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Can We Finish the Job This Time?

Abolition

by DAVID Ker THOMSON

I’d be lying if I said I hate to say I told you so. 

I used every one of my bodily orifices back in oh-four in Illinois to warn my friends about that Obama guy, but no, they just couldn’t stop themselves.  In oh-eight I warned them fifty ways to Sunday that a man breathing out threatenings and slaughter?the phrase is biblical and even Biblical?against my friends in Iran was a brute and tyrant. 

But their attitude was, fuck my friends in Iran.  Plus they wanted a black man to oversee the million-black-man prison gulag of justice so unjust it’s criminal?or criminal justice as even they can’t help calling it.  With friends like these, who needs enemas? 

In oh-three that criminal system wanted to put me in prison in Illinois for ten years, and I got white and lucky and mostly got out of it.  Never did find out what it was for.  Or rather what particular thing it was for, though my brother and I started doing non-criminal justice when I was five?we moved through our forest ahead of the bulldozers, pulling down all their markers and just generally effing up their operation.  I started late.  My grandmother snuck out of church when she was three in nineteen oh-three and undid those straps that kept the horses’ heads away from the grass so they could look smart and proper during church.  Our people have been effing with your tidy little operation-cum-spectacle for a long time. 

You ’sswipes who voted for that Obama guy were voting for the chief muckamuck who runs that criminal system that wanted to throw away the key on me.  You think you’re still my friends?  You think I like having to waste my electron ink even writing that creep’s name or even having to think about this?  This is the second article I’ve put in at this space in the last couple of years with the title “Abolition.”  This article’s the one without the jokes.  Can we finish the job this time?

How ironic is it that a partial abolition job?nineteenth-century abolition?is used by the brutes of leaderville to congratulate themselves on the fairness and justice of their killing machine.  How ironic it is.  The killing machine called democracy is always forged, forged (made and faked), in slave states like ancient Greece and antebellum America.  After a few decades or centuries of these arrangements, people start thinking that if there’s overt slavery in the slave machine?and why wouldn’t there be??no one wants to actually look at it.  Get all that rape and whip stuff offsite, for chrissake.  What’ll the neighbors think?  Maybe the goddam Chinese will put up with it.  They’re not even Christians.

This instinct is absolutely consonant with every instinct of the killing machine.  At every level there’s a lateral move.  Instead of dealing with our own stuff in our own neighborhoods, we send our power away to some distant place, beginning with some city hall filled with fools.  And we make sure we can’t talk in any meaningful way with silly hall.  We restrict ourselves to “communicating” by means of a thing called a vote, which is a single syllable.  We choose a system in which we’re allowed either a “yes” or nothing.  We won’t even allow ourselves the option of saying “no,” even though most of the time that’s what we believe.  It’s like trying to carry on a conversation using a car horn.  It’s no wonder at all that the single most visible part of the killing machine in all modern democracies is the automobile.  Honk if you’re stupid.  Honk if your best idea for saving the world is a monosyllable.  Honk if you understand how democracy is a giant football locker room, circa 1972, Southborough, Massachusetts, and the Hunt kid’s got his athletic supporter over your face and won’t take no?he’s twice your size?won’t take no for an answer.

I mean, think about it for a minute.  This democracy you’re so proud of where everyone gets a vote “for” someone.  Really?  You think that’s a good idea?  Didn’t you ever want to vote against someone?  Earth to you democratists: most people vote against one or more leaders far more than they vote for them.  So what’s with not having a no vote, a no-vote?  What’s with not having as many no-votes as there are candidates?  Are you afraid, if we let people vote yes and no, we’d end up with a slew of negative tallies, with the winner being the person with the smallest number, or are you too stupid to understand the concept?  And if you’re too stupid to get this basic idea, why are you ramming your democracy on to the rest of us?  Why, we’re trying simply to understand in a neighborly way, don’t, you, fuck, off?

Every time we get somewhere in overturning the killing machine we get co-opted.  In the nineteenth century we got rid of the visible whips and allowed blacks to sit in the back of the bus as long as they agreed to stay poor and get murdered now and then.  The primary effect of nineteenth-century abolition was to keep whites safe from the reservoir of anger that might have brought real change.  In the twentieth century blacks were allowed to the front of the bus and to the front lines in Vietnam, and their anger was neatly assimilated into the product loop and neatly diverted with The Franchise, as if getting to yes-vote were some great privilege: now they could have their blood signing the bottom line of the killing machine.  By signing on to The Franchise, they were in effect agreeing to their own marginalization.  Step right up.  Vote if you’re stupid.

In any case, all this talk of votes avoids the real question, which is: why do we think we need leaders at all?

It might have been different.  It still could be, if we can overcome the conditioning that swaddles us from birth to grave and tells us that we can do nothing on our own, that we are worthless without leaders, that the killing machine is a necessary evil or even?if you’re an idiot you’ll go for this?that democracy is a positive good.  Send your power to silly hall.  It’s good for you.  Silly hall will be glad to send your power on to higher levels, where standing armies, sitting parliaments, and lying councilors stand, sit, and endlessly lie, awaiting your every command, if you can figure out how to honk a command through with your one yes-vote.

Yet despite all of that, the sun shines most days, the ground lies ready for planting every year, and our community is right here.  Despite the vast archipelago of prisons for storing black men and others so unlucky as to share their luck with black men (such horrors almost always beginning with non-violent drug non-crimes for each man).  Despite the incomplete task of nineteenth-century abolition, which cleared the way to move slavery off-site into prisons and, in the last century, to distant prison-nations like China.  Despite the endless taxes from the killing machine and the appalling spectacle of our neighbors paying without a murmur, as if the government?blood leaking from its every pore?were something to which we should ever give a single dime unless it has a gun to our heads.  The gun is there.  My murmur is here.

Prisons are something that bourgeois people support because they’re na?ve.  They think it increases their safety, but it does the opposite.  Duh.  Insert non-violent people in one end and what the hell do you think’s going to come out the other end?  Mix a few psychologically unstable prisoners in, add a few psychotic guards, and you have capitalism?a means of production, of mass production of broken, angry people.  Reap what you sow.  And prisons are a microcosm of leaderville in general.  All prisoners are p.o.w.’s in capital’s world war.

At seewalk-the-ungoogleable (to take one example), our intent is to abolish every prison.  I’ve lived for years, for decades, on the street, under bridges, in the woods, alongside men at every level of brainshatter and pain chatter.  I’ve had plenty of guns pulled on me.  I am not na?ve about the level of anger and violence we’ve built up in men.  I still tell you because I’ve lived on both sides that prisons decrease everyone’s safety.  We’re not saying that some Thursday at midnight we should open every prison door and see what two million angry white and black men might get up to, although when I see the level of naivete in my bourgeois friends in voteville I sometimes think they deserve a little taste of the havoc they’ve wreaked on the world.  But at seewalk and similar non-leaderville abolitionist groups, we urge moving very quickly to drop the drug war with its wonderful financial incentives for crooked cops and politicians, moving quickly to get cars and politicians out of city neighborhoods so that the streets can go back to gardens and children, moving quickly to train our children to be responsible for their own security and that of their community (parkour and tae kwan do and the plowshare/sword combo hori hori knife are a few practical examples), and on and on, the things we’ve been talking about in the previous 80,000 words we’ve put at this site.

The abolition of prisons and of democracy and of capital?this is a single necessary thing, not a list of “issues” in your voteville reveries.   You don’t need to learn a whole lot of current-events crap to get the basic fact that most humans and quasi-humans have understood for the last three million years, that our life is here now in our own communities and habitats and rivers, that any peril to the food and water sources of the community should be dealt with quickly and firmly.  If distant silly halls are not part of our watersheds, and if they are menacing our water and food sources, they should be dealt with firmly.  You don’t have to read The Economist and study distant, silly issues to understand this.  Abolition is a way of life, of walking forthrightly and with power in our own watershed, in league with our own community, which is by definition all those who are defending the water and food of the community.  This truth is so basic it’s practically a tautology.  Democracy has nothing at all to do with this.  Life?protecting our food and water?isn’t about honking a message to silly hall or to distant watersheds.  Life just is.  Pick up a hoe and make yourself useful.  Swing the hoe if people from silly hall attack your upstream water.  Otherwise use the hoe on the ground.  Pretty basic. 

This functional plasticity of the plowshare?and stick with me even if you’re not up on your biblical references?is what theorist-of-the-good-life Bill Hatch might call the “Isaiah transformation” and what I might call the Cain/Abel principle (raise crops in your watershed, use the same hoe to turn the soil and to whack invaders upside the head) is the spirit of what people call “radical” environmentalism.  I think of it as simply “travels with hoe,” a spiritual journey.  This is the basic nowtopian life?a community with a bunch of hoes.

Biotic communities are as complex as the millions of years that have formed them.  They have an information-rich interactive density.  Democracy is the opposite of this.  It is the dumbing down of ecological complexity into the single honk of a yes-vote.  As we enter yet another decade beneath the tyranny of the global Franchise and its distancing mechanisms, incalculable losses and degradations will continue.  These are inflicted upon the semiosphere, upon the world as an interactive archive?a trove.  A treasure without price. 

The world has aesthetic heft.  It is color.  The Franchise is gray.  Everywhere it touches it dumbs down, turns to gray, deletes semiotic complexity.  It eats the semiosphere like a cancer.  Honk if you like gray.  Dullards vote, and what they vote for is dullness.
 
The environmental horror to be visited upon us in this century is best understood as an attack at the level of genetic code.  We are witnessing the spread of disinformation in the semiotic environment.  Things fall apart.  It is as if stupidity were a Bhopal gas cloud unleashed by the corporate franchise.  An exhalation of Union Carbide.  To keep this great cloud of unknowing aloft in the semiosphere, the single most effective thing you can do is ratify the Franchise, let it know how important it is, keep supporting it.  Vote green, blue, red.  It doesn’t matter what Romper Room color you choose.  Keep licking the boot, keep adoring the leader.  The important thing for destroying the world is to keep voting, keep supporting the system, keep sending your power away from your watershed.

Every moment is a watershed moment.

2011 is upon us.  We vow to always continue working to abolish the Franchise, in the decade and in the century to come, world without end, watershed without end.  Selah.
 
Abolition. Time to finish the job.

DAVID Ker THOMSON lives in N’Am.  dave.thomson@utoronto.ca