Monday, 10 March 2014

Politicizing Violence: How The Far Right Uses Fear To Convince Us ToAccept It

This is an inevitable socialist/pc slant on one of the last unreconstructed memes in our culture. Zombies have always been an unsubtle metaphor for whatever race or class which horrifies you. Fear. Horror. The threat of contamination. In real life we are not allowed primitive responses like these. Nor can we openly kill the feared. But in zombie movies, we can! And we can enjoy it. Typical Brit killjoy socialists, the only kind of person who works in British broadcasting and the only kind of person ever employed by the monolithic BBC, are now trying to destroy our fun. Now we have to be compassionate, pay welfare for the zombies and construct social housing for them. We long ago lost the right to enjoy cowboys killing Indians. And now they want to take away our zombies. - Commenter responding to a post advertising BBC 3's In The Flesh

I won't say who came out with the above statement, but the most horrifying thing about it is that it's true. There's a part of all of us that demands unfettered indulgence in our basest passions without being called to account for our actions or attitudes but we don't usually admit it. This, we deem, is true freedom. As a man once told me, sometimes men need to beat their chests. Women wanting to get in on the act are invited to adopt similar attitudes. The most disturbing implication in the above statement is that demonstrating compassion or concern towards "the feared" is a sign of moral weakness and an abnegation of one's individuality - perhaps even one's humanity.

As a conservative woman, I was horrified when I read that comment, mostly because my Christian Anglo-Irish social conditioning has impressed upon me a strong sense of obligation to my fellow human beings. I've been taught, since I was knee high to a grasshopper, to defend the weak and that bullying - throwing one's weight around or behaving in an overbearing manner is unacceptable. Here, I'm being told that actually bullies are the good guys and that we can justify violence by invoking fear as a rationale for bad behaviour. Okay, so at the moment we're talking zombies and "whatever race or class which horrifies you," but think for a moment about the plethora of examples of police brutality and OTT violence.

Kelly Thomas: killing the feared

Those policemen who were called to account for the killing of Kelly Thomas claimed they were afraid of him:

The defense said that cops must protect themselves when they believe they are in danger, without fear of prosecution for handling the incident with force. - Kelly Thomas case: why police were acquitted in killing of homeless man, Christian Science Monitor

Basically, they killed someone who horrified them. In the video, they appear to be enjoying it. As a conservative woman, I'm not comfortable with that. If we want a healthy relationship to exist between the people and the authorities, we need to be able to trust them. In a world where, increasingly, they don't appear to feel obliged to either serve or protect, that is getting harder. Remember, the rationale offered for this case was "When they believe they are in danger." Watch the video:

Did they give any indication that they believed they were in danger? Hell, no, they gave every indication that they were enjoying the opportunity of beating a man to death, knowing that they were likely to get away with it. The jury let it go because

We've dehumanized the poor, and the homeless, and the mentally ill, and this is what we get. - Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic.

Add to that a belief in the fairytale of the free market and what you're left with is the unshakeable conviction that Kelly Thomas brought his beating upon himself and that his parents should have done more for him.  Of all the comments I've seen on the subject, this one explains the jury's mindset the best:

What they saw was a bum, a ne'er-do-well who, far from being a charming bum, was a violent, scary bum who terrorized the neighborhood. They may not have actually approved of what the cops did, but they weren't going to convict the cops over it. Not for this bum. If it were some guy in a nice, clean suit, it would be different. - RobertSF, Comments, The Atlantic.

Violence: the strength/fear dichotomy

Okay, here's where I'm going with this: I don't get how the Far Right get away with claiming the moral high ground and that they're all about defending the people when they come across as snivelling cowards afraid of people who are generally harmless.  It took six policemen to "subdue" Thomas, who was unarmed and trying to cooperate. None of the officers had suffered any broken bones, and no one other than Thomas had any significant injuries, so there's no evidence that there was anything to be scared of. These people appear to be using violence (or the threat thereof via guns) as a shield behind which they can hide their inadequacies. Shouldn't they be confronting the things they're afraid of and making plans to manage them effectively instead?

That's what I like about In The Flesh — it's a metaphor for that which scares us, e.g. mental illness, and it shows how a managed solution is better than creating an Us V Them situation, which can only end in tears. We've got to stop seeing things in terms of either/or and learn to work on solutions that include everyone, whether we agree with them or not. Dismissing people who don't satisfy our ideals of "normal" and "acceptable" isn't going to win them over and portraying them as a threat is not the answer.

Please, let those of us who believe in Judeo-Christian ideals remember that we're supposed to protect the weak, not beat them to death (or let others do so) because they fall short of our standards of normalcy, etc. Don't let the Far Right convince you that it's somehow unnatural and wrong to believe in justice for all or to help those who can't help themselves. That's not conservative, that's downright evil.

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