Archive for the ‘The State’ Category

Capitalism and dance do not mix. No matter who you are on Earth, look around you, and you’ll see that you live in a culture of dancing, or you exist within the influence of capitalism. Never do both thrive simultaneously.

Culture is our immune system. It keeps us strong and vibrant. It connects us to a community with the healthful consequences that come with that bond. Dance is one of the indicators of this system’s strength; it is the rosy hue of our complexion, the fire in our eyes, the strength of our stride. If you need a quick summation of a culture’s vitality, you only require the answer to one question: do the people dance? Capitalism aims to penetrate the social body. It is a pathogen that sees only one role for the organism it invades: a host for itself. The virus has no respect for the welfare of the being that it usurps; it desires only infection of that body and contagion to the next. It feeds off the host, sapping it of vigour, exhausting the muscles, straining the being in unseemly ways. Now, fever overtakes us, the sickly. We rush to work, speed to the next mall sale. Sirens blare in the night. Prisons are filled. Pink slips are issued. Now, delirium accosts us. Political campaigners, advertisers and agents of public relations garble delusional messages into our ears. Finally tiredness overcomes us. Television, alcohol, drugs, and fluffy internet apps send us into our stupor.

The immune system activates to counter this onslaught. But it struggles. Native peoples of European settler countries suffer the inevitable, dire poverty of modern capitalist “development” while they dance for their very cultural lives. On the Iberian peninsula, birthplace of the flamenco, the fandango, the paso doble, the bolero and the sardana, the capitalist bug completed its infection after taking advantage of a crippled immune system. The cultures of the Basques, Catalans, Andalusians and others were squashed by the goose-stepping Spanish fascists in the 1930’s, dance shoes being no match for jackboots. This pattern repeats globally. Governments the world over—“democratic,” or totalitarian—use State toxins to weaken the immunity of the social body for the benefit of the capitalist contagion.

Revival of the Sardana

The State-assisted capitalist epidemic broke out first in the British Isles with its industrialization and merchant trading. And now almost no one in those ancient lands know the steps to the jig, the reel, the fling, the strathspey, or the Morris dance any more. Dances of central Europe and Germany—the schuhplattler, the ländler, the waltz, the polka—suffered a loss of vitality soon afterwards. And similarly, we see the virus sweeping across 21st century China as the mechanical Han Chinese produce coal mines and factories, condominiums and brand-name apparel, with nary a bounce in their step. In all of these countries dance primarily exists in two forms. It becomes a theatre show for viewing, a spectacle to watch but not for doing. Put in a petri dish and swirled around. Or young party-goers flail about desperately in nightclubs, alcohol sloshing within their bellies, in decidedly un-cultural ways.

To be sure, on occasion new dance styles are invented such as hip hop and jumpstyle on the streets and in the clubs. But they struggle to revive the culture and often fade out after some time. Or the contagion immerses them, and they become assimilated by capitalist forces. One of the greatest dancers in modern times, Michael Jackson, rose up from meagre origins, realized great financial success, and promptly forgot how to create new steps. A rose emerged from the dirt, swayed and fluttered attractively to the rhythm of the wind, and was plucked crudely for the businessman’s lapel.

But maybe there is hope yet. The Greeks, perhaps the only Western Europeans to maintain dear feelings for dance, those people of hundreds of styles, muster some resistance to the International Monetary Fund and other bullying financial organizations–while commentators laughably write, “The Greeks’ innate anti-authoritarianism… is at the heart of the problem.” The capitalist pathogen surrounds Cuba seeking a vector into that lively organism while the defenders conjure up the cha-cha, summon the spirit of the salsa, and invoke the magic of the mambo for protection. The samba-loving Brazilians and tango-strutting Argentines resist international capitalist pressures. The Bolivians with their caporales, morenada, kullwada, diablada, and countless other dances gyrate, bounce, and skip an anti-globalization president into office. How wonderful that some refuse to march in step.

Anarchist Emma Goldman once said: If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming. I can tap my foot to that tune.

Such nonsense: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Countries exist only because man creates them as he builds furniture, civil structures and computing machines. They are built in order to serve some purpose in the manner that tables, bridges and iPads are constructed for utility too. There is no point in having any of them around otherwise. Let me announce, “Ask not what your garden shovel can do for you, but what you can do for your garden shovel,” and the ridiculous nature of this presidential proclamation becomes evident. How can someone slobber such patriotic sludge, and why do people suck it up through straws as narrow as their limited reasoning?

The Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch

As recently as two hundred years ago it is doubtful that very many residents of the British Isles considered themselves to be British. A painting by David Wilkie caused a stir in 1822, for it aimed to manufacture a British identity through a patriotism that transcended age, gender, class, race, or occupation. “We” had just defeated Napoleon. And if you could see yourself in this painting, if you happened to be someone from Irish, Welsh, Scottish or English origin, rich or poor, man or woman, white or black, then you were one of the “we” who had just vanquished the enemy. It was of no consequence that many “French” men and women, in an age before railways and national schools, had no idea who Napoleon was.

Influential men in the British Isles were expanding their trade internationally and needed “Britain”, a political fabrication, for their protection. They needed laws favourable to their dealings, laws that would protect their property. They needed a navy and army to escort them on their expeditions. And they needed the people across the land to sign on to the whole arrangement. The common person in Yorkshire or Cornwall never had designs to become even English let alone British.

Similarly, ninety-seven percent of the inhabitants of the newly formed Italy did not speak Italian and had never clamoured in their multitudinous dialects for a change of language. What good was Italy and Italian to them? And let’s not forget the United States. Historian Howard Zinn reminds us that the Revolutionary War was unpopular: “It was not all the common people getting together to fight against England. They had a very hard time assembling an army. They took poor guys and promised them land. They browbeat people…” And when the soldiers discovered they were part of a racket, a good many mutinied. Yes, countries were created by wealthy people in order to fulfil their ambitions of power. Zinn tells us that “the farmers were rather poor; the Founding Fathers were rather rich.”

We are often told that socialism (when the State owns the means of production) is evil. We are also told that its opposite, capitalism (when the means of production own the State) is good. Good for who? Rich property owners? International traders and financiers? Business elites and industrialists? The phrasing more correctly should be, “Ask not what the owners of the country can do for you, but what you can do for the owners of the country.” But, of course, these words cannot be used. We’re supposed to imagine one big national family. We’re all part of it. We are all American, or British, or whatever. Let’s not think of class, or of class war. The very ideas sound much too Marxist; surely they belong in the pages of a dusty, Victorian library.

But a class war is being fought, and being fought unevenly. The elites know what they are doing when they step into society’s ring. They throw the punches and land the blows with hands that are unfairly clad with the concrete wrappings of The Law. Their opponents–the rest of us–mostly take it on the chin. When we succeed in picking ourselves up off the mat for another round or when we temporarily stem the blood-flow, we rejoice in our small victories. Never mind that the State referees the match to our purposeful disadvantage; the fix is most certainly in. And we’re losing badly.

Would you believe that all countries on earth will execute anyone within its borders who commits even the most trifling act of disobedience? You may think, “Surely, this is not the case. Very few countries submit to death any but the worse criminals.” Yes, this is certainly true; officially most Western countries have abandoned capital punishment. However, in practice, the State will kill—and without trial—any who push their dissenting positions hard enough. Take the following hypothetical trivial incident to its inevitable conclusion.

Suppose the city thinks it best to adorn your car with a wee bit of coloured paper, a mere four grams of thinly sliced, dyed cellulose pulp. And suppose the city then devises the sloth-brained notion that you now owe it a sum of money equal to a few hours of your labour. Well, you never asked for pretty cellulose pulp, and you reckon the price is too steep, anyway, if you had. So, being as sane as the next guy, you toss it aside and forget about the matter.

But, alas, the city persists in sending you yet more pulp, this time by mail and this time cellulose of a much less amusing nature: thicker, coarser, pure white except some threatening lettering. And, the city charges still more for this—added to the sum you already “owe” it. By now, you may be at the point of ignoring this nonsense out of pure principle. Do grown adults really send strangers unsigned slips of paper in the mail with demands of money for no discernible reason?

Remarkably, the city figures its authority derives from something called the State, from laws that you’ve never read and would never write, from the imaginations of people who have been long dead. And so, some other sliver of fibre arrives at your abode demanding your appearance in a courtroom. Well, you reckon, quite sensibly, that lawyer-types are the last people you’d like to spend an afternoon talking to, so you do not go. You are subsequently found in contempt of court. Or, maybe you decide differently. You do choose to attend (you need an excuse to duck the dentist anyway); whereupon, you inform the man sat in the tall chair that you’ve been very amused with the whole dance, thank you very much, and could we now knock it off? The consequences will be similar in either scenario.

A point will be reached where you come face-to-face with a police officer. Perhaps the judge orders him to restrain you right then and there. Maybe he comes menacingly round to your home. Or perhaps as you drive, he produces—like an adolescent who has just discovered fireworks—flashing lights and a hellish scream. Apparently something called a driver’s licence is revoked, even though it sits right there in your wallet. Well, now you are really up against it, for this is someone unreceptive to reasoned conversation. He means to physically disrupt you. You recoil; maybe you resist. He draws a gun. Quick, what do you have in your pockets to help you? Too late: you’re dead.

Can you now see that the most likely price for stubbornly refusing to pay a trifling parking ticket is your eventual extermination? Yes, it is true, you might get lucky and only be incapacitated by the officer, perhaps by a taser shot or a blow from a truncheon. But do you really want to rely on good fortune and an insufficiently cracked skull for your survival?

Taking this reasoning to its conclusion, can you imagine any scenario, whatsoever, where a regular individual without the power of money or a vast organization could violate any law, get identified for it, and still succeed in resisting the penalty (cash or jail time), that wouldn’t put him in eventual conflict with a cop? And are there any means to physically defeat the police force? Your expiration is the most likely outcome if you try hard enough. And remarkably, most people accept this as normal and correct.

Take the case of Robert Dziekanski killed by Canada’s national police force a few miles from where I now sit; killed for mildly resisting police attempts to detain him (he may have been armed against four cops with an office stapler); killed after causing some disturbance in an airport brought on by travel fatigue, lack of sleep, and frustrations with ten hours of airport bureaucracy. The consequences of this poor man’s death were public outrage, a coroner’s inquest, investigations, independent reviews, and various reports and recommendations.

The stream of events roughly followed a course that questioned whether the victim was much of a threat, whether the police were too forceful, or whether the taser is an appropriate weapon. The only question was whether the degree of police violence was appropriate to the circumstance—not whether representatives of the State should have been on location acting violently to begin with. In other words, had Dziekanski resisted the policemen’s advances more robustly, his death would have been palatable to society. The State is expected to kill. As Alexander Berkman wrote, “We are so steeped in the spirit of violence that we never stop to ask whether violence is right or wrong. We only ask if it is legal, whether the law permits it.”

It must be clear now that the State does not merely have a monopoly on violence, but it is inherently violent. We do not take our opposition to the State too far because we know it controls the police. We submit to the police because we know damned well what we are in for if we do not. Once you have defied the State, even to the smallest degree, you have set in motion an apparatus that cannot be reasoned with, one that will force your compliance on penalty of death.

At that frightening moment Dziekanski realized he would be shot, he exclaimed to those State officers, “Have you gone insane?” There is nothing sane about any of this.

Would you believe that all countries on earth have the death penalty and will execute anyone within its borders who commits even the most trifling act of disobedience? You may think, “Surely, this is not the case. Very few countries submit to death any but the worse criminals.” Yes, this is certainly true; officially most Western countries have abandoned penalty of death. However, in practice, the State will kill—and without trial—any who push their dissenting positions hard enough. Take the following trivial incident to its necessary conclusion.

Suppose the city thinks it best to adorn your car with a wee bit of coloured paper, a mere four grams of thinly sliced, dyed cellulose pulp. And suppose the city then devises the sloth-brained notion that you now owe it a sum of money equal to a few hours of your labour. Well, you never ask for pretty cellulose pulp, and you reckon the price is too steep, anyway, if you had. So, being as sane as the next guy, you toss it aside and forget about the matter.

But, alas, the city persists in sending you yet more pulp, this time by mail and this time cellulose of a much less amusing nature: thicker, coarser, pure white except some threatening lettering. And, the city charges still more for this—added to the sum you already “owe” it. By now, you may be at the point of ignoring all this nonsense out of pure principle. Do grown adults really send strangers unsigned slips of paper in the mail with demands of money for no discernable reason?

Remarkably, the city figures its authority derives from something called the State, from laws that you’ve never read and would never write, from the imaginations of people who have been long dead. And so, some other sliver of fiber arrives at your abode demanding your appearance in a courtroom. Well, you reckon, quite sensibly, that lawyer-types are the last people you’d like to spend an afternoon talking to, so you do not go. You are subsequently found in contempt of court. Or, maybe you decide differently. You do choose to attend (you need an excuse to duck the dentist anyway); whereupon, you inform the man sat in the tall chair that you’ve been very amused with the whole dance, thank you very much, and could we now knock it off? The consequences will be similar in either scenario.

A point will be reached where you come face-to-face with a police officer. Perhaps the court orders him to restrain you right then and there. Maybe he comes menacingly round to your home. Or perhaps as you drive, he produces—like an adolescent who has just discovered fireworks—flashing lights and an Almighty scream. Apparently something called a driver’s licence is revoked, even though it sits right there in your wallet. Well, now you are really up against it, for this is someone unreceptive to reasoned conversation. He means to physically disrupt you. You recoil; maybe you resist. He draws a weapon. Quick, what do you have in your pockets to help you? Too late: you’re dead.

Can you now see that the most likely price for stubbornly refusing to pay a trifling parking ticket is your imminent termination? Yes, it is true, you might get lucky and only be incapacitated by the officer, perhaps by a taser shot or a blow from a truncheon. But do you really want to rely on good fortune and an insufficiently cracked skull for your survival?

Taking this reasoning to its conclusion, can you imagine any scenario, whatsoever, where a regular individual without the power of money or a vast organization could violate any law, get identified for it, and still succeed in resisting the penalty (cash or jail time), that wouldn’t put him in eventual conflict with a cop? And are there any means to physically defeat the police force? Your expiration is the most likely outcome if you try. And most remarkably, most people accept this as normal and correct.

Take the case of Robert Dziekanski killed by Canada’s national police force a few miles from where I now sit, killed for mildly resisting police attempts to detain him (he may have been armed against four cops with an office stapler), killed after causing some disturbance in an airport brought on by his travel fatigue, his lack of sleep and his frustrations with ten hours of airport bureaucracy. The consequences of this poor man’s death were public outrage, a coroner’s inquest, investigations, independent reviews, and various reports and recommendations.

The stream of events roughly followed a course that questioned whether the victim was much of a threat, whether the police were too forceful, or whether the taser is an appropriate weapon. The only question was whether the police violence was appropriate to the circumstance—not whether representatives of the State should have been on location acting violently to begin with. In other words, had Dziekanski resisted the police’s advances more robustly, his death would have been palateable to society. The State is expected to kill.

It must be clear now that the State does not merely have a monopoly on violence, but it is inherently violent. We do not take our opposition to the State too far because we know it controls the police. We submit to the police because we know damned well what we are in for if we do not. Once you have defied the State, even to the smallest degree, you have set into motion an apparatus that cannot be reasoned with, one that will force your compliance on penalty of death.


At that frightening moment Dziekanski realized he would be shot, he exclaimed to those representatives of the State, “Have you gone insane?” There is nothing sane about any of this.