Civil rights marches versus the right to puke

It was a day of vivid contrast. One the one hand, tens of thousands marching through the streets, angry over a lack of justice and appalling inequality; on the other hand, the arrogance of privilege distilled in an alcohol-fueled invasion.

The Week of Outrage did meet SantaCon in the streets of New York City. “Taking the streets” has seldom meant such different things.

Despite the raw anger still felt in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (and so many others), the December 13 Week of Outrage march in New York City was a model of peacefulness. A multi-cultural multitude, there was a real respect shown toward others throughout. Time and again, when somebody accidentally bumped into someone else — regardless of who bumped who — both would quickly say “excuse me.” I was even thanked for being there after gently bumping into someone else. I appreciated that, but I was only doing my duty as a human being.

Marching in the streets of New York City

Marching in the streets of New York City

Then we have SantaCon, where yuppies and other privileged White people in their 20s act out their “right” be as drunk as possible, to overrun neighborhoods and vomit on the sidewalk. In past years, New York’s edition of this annual spectacle of drunken obnoxiousness took place in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a neighborhood that has become the poster child for gentrification — once a center for artists and non-conformists, it is now completely overrun with bars and chain stores.

Even there, bar owners and bartenders were fed up with it, and faced with a community unified in its opposition, SantaCon decamped for the Chelsea and Flatiron neighborhoods to the north, at least based on the numerous sightings of drunk Santas as the Week of Outrage march passed through those areas.

The SantaCon revelers were frequently encouraged to join the march; the reaction was almost invariably a slack-jawed uncomprehending look as if they couldn’t conceive of doing such a thing. Likely they couldn’t. The one notable exception I saw was when I suggested to one frat boy-looking character who probably works on Wall Street that he forget about SantaCon and join the march. He responded with a fusillade of expletives. Ah well, the stock market had just had a bad week; perhaps he wasn’t able to throw any grandmothers out of their homes and was in a bad mood because of it.

Claiming drinking as a “creative” activity

The flavor of SantaCon participants was captured by the Village Voice:

“Doug Bunton, owner of [a Lower East Side tavern], says he allowed Santas into his bar one time and quickly vowed never to do so again. ‘A guy poked me with a candy cane and said, ‘Santa doesn’t pay,’ and from then on I make no exceptions. I think their purpose is to take over the bar and make you do what they want,’ Bunton asserts. ‘I think they should try doing it in the Bronx, and see what they get there.’ ”

That would be interesting. But as one can not have privilege without an ideology justifying it, an anonymous SantaCon representative offered this nonsensical gem in the same Village Voice article:

“SantaCon’s New York organizer, the one who gives his name only as ‘Santa,’ feels SantaCon is merely misunderstood. He says outsiders are uncomfortable with such an unconventional and creative celebration. He insists the event is not a bar crawl, but rather an excuse to dress up, go caroling, and spread holiday cheer. ‘It draws criticism very easily from people because it’s rare to see so much unbridled joy and optimism outside,’ the man called Santa tells the Voice.”

There you have it: Getting drunk and vomiting in the streets, and doing so while wearing corporate products symbolizing consumerist excess that were almost certainly manufactured with sweatshop labor in a poverty-stricken corner of the world is “unconventional” and “creative”!

It is impossible not to see links with the runaway gentrification washing over one New York City neighborhood after another. SantaCon goes naturally with this. Gentrification is part of a process whereby people are expected, and socialized, to become passive consumers. Instead of community spaces, indoors and outdoors, where we can explore our own creativity, breath new life into traditional cultural forms, create new cultural traditions and build social scenes unmediated by money and commercial interests, a mass culture is substituted, a corporate-created and -controlled commercial product spoon-fed to consumers carefully designed to avoid challenging the dominant ideas imposed by corporate elites.

Undoubtedly, the SantaCon revelers, dressed alike and pursuing the same activity organized by someone else, believe they are rugged individualists, boldly displaying their “creativity.” That is what the corporate media tells them when they add a personal flourish to a corporate consumer product. Gosh, the corporate media wouldn’t lie, would they?

Corporate media get cold feet

The corporate media has begun turning against the fightback against the systematic police killing People of Color sparked by the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That is a sign of its effectiveness. The ludicrous under-counting of the size of the December 13 marches and the “reporting” of a Brooklyn Bridge incident later that evening by local newspapers that read like police department press releases indicate that those authorities who had hoped the ongoing demonstrations would have died down by now may be preparing more repressive approaches.

We’re not talking about mad-dog Murdoch media outlets, but rather newspapers that had reported on continuing unrest in Ferguson and elsewhere with minimal malice. The New York Daily News, for example, breathlessly declared: “Police said Sunday that they had arrested a hooligan who assaulted two police officers during protests on the Brooklyn Bridge overnight.” The paper made sure to stress that the arrestee had written poems containing “disdain for the cops.” Quelle horreur!

And lest we are tempted to chalk that up to tabloid excess, The New York Times, although too genteel to use a word like “hooligan,” dutifully presented the police version of the incident as undisputed fact, making sure to note the police allegation that the arrestee’s backpack was found with a sack of hammers a day after uncritically citing the police department’s obvious under-counting of the size of the main march.

The Brooklyn Bridge activists wound up marching to the Brooklyn housing project where another young Black man, Akai Gurley, was recently killed by police in a stairwell. (The officer who shot Mr. Gurley, instead of calling for help, texted his union representative.) A moment of silence was held for him. Although no time was lost in condemning activists as “guilty” following the incident on the Brooklyn Bridge, the murder of Mr. Gurley was swiftly declared an “accident” by the corporate media and by Mayor Bill de Blasio without even the pretense of an investigation.

I was not on the Brooklyn Bridge, so I can not definitively say what did or did not happen. (A two-minute YouTube video shows a struggle underway, but not what might have precipitated it.) But the use of provocateurs by police to justify crackdowns is hardly unknown, so newspaper reports ought to be read with considerable caution. The uniform use of police violence against peaceful Occupy protestors and encampments should be borne in mind.

I will note that the sole example of anything violent I witnessed was when one person slapped the side of a police wagon with a hand, and several people immediately admonished that person not to do that. And this was on a spontaneous march after the main march in which the very point was to walk in the street to bring traffic to a halt in a symbolic gesture of “no business as usual.” Dozens of motorists stuck in traffic nonetheless honked their horns in solidarity, several putting their hands out their windows for the marchers to slap a “high-five” in support.

Besides a demonstration featuring parents and other family members of people killed by police in Washington, there were demonstrations in Boston, Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, among other places. In Oakland, anti-racist activists followed up by chaining themselves to the city police headquarters.

Taking aim at systems of repression

The continuing nature of these protests — they have been nearly non-stop since August and the December 13 events likely saw the biggest single-day total of demonstrators yet — has led some people to ask if this is the beginning of an uprising. It is far too early to say, but the ongoing willingness to disrupt “business as usual” through civil disobedience tactics certainly merits serious attention. Any movement serious about effecting a change has to aim squarely at the system in which individual police officers, or district attorneys, or courts, operate.

As Angela Davis said in a lengthy interview with The Guardian, the recent police killings are part of a long chain of repression. She said:

“There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan. There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice. … The problem with always pursuing the individual perpetrator in all of the many cases that involve police violence, is that one reinvents the wheel each time and it cannot possibly begin to reduce racist police violence. Which is not to say that individual perpetrators should not be held accountable – they should.”

Capitalism was built on slavery and the “triangular trade” in which which European manufactured goods were shipped to the coast of western Africa in exchange for slaves, who were shipped to the Americas, which in turn sent sugar and other commodities back to Europe. The North American plantation-owning aristocracy feared that Black slaves, White indentured servants and those former servants who were nominally “free” would unite, putting an end to their rule. Instilling anti-Black racism in poor Whites was the solution to this threat, a process facilitated by the racism justifying the genocide of Native Americans.

Racism began to be developed as an ideology to counter solidarity between Blacks and Whites and to counter poor White settlers who left the colonies to live among Indigenous peoples, whose non-hierarchical society was more appealing to thousands of them. To facilitate this process, freed servants were given small privileges not available to slaves to give them the illusion of having a stake in the aristocracy-dominated social order; Whites who rebelled were not punished as severely as Blacks; and poor Whites were forced to move inland due to the monopolization of coastal land by elites, thereby exacerbating tensions with Native Americans.

Divide-and-conquer techniques, whereby we are set at one another’s throats for the scraps left to us by capitalist elites, are indispensable to the maintenance of massive inequality. No police officer says to him or herself, “I’m going to shoot this Black man to keep capitalism in place.” Nonetheless, the mixture of fear and loathing of Black men and women on the part of a White police officer from the suburbs with no connection to the community being patrolled is a product of structural racism. That racism, along with sexism, national hatreds, anti-Semitism and other backward ideologies, are propagated through a variety of social mechanisms, and survive partly because some people receive benefits from them and/or enjoy believing themselves superior to others through supremacist ideologies.

As long as working people allow ourselves to be divided, pointing figures at designated scapegoats, the economic structure that locks in inequality will remain untouched. That will require many people to examine and question their privileges. It would be unrealistic to expect SantaCon participants to do that, but the number of civil rights marchers greatly outnumbered SantaConners. We should not under-estimate the length of the task ahead, but that is a good start.


36 comments on “Civil rights marches versus the right to puke

  1. Well reported, observed and analyzed. Interesting that the “triangular trade” was presented to us elementary and junior high students in the 1960s as “the mercantile system”. It was more than a bit mystifying as to what, exactly, the cargo was between Africa and the Americas as well as who bought what from Europe in Africa…and no mention of banks and financing and stuff…of course we didn’t discuss religion or politics in polite company at the time, nor sex or death or the slave trade…nor anything else that mattered…wish I knew then what I know now from reading excellent blogs such as this one…

    • Thank you, Thomas. I was presented no better information when I was a young student, either. I remember watching a film about the Nazi concentration camps in the eighth grade, with pictures that were very difficult to watch, but not much information on what happened inside the United States. We were given a clinical discussion of why slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person in the Constitution, as the product of negotiations between Southern and Northern states, but not on why there were slaves or details of their lives.

  2. Deke Solomon says:

    I told you in an earlier post that violence was coming. I also told you that violence is the one universal language. Do YOU know anybody who speaks Esperanto? If so, how many?

    On the other tack, everybody understands a poke in the snoot. Protesters had better steel themselves because it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. The heat will get much hotter because those who own everything (including the heat) aren’t going to give anything to preserve civil order. Civilization means nothing to them. If you want proof, you need look no farther than the fact that they’ve already torn up the social contract. How much farther do you think they will go? Do I hear gunshots in the offing?

    • People are quite aware of the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

      • Deke Solomon says:

        I wasn’t talking about the Civil Rights Movement. I was talking about the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is what protects everybody. Those who (implicitly) tore up the Constitution tore up the Social Contract and the Rule of Law at the same moment. The stupid, power-mad bastards didn’t understand that it cuts both ways: If government and agents of government don’t obey the law, then neither will anybody else.

        To date the elitist thugs have been lucky. The significance, the realization of what they’ve actually done has yet to soak into most Americans. Discarding the rule of law was a declaration by government of civil war on the populace. Until this mess is fixed by SOMEBODY, government and the people stand at each others’ throats. Predictably it was black Americans who felt it first because they have always been an oppressed minority. But the rule of law protected everybody: white and brown and red and yellow Americans will all get the joke by and by.

        More and more people will start sniping Authority as time goes on because there is now no legitimate authority in America. With the collapse of legitimate authority comes the collapse of property rights and of property itself, as a concept. If you’ve come this far with me, think about where this mess is headed. Then go home and load your guns.

        Solomon sed.

        • I was more reacting to your earlier comments that organized resistance is impossible, that only small groups or lone individuals can strike back. The net effect, intended or not, is that structural change would be impossible, for only large organized movements can bring about structural change; indeed, that is pretty much the only force that ever does. So I had taken that as a sign of de facto “giving up”; my reference to the Civil Rights Movement was meant to say that others have not given up in the face of state violence but instead found the courage to go forward anyway.

          I see now you are coming from a different perspective that I had inferred. A war of all against all does none of us any good, however. Again, it comes back to organization, and an organized resistance can not be effective without a well-thought-out theory grounded in skilled interpretation of the world and the history that led up to it, and how to create and sustain an organized struggle with a real chance at success. Theory and practice go together.

          Everybody going home and grabbing their gun is not that; it is simply a spasm of random violence. It is true that our capitalist rulers will resort to violence to maintain themselves and their system, and turning the other cheek is not going to be effective against that. I am no pacifist: Pacifists tell people they have no right to self-defense and nobody has the right tell anybody oppressed that. But nor do I think it necessarily productive to dwell on the violence that rulers hold in reserve (and have used). Ignore that, no; but neither should we allow it to loom so large that we paralyze ourselves with fright or talk ourselves into barricading ourselves in our homes.

          • Deke Solomon says:

            SD wrote “I am no pacifist: Pacifists tell people they have no right to self-defense and nobody has the right tell anybody oppressed that. But nor do I think it necessarily productive to dwell on the violence that rulers hold in reserve (and have used). Ignore that, no; but neither should we allow it to loom so large that we paralyze ourselves with fright or talk ourselves into barricading ourselves in our homes.”

            Solomon sez: That’s a lot of elitist, intellectual twaddle. What intellectuals don’t understand is that when the lid blows off, it’s katie-bar-the-door and do not shilly-shally. What we saw in Ferguson, MO, is what we’ll see in communities across the land. It has nothing to do with black or white. It has everything to do with human nature. Order is ALWAYS born out of chaos. When all parties involved get tired of beating and killing each other, they start looking for other ways to settle their differences. Think the Terror of 1789. Think Russia, 1917-1921.

            In Vietnam, grunts had a saying: I don’t recall the exact words but it was something like ‘those who tell us there’s nothing to fear are those who don’t appreciate the situation.’ I wasn’t talking about barricading myself in my home; I was talking about being prepared to fight your way out of the riot that awaits us in the near future. There is no way to barricade ourselves in our homes. Modern weapons deny that option. Those who are ‘paralyzed with fright’ will be the first to die. Riots feed on fear.

            If you don’t believe me, my advice is to hide and watch.

            Solomon sed.

            • This is getting circular. What we see in places like Ferguson, Missouri, has to do with the frustration that builds up when the state is not responsive to, or even responsible for, oppression. Note that, overwhelmingly, the protests across the United States remain peaceful. That is because movements always start out peacefully; it is the state that forces rebellion into violence. It is a very rare régime that decides to go peacefully and no capitalist régime ever has.

              But a spasm of violence, based on “the lid being blown off” popular frustration, is a riot without direction and incapable of effecting any change. Channeling popular anger into large-scale movements capable of effecting change is what is necessary, and what is noteworthy about the anti-police brutality movement that has sprung up since the killing of Michael Brown is that young people themselves, those who are most at risk, have taken the lead. Appropriately so.

              Deke, you say you live in a very small town and I will therefore assume it is rare for you to take part in a large demonstration. I live in a very big city and have attended hundreds of demonstrations, and have helped organized many. So I am afraid that I am in a better position than you to understand moods in the street. People are militant, too sure of themselves to accept the crumbs on offer, but disciplined and, although using civil disobedience to disrupt are not being violent. How is this? It is because there is theory behind the actions. People understand it is not this or that bad cop, it is the system in which the cop operates, and which the cop enforces.

              None of us can know where this will lead, but I can tell you this movement is not going away. Will there be repression from the state? Undoubtedly. Yes, that means we will have some fear. But we have no choice but to manage our fear and go out and demonstrate anyway. By dwelling so much on state violence, you are in effect disorganizing people and therefore providing an assistance to the very authorities you say you oppose. The vision of people fighting their way out of the homes in a world of total breakdown and chaos is the vision of Friedrich von Hayek and of Hollywood movies — that we are naturally at one another’s throat unless the civilizing bounds of capitalist culture keep us in line. If we are organized — and we can not be organized without theory — such a breakdown need not occur.

              As Fredric Jameson memorably said, it is easier for us to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. You have provided yet another example.

  3. Watching Americans all over the country engage in a week of outrage over police lynchings is a promising sign that people are starting to break through their apathy.

    • And seeing people like lawyers and law students, who have invested themselves in the system to at least some degree, take part in large numbers is also a good sign.

      • Deke Solomon says:

        And when cops start shooting marchers like vermin in the street, it will be a good sign if the marchers arm themselves and start shooting back.

        But they won’t.

        • Richard W. Posner says:

          They probably will, eventually. But it won’t really matter much. The whole thing will collapse on itself before too much longer. Our “civilisation” is unsustainable and irredeemable. It won’t stand much longer.

          From “Endgame”, by Derrick Jensen, excerpts from “The Twenty Premises”

          PREMISE THREE: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

          PREMISE FOUR: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

          PREMISE FIVE: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

          PREMISE SIX: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

          PREMISE SEVEN: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier the crash will be, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.

          I fully agree with Jensen’s assessments of human civilisation.

          • Deke Solomon says:

            Mr. Posner: I see you’re a Marxist and I’m a Marxist/Leninist. 😎 Your thinking is organic; my thinking is emetic. But we’re agreed on the end game, for sure.

            • Richard W. Posner says:

              Well, though I have some of his works in my PDF library, I must confess that, as yet, I haven’t read any. So, If I’m to be given such a label as “Marxist“, and it won’t be the first time it’s happened, I must state quite firmly I have not chosen to be so identified and any similarities in our thinking is purely coincidental.

              Nonetheless, as you say, we agree on the endgame.

              By the way, if I may say so, I’ve never before heard anyone equate the process of “thinking” with vomiting. Quite a concept!

          • Deke Solomon says:

            Marx thought that history would naturally and inevitably lead to the establishment of a socialst society. That’s why I said your thinking was organic. Lenin believed it was possible to hurry the process through revolution and violence. That’s why I said I was a Marxist/Leninist. When I said my thought was emitic, I used the wrong word in haste. I should have said my thought was purgative — as in purge the system and start over. If that makes any better sense (but seems just as funny), it’s supposed to. Good results is good results no matter which end they come out of. Remember the title of the colum is “Civil Rights vs. the Right to Puke. 😎


            • Richard W. Posner says:

              Well, I’d have to say I agree with that area of Marx’s view to a certain extent.

              I think that humans are, by nature, fundamentally socialistic, very cooperative and interdependent. Unfortunately, I also feel these very characteristics (which made it possible for the species to survive for some five or six million years if one cares to consider our most ancient known ancestors) are the Achilles heel that allowed a small, parasitic minority to gain dominance over the vast majority.

              I suppose violence can expedite a transition between two states, but I’m afraid it will always mean trading one patriarchal hierarchy for another; “meet the new boss, same as the old boss“.

              Irrelevant anyway since there’s going to be lots of violence going forward whether “revolutionary” or simply the natural consequence of collapsing “civilisation“.

              It doesn’t really matter what “society” evolves from the crash of this one if psychopathy can’t be purged from the human condition. As long as psychopathy prevails it will be impossible to build any “civilisation” that includes groups or “settlements” with populations larger than a maximum of 150 members. Personally I think even 150 is pushing it.

              Just my opinion

              Inherited and acquired psychological disorders and ignorance of their existence and nature are the primal causes of evil. The magic number of 6% seems to represent the number of humans who either carry the genes responsible for biological evil or who acquire such disorders in the course of their lifetime. This small percent is responsible for the vast majority of human misery and crime, and for infecting others with their flawed view of the world.”

              I get the “purgative”, “emetic” reference now, thanks to your clarification. I don’t really have all that much “sense of humor” and tend to take things at face value.


              • Deke Solomon says:

                Mr. Posner — It’s interesting that you finger psychopathology as the root of all evil. The late Jules Siegel (with whom I used to correspond) was formerly an Army officer who worked in military intelligence. HE thought seriously that bad potty training was the root of all our problems.

                One of the Greeks (I forget which one) thought that democracy was unworkable in communities of more than 5,000 people, reason being that in order for democracy to work it is necessary that everyone in the community should be personally acquainted with everyone else. THAT makes a lot of sense to me.


              • Richard W. Posner says:

                Mr. Siegel offers a fascinating hypothesis. I’ll have to commence researching it right away.

                …reason being that in order for democracy to work it is necessary that everyone in the community should be personally acquainted with everyone else.

                Exactly my point regarding group size.

                It seems that humans are best adapted to Life in small groups with a maximum of no more than 150 members. Personally I think even 150 are too many.

                For most of human evolution the laws of Nature set the limits to growth, as, inevitably, they always will. Humans did not – could not – push against those limits to any significant degree prior to the Neolithic “revolution” and the onset of the disease we have come to think of as civilisation.

                It was the abandonment of the forager/gatherer/hunter “culture” that lead to the spawning of this “civilisation” and, ultimately, to our current unsustainable and irredeemable culture of domination. It’s my humble opinion that humans stopped evolving around 10 – 15 thousand years ago.

                Creating large stationary population centers, which probably began with the construction of monolithic structures for practicing group “rituals“, enabled the development of patriarchal hierarchies, which allowed the pathological minority to gain “personal” power, eventually becoming dominant over the “social power” of the majority. It was the social power of small, tribal, forager cultures that kept the essential psychopaths – the Kunlangeta – in check for hundreds of thousands of years.

                Essential psychopaths make up no more than around 1% of any given population and they are male by a wide majority. When a tribe or “society” consists of a very small number of individuals it’s quite likely there will be no sociopaths present. If there are, they will stand out like the proverbial “sore thumb”, making them easy to eliminate.

                From recorded observations, we do know that sociopaths, by various names, have existed in all kinds of societies, worldwide and throughout history. As an illustration, psychiatric anthropologist Jane M. Murphy describes the Inuit concept of kunlangeta, which refers to a person whose “mind knows what to do but does not do it.”

                Murphy writes that in northwest Alaska, kunlangeta “might be applied to a man who, for example, repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and does not go hunting, and, when the other men are out of the village, takes sexual advantage of many women.” The Inuits tacitly assume that kunlangeta is irremediable. And so, according to Murphy, the traditional Inuit approach to such a man was to insist that he go hunting, and then, in the absence of witnesses, push him off the edge of the ice“.

                Once civilisation began to “industrialise” – and sedentary farming was a primary impetus for industrialisation – it became, ipso facto, expansionistic, like a cancer. With that growth, for the first time, it became possible for the pathological to hide in the resultant hierarchies, seek each other out – both skills at which they excel – form cliques and cabals and rise to power.

                Capitalism, economics, militarism, classism, global warming/climate change and all the myriad “issues” confronting us today are merely symptoms of a disease – our much vaunted civilisation – which will, if not stopped very soon, result in its own collapse at the very least, mass ecocide and, possibly, even near-term human extinction.

                As long as pathological psychoses are part of the human condition, it will be impossible to build a real civilisation. Until then, functional societies or cultures wherein populations can exceed 150 as the extreme maximum – and even that many is pushing it – will simply be a nice idea with no hope of realisation.

                Just my opinion

              • I am in agreement that the current human civilization is not sustainable, however we wish to define civilization. I would note, however, that Marx did not believe “history would naturally and inevitably lead to the establishment of a socialist society.”

                Marx the activist certainly was optimistic that socialism would follow capitalism; Marx the political scientist did not see any particular system as inevitable. Marxism, in other words, is not teleological, although of course many of its practitioners misapplied it as if it was such.

                Marxists long put effort into discovering the contradictions within feudalism that ultimately enabled capitalism to arise. Establishing this connection (which does not mean that capitalism had to be what followed feudalism) provides validation for a materialistic theory of history but does not mean that any particular system(s) will follow capitalism, merely that contradictions large enough to bring it to an end will arise within capitalism as with any other system.

                Indeed, the longer we wait the more difficult the ending.

              • Deke Solomon says:

                Systemic Disorder writes: “Indeed, the longer we wait the more difficult the ending.”

                I agree that fascism will have to be forcibly deposed. Those who believe otherwise are wishful thinkers. Capitalism is what I would call a tyranny of bankers and war-mongering greedheads. I read years ago about “the closure of the commons,” why “the commons” were closed, by whom, for what reason, as well as why and how the present society of wage slaves grew out of that (The Making of the English Working Class — E.P. Thompson). I see no way we can continue living with capitalism if humanity truly wants lasting world peace. When I consider the environmental damage that’s already done and the psychological adjustments that would have to be made by billions of people — well — I agree that meaningful change will require civil disorder on a massive scale, and I’m sure you’ll forgive me for being skeptical of the outcome.

                Solomon sed.

              • Richard W. Posner says:

                IMHO the theft of the commons began with “agriculture” and the consequential spawning if “industrial civilisation“.

              • Richard W. Posner says:

                And so it seems we stand in agreement on some fundamental points and, IMHO, that’s what really matters; fundamentals.

                As I’ve admitted, I haven’t really read or researched Marx sufficiently to discuss his philosophies with any authority. I’ll take your comments on that subject as contributions to my endless education.

              • All of us should be undergoing endless education. It’s the only way we’ll learn.

  4. Paul Gilman says:

    I was at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in New York. I saw the SantaCons/”Good Germans” and had the same experience with them that Systemic Disorder had: They were a bunch self-absorbed narcissists who for the most part had two attitudes towards the close to a hundred thousand people who showed up for the rally and march. One attitude was one of hostility towards the protest, and a denial that there is such as thing White privilege. This attitude itself is a privilege that the White petty bourgeois/bougies have.

    Their “blame the victims” attitude is representative of huge section of America. It is also a naive attitude, because the police violence against Black people, Indians and other people of Color is just the beginnings of fascism and the implementation of an Orwellian state. How will they feel when the corporate state decides to use some sort of eminent domain law or just use out-and-out force and tricks to expropriate their rights and wealth?

    Gentrification is the neo-liberal trick of expropriation of the neighborhoods of People of Color and poor Whites. How will these SantaCons feel if the Orwellian state arbitrarily decides to end SantaCon and force them to wear some sort of fascist great leader mask and uncomfortable body-armor in which they must represent an idealized chastity and sobriety of a military state? Ironically the demonstrators and the social movement is the SantaCon’s and White America’s best hope to maintain their own safety from the violence of a fascist state and their own freedoms!

  5. Paul Gilman says:

    When I was a foolish college student living in the dorms, thinking I was rebelling, I placed a big sign out my window saying “F**K Santa.” The Dorm manager asked me to take the sign down. She had two young children who were still young enough to idealize Santa. Not wanting to take the joy out of little kids lives, or anyone for that matter, I took the sign down. I even felt bad that I had put it up.

    As the father of a son that idealizes Santa, who even wears Santa suits, I looked at SantaCon with the same eyes that the Dorm manager must have had. Thinking of all the little kids for whom Christmas is still a magical time, what bubbles must have been burst by seeing all of these drunken fools dressed as Santa? I tell my Son that Santa represents the highest moral and ethical values, and is a being of total compassion. In their attitudes towards police killings and the anti-fascist social movement, these SantaCons don’t show any of those traits, especially compassion. I assume some of the SantaCons can breed, and maybe SantaCon itself will produce some kids. What will they tell their kids if they see a bunch of drunken Santa suit wearing dopes walking around? What will they tell their kids about America and police brutality?

    I am glad that my son didn’t see the drunken Santas. Too bad that when the suits come off, not much in them will change.

    • Ironically the demonstrators and the social movement is the SantaCon’s and White America’s best hope to maintain … their own freedoms!

      Thanks for making that point, Paul. Social progress and increased freedoms are always the product of movements, including people willing to put their bodies in the street. Sometimes that is easy, such as a march; sometimes it is a little harder, such as taking part in civil disobedience; sometimes it facing the real possibility of a violent death such as when the Freedom Summer activists faced down Southern apartheid.

      And of course People of Color risk violence just for being who they are, the very point of the December 13 marches. As a movement gets bigger, more people will join in, emancipating themselves from old thinking. The SantaCon people will likely be among the last to get with it, assuming at least some eventually do. Just take a look at the Jezebel video that I linked to in the last paragraph of the post to see just what smug, self-satisfied ignorance deeply imbedded in privilege looks like.

    • Andy Sloss says:

      Santa represents the highest moral and ethical values? Really?…a coca cola infused caricature in a red suit distributing outrageous amounts of debt and material excess? Really? Hmmm!

  6. Richard Burrill says:

    I read about the guy who started Santacon in last week’s Village Voice. He is not too happy about what it has morphed into.

  7. Richard W. Posner says:

    In the psychopathic culture of our “civilisation it is “normal” for those at the higher levels of hierarchy to exploit, oppress and kill those beneath them. This is simply standard operating procedure for “growth“, “progress” and “development“.

    Death and destruction are only allowed to move down the hierarchy. Any opposition or attempt to send force or even peaceful resistance up the hierarchy is a “crime” at the least. If such resistance shows any sign of effectiveness it automatically falls into the “terrorism” category.

    Protests, everywhere, will first be marginalised by the Ministry of Propaganda, the MSM. If they are mentioned at all it will be to understate the numbers of participants and portray them as negatively as possible.

    It must be understood that any “protest” or “activism” that is allowed to take place will be only what is acceptable to the ruling class and therefore permitted to provide catharsis for the “protesters” and “activists”. Being completely ineffectual it will be tolerated since it will provide the participants with the sense that they are “doing something” whilst ensuring that their actions in no way interfere with “civilisation’s” exploitation and destruction of Earth and Life.

    Ultimately, if any movement, however peaceful, becomes even remotely threatening to the ruling class agenda, it will be designated as a “terrorist organisation” and dealt with accordingly.

    The global pathocracy approaching critical mass. The ruling class no longer sees much need for the pretense of freedom or “civil rights” for the masses. The militarisation of police forces is escalating rapidly everywhere. In the near future, any movement that becomes too great a nuisance, it will be “terminated with extreme prejudice”.

    Dissent everywhere, however meek or innocuous, will eventually become illegal.
    The sociopolitical matrix is a nuclear powder keg just awaiting a spark.

    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

    And this time it will be global.

    Just my opinion

    From “Endgame”, by Derrick Jensen, excerpts from The Twenty Premises

    PREMISE THREE: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

    PREMISE FOUR: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

    PREMISE FIVE: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

    PREMISE SIX: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

  8. Jeff Nguyen says:

    To piggyback off yours, Angela Davis’s and other commenter’s astute remarks here, I would add the correlation between foreign and domestic policy should be part of the discourse. Recently, a fairly mainstream tech blogger noted this link: Law enforcement officers are acutely aware of the accolades and glory heaped upon soldiers for killing mostly dark-skinned human beings in foreign lands, Yet, this same degree of respect and admiration is not conferred to police officers.

    The paramilitarization of domestic law enforcement that has been beamed into homes through corporate media and entertainment outlets has helped to normalize paramilitary operations in the homeland. Yet, for some reason Americans keep getting upset when their pesky rights are violated. I hope it is true that more people are willing to speak up against these seemingly unending horrors perpetrated, mostly in our name, for the sake of power and profits.

    • Related to what you, and the blogger to whom you linked, said, today’s New York Daily News front page screams “Have you no shame?” in reference to the newspaper’s belief that continuing the protests “dishonors” the two New York Police Department officers shot last weekend and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor had asked that the protests be suspended until after the officers’ funerals.

      Why? The basis of that request is that police officers’ lives are worth far more than other peoples’ lives, particularly those of Black men killed by police. That mentality is precisely why there is police brutality, why People of Color are at risk from the police. If we believe that all human lives matter, then it is only appropriate, and expected, that the protests continue.

  9. Deke Solomon says:

    Mr. Posner — I’m with you on the 150 people being too many. The Greek (whoever he was) specified that to make democracy work in a community of 5,000, all the CITIZENS should be personally acquainted with each other. Of course, the Greeks were a slave-holding society. They also treated their women like slaves and neither slaves nor women could vote. So, in a Greek community of 5,000 souls, there were perhaps one or two thousand who actually had the franchise. The rest had to sit down and shut up while propertied men made all decisions for them.
    So I was mistaken when I said “5,000” people.

    Even so, one or two thousand people is far too many for me. I’ve never in my life been a joiner. I shun crowds like the plague. VERY small towns are my venue, always have been, but even there I keep to myself. I’ve been where I’m at now for some 10 years, and after all that time there are probably 10 people in town that I know by sight. Situations such as the one I’m in also give me to know what a tiny percentage of people in the world actually read books and write or talk about what they’ve read. Even on campuses, here in the States, most of the bookish people are professors but not even all of THEM. And politics, of course, is verboten.

    Solomon sed.

  10. Joel Meyers says:

    It seems that the numbers, diversity and persistence of the current wave of demonstrated outrage at police brutality, even without any visible or indentifiable leadership, shows a tremendous degree of consciousness in the recent period. Not long ago, most demonstrations were the old familiar faces. A breakout has definitely occurred and is continuing to expand. Perhaps a sign of how far this goes is that, at least in some of the contingents I marched in, even some of the Santa Cons did join in, albeit rare exceptions.

    I have also noticed that in addition to the enormous sector of the population that recognizes the problem, a significant number carried signs indicating solutions, including socialist revolution, increasingly back by popular demand, and indicating that the problem will not be solved under imperialist capitalism. I was not there, but I heard about the recent debate between Bob Avakian and Cornell West, nominally over the existence of a deity, but in which, whatever else you might think of his version and strategy toward it, unmistakably advocated socialist revolution as the only way out. That event drew a capacity crowd of about 2,000 to Riverside Church (ironically a Rockefeller-sponsored institution), with throngs overflowing onto surrounding sidewalks.

    • If a couple of SantaCon participants were moved to join the marches, that is progress. Although I did not witness such a thing myself, I did have the same experience of seeing new and different faces, and large numbers of people from everyday backgrounds who clearly ordinarily do not find themselves marching in demonstrations. Real signs that more people are opening their eyes to what is happening around them and are becoming willing to act on what they see.

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