GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

February 6, 2018

Force and Education

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:08 am

The fulcrum of any regime is the security force that maintains public order. The sign of regime change is that the security force is replaced or, far more common, stops obeying one master and starts obeying another. The purpose of public protest is to test the security forces, which must repress, contain or protect the protesters—or some combination of all three. The point might be to demonstrate that the security forces will protect you against enemies (counter-protesters), confirming that you are an integral part of the regime. Or, it might be to test the security force’s loyalty to the regime—if you provide the security forces grounds for arresting or physically attacking you (by attacking them, or violating the rules they establish for you), or if you know that the regime is hostile to your protests and has or may have ordered the security forces to suppress them, then you confront those forces with a choice: either attack the protesters in the name of the regime or signal disaffection with your superiors by refraining. If your aim is to change the regime, then your entire analysis and strategy can be reduced to this fulcrum: what could you do that would increase the chance of security force defection? We could refine the question further: what could you do to increase the chance that a sample of the security forces will defect, and to in turn confront their own brethren with the choice of loyalty or defection. And not just any sample, but a sample that might serve as a “tipping point.”

It’s easy to minimize the role of such mass protests in revolutionary change and to point to the “real” shift in power going on behind the scenes. And, no doubt, powers antagonistic to the sovereign, indigenous and/or foreign, must be supporting the protesters for them to have gotten to this point. But those antagonistic forces are no more in complete control of the outcome than the sovereign—they lay their bets, put their fingers on the scale and see what happens. And what happens does depend on that confrontation on the front lines. The proxies do have to fight it out. So, if your politics are focused on regime change, you want to be able to game out the possibilities of such confrontations. And all serious politics regards regime change, either advancing it or preventing it—if you’re the sovereign, you want to ensure that the security forces make the right choice in that encounter. So, we can reduce all the things we talk about in politics, all the policy issues, all the outrages, all the big ideas, to that single question of the marginal security force: what will tilt the balance one way or the other when the regime hangs in the balance. The competent sovereign who wants to ensure that things never get anywhere near that point nevertheless will do so by reasoning backward from that point, and taking measures to ensure that each rogue move by some power center that might push us slightly closer to crisis is never taken. At the same time, keeping that fulcrum in mind helps us understand the forces of disorder better: with greater or lesser awareness, all the efforts of the left are aimed maximizing the likelihood that when push comes to shove, the security forces will take orders from them, or those favorable to them. Even the formation of paramilitary extra-governmental forces aims at the existing security forces—no one could ever expect to come anywhere completely replacing the existing forces with one’s own.

So, in a roundabout way, even discussions about, say, tax policy, are ultimately aimed the marginal security force. That marginal security force is more likely to obey the guy you like because the security force considers, however distantly, that change in taxes to make the system as a whole more worth defending; or, perhaps, it will make the guys on your side richer, and the security force will consider it a better bet to obey the wealthier side. Needless to say, the other side tries to give your policy proposal a completely different implication, trying to convince the marginal security force that it would make the order embodied by your side less worth defending. And that’s really what it comes down to: what’s worth defending, with the gun in your hand right now, in solidarity with your comrades, rather than more abstract considerations of “legitimacy.” This seems to me a very good way to focus our attention on political issues: we have in our mind whom, what type of figure, we’d like the marginal security force to obey in a crunch, and whatever we support or oppose should be with an eye toward making that force likelier to do so. You could say that it’s very hard to predict what the marginal security force might find worth defending some balmy May day in 2028, but that just means we should always be singling out what is most worth defending here and now, and then tomorrow, and next year, because this doesn’t change radically continuously, and it will change less the more it is emphasized and inculcated.

One very good consequence of this approach is that it is a way of constantly baiting the left to support exactly those things that are least likely to lead the security forces to support them. What the marginal security force must find worthiest to defend are competent hierarchies, professionalism, loyalty, and courage. These are precisely the institutional structures and virtues the left has the greatest contempt for, because all of them presuppose a social and moral core that sets the tone for the rest of the social order. To put it in today’s parlance, all these forms are “white.” The left cannot attack them as such, but since rigorous adherence to them will inevitably “privilege” the majority and best prepared culture, the left will have to attack them as exclusionary. The precise formulations will change, but we can say, for now, that our goal should be for the marginal security force to not care when he is told his competent, loyalty and courage implicate him in white supremacy and patriarchy. He should be prepared to immediately identify these charges as indicating low status and uncontained resentment on the part of those making them—the charges themselves should lead to the conclusion that we are dealing with people to whom no mercy can be shown. Bringing up “whiteness” in any discussion must be made to seem the most incendiary thing there is, veritable fighting words.

I’m suggesting that the high-low vs. the middle scenarios available to the elites now have their limits. Let’s say that the major corporations and foundations keep funneling money into BLM, Antifa, various pussyhat movements, the next iteration of Occupy Wall Street, violent environmentalists, etc. They have to do this because simply giving money to media outlets and politicians to try and get people to vote for more power for the left is insufficient—if it’s just a question of getting the middle to passively support the low with its votes, why should they bother, regardless of how much you harangue them? You need an army, however rag-tag, to engage in actual confrontations that will extract concessions—i.e., you need blackmail leverage. So, these groups must enter into continual confrontation with security forces, local, state and national. We already have sense of all the different ways this can go. The local politicians can tell the police to stand down and allow the leftist rioters to wreak havoc. For that matter, politicians can, as they are now doing in Europe, have the police ignore rape and spend their time arresting people who post Islamophobically on Facebook. I wonder whether this is sustainable, though. If leftist progromists know that the police will stand down, it can’t be long before they start attacking the police—passive, neutered security forces that nevertheless provide a fat target for attacking “fascism,” or ‘white supremacy,” will be too tempting to ignore. Can the security forces be ordered to allow themselves to be injured and killed? It seems to me at a certain point they will start to choose other careers, and you will have greatly weakened and ineffective security forces. But the state needs security forces, and to keep them they will have to let them do their job at least to some extent. And if they let them do their job to some extent, we are back where we started, with the security forces pondering whether it would be better for them to obey this or another source of power.

I now want to suggest that the question of the marginal security force converges with what can seem like the opposite end of the social spectrum: education. We can see education most simply as the recruitment and replenishing of what Imperial Energy calls “elites” and “essentials”—those who actually participate in rule, and those who provide the forms of knowledge and management the rulers require. (The “expendables” are also educated, but that would happen as a result of the aforementioned recruitment, simply because in order to continue replenishing the elites and essentials you’d need to cast a wide net, providing access to knowledge and skills for many who will never use them past a certain point.) The focus on the marginal security force provides us with a way of organizing education as well. A good education system will ensure that joining the security force is seen as “essential,” which is to say honored, and its code will be prioritized within the social order. Every educated individual is to be made to see himself, if not as that potential marginal security force, then as one whose own work contributes to the clarity of the chain of command within which the marginal security force is located. The hypothetical dilemmas that would form the substance of moral and ethical education would focus on obeying commands and responding to the point at which obedience must give way to judgment. You are given a general order to “suppress” a riot, but the means you would ordinarily use to do so might inflame the rioters, perhaps because the guy next to you is the marginal security force at that moment. As a sociologist your main interest might be the dispersion of mobs into small groups that make this dilemma less likely to occur, or easier to resolve if it does. As an architect you think in terms of designs that would mitigate or eliminate such situations; as a doctor or medical researcher you want any confrontations to be less deadly; as a psychologist, you develop scripts for the security forces to rehearse.

A side effect of seeing education explicitly as the process of recruitment to the elites and essentials is making “protest” unthinkable. Protest really serves no purpose other than to draw “your” elites into battle with “their” elites, by forcing them to bid for control or influence over the security forces. The more the marginal security force is made the center of political reasoning, the less sense it would make to enter into confrontation with them. In a well governed order there would be no protest. Still, such a possibility would always be considered as a frame for considering any changes in the form of the rule: would a particular change eventually, indirectly, activate the marginal security force? And by the same token we can see why in a poorly governed, democratic order, protests must be a regular occurrence—it’s the way the “reserve armies” of the various elites keep track of their standing—how expendable are they in relation to other expendables? And it’s also the way the elites keep their networks of power active. By focusing on the marginal security force, we direct our attention right to the middle of the middle, the thing all power forces must ultimately reckon with. The expected effect of any idea, action or policy on the marginal security force can give us a precise measure of its value.

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