After the tragedy in AZ this week, I only have a few thoughts. The media coverage of it was despicable, and the blame-game politicians and pundits are playing is abhorrent. I will also say that there is something people are failing to see – the fact that violence begets violence. Coercion is itself a manifestation of violence and force, and should be done away with (by peaceful means, of course). A Lew Rockwell article earlier this week by Bulter Schaffer phrased the argument well:
In coming days, the politically-correct chatter will consist of an endless string of non sequiturs: private gun ownership, Tea Party politics, angry rhetoric, the Internet, people who “hate” the government, television violence, et al. Even Sarah Palin has come in for criticism! Like the magician who uses brightly-colored cloths and quick movements in his act, such explanations are designed to distract our attention. As the Wizard of Oz angrily reacted to Toto’s knocking over the screen that revealed his systematic bamboozlement, “pay no attention to that man behind the screen.”
The reality to which increasing numbers of people are becoming aware, is that politics is a violent and corrupt racket that functions on generating fears among those to be ruled. Politicians and other government officials are attracted to political careers not because they want to serve others, but because they have their own visions of what would be “good” for such others, and desire the power to enforce by violence – which is the essence of every government – their expectations. Such people easily find – usually within business organizations and labor unions – people who, unable to prosper in a free market grounded in voluntary transactions, are eager to resort to state violence. “Invisible hands” must be replaced by the “iron fist.”
Every piece of legislation enacted by congress, every order issued by a court, every action undertaken by government officials – whether at a state, local, or national level – has behind it the power to enforce such edicts or acts by the most violent methods to which such officials deem it necessary to resort. From the cop on the corner, to SWAT teams, to men and women who torture others, to assassins, to those who conduct capital punishment, to military personnel armed with the deadliest of weapons, the state – supported by the special interests who have no qualms about employing such methods to further their interests – is nothing if not the institutionalization of violence.
Those who choose to repress an awareness of the vicious, violent, and dehumanized nature of the state will doubtless succumb to the self-serving claims of politicians who fashion themselves noble “public servants” who are victimized by the very violence they have made the central theme for their careers. Political systems – from the local Weed Control Commission to the Pentagon – are defined by their monopoly on the use of violence. Those who use lawful coercion to enforce their wills on others, should be the last heard to lament the “environment of violence” afoot in the land. They have been active participants in the continuing expansion of such life-destroying powers; they insist upon others respecting such authority for their own sense of identity and well-being.
Whenever I hear politicians bemoan such violence, I am reminded of a scene from one of the Godfather films. As Michael Corleone is in church participating in his grandson’s christening, the priest asks him if he rejects violence, to which Corleone answers “yes,” even as his henchmen are going about murdering his adversaries. How politicians can, on any moral or intellectually honest grounds, condemn the violence that they daily legislate and fund, is beyond me. When John McCain angrily weighed in on the Tuscon shootings, I was reminded of his 2008 presidential campaign song-and-dance that went “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”
Those who, like this gunman, resort to violence in response to whatever grievances they hold, have reduced themselves to self-destructive acts of utter desperation. I have always rejected the use of violence – whether against the state or other individuals – not so much because of what it would do to them, but what it would do to me. I oppose political systems because I believe that a free, productive, and peaceful society can arise only through the voluntary acts of cooperative individuals; that efforts to impose order by violent means will always work to the destruction of society, as is now occurring. Were I to sanction violence as a solution to the problems our thinking has created, would be to admit that I have been wrong in my assumptions. As I have told a few people who work within political systems, “if I thought that violence could be used to accomplish my ends, I’d join you guys!”
The men and women who not only profit from the political racket, but whose identities are so entwined with the state as to be unable to imagine a life without an attachment to coercive power, are unlikely to make any intelligent changes in their lives. A few might begin to figure out that the “public” – for whom they like to pretend they serve – has a growing resentment of them. For the politically minded, the expression of such anger is seen not as a warning that the state has reached too far, but as another “problem” to be dealt with by a further extension of state power. A few members of the class of “ordinaries” may become so frustrated by all of this that they will see violent reaction as their only option. But for the rest of us – weary of the burdens of obedience, the costs of our being looted, and the deadly violence to which our lives are increasingly exposed – peaceful, non-destructive alternatives must be found. We would be better served not by physically attacking the state or its sociopathic operatives, but in walking away from them. Our survival as free men and women requires a secession of our minds from the chains of violence.
Isn’t he right? We live in arguably the most violent country on earth. Our cartoons are violent; our wars are “out of sight, out of mind”; our views of women are based on violence and subordination (see: the violence inherent in our pornography, our domestic abuse as compared to other countries’, etc.); and on and on. What has gone wrong? We have glorified violence without realizing it. Our civilization has become brutish because of our occupation with violence, and the recent shooting in Arizona – though done at the hands of a psycho, for sure – is only showing that violence is even in political rhetoric, because force is the means by which the government rules…
I would also note that this is why the political philosophy of freedom first shows that simple legal force is not enough. You cannot create enough laws to make a man do what you wish him to. He must want it. My temperance and virtue lies not within the law, but in a morality I have gleaned from Catholicism. It isn’t law that keeps me restrained, it is myself, in being Catholic and realizing that things like drug use, violence, promiscuous sexuality, and other vices are not the way I want to live. The law simply will not stop a man who wants to do evil. It can only punish him afterwards. Education is first. Legal boundaries second.