The Logic of Rioting

Published at 10:31 on 1 June 2020

Those on the right are fond of delivering sanctimonious sermons to those of us on the left about the human nature, the world that actually exists, and the non-existence of the world that one might wish would exist.

Very well then, let us discuss human nature and the world that actually exists for a while.

“But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.” — Martin Luther King

It’s not as if Blacks haven’t generally been upset at how law enforcement tends to treat them as a group for some time. This isn’t the first wave of rioting it has touched off, and if it remains unaddressed, it won’t be the last wave of it, either. In fact, in my entire adult life, I cannot think of any outbreak of widespread urban rioting in the USA that has not been triggered by police brutality against Black people.

Means for getting attention less extreme than rioting have been tried, and have generally proved themselves lacking. The last such campaign didn’t even involve breaking the law: it involved professional athletes silently taking a knee during the national anthem.

It didn’t work, of course. Under pressure of a White nationalist president, the NFL acted to oppress such athletes and stop their campaign.

That White nationalist president’s party has come to office twice in the past generation with a minority of votes, due to an archaic political system that gives reactionary White people a disproportionate voice in national affairs. All attempts to work within the system and correct that have failed.

It’s worse than that, actually: the system is so rigged against self-correction that there haven’t been any serious efforts made to correct it, because such attempts are so widely viewed as futile. The system is so rigged that even the supposed progressive party hasn’t made much change in its essential nature: Minneapolis, and the state of Minnesota, both have Democratic majorities in power.

Some will point out that the riots have so far failed, too. After all, racism and widespread police brutality still exist. There is some truth in this, but, the riots have been more successful at attracting attention than the less-extreme measures. Athletes taking a knee did not dominate the news cycle the way the rioting is.

The cold, hard fact is that rioting appears to just plain work in a key way that less-extreme measures fail to work.

To that we can add plain old human nature, and the observation that we are now nearly a quarter-millennium into the hypocrisy of a Republic founded on the supposed premise that all men are created equal, yet founded by the actual process of (to paraphrase Samuel Johnson) drivers of Negroes making yelps for liberty.

Such hypocrisy is bound to wear on those subject to the receiving end of it, and from time to time eruptions of widespread rage are therefore inevitable.

Would it be better if things were structured so that they didn’t get to the point of there being inevitable episodes of rioting? Of course it would!

Even that police station that was burned was still a structurally-sound building. It would have been far better to peacefully repurpose it into a library, a community health clinic, or some other facility dedicated to helping people instead of controlling them. Compared to that alternative, burning it was needlessly wasteful and polluting.

It would be a better world, but we do not live in that better world. We live in the world that actually exists, and the politics that actually exists must match both human nature and the world it exists in.

And, like it or not, that politics includes rioting.

Don’t like it? Work to change the whole damn system!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.