Monday, June 02, 2014

Inviolable rights, corporate religion, and power

I will cite this article as the source of my questioning. This is a TPM Muckraker article where the NRA states publicly that, for people not often aware of the open carry of long guns as a means of making a political statement, going into a place of ordinary, common-exchange business with an open-carried long gun is "downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself" [emphases on TPM and NRA sites]. They hat-tipped Mother Jones here. [MJ did not emphasize 'weird' if you're curious.]

The Mother Jones article is much better for this exchange:

Grisham, whose group sees its demonstrations as a means to legalizing the open carrying of handguns in Texas, was having none of it. "I would like to vehemently disagree," he said. He went off about "the two major foes" of his organization, the "ultraliberal gun control bullies" of Moms Demand Action—and gun rights defenders who don't go far enough. "When you've got the TSRA and the NRA basically coming down on us for standing up for our rights, that's where our problem is," he said. "Because now you guys are siding with Moms Demand Action."
"CJ, when you make a statement like, 'We align ourselves with Moms Who Demand Action,' or whatever the hell their name is, those are fighting words," Cotton replied with growing exasperation. "You alienate the people that can get this done."
He continued: "The New Black Panthers did exactly what you folks are doing. They marched on the convention center during the Republican convention here in Houston [with] their rifles and shotguns…No arrests were made, but the legislative response was, 'We're going to stop this.'" State law was watered down in the next session as a result, Cotton said, freeing local governments to ban the possession of firearms under some circumstances.

I have long said that the Black Panthers are a great model for those who are starting to form around the idea that open display of guns is a political comment about the growing tyranny of national and state and local governments in the US. They wanted to show to their own black people that it is possible to form within the US jurisdictional lines (so, national, state, and local governments) a separate identity, a separate people who keep to their own on the basis of an idea, in this case the idea of a black people. People mistakenly think of the Black Panthers as strictly a racial idea, and it is, but as a realized community, it was also the instance of an entire genus of political realities: an identity about an idea that completely withdraws from but remains in geographical contact with the US governments. Communes of traditional religious, spiritual, or transcendental varieties exist in small places here and there; there are also non-traditional ones, too. The homeless are an anarchic, polyvalent variety of people who have collectively separated, not always consensually. The much earlier models of cultural separation before the Black Panthers are, of course, the various nations who were already here in the lands prior to the colonization of the older world by the newer technology world. You can see how the different models of those separate-but-equal versions of separating out of the US cultural identity worked. Some still remain today, reserved for some indefinite end or purpose.

But the Black Panthers are a recent, 20th century attempt by a specifically suppressed racial group. It was dismantled from within and from without, mostly by the without coming within.

So, it is interesting that the voice of reason and mutual engagement with the US legislative bureaucracy, Cotton cites how the New Black Panthers' demonstration resulted in the NRA themselves having a harder time of things at the state and local level. This signals that the NRA now understands that, like it or not, they are on the same side as the New Black Panthers, since both desire the opportunity to separate from the ideological domination by the governments. What one does affects the other. Whether they use that same-team awareness to bridge differences remains uncertain. This also signals that Cotton knows whoever challenges radically the ideological domination by the governments is irrelevant in terms of those governments' response. In other words, anyone who rocks the boat is rocking the boat for all. This is the genuine opening to true solidarity, since this goes beyond the same-team awareness. This is the step towards universality, an opening to that possibility, just as it is also an opening to compromise and co-optation, since now the NRA could try and denounce and delimit the political activity of the New Black Panthers, to shut them down and shut them up, so that they don't rock the boat until the NRA is ready to tip the boat a little more.

In both moments, there are two possibilities opening.

They have the possibility to awaken to the reality we are all on the same team. Or they can seek out team purity.

They have the possibility to awaken to the reality that any one of us has the right and the opening to rock the boat. Or they can seek out to hoard the opening to themselves.

Rocking the boat is changing the world. But somewhere in there is a hidden code we all take for granted: "First come, first served." This is the bedrock principle to seeing the past as unrecoverable, since the institutionalized and hardened and entrenched and founded things we feel as dominating and enslaving us are built in the past and extending into our lives in the present. So, if there opens up a genuine moment where we can fix something that has endured into the present, we want to get into there first and start flipping the switches or nailing things down or killing off resistance or taking things for us or putting things back or restoring what was lost or rebuilding what was destroyed. We want to change the world first.

We do not yet change ourselves first to be some people who will accept however the world is changed.

Since if any one can rock the boat, then the one will be rocking the boat for all.
Whoever rocks the boat for all will do it their way, which may be like or unlike our way.
We want our way. Their way is much more likely unlike our way. More so the more unlike us they are.

So everyone waits longingly around the door at the center of the universe from which all possible change comes, waiting to get in there and do what must be done to change the world, before the other person, before someone does it poorly. Before someone makes us idiots, slaves, murderous, drones, exploiters, homeless, suppressed, silenced, beaten, deafened, killed. Before someone worse than us gets in there, because wouldn't it be great if we could, just once, have the power to make the world in our own image?

Because, you see, none of us is an awful person inside. None of us has secrets and sins. None of us has been in power to hurt people and treat them horribly and laugh at their weakness, not like we've been laughed at or we've been treated or we've been hurt by people. Not like them. We're not like them. We're good people inside, kicked around and shat on and pissed on and spit on and taken for all we've got. We're great people inside, who had to live with that and be as civilized and considerate as we are. We know exactly what we'd do with all that power to change this world into a better place, because we know best what it's like to be in pain.

And we'll only give that pain to those who deserve it. And, boy, don't they deserve it?



But here's a thought, a different thought.

People believe they have a right to their long guns. It is not only speech, but a means to a defense. These are rights that the government cannot take away, not without changing its fundamental core principles. Put aside that these core principles are expressed through a huge network of arcana and balderdash and justice called case law and regulation, and you can see their point, right? If the government cannot take away these rights, and the government has military hardware to enforce its authority, what the hell right does a fast-food chain have to take away my rights that the US government itself, the most powerful and deadliest military on the face of this planet—the government that used atomic weapons in a time of war to say that it considered it a just calculation to trade a hundred thousand or so Japanese for a quicker end to war—cannot take away based on what a sheet of paper says?

But we are also a nation that believes in a different law. Private property means you can have a separate set of rules for how things work morally and politically in your sphere of influence, with some limitations here and there about your pollution (physical and cultural) as it is defined by government law. Included in there is being able to kick people off your land. This kind of limited sovereignty is a big component of many peoples' thoughts about what they can and cannot do with their own things. Corporations can tell their employees to not get tattoos. They can tell their employees to work on religious holidays. They can tell their employees to say certain things and stay silent other times. They can tell their employees what they are not allowed to put into their bodies when they are not even working for the employer during mutually agreed-upon hours of employment. They can tell their employees what to wear. They can tell their employees to agree with a belief in specific values and virtues and principles of the organization, and they can force their employees to memorize and recite these values and virtues and principles as part of the employment. They can tell their employees to sing specific songs and recite poetry the organization has written at key moments during employment. Corporations that go down this path are all different in their little religions, but they fulfill the same function of religion across the board. The habituation of distinct virtues and values through bodily practices not in any way related to the performance of the manual or mental labor exchanged ("How did your coworkers do last shift? What improvements do you suggest for them?" converting bored people into little bosses, since their own ironic distancing from 'corporate' allows them to still keep filling out the form that the last shift still did not sweep the floor thoroughly enough, those sniveling-little fucks ifigetmyhandsonthem), this habituation is a religious practice. Pascal reminds us of this.

And the thing about habituation is that you are supposed to "not even be there at all." That's his lesson in the Wager's punchline. That's what Hume warns us as the end-result of philosophical analysis. The habits prove we aren't being reasonable, rational, there in the moment thinking about it really. We just fill in the empty space and continue on with life, the life dreary.

We take for granted how many more rights we sacrifice to a corporation, any business firm, under the idea that we have a choice to leave, to separate from the cultural identity, and work for some other boss. But occasionally, sometimes we see an opening to notice the conflict between our different ideas of sovereignty and tyranny. We need to pay close attention to this. A business firm that requires its employees, its people, conform to values and beliefs and practices regardless of their own dissent is already demanding religious treatment, because this is exactly what the religious mode is. You submit to discipline in order to effect a change in one's will; thus, you are always not a believer until you start doing what a believer does. Give it some time, and you will have moved in your heart. Get with the program, and you will do fine here.

It is, of course, weird to bring a long gun into a place where they are not necessary. It's great to celebrate your rights—listen to all kinds of music and fuck all kinds of consensual partners—but there's something particular about this right to defend one's self that carries with it the implicit statement that you do not trust other people around you to that degree that you think we're going to shoot you at the local fast-food place. My right to speak freely or publish freely about some political dissent when exercised means we think we're capable of rational deliberation and being persuaded. We talk it through. My right to participate in the open elections or run for office when exercised means we think we're in this together and going to abide by our respective decisions by giving it the best we're capable of, for one another. We take turns at it.

Rights have an ideal form only soured experiences corrupt. But the right to self-defense is not idealized as a collective one where people share in a joint trust of one another—perhaps a militia of citizens who come together solely for that purpose of community defense is that ideal, but we're not really talking in this Chipotle case or in the NRA case about the creation and fostering of those civil bonds where any brother and sister is a member of the band of brothers and sisters who defend a common land from a common foe. Again, we see what happened to that idea when it came to the First Nations and the Black Panthers. There are no more militias of that type. No, we're talking about the right to self-defense, the protection of the individual against any other. There is no ideal form of the right to self-defense that expresses itself through the formation of a community of mutual trust. Inherently, because this is a right whose ideal form is only the one. That is the weirdness, the uncomfortableness of such a right.

Now, we're not in open civil war or Hobbesian stateless anarchy yet. There are a lot of places in the world where you can carry long guns in public. Those places are either divided up into factions and warlords and life is fragile but scratching on or they are homogeneous cultures institutionally militarized (Israel, perhaps) or they are frontier settings where hunting for food and self-defense amount to the same activity (bears can be deadly). A Texas Chipotle is not one of those places yet.

But the same Chipotle, and any of the genus of corporate body, is already a place where a systemic and institutionalized violence is already fully rational in its principles and virtues and values. The people employed are constrained in their rights and freedoms through the threat of economic violence. They are demanded to conform to a particular form of life in exchange for the privilege to continue as part of the organization. Economic violence in a dangerous economy situation defined by entrenched balkanization and warfare: firing or quitting is excommunication, isolation, abandonment to a harsh natural world. Who will hire you if you are a turncoat? Who will worship alongside you if you do not believe in their religions? A long gun kills people, but debt and economic suppression is forever and passes down generations, killing souls slowly and sickly as fast and quick. When a nation finds itself divided amongst several warlords, each of whom preach a different religion, a different set of core values and virtues and principles, but all of whom enact those religions in the same model, we should rightly understand it is a culture at war with itself in the same way a city right now in eastern Ukraine or northern Syria or impoverished Mexico or South Sudan is at war with itself. It is an ecosystem that's saturated with a particular form of life. Casualties are to be expected.

Now, there are people whose souls are alive and thriving in the various religions there are, for they are true believers in their corporations' religious beliefs. They gladly wear the robes, preach the values (ironically, if necessary), and fill in the empty spaces. The culture of North America is a deeply religious one, by habit. The problem is, people still think of religion as something devoted to god. They have not really grasped the Christian warning: any thing is your god. People are right to see the brainwashing, or the mentality, or the coercive manipulation. We just need to see that they are religions and not workplaces—and they seek to refuse their own taxation for the same fundamental reasons. (Of course, we should praise those religions, traditional or corporate or beyond, who not only pay their taxes, but openly declare them contributions to the formation of a larger plural collective of all those who consider it a virtue and a good thing to work together for our goals. We should also still be cautious, nonetheless.)

This is a war where people are dying slowly, on the inside, not so much from cancer or heart disease. They are dying in their souls. The violence grows. The violence has been welcomed by the domination of the governments, since their power is enhanced the more the warlords have to resolve their conflicts through the courts and disseminated power of the governments. The highest power in the land is always in the hands of the one who crowns, which is why the path to power is not followed best by becoming king but by being in control of that reality through which the king is believed.

But neither the government nor the corporation is the one who crowns. Both are crowned.

Who crowns, then?

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