When Authority Preaches Nonviolence

Ta-Nehisi CoatesWhen nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

—Ta-Nehisi Coates
Nonviolence as Compliance

6 thoughts on “When Authority Preaches Nonviolence

  1. He’s a great writer.

    It’s hard to asses what strategies resistance movements should take right now. We tend to praise nonviolence because it worked in the civil-rights era — but did it really change a lot?

    And nonviolence only has any effectiveness if the media covers it. You saw “Five Broken Cameras.”

    What I will say, adding to my list of reasons I’m probably red-flagged by the NSA and who knows what other alphabet-soup agencies, is that violence should be directed at aggressors. It should be self-defense. If your landlord is fucking you, burn down his house, don’t burn down your apartment building.

    If cops are acting like Stasi goons in your neighborhood, organize groups of people to trash cop cars with eggs and baseball bats. Outman the bastards. Even though cops have guns and most of you don’t, if there’s ten of you to one of them, they will run away whimpering.

    Obviously these are simplistic thoughts from someone who’s never been involved in direct action. But I do have a history degree that I got after 20 years of on-off college. When labor went after the dicks screwing workers, or the Pinkertons, they had some public support. I don’t see where indiscriminate violence helps — although I do sympathize.

    It’s a tough issue to say anything about. Clearly regular modes of protest have not effected any serious changes.

    • The only thing I think I have to add to all this is that pretty much the protests only got major coverage after Saturday night. That’s sad. Other than that, this is just another example of how dysfunctional our economic and political system is. The police are used to maintain the existing power system. And in that role, they are given the right to abuse the poor.

      Did you write “asses” just to make fun of me for bugging you before? Or are you just typing too fast?

      • Typing too fast. Seeing what a joke the media turns these riots into — it’s been the same my entire adult life, from the Rodney King riots on. Of course as a youngster I accepted the official story of “thugs with an excuse to cause trouble.”

        Only as a little bit more of a grownup do I get how inequality poisons everything. Absolutely everything. Not “Bob’s fishing boat has a motor bigger than mine,” who cares about that shit. But serious harm and difficulty because of one’s race or economic status just debases all of us. (For one thing, it turns some successful morons into the type of person who obsesses about Bob’s boat size, and that’s nothing a person should ever be.)

        • When I was in college, I took a “Chicano Studies” course. It was mostly about art and it was fantastic. But I didn’t get the politics of it. I was stubbornly ignorant of my own privilege. I think the instructor didn’t try very hard to convince me because I was so into the art. I wrote my term paper on Gary Soto and got an A. I only later found out that my instructor had been having a feud with Soto for years. I thought it spoke rather well of him to not let that get in the way of my grade. Then again, it was the instructor who introduced me to Soto.

          I got a bit off the point there. The point is, I think and hope, that each of us is a work in progress. We should be at least somewhat embarrassed about who we used to be. If we aren’t, it doesn’t mean that we are right; it means we aren’t growing.

      • All right — here’s something interesting I just found in my mailbox.

        My county is holding a “Warrant Resolution Event” this Saturday. “This is a unique opportunity to clear up outstanding warrants — typically in a couple of hours. Judges, prosecutors and public defenders will all be present.” The deal’s for ten hours. On a Saturday.

        Unless this is some sneaky dragnet shit, it sounds a lot like somebody local got their head out of their butt and realized it might be a good time to at least make a stab at wiping some ticky-tack warrants off the books for promises of good behavior.

        About goddamn time.

        • This is excellent! Around here, a lot of cities do this thing at Christmas where people with warrants can go in and get a new court date. Under normal circumstances, you would have to turn yourself in. It is very nice and there should be more of it.

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