Monday, April 22, 2013

Futile Rebellion: Why Terrorists Are Fools

In light of recent events, I have been thinking about my position on violence.  I think violence is something necessary to life.  I think we are all violent.  That said, there are better and worse ways of expressing violence.  Methods that involve useless escalation of dead-end conflicts are always worse.  Terrorism is a self-defeating, stupid modus operandi, whether the people employing it are heads of state or vigilantes among the people.

Take the case of the Boston bombing that went down recently.  Some civilian vigilantes get all riled up (for reasons that I have ranted about here on this blog: they feel threatened by society and its leaders, not always illegitimately).  They respond by attacking a bunch of civilians.  The final result is that innocent people die, and the crooks whose power the terrorists resent (no matter who they are or how innocent or guilty anyone finds them) obtain even more authority than they had before.  The vigilante terrorists actually make freedom less for themselves and everyone else every time they threaten the government's sheeple.  Under threat of attack, the sheeple lose what little inclination they might have to preserve the institutions that make us free: institutions like due process of law, presumed innocence, fair trial, and so on.  At the end of the day, the terrorists are dead, and the people are more under the thumb of government (well-meaning or not) than ever.  The resentment that led the terrorists to strike out against society terminates in a society even more likely to inspire resentment.  Attacking the bear with a sharp stick just makes it more dangerous, whether it is a Russian Kodiak or an American grizzly.  Stupid terrorists.

The best way to get back at the government is not to need it.  The best way to use violence is not to employ it randomly against helpless civilians.  The terrorists' problem is that they attack government by mimicking its worst aspects.  At least government is accountable, even if only in theory, to someone every time it decides to go haywire and kill a bunch of folks.  And seriously, dumb terrorists, have you not considered that governments have you utterly outmanned and outgunned?  If you are going to play the game of treating people as human shields, you should be aware that your opponent can cut through the shield much better than you can.  The second amendment doesn't exist to protect me from government in modern American society.  I don't want a shotgun to protect me from Uncle Sam's tanks, mortars, and nukes.  (What good would it be, seriously?)  I want a shotgun to protect me from cretins like you.  There is the place for legitimate social violence: Some punk goes to blow up a marathon and I take him out.

So much for the vigilantes who run planes into buildings or blow up marathons.  Now for the terrorists in government.  These people are in a tougher position in many ways than the vigilantes (who should simply stand down, since they do nothing good for themselves or anyone else: if they want to commit suicide, then they would do better to make it a private death).  Government is necessary at the moment: it is something natural that all societies have.  That said, it has an historical tendency to do bad stuff (e.g. kill crowds of people).  I don't want to tell government how to do its job, how to "protect" citizens from themselves.  I think it does this job best when we citizens don't need it much.  I would rather be free than safe.  I would rather be blown up by some punk on the subway than be strip-searched every time I get on.  Given a choice between vigilante terrorism and government terrorism, I will always choose the vigilantes: I think they are less dangerous.  Government here can do its job best when it helps me meet the vigilantes myself, preparing me to respond effectively (rather than imprisoning me in my own house for hours while it takes care of things for me--or pretends to take care of them, at any rate).

Ideally, government does not need police or military for much.  It takes free citizens and turns them into its police.  We become the police.  We become our own government.  We become the people making decisions that define our lives.  We become the people who get blown up by those stupid vigilantes and keep running anyway--not because we think the police or the military will save us.  We couldn't care less about that. We know life isn't safe, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  We do not ask for safety or security--we know that these are illusions--but for the freedom to respond appropriately ourselves to the threats that manifest unpredictably in our lives.  Good government equips us to meet those threats better, allowing and encouraging access to tools and training that will make more of us better stewards of our own mortality.  Good government encourages us to have the weapons, munitions, and physical resources (food, water, shelter) to handle threats in our environment (threats that include but are not limited to idiot vigilantes who decide that the best way to make a meaningful religious or political statement is to blow other people up and bring the heavy hand of military dictatorship down to crush us all).

I have never rebelled violently against government.  I never want to.  I see that such rebellion would be counter-productive (making things worse for me and for everyone else, not better).  If I do rebel, it will be quietly, non-violently, and inobtrusively.  I believe in kindness, civility, and decency above all else.  I believe in them so much that I am determined to practice them even towards historically rude government (within reason: there are regimes out there that I would oppose actively, either by fleeing the country or taking up arms, but those regimes are not the modern US one).  Smart people who know what violence is know its limits.  They see that they cannot force themselves unilaterally on others without getting hurt and hurting others unnecessarily in the process.  They see that reality, and they respond by standing down--permanently and resolutely--from useless rebellion.  Silly as those "occupy this and that" protests are, they are preferable to "blow this or that up" protests.  Dumb or dangerous as the Tea Party may be, the "blow stuff up for God" party is dumber and more dangerous.  If you want to rebel, do yourself a favor and take the route of Martin Luther King or Gandhi.  Find something positive to do, something that isn't hurting other people.  Make the beauty you cannot find in the world.  You don't have to kill the world to do that.  You don't have to hate it.  You don't have to fear it.  You don't have to care about it.  Just let it go and get on with your art.  Make an art of life instead of cultivating the art of death.

It doesn't matter if society is messed up.  It doesn't matter if other people don't like your art.  You can make it and enjoy it.  If you love it enough to turn it into life (instead of death), there will always be someone willing to see value in it.  Show them that value, and they will become your friends.  They will love you and help you make something beautiful--a garden of liberty whose fruits do not depend on regular watering with the blood of innocents (or even of tyrants: give it your own blood before you steal any from another human being).  If you cannot do this, then at least have the decency not to involve innocents in your death wish.  Do what Buddhist protesters do, and burn yourself to death somewhere in a public place.  Make your statement with your own blood, not mine or my kids'.  The sympathy I have for your plight--your suffering, your religion, your lifestyle, your family, your art--vanishes the moment you start gunning down random strangers.  I may resent the government boot-heel you bring down on my neck, but that doesn't mean I'm not glad when it breaks yours, you cowards, you dogs with no honor. 

You deserve the death you get.  You deserve it much more than all those people who will suffer because of you--not just the people you personally cut down, but also the other people the government will cut down needlessly because they remind somebody of you.  You are an emblem of what is most wrong in all of us--a giant, festering sore on the face of humanity.  As long as you persist in keeping the bear of bad government alive and angry, she will never stop tearing the meat off all our bones. 

As for that bear: dear representative of the American people, the next time you wonder why vigilantes go nuts and attack you or your people viciously, take a look in the mirror.  Look at the blood dripping down your face, the blood of people killed all over the world to keep us "safe" from death (that always gets us anyway), and see what it is that the dumb vigilantes fear.  They are dumb because they express fear badly, not because they have it.  I fear you, too.  But I know better than to go poking you with sharp sticks.  And I am too civilized to make others suffer unnecessarily because I am afraid.  But I am afraid, more afraid of you than of the terrorists, more afraid of being "saved" than of being blown up.  I value freedom over security.  I do not waive my Constitutional rights.  I do not want you to declare war on anyone or anything as a result of stupid vigilantes going nuts and murdering innocent people.  I don't want more military and police.  I don't want more laws.  I don't want more security.  I want you to stand down.  Weep with me, if you like.  Teach me ways to defend myself better.  But don't pretend you can make all the violence disappear by taking absolute command of society.  Don't listen to the cowards who want you to promise them the impossible--reward without risk, profit without loss, happiness without sorrow, life without death.  I fear your lies more than I fear the terrorists' truth. 

1 comment:

  1. To me it seems that the honorable way to employ violence against American imperialism would be to go to Afghanistan or Pakistan and join the enemy. That is not something I personally would do, since I do not wish to break America (at all): my goal is to do all in my power to draw her away from what I regard as useless fighting. But I can recognize that not all people are as I am. Some people must fight. But blowing up innocent people is never honorable, not even when one is merely responding in kind (cf. American military strikes against Afghani and Pakistani villages).

    I value honor. I regret that so many Americans today do not. I regret every American bomb that has caused "collateral damage" in wars I personally would never have fought. But that does not mean that I endorse attacks against American civilians. I oppose cowardice on both sides (and on all sides in any conflict: it matters not who is weaker or stronger, who is right or who is wrong--civility is incumbent upon both, and I will despise anyone who proves uncivil).

    If we must fight, as I say we should not, then at the very least let us fight without losing our human dignity. Weddings and marathons are not occasions for bombs.