Friday, January 8, 2016

Black Lives Matter: The Pus of an Injured Society

When you get a sliver in your finger and don’t remove it for a while, what happens? You get a collection of pus around the sliver as your body isolates the bacteria and other toxins and tries to force the sliver out or make it easy for you to remove it. As ugly as the word is and as gross as the substance can be, pus is itself not bad; rather, it is simply the body’s natural reaction to invasion. When all is going well, it should not – it will not – be there. When it is there, it is a symptom of things not being as they should be.

The Black Lives Matter movement similarly is social pus. It is ugly and gross, and it shouldn’t exist. But it is a natural (in the theological sense of perverse) – and more importantly a rational – reaction to our society being out of order.

The disorder – the sliver – is, of course, the state, specifically tax-funded policing. Most evangelicals, forgetting that police as we know them are an early nineteenth-century phenomenon, will consider them a necessary fulfillment of Romans 13. Well, we’ve had two hundred years to get that system to work, and if asset forfeiture policing for profit, speed traps, a recidivism rate well over fifty percent, and trigger-happy cops who consider Mundanes lethal enemies until we’re cuffed and caged aren’t good evidence that the experiment has failed, I don’t know what would be.

Black Lives Matter is a reaction to the Catch-22 of the self-interest of officers, for whom “officer safety” is the highest priority. Poor black neighborhoods are consistently more dangerous for officers than richer white neighborhoods. Rational officers who want to go home at night, black and white, therefore prefer to patrol the white neighborhoods. While some white Mundanes might resent being policed by black officers, that resentment is nothing compared to black Mundanes’ resentment at being policed by white officers.

But because officer safety trumps “customer satisfaction” and sending black officers into black neighborhoods amounts to putting them as a class at greater risk – that is, de facto discrimination – white officers have to take their turns in black neighborhoods. And they do so feeling they need to take extra precautions – carry an extra-big stick – if they are to come home alive.

Statist religion teaches that those who work for the state are somehow morally superior to the rest of us, so when in real or perceived danger from a Mundane an officer decides to shoot first and ask questions later, the initial public reaction is to consider the shooting justified. Since police investigations are always done “in house” and the courts work hand in hand, if not hand in glove, with the police, the official inquest will almost always find the shooting justified.

If a black officer were to shoot a white Mundane, the official ruling will probably be just as predictable, but such shootings are much rarer because, shall we say, extralegal consequences are much more likely occur. Where it gets tricky is when a white officer shoots a black Mundane – there the “police are always right” mentality runs into the “whites are always at fault when dealing with blacks” mentality. That the inquests in such cases tend to favor the officers shows that the interests of the state trump even the prevailing claim of ubiquitous white racism, the exceptions being when the credibility of the state is threatened.

Do the facts matter? Of course, but the facts have to be weighed. That Officer Jones felt threatened by Mr. Smith is as much a fact as the fact that Mr. Smith was unarmed and walking in the other direction and the fact that anyone can make a mistake and the fact that officers are killed by miscreants and the fact that judges and police have to cooperate with each other. How can anyone say how those facts are to be weighed?

So, to review, white officers in black neighborhoods means heightened resentment by the Mundanes and heightened tension for the officers. Black officers in black neighborhoods means resentment by those officers against workplace discrimination. Checkmate.

How to get rid of the chaos? The answer, of course, is anarchy: defund the police and lower taxes accordingly.

Would worse chaos ensue? Well, you tell me: How many people whose names and domiciles you know would use the absence of tax-funded police to turn criminal? Red and yellow, black and white, all would like to sleep at night, right? There will be some criminals, of course, but we have those now, so that’s no argument. Someone has to fight them, but how those who fight criminals are paid is crucial.

Rich people are moving into guarded, gated communities. We don’t have to worry about their welfare. What about the rest of us? Let’s take the hardest case: the poor.

Those who do the most damage to the poor are not street criminals and home invaders. They are the power elite who steal what little the poor can save by devaluing the currency, who bar the way to gainful employment by making entrepreneurs jump through loopholes that are no problem for the rich but prohibitive to the poor, and who use “not in my back yard” zoning regulations to keep the poor out of sight and off land that they could otherwise live better on.

But street crime also happens in poor neighborhoods. What of that?

There are dozens of private security agencies in the market. Absent a tax-funded police force, there would be more. And you can bet that agents of ABC Security are not going to shoot one of their own customers first and ask questions later. They will also be a bit slower to shoot someone whose protectors are the Mafia. Similarly, the Mafia – and keep in mind, please, that the system we have has not even come close to reining the Mafia in – might tend to be a bit cautious about going after a customer of ABC if ABC has working arrangements with Walmart, State Farm, and Glock.

Perfection? No. Improvement? Certainly.

Black lives matter. The lives of those who deal with miscreants matter. Mundanes’ lives matter.

The system is broken. The present incentives are perverse. Every state-based solution there is has been tried somewhere – and failed, if not to keep social order then to result in growing respect for Jesus. On the other hand, voluntary service and exchange works, however imperfectly, wherever it takes place. The kingdom of heaven will be one of voluntary service, not of coercion. Let’s learn to live that way so we can get rid of the sliver, put a warm compress on the wound, and wipe the pus away.

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