To anyone with any concern for humanity, what has happened in America should be deeply saddening and infuriating. The brutal killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has opened the floodgates of fury in America’s general populace. The National Guard has had to be deployed in many places. Courthouses, shops, town halls, homes and so many places have been burned to the ground by rioters. While thousands have been arrested, some rioters, police officers and protestors have been killed. President Trump has declared Antifa a terrorist organisation and has threatened to use the military.
Clearly, the situation is dire. Those on America’s Right have broadly issued boilerplate condemnations of the incident of police brutality, of course, but with no acknowledgement of the systemic oppression of Black people in America. And in classic American conservative fashion, they have condemned the retributive violence with evident dog whistles like those calling for “law and order” to be restored. The liberals, well, have been liberals, making boilerplate condemnations of systemic oppression without any real commitment towards an actual solution. As usual, they have been busy ‘turning people’s heads’ to bring attention to the problem by changing their profile pictures. In complete contrast, the leftists have been rejoicing; to them this is the beginning of a revolution that is going to end the hegemony of the ruling class in America and fulfill Marx’s prophecy.
Unfortunately, the zeal of the American leftist in these riots is more masturbatory than it is idealistic, representing a mere Lacanian fantasy to find a new master instead of a true desire to usher in a just society.
Indeed, one can see where the need for violence arises from. It would be foolish and immoral to argue that ‘violence is never the answer’. Violence becomes necessary to achieve tangible goals when the conscience of the powers that be simply remains unmoved by the scale of their own exploitation. Violence becomes unavoidable when the hand of the ‘system’ only seeks to whip and coerce people into submission. And in America, it should be incontrovertible to say that these conditions stand fulfilled, for police brutality against George Floyd is only the tip of the iceberg; crime, death, poverty, unfair treatment and so much more clearly evidences that American Black people are second-class citizens in a country that is partially built on enslaving them.
However, violence needs to be clearly channelised. It needs to be used to truly storm the Bastille or storm the Tsar’s Winter Palace. What it is definitely not supposed to be used for is burning a 7-11 or destroying the livelihoods of a lot of small businesses or pelting stones at everyday citizens. One can make theoretical arguments of how all businesses and everyday citizens who have been mute throughout, are complicit and need to face the fury as well. But one has to honestly ask oneself if that argument really holds water: The factum of being born in a society means one is subjected to its all-pervading influence that indoctrinates all into marginalising certain peoples, does that mean everyone in the world should be subjected to violence? Of course not.
In the social lives of conscious beings like humans, violence is as much physical as it is psychological. When we burn down a building or kill someone as part of a movement, we inevitably seek to psychologically challenge what that building or person represents. This is why there is a world of difference between burning a police station and vandalising a convenience store. The former is a clear challenge to the system of authority that killed George Floyd. The latter is saying that a person is not allowed to carry on his business because of their theoretical complicity, that the people who depended on that business for their wages do not deserve them. It should take no intellectual exegesis to point out that the latter kind of violence is directed at those who are merely the blind serfs of the overlord that is systemic oppression.
It is here that we find that the so-called revolution going on in America today is more ‘ideological’ in the postmodernist sense than anything. The violence in American streets hasn’t affected the American oligarchs at all. What it has done is far more miniscule yet far more sinister: the riots have ensured that the anger of the marginalised is directed at those who are only theoretically guilty to ensure that those who actually are guilty can continue to maintain their power. The ‘owners’ of the oasis in the desert of post-ideology have ensured that the thirsty fight against those who are allowed to fetch a pail of water instead of those who consume the whole pond. This is eminently proved by the outpouring of support that so many warlocks of the system, the TV show hosts, actors and musicians have shown for the riots. In fact, some of them have even offered to bail the rioters out.
The riots in America are a clear example of how far late capitalism has gone to ensure it cannot be challenged. Even in this outpouring of violence, we are able to locate not a true challenge to the Machine. We can only see rage, rage that only affirms the master’s discourse. Perhaps that is all we can now have against capitalism, the trappings of ideology are far too great, the sinews of the invisible exploitative hand are too strong. Maybe, just maybe, we are doomed.
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