A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
Police officers carry out random acts of legalized murder against poor people of color not because they are racist, although they may be, or even because they are rogue cops, but because impoverished urban communities have evolved into miniature police states.
Police can stop citizens at will, question and arrest them without probable cause, kick down doors in the middle of the night on the basis of warrants for nonviolent offenses, carry out wholesale surveillance, confiscate property and money and hold people—some of them innocent—in county jails for years before forcing them to accept plea agreements that send them to prison for decades. They can also, largely with impunity, murder them.
Those who live in these police states, or internal colonies, especially young men of color, endure constant fear and often terror. Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” calls those trapped in these enclaves members of a criminal “caste system.” This caste system dominates the lives of not only the 2.3 million who are incarcerated in the United States but also the 4.8 million on probation or parole. Millions more are forced into “permanent second-class citizenship” by their criminal records, which make employment, higher education and public assistance, including housing, difficult and usually impossible to obtain. This is by design.
The rhetoric of compassion, even outrage, by the political class over the police murders in Baton Rouge, La., and near St. Paul, Minn., will not be translated into change until the poor are granted full constitutional rights and police are accountable to the law. The corporate state, however, which is expanding the numbers of poor through austerity and deindustrialization, has no intention of instituting anything more than cosmetic reform.
Globalization has created a serious problem of “surplus” or “redundant” labor in deindustrialized countries. The corporate state has responded to the phenomenon of “surplus” labor with state terror and mass incarceration. It has built a physical and legal mechanism that lurks like a plague bacillus within the body politic to be imposed, should wider segments of society resist, on all of us.
The physics of human nature dictates that the longer the state engages in indiscriminant legalized murder, especially when those killings can be documented on video or film and disseminated to the public, the more it stokes the revenge assassinations we witnessed in Dallas. This counterviolence serves the interests of the corporate state. The murder of the five Dallas police officers allows the state to deify its blue-uniformed enforcers, demonize those who protest police killings and justify greater measures of oppression, often in the name of reform.
This downward spiral of violence and counterviolence will not be halted until the ruling ideology of neoliberalism is jettisoned and the corporate state is dismantled. Violence and terror, as corporate capitalism punishes greater and greater segments of the population, are, and will remain, the essential tools for control[….]
Copyright 2016 Chris Hedges. First published in TruthDig.
A protester yells in front of police headquarters after officers arrived in riot gear to clear protesters from the street in Baton Rouge, La., on July 9, 2016 (Photo: Max Becherer / AP)