"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
Please Don"t Call Officer Charles a Pig, Daddy! He"s Really Nice!
I had to drive over to the town next door (about 60km/30 miles) in my car with expired plate tabs this morning. My 'legal' car was otherwise deployed and it was an emergency, so off I went.
My adult companion asked me why I was driving so slowly and carefully. I told her about my circumstances with the plate tabs and so I needed to be more wary than usual for the proximity of 'Officer Pig.' My nine-year old back seat passenger then loudly stage-whispered to us both that she liked policemen, especially one 'Officer Charles,' who is assigned to her school D.A.R.E. Program. I felt an immediate outpouring of both anger and guilt.
Yes, I call them pigs sometimes. I know the whole Psychology 101 theory about dehumanizing those you fear by breaking the bonds of natural empathy humans feel for each other. But this insight comes in my case with the price of guilty feelings. So there is the guilt.
The anger is at myself. Am I wrong to deny her my opinion (indoctrination?) on the real nature of the State vs. Human Being arrangement? That a State or government is any group that claims the sole right to use coercion or violence to enforce its will in a defined geographic area. The police are the means of enforcement of that will. She is an observant and bright kid. There is little doubt in my mind that she will come to see this also in time.
The Objectivist philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand stated the relationship between rulers and ruled when she noted that we 'are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.'
As this is being written, the US presidential election of 2004 is about two weeks past. There has been much wailing and crying from the usual suspects in the news lately, proclaiming their desire to become expatriates or even immigrants to less repressive societies than America is right now. They expect that with President George W. Bush re-elected, and the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, and several Supreme Court appointments likely soon that things will get ugly around here. I guess it depends on your point of view, folks.
Things have been really, really ugly where I live since September 11, 2001 . The whole alphabet soup of federal agencies have 'contacted' most of us of Arab descent (if that is the right term) with requests for informational interviews. There is nothing at all that scares people more than the knock on the door from the feds. There are few things scarier to most people. Myself included.
Which brings me back to the point I am trying to make with this piece. Your kids as they grow enter into the larger world. Few parents can watch them always. So what should a good parent tell the kidlings to do if they get lost or separated from their parents? Who should they turn to if someone who gives them the creeps is bugging them or if they're being hassled at school or on the street by bigots or jerks? Mostly parents tell them to call the police. I know mine did. But I'm conflicted about this. Cops scare me more than they reassure me. I can honestly say I've never had a positive experience with them.
I don't want this to appear to be another ranting, anti-cop screed from an aggrieved minority member, so don't worry. I am not going down that path.
Despite what I've read about societal order from Anarchist theorists and academics, I have my doubts that we'll ever be able to rid ourselves fully from the need of security officers, policemen, or someone along those lines who handles the basic issues of public safety and order. Unless we are talking about a very small city-state, enclave, or neighborhood, where people handle public safety and order issues on his or her own, someone will have to do it. And even if that 'someone' is a private security officer hired on a contract or through a security company, the questions is still: Who watches them?
This is the issue that has been grappled with by social theorists and common people alike from the beginning of human civilization. How do you and your family stay free and safe without someone able to protect those who can't protect themselves? And who will protect you from them? Will Rogers comment on this predicament was 'Liberty doesn't work as well in practice as it does in speeches.' And it seems he was right.
I want my daughter and my son to be as free and safe as they can be. The rest of us too, for that matter. But how can I tell them, 'go to the police if you're lost or scared,' if I'm afraid of them too? Every time a cop or a fed knocks on the door, I have visions of myself hog-tied with a bag over my head, as I'm frog-marched out to a waiting detention center at an 'undisclosed location.' In my nightmare scenario, my family and friends frantically call around worried about my fate. Their anguish hurts me more than anything that could happen to me while in custody.
I'm told by news reports that since President Bush was re-elected, the immigration website for Canada is getting so many requests for information from Americans that it had to shut down temporarily. I understand this feeling to want to flee to somewhere safe. Fear is an important survival instinct.
In the sixth grade, I was introduced to the history of the extermination efforts of the Nazis toward Jews. What amazed me the most about the time period between when Hitler took over as head of state and the beginning of the shooting war were the actions of most of the Jewish population of Germany . Nazi Party-instigated mobs trashed and burned businesses owned by Jews repeatedly. Schools, homes, and synagogues were defiled and vandalized continually as well. Books and libraries were looted and burned.
Terrible as these events are to contemplate, the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the agonizing question I had that my teacher couldn't answer, which was: Why didn't they leave? Get the hell out of Germany . Sure, they'd lose everything they had and would have to start over somewhere else but at least they'd be alive to do it. This is a question that I may finally need to answer for myself soon.
I often wonder if I'm being overwrought by all this paranoia and rumors swirling around today. Awful as he is, Bush is no Hitler no matter what MoveOn.org and Michael Moore say. But on the other hand, when I see a police car coming slowly down my street, I feel more scared than reassured. What is my soul trying to tell my mind by giving me this feeling? Time will tell in the end.
Now what was that ImmigrationCanada website again?.