The Coastal Post - May, 1996

Bombers, Immigrants, Cops And Capital


The news is of the Unabomber, immigrants, a plane crash, cops, militias, terror bombings and plenty of local crime and fire. Tales of madness are interspersed with stories of progress and the hope of prosperity via information societies, knowledge cultures and other cyberbabble to make us smile through our tears and fears. It's difficult for a consumer of media product to make sense of these seemingly unrelated realities.

We hear of liberals in support of censorship, and conservatives in opposition. The right-wing militants of the '90s are fighting against the same corporate government that was opposed by the left-wing militants of the '60s. Alleged fanatics blow up innocent people on a city bus, and alleged civilized governments blow up innocent people in a refugee camp. Citizens can be forgiven for turning off the alleged real world and retiring to drugs, alcohol, superstition or catatonia.

We're shaped and moved by political-economic forces that might as well be supernatural for all we're given to understand them. These are the forces that drive Mexicans across the border, that drove the Unabomber to his madness, and that drive people to believe effects—like immigration, militias or affirmative action—are the causes of social breakdowns. We're given explanations that demonize or trivialize and we're left with over-simplification and scapegoating that insures a status quo of continued incoherence.

People have good reason to question and feel anxious. How can humane behavior survive with so much inhumanity on display? Does abuse of the environment call for return to our roots in nature? Have we drifted too far from religious and spiritual belief? When people are "downsized" or thrown off the land, should they pray, or go somewhere else to earn a living? Or should they get guns and form a militia, or make bombs and blow up the bad guys who downsized them, destroyed their environment or threw them off the land?

Self-defense is a survival necessity, but if we don't understand what we are defending ourselves from, we simply add to confusion and inhumanity. How do we defend ourselves from lack of knowledge? Especially in a contradictory setting in which we are overloaded with information as never before in history? Events which can seem almost beyond understanding are presented that way by our corporate mind managers, who profit from our confusion. Their job is to keep us frantically shopping, not analytically thinking. Here's some non-corporate thought on some recent events.

The forces he calls "industrial society" are what drove the Unabomber to strike out in his irrational way, and they were also behind the fleeing illegals and the flailing batons of the policemen. What the bomber saw destroying nature is what sweeps immigrants across our border in search of employment, and what gives the dirty job of policing to perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood workers in society.

We can cluck over the madness of the bomber, and accept the psycho-gibberish offered as explanation for his murderous behavior. But we ought to wonder about all the brilliant mathematicians who used their knowledge to work for the Pentagon, to create massive bombs and serve God and country by slaughtering not three, but tens of thousands of people who never knew what hit them. Are they crazy? Are we?

We can whine about the law-breaking immigrants or the heartless brutality of the cops who beat them. Or we can wonder what causes people to break the law and risk life and limb in hopes of getting low-paying jobs that would never be accepted by the"native" population. And we might think about police who do the only work, outside of military service in time of war, in which the workers are expected to give up their lives in order to protect what is called civil society and the rule of law.

The Unabomber may be slightly mad, but he is a product of something much larger than his psyche. The Mexicans and others who sneak across our borders are law breakers, but almost always decent people just trying to survive against tremendous odds. And the cops who patrol the beat—any beat—are servants to the status quo, but not nearly as guilty of perpetuating it as are their employer-masters who are better educated, make far more money, and never have to dirty their hands or risk their lives.

We will have "show" trials for the bomber, the immigrants and the cops; some will profit from them, and many will argue over justice done or undone. But there will be no real justice until we get a public trial of the systemic forces that drove all of them, and that drive all of us. That demands popular action that is democratic and humane, rather than the current tendency toward the narrow and deadly.

Corporate Capital is an institutionalized force that can seem supernatural, since corporations don't die and are everywhere in the world at once. Of course, so are the people, but we haven't yet developed the capacity to act that way. It's easy for Capital to speak with a unified voice, but still difficult for people, because language and thinking are controlled commodities. But our minds, like our bodies, are not commodities, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner the news will become less confusing, and the world more coherent. Stay tuned, ask questions and demand answers.