The tragedy in Nice has become yet another verse in the seemingly unending song of woe and torment that has been 2016. It started innocently enough with the deaths of beloved musicians and slowly descended into all out chaos; at the halfway point we see a potential Donald Trump presidency while a castrated Bernie Sanders shills for Hillary the shield-maiden. The UK voted narrowly and dramatically to exit the European Union, itself a monument to ruthlessly undemocratic neoliberal modernism but with the realm in the hands of a Thatcherite Tory government for another four years. The Middle East is as chaotic and war-torn as the days of the Bush administration and there seems to be no vision to fix it. The threads that have held the illusion of civilisation together are straining under the pressure that a globalised, unequal neoliberal world has created.
Micah Johnson, with accomplices, shot and killed five cops in Dallas TX on the 7th of July. If, to the reader, there is any mystery as to why a black man in the US would want to murder cops, then I must wonder how they have managed to live for so long on the planet Mars. Regardless of your beliefs on the cause of violence in black communities, it is an undeniable fact that relationship between black communities in the US and their police departments, many of which have been covertly or not-so-covertly infiltrated by white supremacist in the past and continue to be so, have been tense for decades. And given the history of the US police force, especially in the southern states as citizen’s militias terrorising the slave communities, it’s not entirely outside of the realms of understanding to imagine the kind of simmering resentment associated with police by black communities.
I would never profess to be a clairvoyant, but the events unfolding worldwide, tempered by our little nation’s growing flirtation with far right ideology (how’s that Pauline Pantsdown comeback coming along?) give me pause. Society can only get so unequal. Government’s can only separate itself so far from its constituents. Dissatisfaction can only simmer for so long. The institutions that have imposed these conditions upon people can only avoid blame for so long before there is a response, be it the anti-establishment cynicism of crumbling industrial northern England, the One Nation voting constituents of floundering post-real estate bubble Queensland or Micah Johnson icing five pigs.
In his essay Pacifism and The War, George Orwell wrote that “pacifism is objectively pro-fascism.” The humanistic soul behind people claiming that they do not support any violence, and that they feel as bad for the victims of police violence as they do for the “innocent” cops that were killed while doing their job is understandable. Unfortunately, it also betrays the privilege of many Western leftists, who having never been surrounded by state violence as a lifetime matter of course, and see violence as something one can simply opt out of. To choose not to raise fists against a foe who is already beating on you is to admit defeat. The forces of neoliberalism, a subspecies of fascism in the truest sense, have no qualms in using the state’s power to enforce their ruthlessly hypercapitalist vision. If we are to proclaim to be against the institutions that cause terrible and unnecessary suffering to the most marginalised of people, we must accept the reality that nonviolent resistance can only go so far against these overtly violent institutions.
It is too late to view this situation in morally absolute, “right” or “wrong” terms. The train has left the station. If you feel that antifa members engaging violently with far right, neo-nazi affiliated groups like UPF are “just as bad” as the racists, you’re on the racist’s side. If you feel that One Nation voters are racist gronks who deserve nothing but our scorn, you’re ignoring the people who need the left to reach out to them, now more than ever. And if you feel that no amount of state violence justifies Micah Johnson’s actions, you’re giving the state permission to be as violent as it so desires. John F Kennedy famously stated that “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” The reason for this is because the people who first pick up their pitchforks have, by that point, lost their ability to revolt peacefully. No-one chooses to gamble their property and their life for a larf. We cannot simply condemn the revolution because it doesn’t look like we want it to.
People in the highest positions of world government, and the oligarchs and world bankers who control the wealth of nations, have the power to vastly improve the lives of a great many people around the world. At a great personal expense to themselves, it would be well within the bounds of reason to return to the kind of post-war social democracy that saw the meteoric rise of the Western world and beyond. But it won’t happen out of the goodness of their hearts. At it’s core, if we want to see a world free from the wars that displace thousands upon thousands of innocents, free from self-serving politicians who exploit those displaced innocents to further their political careers by spouting xenophobic rhetoric under the guise of “border security” and free from state-inflicted violence provoking violent backlash from disenchanted citizenry like in Dallas, we have to accept that it will only happen if the people who have the power to make it feel that it is the only way. They have to feel as if spending all that time and money is worth it. Put simply, keeping your head attached to your shoulders would probably feel worth it, in the absence of anything else. If recent events are anything to go by, this peaceful and more tolerant world will not happen organically; if it does not start getting better, it will only get worse.