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Excerpt from Endgame

Grant Me More Courage Than I Have (p. 731)

From chapter "Pacifism, Part III"

A few pages ago I referred to another oft-mentioned pacifist argument, that we must not commit an act of violence (or I would say counterviolence) because if we do, the state will respond with overwhelming violence back at us and at anyone else who happens to be in the area. After hearing all of the other arguments against violence that don’t make any sense to me, I’ve always found this one refreshingly honest. There’s no appeal to a faux higher moral ground, no failure of logic presented as moral imperative, no doublespeak. Nothing but good old-fashioned fear.

From the beginning the state has been founded on and supported by the threat of violence. Remember Stanley Diamond’s famous opening line to his book In Search of the Primitive: “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home.”Or to bring this up to date, consider the following report from a “peaceful” protest in Miami: “No one should call what [police chief] Timoney runs in Miami a police force. It’s a paramilitary group. Thousands of soldiers, dressed in khaki uniforms with full black body armor and gas masks, marching in unison through the streets, banging batons against their shields, chanting, ‘back . . . back . . . back.’ There were armored personnel carriers and helicopters. The forces fired indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed protesters. Scores of people were hit with skin-piercing rubber bullets; thousands were gassed with an array of chemicals. On several occasions, police fired loud concussion grenades into the crowds. Police shocked people with electric tasers. Demonstrators were shot in the back as they retreated. One young guy’s apparent crime was holding his fingers in a peace sign in front of the troops. They shot him multiple times, including once in the stomach at point blank range.”

The motto of the police may be “to protect and to serve,” but you and I both know what they are protecting and whom they are serving. It’s not only in Miami that the police are a paramilitary organization protecting the interests of those in power. As Christian Parenti told me years ago: “We need to always remember that while the police do everything from getting kittens out of trees and enhancing public safety to killing strikers and framing radicals, the social control function has always been at the heart of what they do, even though most of what they do is not that.”

I replied, “A couple of years ago I got burgled, and the first thing I did was call the cops.”

Christian said, “Most of us would do that. But the fact remains that it’s an important distinction to see, that while most of what the police do is mundane sort of pseudo public safety functions, the heart of what they do, the most important social function, is to intervene at times of political crisis against rebels and to prevent such rebellion, too.”

I just today received an email from a friend about this: “Whether a campaign is waged through violence or nonviolence, the oppressors are going to respond the moment the uprising gets serious. I’m going to name names: white middle class Americans have their heads in the sand about this. The powerful will react to protect their power and since they’re allowed to use violence, they will. Nonviolent demonstrators will get shot. Arrestees will be threatened and tortured in jail. If anyone out there is serious about building a resistance movement, they are going to have to face what they’re potentially risking: life and limb. The resisters’ nonviolence does not in any way preclude the oppressor’s use of violence. Quite the opposite, really. Because the more serious the opposition, the more serious the powerfuls’ response. Whether we choose violence or nonviolence, it is resistance that challenges power, and that power will protect itself. Plenty of peaceful protestors have been killed in all kinds of struggles. To borrow another well-used Audre Lourde-ism: ‘Your pacifism will not protect you.’”Because the state is based on violence anyway, the best we can hope for, really, is that this violence isn’t aimed at us.

I think for many people, pacifism comes from having been pacified.I mean this in the sense of the U.S. military “pacifying,” to use its term, villages by blowing them up and terrorizing residents into submission, and I mean it in the sense of giving a child a pacifier, a phony tit that shuts her up by providing artificial comfort; by getting her to attach herself to something she pretends is a source of life but that in reality gives her no nourishment at all.

We should for once be honest with ourselves that a great many of us in the center of civilization reap overwhelming material rewards in exchange for our compliance (which means in exchange for our dignity, humanity, animality, and any hint of moral high ground). Our cars, stereos, closets full of clothes, computers, vacations in Cancun or Acapulco are all giant pacifiers we eagerly place into our mouths and on which we greedily suck. But no matter how we suck, we never get what we need. And then we wonder why we are so (spiritually) hungry.

It’s all carrots and sticks. Or rather plastic pacifiers in the shape of carrots and sticks. So long as we keep that plastic nipple (or is it a metal bit? I’m never quite sure) firmly between our teeth, so long as we keep sucking and sucking at nothing at all, and in so doing consume the entire world, gaining nothing of the nourishment from our landbase that would be our birthright to receive and our landbase’s birthright to give (and receive in turn), those in power—the abusers, the exploiters—need not too often use the stick. But spit out the pacifier—spit out the bit—and they’ll show you the stick. Ball up your fists and they’ll raise it. Hit them hard, and they’ll make you wish you’d never been born.

It’s pretty effective, effective enough to cause us to stand by while the entire world is murdered.

If I didn’t have to worry about going to prison, not a dam would stand anywhere I could reach.

I’m not sure, however, that I want to acknowledge that my compliance has been bought so cheaply as it has, for a bunch of cheap plastic consumables, perhaps my own thirty pieces of silvered plastic; (temporary) approval from those at the top of the pyramid; and them granting me the boon of not torturing— remember the CIA interrogation manuals—or killing me.I don’t want to acknowledge that fear—even very real fear—is the primary reason I’m failing to adequately protect those I so loudly proclaim I love. I don’t at all like what that says about me.

I think that others, too, might not like what it says about them. Thus all the highfalutin but ultimately nonsensical moral arguments for pacifism. Thus the stridency with which many dogmatic pacifists disallow mention of violence, or dismiss it with absurdities: “Violence, schmiolence.” A response by a pacifist to Helen Woodson provides a great example of that insane stridency. One of her “crimes” was to walk into a bank with a starter’s pistol, tell everyone she was not going to hurt them, demand cash from the tellers, and burn $25,000 while delivering a statement on the evils of money. Now, check out the response by one pacifist online: “1. I’m curious how folks feel about this? When I heard about it, I was pretty shocked. First of all, that’s a lot of $ to burn!Second, I don’t necessarily think $ per se is the ROOT of all evil, whatever evil is (as you define it). And last, but not least, I believe it is a violent act to hold folks at gunpoint (even if it’s a toy pistol) to make a point. There’s got to be a better way. Now, if Helen Woodson wanted primarily to be locked up (which sounds apparent, anyway) she certainly achieved her mission.But why involve innocent bank tellers and customers? (I’m curious . . . does anyone know the name/location of the bank?)2. I found the report quite disturbing and was puzzled about it being in this [pacifist] conference. What she did must have been terrifying for the people in the bank. If this is nonviolence, let me off the boat.”

This response reveals many of the reasons I have so little respect for so many pacifists. If we leave saving the world up to people like this, there will be nothing left.

I think a central reason for their stridency has to do with the old Jack and Jill discussion we had from R. D. Laing. It does no good for Jack to forget that his refusal to take down those in power is based on his fear of the violence he has seen them do to others, if Jill keeps reminding him of it. He must make her forget as well, and make her feel morally inferior to boot.

This is not the legacy I wish to leave. I do not want to have to look into the eyes of those humans one hundred years from now—or look into the eyes of the salmon now, or any other wild beings in this beautiful world being destroyed, or the animals in the industrialized hell of factory farms or laboratories—and say, “I did not do what was necessary because I was too afraid.” I do not want that.

God—land, universe, muse, spirit, whomever—grant me strength, and more courage than I have.