Bigotry Bound with State Power

In the wake of political chaos in Kyrgyzstan, clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks have flared. Social authoritarianism is often connected to state coercion, and those who seek the freest society possible would do well to act against both.

It has been alleged that Kyrgyz military personnel are taking part in attacks on Uzbeks. In its report Kyrgyzstan: Days of Violence, Al Jazeera aired video that suggested that soldiers are taking sides in the conflict.

Governments protect power first and will protect individual lives only incidentally. The situation in Kyrgyzstan shows this principle taken to its extreme. The Kyrgyz government appears to be more interested in holding onto power than it is in exacting justice and risking the loss of majority support.

Foreign governments are primarily interested in the region only as a means to their own power. This includes the United States, which has provided military assistance to the Kyrgyz government and operates an airbase in the country. Any government that intervenes in the violence would only be doing so to expand its own political power, and would have little concern for innocent lives lost in the intervention.

The operation of government intensifies ethnic divisions and escalates social conflict. Nationalism, whether defined along ethnic or ideological lines, involves one group of people ruling over another. As people struggle for advantage, conflict ensues. And politicians will exploit this conflict to deflect criticism of their destructive policies.

Anarchy, by contrast, entails that no person rule over another. People are not entitled to special rights based on the ethnicity, gender or other category they find themselves in.  So long as they do not violate the ability of others to exercise maximum individual liberty they are allowed to live where and how they wish.

People might attempt to use the dangerous power of the state to protect themselves from real or perceived threats, so those who wish to eliminate the role of the state should come up with alternative ways to safeguard life. Encouraging an ethic of self-defense and the ideas of mutual aid and community defense are important.

But an effective project of liberation needs to include more political questions than “how can force be used?” This would include questions like “what kind of culture creates a political environment conducive to individual liberty and how do we get there?”

Bigotry applied to real life will always be authoritarian, and therefore people who are for freedom should work against bigotry by any reasonable and proportionate means. When the life of one individual is widely considered to be inherently less valuable than the life another individual, the “inferior” person will be physically oppressed. This means that a person who has not violated anyone’s liberty will actively be denied liberty – they are expected to know their place and stay there, or they will likely face violence.

The importance of social individualism can be seen around the world. Lest anyone forget or wish it away, the perception that all the “sand people” (or whatever slur was considered appropriate) were culpable for the September 11 attacks was a major driving force behind the political viability of United States war policy.

And that bigotry lives on in people who wish all Muslims to suffer for the crimes of some Muslims. A small, but noticeable number of people have vowed to stop the construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York City. There is little difference between this and attempting to make all Christians suffer for crimes committed in the name of Christ.

And it’s really not much different than claiming that all Americans, regardless of their beliefs or actions, should suffer for the crimes of the United States government, or that all Israelis should suffer for the crimes of the Israeli government. Falsely associating individuals who share little or no common interest helps rulers categorize them as their subjects or as the enemy of their subjects.

When individuals are forced into categories that others have made for them, they are forced into roles that will restrict their freedom. To give liberty meaning by making it apply as equally as possible, bigotry, which will always create a power relation, must be opposed.

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