What Does Our Reaction To Black Bloc Tactics Say About Us?
Most people would argue that the use of violence for the protection of self, their loved ones, or those more vulnerable, is justified. Not as revenge, but as a necessary measure to combat a crime in progress. A desire for revenge may be understandable, and even acceptable to some, but that’s not the topic. The topic is defense. The defense of others and ourselves. The immediate interference in an assailants ability to inflict harm, or end a life, as the result of their current actions.
The state often uses a doctrine of preemptive measures to justify its violence. Evidence of a crime is not necessary. A perceived threat, or imagined potential of a challenge to the states ability to maintain control, is all that is required to warrant acts of violence ranging from human rights violations against individuals to military actions killing hundreds of thousands. Even if a misguided sense of Nationalism causes you to agree with this doctrine, like revenge, preemptive action is not the topic.
Defense is the issue. The right, even the necessity, to employ violence as a means of protection, is the point. If someone is committing an act of violence against you, you have the right to use violence to stop them. If someone is committing an act of violence against someone unable to defend themselves, you have the obligation to use any means necessary, even violence, to stop them. Sometimes, employing violence as an act of self defense against an overwhelming enemy serves only to draw attention to your plight, or the plight of the defenseless, and bring others to your aid. This too is a justified use of violence.
An argument over the definition of violence is often used to distract from the real issue. The real issue is violence against humanity, or humans. You may consider throwing a brick through a window violent. You may be right. However, if your value system equates a window, or a brick, or the corporation that owns the window that the brick flew through, with a human life, you may have much deeper issues to be resolved.
If your argument is simply that violence begets violence, you’re ignoring the fact that continued passivity has only encouraged increased violence. Corporations, and States, have never ceased their acts of violence because of a lack of opposition. They only stop once they get what they want. To acquiesce, and accept their terms for your compliance, is not a victory for passivity. The control and ownership imposed when we comply is a grotesque act of violence against humanity in and of itself. By those rules, you must give up your life in order to keep it. It’s a slave mentality. Excuses not to defend oneself, or the vulnerable among us, are simply that, excuses.
There’s been a great deal of discussion about the ‘violence’ of Black Bloc tactics. The unconscionable act of vandalizing the ill-gotten property of corporations and financial institutions, that fund the endless wars and exploit millions of workers, has received criticism from all quarters. These institutions, that treat people as disposable, seem to have convinced many that they have the right, protected by the state, to have the resulting profits treated as unassailable while they remain unaccountable for their crimes. Protesters, on the other hand, are held to a strict code of conduct not applied to the criminals that victimize us all. If this continues to be allowed, what does it say about our values?
State sanctioned crime, including brutality and murder by the police, the military, and the prison system, as well as corporate crime committed through depraved indifference, criminal misconduct, and intentional acts of violence, do not even find their way into the annual FBI crime statistics. There is not one mention of a banker complicit in profiting from the scuttling of the economy in 2007, or the politicians that assisted them. George Bush, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, or companies such as Halliburton don’t make any ten most wanted list for the millions of lives they’ve destroyed through unjust military campaigns or war profiteering. There’s no bounty being offered for Big Oil or Big Pharma executives, or their Boards of Directors, despite the damage they inflict on the environment and billions of people. But, somewhere in the FBI tomes that catalogue the sins of man, you’ll find a record of that single broken Bank of America window for which some poor schmuck was punished.
WalMart, the worlds largest corporation, exploits workers at home and abroad, both in manufacturing and retail, and destroys the communities it invades with impunity. The very existence of a WalMart store is a guarantee that thousands, perhaps even millions, of lives are been negatively impacted, exploited, and often irrevocably ruined. Where is the outrage over that? Why are they allowed to continue? An individual guilty of the same would be locked away. WalMart gets tax breaks, and politicians lining up for ribbon cutting ceremonies for the next new super center.
If there is a criticism of Black Bloc tactics, perhaps it should be that they have been insufficient to stop the ongoing corporate and state violence. What good is breaking a window, or spray-painting a wall, or rolling a dumpster into the street and setting it on fire, if nothing comes of it but negative press? All the good intentions, the important message, and the righteous cause, are useless without a medium to communicate them to the masses. Independent and social media have grown but they are nothing compared to corporate media. What reach the new media does have, and the growth it has experienced, is being actively challenged by legislation designed to allow the state to censor, control, and even eliminate it. Symbolic action alone is not getting the job done, and it faces even more barriers to its efficacy in the future.
If you are witnessing someone being assaulted, what good is yelling at a brick wall, wishing that those on the other side might hear you? Wouldn’t the best way to stop the assault be to stop the assault, by whatever means necessary? Yelling at the wall, or spray-painting ‘HELP’ on it, may make you feel like you’re doing something, but what are you actually accomplishing? Perhaps we need to judge actions based on their ability to achieve a necessary goal rather than simply on the statement they make. Perhaps actions that bring an end to the crimes being committed will speak louder than actions that simply provide fodder for the mainstream media. Perhaps this should be the real criticism for Black Bloc tactics. Not that they are too radical, but perhaps that they are not radical enough.
Black Bloc tactics have been the equivalent of a single courageous individual taking a stand against an overwhelming enemy, hoping that others will hear their plea and come to their aid. As a society we’ve responded with cowardice. We know that corporations are responsible for the ongoing assault on our environment. We know that the State enables and supports them. We know that the State is becoming increasingly violent and oppressive. We know that our government has been corrupted, purchased by the very forces it should be protecting us from. We know that our rights and freedoms are being eroded by a state that monitors our every move and polices our every action. We know all this. We know this despite the corporate mainstream media’s best attempts to stand as a brick wall between us and the truth. We know it is happening. Yet, we stand by and allow the assault to continue. We’ve become the crowd that stands around and criticizes the person who tries to stop the domestic violence. We are no better than the abuser we enable, perhaps worse for siding against those trying to do the right thing.
It’s ironic that those we know are responsible for killing both our planet and our fellow human beings are honored, while those that break a few windows, and spray a little paint, are characterized as a cancer. CEOs responsible for countless deaths, and irreparable damage to our environment, have easy access to the President and are afforded all the protection the police, military, legislature, and judiciary can provide. A protester will be granted only the wrath of the State if they come too close to the White House gate.
These values are backwards. We protect those that would do us harm while we demonize those that fight for our protection, our freedom, and our emancipation. Their actions pale in criminality compared to the State and the corporations they protest. In fact, it can be argued that their criminality only exists in the definition applied by the State, and the wealthy that control it. Are we shunning the cure while the real cancer is left untreated? Is it because the cure needs to become more aggressive, and stop the spread of the cancer, in order to receive recognition for its true value?
We need to take an inventory of what we value before it’s too late. We are trapped in a mindset of rewarding exploitation, corruption, and criminality – as long as it produces a profit – while condemning those with the courage to oppose it. Somewhere deep down we know tis is wrong because we praise the courage of the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Syrians that are battling against corruption and oppression. We just seem unable to show the same courage ourselves, and compound our sins by criticizing those that do.
We need to stop offering harsh judgment of Black Bloc tactics. It does not speak well of our values. Those tactics, given the needed amount of support, can move beyond attempts to get our attention and potentially bring an end to the violence being perpetrated against humanity by the wealthy, the corporations they own, and the States they control. In order to do this we need to join the struggle, not allow our cowardice to condemn it. There is right and there is wrong, and fighting to stop something that you know is wrong, is right.
all photos by Ap?s