Ferguson

The last week has seen much comment on the events in Ferguson, and I don’t propose to comment on the case itself; there has been enough comment already and passions on both sides are already inflamed enough.

Instead, I would like to comment on the broader issues; I think the issue of Police brutality is a symptom not the cause of the problem, and just treating the symptom never cures the disease.

The American culture has always been based on a zero sum game of winners and losers; it is the ugly dark side of all the things that in many ways make America such a great country: entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, self sufficiency and sense of adventure.  Those ugly aspects have included: taking land by force from the natives; enslaving Africans, then oppressing their descendants; exploiting cheap labour from China/Latin America (both in country and immigrants); and fighting wars (some overtly and some covertly) to control resources and strategic locations.  

Just look at the history of labour disputes and trade unions in the US; they have been far more violent than in the UK, France or Germany, despite American workers being paid more. It was common for the National Guard to be called in and strikers to be shot right up until World War 2.

To stop young black men being shot will require a change of culture: the people need to stop obsessing about money and material possession, guns have to removed from everyday society and education rather than celebrity should be the aspiration of the society.

People need to start thinking beyond themselves and their immediate family.  One would hope those who have been blessed with success would be the most generous in helping.  This is not a matter a race or social class, applying equally to the Silicon Valley CEO buying another yacht as it does to a rapper buying yet another Ferrari.  Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have shown a how this can be done, so lets hope others will follow.

The legal and political system needs to become more consensual, and quite frankly, more grown up.  Much of the debate this week has been about whether the grand jury made the right decision regarding the Michael Brown case.  I would ask a different question; could they have come up with any different decision based on the law as it stands.  The American legal system appears to accept the right to resort to deadly violence (whether it is the police, other government agencies or individuals) in so many situations , and guns are so prevalent, that is it surprising that so many deaths occur?  America has roughly 5 times the homicide rate of France, Germany or the UK; is a constitutional right to bear arms really worth that?

And my final point is one of a culture of violence; again not an issue of race or class.  It equally applies to the white “good ole’ boys” with their love of guns and intolerance, to the “gangstas” with their profanities and glorification of drug dealing and objectification of women, or the large corporation putting the bottom line before the health of its workers or the local community.

Nick

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