and the SS) are not as abstracted "individuals" equivalent to "the
>>C.E. #1" does not mean that they are not very concretely a class enemy.
>>They are soldiers in the army of the ruling class?  Do we agree that this is
>>true?  They are _not_ like the rest of us, they are armed defenders of
>>capitalism.  This is at their best!  At their worst, they're psychopaths
>>with a license to kill.  If cops want to be part of the revolution, they can
>>do that by _deserting_ from the ranks, and coming over to our side.  It is
>>not our responsibility to somehow ally ourselves with them, or a express
>>appreciation for their "humanity" -- whatever that is.

Joe responded:

>I'm finding this discussion increasingly inane.  It's interesting that at
>least a couple partipants in this discussion fail to comprehend that black
>and Latino working people actually want police,

When I was doing community organizing on Cleveland's East Side, the elderly
Eastern Europeans wanted more police.  Most of the black folks were very
skeptical of that as any solution to their problems.  There was some
division between older and younger folks, with older folks tending to
support more police.  (I didn't work the Latino neighborhoods....)

>that people in poor
>neighborhoods pay taxes and deserve service --- not abuse --- for their
>hard-earned money,

Agreed, though fighting the capitalist state for the provision of services
needs to be used as a tool for preparing for the bigger fights to come.

>and that more than a few people in offices or on the
>streets are looking to inflict great unpleasantness on the lives of regular

Agreed again, though you fail to point out that many of these "more than a
few people" are your buddies in blue.

>Or that the social violence created in major part by America's
>economic system echoes hideously throughout the country, and that good
>community policing might provide part (preferably a strongly secondary
>part) of the response.

My neighborhood in Gainesville is one of the most heavily policed in town,
and has been for the past few years.  Last year, a "Community On Patrol"
(cute, huh?) neighborhood-watch type program was set up (of which my
landlord is a member).  Net effect on crime: zero.  What is the most common
police-citizen interaction in my neighborhood?  Stopping black folks who're
riding their bikes at night without headlights.  To issue a friendly warning
and express concern for their well-being?  Nope.  "Put your hands on your
head and sit your ass on the curb, boy.  You steal that bike?"  Then a
search.  Then $52 and two points, moving violation.  This is when observed
by a group of skeptical onlookers--"What the hell are you looking at?  Get
the hell out of here!"  Can't testify as to when they're alone.

>Your subhuman psychopaths theory of police work is out on the table.
>There's nothing left to discuss here.

The "subhuman" (there's the h-word again :) ) cops I was thinking of are the
ones that would use their department connections to find out the location of
the women's shelter where my friend worked, then go and threaten to kill
their wives who were hiding out, and, depending on what kind of day they'd
had, their kids and the staff.

>>Tell me, Joe, is your unit one of the ones that gets to
>>shoot unarmed Palestinian children--I mean murderous, rock-throwing Arab
>>terrorists?  And do you also have opportunity to defend land-grabbing,
>>water-stealing theocratic Jewish fascists--I mean docile settlers hoping to
>>live in peace with their Palestinian neighbors in the land given to the Jews
>>by God, under the laws established by Him to assure man's (man's indeed!)
>Sure, Matt, and I drink the blood of Palestinian children every Passover,

Is that SOP or just your personal predeliction?  They didn't serve blood at
my last Passover, but maybe that's because I don't know the secret handshake.

>The specifics of military service aren't up for discussion.  My
>opinions and writings on the Middle East are pretty well covered in the
>Alternative Press Index and other reference sources, if you care to avail
>yourself.  To make a hash of your civilian/good, uniform/bad stereotypes,
>I'll add that the well-known US left journal that first printed my intifada
>coverage did so entirely aware (and intrigued) that I was a regular-service
>soldier.  And they were complimented by Palestinian readers on the quality
>of the reportage.  Ah, but these are paradoxical complications and you
>thrive on the noblity of simplification.

A border guard with a heart.  OK.

Sorry if I gave the impression that I was defending civilians as a category.
 But I am making an armed/unarmed distinction--folks exercising the
organized violence of the state as opposed to those (e.g. school teachers)
engaged in the reproduction of hegemony in it's broad sense.

>>Ah, but these are simplifications.  Well, of course.  It is through these
>>simplifications that I am trying to point out a truth that is more important
>>and more significant than the trivial fact that we are members of the same
>>genus and species (share a common "humanity").
>Trivial, Matt?  That's goddam frightening.  Common humanity is the
>strongest political argument, one that relies on shared human sentiments of
>which your words are so terribly barren.  Political logic and even --- in
>the last instance --- the violence of self-defence have their place.
>Before my children have learned politics, they've learned the foundation of
>any good politics, the common humanity they share with their neighbors.
>That takes attention, work and education.  Common humanity is a bothersome
>concept to racists and political extremists for it relies on emotional
>'fuzziness' and redemptive possibilities.  Yet I've watched 'enemy'
>families that have suffered the most grievous losses fall on each other's
>shoulders in tears, and have seen the power of human commonality.
>Hypernationalism and religious exclusivism, two plagues of this century,
>are pushed back each moment two like humans realize their common features,
>hopes and pain.

Can't we all just get along?  Yes, folks can get to know each other and feel
friendly towards one another.  Abductees can come to identify with their
captors.  But this is not a sufficient basis for a political program.  That
I embrace my oppressor means nothing unless they stop oppressing me.  Since
ultimately my oppression is a function of a system that extends beyond the
number of folks I can get my arms around, embrasure as strategy looks like a
losing proposition.

>But this is 'soft,' whereas you urge us to be militant and 'hard':
>> [continuing from above] And that is that we live in
>>a society that is characterized by sometimes overt, sometimes covert,
>>sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious, _struggle_.  That this struggle
>>is crucial in determining the kind of future all we chummy "humans" are
>>going to share.  That there are _sides_ in this conflict, and we can and
>>should identify where we stand and where others stand.
>Have you been taking your hypertension medication regularly, Matt?

Point well taken :)  It has been a frustrating week...back on-line today
after four more days of hardware-related downtime--the work is piling up!  I
resolve to take 10 deep breaths before hitting the send button on any more

>This is
>a left version of social Darwinism, where struggle defines the terms of
>human existence.  It's a vision that privileges one feature of social
>behavior --- struggle --- over all others in order to mobilize the masses,
>with fists held high in cyberspace.  It's the kind of for-or-against-me,
>comrade-or-enemy, all-or-nothing rhetoric that gives Marxism a bad name.

Class struggle gives Marxism a bad name?  Well, it does among the
bourgeoisie.  Maybe among their mercenaries, the police, too.  But among
enlightened leftist border guards?

>Those insistent bifurcations and line-drawing in the political sand reveal
>mentalities of hatred, inflexibility, and obsession with identifying
>enemies.  They presage Gog and Magog on the battlefield of Truth.  The
>politics here are self-marginalizing in the extreme.

Hatred of the enemy, of course.  To paraphrase Mao, "Revolution is not a
group therapy session."  Inflexibility in our aim--the goal is liberation,
and not something else--flexibility in strategy and even more flexibility in
tactics.  Identifying enemies is important, because a clear idea of the
enemy helps first and foremost to determine our strategy, and secondly to
minimize what folks in your line of work like to call "collateral damage".
Surely it's better to have a clear idea of who the enemy is than to not have
a clear idea?

>I take my Marxist thought with a bit of a grin, Matt,

Not to mention the rifle and uniform of an armed agent of imperialism <grin>.

>which is why Officer
>Friendly seems a tad more progressive than anything you've been offering
>lately.  Now where did that Marxist humor thread go?

--Matt D.

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