We Can Move Beyond Organized Violence

In the recent discussion surrounding the newly released movie “BlackkKlansman,” the filmmaker Spike Lee offered, “We need police.” This makes him no different than most people in this country, maybe even in the world. We live in a class divided society. The main function of a police force is to protect the property of those who have from those who do not have. Never mind that those “who have” lots more material wealth than the rest of us, got “theirs” by stealing from the rest of us. Also, this dynamic is determined by what humans believe is worth “having.”

Spike Lee’s view is nothing unique. While today it may be the “common sense” view, it is, however, a relatively new view for humans. Humans have only lived in social orders with police forces for at most ten thousand years, and class society has been the dominant mode of social organization in the world for a short couple thousand years. Some historians and social scientists believe that police have been needed during this expanse of time. Some Euro-centric historians connect the rise to world dominance of Western Civilization to the division of society into classes, and to the concomitant need for organized force, organized violence — police, armies — to maintain stability (law and order) between the economically divided classes, between the so-called “haves” and the so-called “have nots.” Again, police protect those who have accumulated material possessions from those who have been denied the material means to live a comfortable life, free from the need to be slaved.

Marxist socialists insist that the international working class, because of the conditions which have given rise to its role in the economy and social life of humanity, is the class suited to bring us out of class divided society, which would then make police unnecessary.

Indigenous socialists point out that indigenous culture, that is, the community circle, society without classes, existed for the first well over one-hundred-thousand years (100,000 years) of human time on planet earth. Indigenous society had no police because there was no economically rich and poor. Further, indigenous society was most often woman-centric: Organized violence has, in human history, generally not been identified with women-led cultures.

Malidoma Some, a medicine man of an indigenous people from West Africa, a matriarchal society (woman-led), came to the United States and experienced class society for the first time. This was his observation about police, a force which does not exist in his community back home:

“A true community does not need a police force. The very presence of a law enforcement system in a community is an indication that something is not working. And the presence of the police is supposed to make it work. A community is a place where there is consensus, not where there is a crooked-looking onlooker with a gun, creating an atmosphere of unrest.”

Suffice it to say that Spike Lee’s views are common to people who know nothing about our first 100,000 years on planet earth. People who want to live in a harmonious culture that does not require police generally understand themselves to be revolutionaries and socialists. In other words, we want to build an entirely new society on a new foundation. One of the foundation stones of the old society that would be gone in the new one is organized violence (police, armies).

A liberated social order needs to be rooted in the best of what humanity has to offer from our entire history on the planet. This morning I was doing my laundry in the laundry room of my building. There was an Ethiopian Sister, Mazaa, doing her laundry. By the standards of capitalist society, Mazaa and I are both members of the “have nots.”

In the middle of our conversation, she asked me, “Alexander, do you have children.”

I said, “Yes, I have seven children.”

Mazaa, “Oh, you are a wealthy man.”

Momentarily confused by this observation, I retorted, “Hardly, I don’t have a dime to spare.”

Mazaa countered, from a perspective representing all of our time on planet earth: “To the contrary: Money does not determine wealth. You have seven children. If you have been fathering them, you have love, you have family. That is wealth.”

For those who hear this and say to themselves “Children are property, children are material wealth… And, you, Alexander, have been ‘producing’ at a high rate,” I must explain that I agree with Mazaa’s definition. My children are not my property. Indeed, they are not each my children by blood, and I did not “produce” them. They are my children because we love each other, and we take care of each other.

Again, Spike Lee’s viewpoint, “We need police,” is common in a culture which determines wealth by material possessions. Today, to honor Mazaa’s definition of wealth is to be a revolutionary or a socialist. Mazaa’s definition of wealth comes from an experience, an indigenous experience which we must honor. To work for a society which is organized on such principles would be to work for a social order which does not need police. Clearly, if wealth is the children of our community, and our love for each other, kidnapping from one community to the next, and stealing love, would both have to be at a high rate for us to need police.

And again, it is a very common view to think, “We need police.” Revolutionaries and socialists believe we have done better and that we can do better. And we work together with the people of our community to recreate, on a world basis, from one locale to the next, the conditions which would make it possible to eliminate organized violence from our midst.