Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.
The election of Trump has always been useful in exposing the contradictions between the narrative of a “bright shining city on the hill” and the brutal reality.
That is what we are witnessing here. We are witnessing cognitive dissonance on a national level, where all the narratives about our political, media and cultural institutions are shown to be ephemeral. Our country teeters on the edge of stability.
No one who’s payed attention should be surprised. Our neoliberal elite have spent the last decades hollowing out government to the point that I’ve come to believe that we are instead inhabiting a series of competitive control areas or CCA’s. A CCA is an area where criminal organizations or extremists exert greater control over the territory than any government. Typically this formulation is reserved for failed-states in the Third World. But in our case instead of drug gangs or warlords the countervailing powers that exert the control are corporations.
And, this is starting to be a problem. Nowadays, the state’s political processes and its structures have been almost completely captured by corporations. As a result, the maintenance of internal and external security is less about ensuring an orderly and safe existence for citizens than about creating a space for globalized businesses to plunder local resources, exploit local labor while paying little or no taxes and taking no responsibility.
In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbs argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature (“the war of all against all”) could only be avoided by strong, undivided government.
But, government rests on the consent of those it governs for its monopoly of violence. As citizens, we give up our right to commit violence ourselves and replaced it with a social contract in which our representatives legislate just laws on our behalf. Unfortunately, our government has been teaching us that we, increasingly, don’t matter. Instead, the state has become a hollowed-out vessel through which corporations order their business agendas. States function primarily now to compete with each other in a competition to reduce the obstacles facing global corporations as they seek to maximize their wealth and profits in each others territory. The state’s role is to avoid getting in the way of corporations as they extract resources (deregulation), or, when this capitalist model regularly collapses, come to the aid of the corporations and banks with generous bailouts.
A healthy state–one that genuinely cared for its citizens–would be capable of finding ways to accommodate discontent before it reaches the level of popular revolt. The scenes playing out across the US are evidence that state institutions, captured by corporate money, are increasingly unable of responding to demands for change. The hollowed-out state represents not its citizens, who are capable of compromise, but the interests of global forces of capital that care little what takes place on the streets of Minneapolis or New York so long as the corporations can continue to accumulate wealth and power.
And our police, in case you’ve ever wondered, don’t serve you. They mostly serve them.
The timing of this very public act of murder could not have been worse. There were already rumblings of discontent over federal and state authorities’ handling of the new virus; fears over the catastrophic consequences for the US economy; outrage at the massive bailouts for the biggest corporations but $1200 for ordinary workers; and the social and personal frustrations caused by the Covid-19 lock-down.
There is also a growing sense that both Republicans and Democrats could care less about the plight of average Americans and only do the bidding of their rich campaign donors. The response to the pandemic has only deepened this suspicion.
The protests against police violence are just the latest sign that our feral elite are losing their legitimacy, slowly but surely.
Even if these protests are crushed, or die down, I’m pretty sure it isn’t the last of them.
Like I’ve said before, this looks to be a long, hot summer.