Olympic Games advertisements on Winnipeg bus shelters were recently subverted to read “RIOT 2010.” The saboteurs also glued on a person holding a brick and a short list of things to revolt against. Much could be said about this use of art and the merits or dangers of encouraging riots. But for now I’d like to examine a claim made in the saboteurs’ statement, which can be viewed with pictures of the action at flickr.com/photos/weweremadeforthis.
Their objections to the Olympics include the charge that “By presenting the games as a festival of international peace and friendship, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] allows the nations of the world to deny any internal conflict, pretending to represent their people as anything but discontented.”
While there are many reasons for people to be discontented, a major problem is that the state invades their liberty and social and economic authority further restrict them. Peace and unity under the state are unsatisfactory at best, and murderous lies at worst.
Because the guiding logic of statism is control, there never has been a peaceable state and there never will be. A primary function of the state is directing the use of resources and labor in ways those in charge consider beneficial. The individuals who produce what authority takes are left out of decisions as much as leaders dare. So immediately the operation of the state creates conflict.
What about conflicts the state resolves? The state justice system, with police, prosecutor, judge, jury selectors, and prison-industrial complex mostly on the same team could hardly produce impartial decisions, even if we ignore the unequal influence different people have over the system. Subjugation is the state’s business.
More importantly the state, as the primary institution of authority and influence, contains incentives to violence.
A person of inferior rank is expected to yield to one of a higher rank. When this authority is challenged, the perceived right to make decisions over the life of another individual can lead the authoritarian to believe he is justified in doing anything to bring the offender under control. This could result in an electric shock from a portable torture device, the economic disadvantage that comes with the label “felon” or worse. Because authoritarianism encourages people to be responsible to their higher-ups and co-conspirators rather than to themselves or to the broader community or market, orders will be followed and abuse will often be lightly punished at best.
The goal of politics is generally to exert influence. A person may have different reasons to seek influence and different ways of doing it, but influencing the world is the basic reason for political involvement.
When one works through the institutionalized coercion of the state, exerting influence means expanding the control the state has. The people who have their possessions taken and lives destroyed on the way come to be regarded as expendable.
Conflict ensues when two or more parties claim rightful possession of the same thing. It may or may not be the case that one of them does have a rightful claim. However, when states are concerned, what usually happens is that everything and everyone in an area is regarded as the responsibility of some self-described leaders. Because states operate through people claiming authority over things that do not belong to them, they are disposed to come into conflict as leaders claim authority over the same thing in an effort to exert more influence on the world.
It’s like two children each tugging at a teddy bear. But the teddy bear is actually made of individual humans and the lives they’ve created.
And the state kills people and steals things as part of normal operations.
Unity under statism means that people wait their turn to grasp the reins of authority instead of shoving each other out of the way or trying to chop the reins to pieces. Or it is a word used to feign commonality of interest while telling everyone to play by the rules – rules the powerful write for their own benefit. United we stand? No. United fools stand without asking what for.
Solidarity – acting cooperatively according to a commonality of purpose – does not rely on authority. Revolutionary solidarity is necessary to end the conflicts in which authoritarians use us as pawns to gain power. The state is that institutionalized authority which labels subjugation by paramilitaries “peace” and calls accepting the place that’s been designated for you “unity”.
The state must be abolished, and liberty created while authority is dismantled.