Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Don't shoot"

I've been following Ferguson from the Twitter sidelines a little. Is it appalling? Definitely. Is it an uprising? No. Will anything change? No.

What's intriguing me most is the use of symbols, and what assumptions they make. I keep coming back to Foucault and his notion of biopower - and his descriptions of power via difference, rather than power because of difference. In other words, racism, sexism, ageism etc are nothing in themselves, but all just manifestations of people controlling other people.

It's hard to boil the Ferguson event down to an inherently racist society. Race, gender, poverty level, age - these and more are the playing field. Together, they're all factors in deciding that one group, or combination, should have power over another. Concentrating on any of them - even all of them - is pointless. The point is that the split exists at all. It's what Internet anonymity is so powerful at exposing - or rather, unexposing, hiding, obliterating.

That's one aspect which fascinates me - symbols as group definitions. Stick to the symbols to try to find a cause for it all, and you're never going to escape that cycle.

Similarly, the phrase "Hands up, don't shoot" sums up a whole bunch of stuff around the assumptions we make about power.

Firstly, it starts up by giving up all physical power. It is assumed that protest is about stopping those with arms taking action. It starts with the notion that there must be one side with guns, and one side without. As I get older, I'm leaning more towards an anarcho viewpoint which this doesn't fit too well with. If you want "civilised" society that moves towards equality and removing power imbalances, turning it into armed vs unarmed doesn't help. There's that split again.

(Similarly, armed vs armed doesn't help much either. There's still imbalance between who's got the fastest, biggest gun.)

"Hands up, no f***ing guns" might work better. Without the hands up. Tools down. No guns.

Tools. Hands. Surrender. Peace. Feels like we're failing to turn clever thoughts into a real world somewhere along the line. Instead we're just coming up with more catchy slogans - slogans which catch ourselves in our own net.

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