Let me just say at the outset of this piece that this is by no means designed to be a comprehensive list of the methods and techniques that Americans (and many other nationalities) are subjected to but these are what I consider to be the tent pole methods of oppression within the neo-liberal, hyper-capitalistic society that is modern day America. These techniques are designed to hold people back from their ability to protest, reform and overthrow any systems of governance and control that they find unwanted and/or immoral and wish to do away with. There are what I see as what is fundamentally holding us back as a people (besides the toxic levels of individualism but that’s for another episode).
So what are my three tent poles of oppression?
First, a Poverty of Philosophy. Now right away for those of you listening that may have an understanding of leftist politics, this isn’t a Marx reference but we’ll get further into all that in a sec.
Second, keeping everyone on the Financial Hamster Wheel.
and third, maintaining a Fear of the Police State.
Back to that whole Marx thing. Essentially I’m using a turn of phrase that was also the title of a book published by Karl Marx in 1847 but there really isn’t any overlap. Marx’s book was a refutation of Proudhon’s ‘The Philosophy of Poverty’ and is centered on a critique of the economic and political theories that Proudhon had set forth within it.
POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY
Well then, how am I using it you’re likely asking. I’m using it to describe a method and condition that a social system enacts and utilizes in order to prevent an individual and by extension a group from gaining the information and experience necessary to understand their state or condition as a people and to prevent them from gaining the ability to change it through the denial of that critical information.
Let’s break all that down just a bit seeing as there’s two major parts to it and it was admittedly a mouthful.
“A method and condition that a social system enacts and utilizes in order to prevent an individual/group from gaining the information and experience necessary to understand their state or condition”
This starts before you can even reason for yourself. These sorts of processes are embedded into language, culture, schooling and form a general propaganda. There are a multitude of words, phrases and ultimately ideas that authoritarian society always find “dangerous” and it does it’s very best to prevent their dissemination. Most commonly it’s ideas that concern free thinking combined with solidarity, empowerment and alternative modes of organizing society.
Governments and States the world over throughout so many years have feared the idea of an empowered people that have the right to free-association. They’ve feared it to the degree of constant demonization and even up to military engagement. It’s ideas like anarchism and social equality that chip away at the very foundation of the temple of propaganda that States find it necessary to construct.
This is also one of the reasons why you find both tacit and explicit approval for divisionary tactics within centers of power in societies. Racism, religious sectarianism, battles between the sexes and sexualities, not to even mention embattled nationalities and so much more all the way down to hating each other over sports teams. All of these serve to distract, divide and expend crucial willpower.
It’s far from over though. Much like I mentioned before about the demonization of anarchism, there is another prong that goes along with the eschewing of “dangerous” ideas; the process of miseducation and lack of education in key philosophical and political arenas. Propagandized education exists, sadly, and very much affects so many people. I’ve spoken to quite a few people over the years and even those that had a PoliSci class or two were rarely taught theory or praxis concerning, what I’ll refer to as, the proper left of the political spectrum. Oh so many were never informed that the problems with Soviet Russia weren’t necessarily the economic ones but the authoritarian ones. That it wasn’t communism that was the failure point but that it was authoritarianism that killed all those people, misspent the national treasury and bankrupted their nation. The same style authoritarianism you can find right here in the United States by the way. And they damn sure weren’t informed as to political theories that attempt to alleviate those conditions both here and abroad. They were denied knowledge of places like Cospaia that gave a solid test run for anarchism to the tune of 375 years. The ideas that you can delegate and federate these sorts of systems to provide for scaling to larger countries likely wasn’t ever covered either.
You can see where this has headed. Essentially what a Poverty of Philosophy is about is that there ARE solutions that could be tried, there are alternatives that could be explored but you were either denied knowing about them completely or lied to about them.
So that’s the rub to the second half of my initial statement right there.
“and to prevent them from gaining the ability to change it through the denial of critical information”
If you don’t know about any of this, if you aren’t made aware that there are tools you could be using to lift yourself and your fellow people up out of the dystopian nightmare you find yourselves then at best you have to start from scratch and worse you just wind up thinking that it’s either impossible and resign yourself to it or the very worst of all, accepting it as okay and the natural order and becoming a willing participant in it.
There are skills and information that community organizers, activists and politically minded people employ on a regular basis that is just beyond the periphery of most mainstream consciousness and those tools in the hands of every person would mean that grassroots, communally minded organizations could and would spring up everywhere if only it weren’t for the next item on the list.
The Financial Hamsterwheel
This one is far simpler to explain to be honest because almost everyone is particularly aware of this problem. From early on in your life you are subjected to this and depending on how “into the system” your parents (or parent) were then you may have been exposed to it quite early. I’ll also take this moment to express my sympathy for anyone who was raised within the foster care system, they got an adult sized dose of this shit very early usually.
The Financial Hamster Wheel fits into a nice little mesh with the Poverty of Philosophy. Essentially the financial requirements that it takes to just LIVE in our bullshit society are so burdensome that it keeps you from having any true time off. In order to maintain your healthcare expenses, your housing expenses, your food expenses and all the other minutia of day-to-day living in (especially) this country then most people have very little free time and the free time they get more often than not they rightfully want to spend just decompressing and escaping to a large extent. That’s quite understandable, don’t get me wrong.
The truth of the matter is that people don’t have tons of time, and by tons I mean not a couple hours but days and weeks to the tune of years, to dedicate to a worthy cause. They can’t spend the next 365+ workdays camped out in front of a Governor’s mansion in order to help protest the conditions of our nation. If they do, well, they might as well hold on to that tent because very likely they’ll be homeless.
With proper social safety nets in place; guaranteed housing of some sort, basic living expenses and universal health care our people would then be free to begin to rise up against our corporate and governmental masters and they know this. That’s one of the reasons why these protections are continually withheld or walled off in the ways that they are.
Letting people off the Hamster Wheel would give them the time to realize how badly they’re getting fucked, learn what to do about it, and then take action. That’s the last thing the ruling class wants.
Fear of the Police State
With the first two tent poles of oppression covered let’s take a moment to set up a hypothetical. Let’s just imagine for a moment that a magical fairy was discovered and fixed those first two problems for us. We’re a well educated populace with a solid understanding of civics, our rights, and how to organize and operate grassroots political activist organizations. That same fairy also made it possible for us all to take years off of work without any consequences to our access to healthcare, housing or food.
Cool. So now on to bigger and better things right? We can start solving all these other problems that have been stacking up. The environment, the military industrial complex, the (racist) prison system and by extension the broken legal system, the financial inequality that is rampant throughout so many of the world’s societies, hell world hunger and homelessness. There’s so many issues we could start tackling now that those problems…yeah. No.
See here’s the thing, that fairy didn’t change the system dynamics. Didn’t do anything about the ruling class. Just magically made it so that tent poles 1 and 2 were gone. See the thing is, the third tent pole stems the tide of change in this world.
The police state from the federal on down to your local cop in bumfuck nowhere all serve the same purpose. They maintain the status quo. They are there to ensure that the system as it stands is enforced and inflicted upon the masses.
They are also the very first people to show up when you protest. Trust me on that one; been there.
You see it will be the local police and the county sheriffs who arrive at your large gathering of people and when various city, state, federal and corporate officials have decided that they’ve had enough of your little event they will be the ones who follow orders to break it up, using their state mandated monopoly on violence. If you as a group dare resist things WILL escalate.
Most commonly these days the first line of defense for them is, if the protesters are of a number they feel they can strong arm, they’ll use tactics like spraying everyone in the face with pepper spray. An act by the way, that would it be used in a theater of war be considered a war crime but used on your own populace, it’s perfectly kosher.
Now if their pathetic little egos are frightened of your group what they’ll generally do is employ a mass movement technique called “kettling” in which they slowly push protesters into an area that uses pre-existing barriers such as walls and buildings to prevent escape, then cut off your exit routes and begin mass arrests (see the 2016 Washington DC inauguration protests for a recent example of this technique in action). Now later of course these arrests were thrown out en masse by the courts but that’s not the point is it? They managed to disrupt the protests. Job done.
But it’s far more insidious and revolting than just the immediate. Let’s say you have an organization that is actively involved in the community, involved in providing for and protecting them from the abuses of the system at large. Ever wonder how that one might play out? Well we only need look at two classic examples. Martin Luther King Jr and the Black Panthers.
MLK was stalked, harassed and threaten by not only racists and local cops but by the FBI itself who sent him a letter attempting to blackmail him and encouraging him to commit suicide. The largest national state policing agency mobilized against him not because as some would dare state that they “perceived him to have communist ties” (another obvious scapegoat used throughout the 20th century) but because he threatened the status quo. He was organizing a populist uprising that was gaining momentum not just within the black community but seeing gasp white people voice support for systemic change as well. He represented that change so they targeted him using one of the most powerful tools in their tool belt, the FBI.
The Black Panthers (originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) were a response to the widespread and systemic racism and abuse coming from the California police departments and by extension the government they represent and in a large part to better provide for their communities’ needs. From their inception they practiced open-carry of firearms (as is their constitutional right) within their neighborhoods engaging in what’s referred to as “cop-watching” or in other words ensuring that if the police engaged in unwarranted violence towards the people of those communities they had the means to stop them if necessary. They also instituted a number of beneficial programs such as Free Breakfasts for Children to address food injustice and community health clinics to help the underserved.
You see, they used those guns because well, the police were (and still are) completely out of control. They were handing out beatings left and right not to mention the numerous street side executions at their hands and well the Black Panthers began putting a stop to it. By force. Multiple shoot outs occurred resulting in the deaths of police officers.
Next stop, the FBI’s CoIntelPro aka the Counter-Intelligence Program (a program that has been known to have engaged in perjury, coordinated harassment and many other criminal activities) in which they literally put spies into positions within the Back Panther Party to disrupt them while simultaneously the state of California mobilized all of it’s systems in order to further reduce the effectiveness of their actions. Ever wonder how California became the state with such tight gun legislation? Well it all kinda started with the Mulford act. An act to directly undermine the ability of the Black Panthers to open-carry their firearms. It was a law that forbade open-carry (except of course for those that could get a Sheriff to sign off on it wink wink) and was targeted directly at the Blank Panthers’ cop-watching program. Keep in mind, this is a bill that was openly supported by the NRA as well (if there wasn’t any doubt that they’re a racist organization already with their handling of the incidents surrounding the police shootings of Philando Castille and Kenneth Walker more recently [luckily charges have now been dropped]).
The FBI was also used in the case of anti-war protesters, or in this specific instance, the Vietnam War. The entirety of the federal legal system was put into action in order to criminalize cannabis as it was a popular drug amongst the anti-war protesters, and per Nixon’s own counsel John Ehrlichman, could be used to criminalize and target the anti-war movement’s participants (they also used the same tactic against the black communities as well only with cocaine). The legislative, the judicial, and the executive branches all came together to target those that threatened the status quo. And in the instance of Kent & Jackson State they shot the fuck outta some as well.
And the poor indigenous protesters over the years have been subjected to some terribly brutal conditions as well but honestly they probably deserve their own episode.
Be it, black, indigenous, anti-war, environmental, anti-capitalist, anarchist/leftist or any other protest or movement that dares to challenge and threaten the status quo of the system the entirety of that system will rise up and rain hell down upon their collective heads.
Ignorance + Occupied + Fear = Nothing Changes
Combine all three of those factors and what you get is what we have, a nightmarish hellscape of systemic abuses, a rotting cultural landscape and a downtrodden people. Without change, the only natural constant, stagnation occurs and with stagnation comes rot. We are rotting as a country and a people.
You see, the only methods that you’re left with after you enact those techniques I’ve listed are appeals to authority techniques which when the authority has your best interests in mind could work, I suppose. But in a system that is literally designed to take advantage of you and cause you harm, there is no legitimate recourse. There are no honorable politicians because even when one finally comes along, the system itself will lean on them and prevent them from enacting true radical change through a multitude of means.
So, where do we start? What can we do? How do we progress? Two simple words:
We need to reclaim our ability to protest and even gasp riot if necessary. We need to not fear retaliation by jackbooted thugs that occupy our streets. We need to remove their legal claim to qualified immunity so that when they do cross the line we can hold them accountable in a court and toss their ass in jail where they rightfully belong.
Once we the people can reclaim our streets and our right to demonstration then maybe we can start making headway elsewhere. We can force change concerning other legislation and judicial rulings that need rolling back such as Citizens United & Taft-Hartley. Then we can begin to claim this country for the people of the nation rather than the political and capital classes.
And when you’re ready, I’ll see y’all in the street. Until then you can always catch me online.
Much love from one anarchist to everyone.