Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Throughout the 400 years since it emerged, capitalism has believed it cannot exist without maintaining deadly domination of black bodies. And it’s been molding social discussion to promote this belief. Capitalist power derives from the mistrust of nature and has used black bodies as the anthropomorphic depiction of nature’s wild untrustworthiness. First, we had to make the Africans into our slaves because otherwise they wouldn’t become Christian. Clearly, if left in their own land, worshiping terrifying animistic spirits, or some crazy thing called “Allah,” they would eventually be overwhelmed by disease, poverty, and the pests of the natural world, a world which was itself not to be trusted. It was for their own protection.
Slavery in the United States was eventually outlawed, except when imposed on criminals, so black people were shaped in the propaganda story into basic, natural criminals. To prevent them from enjoying the opportunities of freedom, the dominant society criminalized their presence among white citizens, even to the point of policing the flow of their genes through Jim Crow laws. Eventually the Jim Crow system was defeated by appeals to society’s conscience, rather than its fear. Losing battle after subsequent battle of conscience, white cruelty has finally settled on police as the main lethal army, and prisons as the main segregating tool, safeguarding society against scary nature in the form of the black person.
For centuries before the advent of capitalism, most of civilization was convinced by rulers that it couldn’t survive without dominating women and the poor. In many similar ways to how black people came to be used, women, poor people, and nomadic peoples were seen as the main reflections of untrustworthy nature, until capitalism moved the imposition of its harshest propaganda of social mistrust onto the black body.
What has never changed during this multi-millennial propaganda blitz is that it’s always been best for the elite if we fear each other. It’s great, especially for men, if we buy into the fear of nature by distrusting woman. It’s great, especially for those who have an obscene amount of wealth, if we buy into the fear of nature in the guise of poor people. It’s great for those who profit, or believe they do, from the ownership of private property if most people can be convinced to believe in the necessity of the police to keep black people under control through the threat of death. Other manufactured races have been and might be used along the way as additional place holders for the totem of inscrutably evil nature, but the black body remains, after four centuries, the place where society has located the heart of its fear of the unpredictable world outside rational control.
To placate the owning class, the primacy of ownership and the so-called “traditional” hierarchy of power must be understood as a rational part of keeping nature within acceptable boundaries. In the end the police, who are there mostly to protect private property, can justify wielding physically threatening power over the rest of us by making the case that it is acceptable and necessary to use violence against a select group, a group whose unpredictable, volatile nature has been cruelly sculpted since the beginning of capitalism to fit the needs of the owners, whose interests must be protected from black people, the nature of whom, if unregulated, could revert to its incendiary African condition.
The others of us, who are also not to be trusted, are meant to understand ourselves as only slightly more trustworthy than black people, and therefore that much less likely to be killed by the enforcers of the hierarchy. Clearly the mistrust of nature must extend to human nature.
Black people, finding themselves over and over on the most punitive end of the police officer’s, and therefore capitalism’s, violent force, and having finally judged society’s chances to answer calls for reform through day-to-day civil procedures exhausted, have risen up, as they have many times before, but this time with far greater support of the non-black world.
Many wonder how much longer we’re going to tolerate these institutions that don’t trust us and indoctrinate us to distrust each other and ourselves. How much longer are we going to willingly inhabit the story that nothing unpoliced or unowned is trustworthy? Can we ever break free of this story? What would we need to do?
The suggestion seems to be we would definitely need to erase the cops, our leaders, the owners and bosses, and our landlords. And I have to say, that’s a great suggestion! Coeval with ideas for reform has arisen a large movement to disrespect authority even in medicine and science, but that movement has often been found to be in the service of the power hierarchy itself. Yet we do need a complete overhaul of society, without the holdover prejudices from previous generations. I know this sounds a lot like Khmer Rouge talk, but that’s one of the old patterns we definitely don’t want to repeat. For one thing, it would be way too much work. Two things on our list of things to avoid: workaholism, and psychotic Khmer Rouge-style murderous paranoia. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
People of color have been acclimated by indoctrination to the desire for proximity to whiteness, its supposed qualities, and its attendant privileges. Everyone has been deluded by the oppressive system, the oppressors and the oppressed who replicate the system of oppression within themselves. Workers desire the position occupied by their bosses and thus reflexively defend the intangible matrix into which those spaces have been carved.
When it comes down to it, we hate ourselves and others and nature and that which controls nature, while simultaneously loving and relying on all those things. When people come to this realization, they are compelled to urge everyone to “burn it to the ground.”
And really, what could be better for everyone? We know it in our secret selves, and some of us are even consciously aware. What could be better for living things on the planet than to stop civilization dead in its tracks. Power down the grid. Sure, we’ll have to go through the apocalyptic phases. There will be the total war of all-against-all phase, followed by the Soylent Green phase of food riots, the Mad Max phase of petro-militias, the climate-change-catalyzed deluge, and finally the disconnected archipelago of islands of groups of humanity cut off from each other by the Grand Global Ocean. A time of respite shall then settle in over the weary planet.
During that time the forests will return, maybe a few cultures can take it upon themselves to clean up a little while wild plants and animals rebuild their numbers. Languages will be reinvented. New philosophers will emerge, ones that don’t bug you with stupid questions like, “Excuse me, friend, do you believe in motion? But if Achilles wants to go a certain distance, don’t you agree he must first go half that distance? And even before that, halfway to that halfway point?” If you hear anything like that on our island, promise me you will instantly murder that person. We cannot reproduce the garbage ideas of the previous, say, 8,000 years.
We must invent our own garbage ideas. I think we are on the pathway already, and it would be nice if we could somehow do the oral history thing of preserving ideas in rhymes and songs we repeat in rituals so as to remember them accurately. We have to invent ritual recitations about a humanity possessing no greed or capitalism, no fear of limitless nature, somehow without re- introducing the ideas we want to annihilate. Write songs about valuing all life without implying that it’s possible not to. Write songs like, “We’re a happy tribe, nomadic and free, wandering all over the world which isn’t owned by anyone,” without causing someone to think, “What a great idea! Owning the world!” How do we sing about a world without prisons without giving some jerk the bright idea to put people in cages again?
Maybe we can start small now and build gradually to the apocalypse series and its Great Aftermath. Start by abolishing the police, and maybe wedge in there some ideas of wealth redistribution that don’t assume people are going to try to “game the system,” even if sometimes, of course, they will. Force into the general storyline the idea that people are to be trusted first.
We have to force the authorities and their owners to admit that they’re the ones out of control, they’re the dangerous thugs, they’re animals, they’re the ones who will be murdered unless they actively prove they’re worthy of being allowed to exist. Apparently, the police are already complaining about how they’re being portrayed in the media, with people able to view so many personal phone video examples of cops being thuggish and violent out of all proportion to the civil disobedience they’re supposedly trying to control. The cops are starting to understand that the story they’ve been telling about black people is now being told about the cops themselves. Maybe now the conversation will start to change.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!