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Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

On the Term, “First Responders.”

| 37 Comments

I’ve been irritated at the term, “First Responders” since I first heard it, I think in connection with the attacks on the World Trade Center.  But until now, I couldn’t put my finger on why the term annoyed me.

Because, quite simply, it eliminates the distinction between firefighters and paramedics on the one  hand, and police on the other.

When one hears the term, “Firefighter,” one thinks of someone who will risk his life to save another; of someone with skills and training in a vital, life-saving science. Even those of us on the far Left, when we hear of someone shooting at a Firefighter, have an instant reaction of outrage and disgust.  The term “First Responder” is also used to talk about paramedics; everything I’ve said about firefighters goes for them, as well.

But the police?  Really?  Seriously?  You’re going to lump the police in with those whose most important job is saving lives?

The State is a body of armed men whose job it is preserve property relations–more precisely, to preserve property.  They have guns in order, above all, to make sure that the poor remain poor, and the rich remain rich.

Of course it is the case that firefighters have the job of preserving property, and that police save lives.   But in neither case is that their primary function as we think of them.

And of course, there is no doubt that some individuals joined the police force from pure motives, or that some of them have risked their lives to rescue innocent people.  Not the point. Those of us who look for the revolutionary transformation of society–of the destruction of private property–as the only way forward for humanity will, quite naturally, look upon the police as the enemy.  It is uncertain which elements of the armed forces will come over to support a revolution; but we know the police will be on the other side.  We know they’ll be shooting at us.  They’ve done so before, many times.  I’ll put it another way: historically, when the army has been ordered to shoot down innocent civilians, soldiers have sometimes balked; the police have not.  That’s their job.

To lump paramedics and firefighters in with them as if they were the same thing strikes me as nothing less than an obscenity.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

37 Comments

  1. Not only that, but the _real_ first responders in any emergency are the private citizens who happen to be right there.

  2. I don’t think police should be considered the enemy and painted as less than human, which may not be what you’re saying, but it reads that way to me.

    (If revolution is the answer, I dream of a revolution where we can make amends for the people who are harmed or killed, not demonize them.)

    As you know, the English language has been literally decimated by evolving usage of words, and I think this phrase is similarly a slightly less brutalized victim.

    “Certified First Responder” is an actual thing, and I think that “first responder” is a generic lumping of those (hopefully) trained and paid to respond first to different sorts of crises, which is as much a generic description of police as it is of firefighters/EMS.

  3. Rottweilers and golden retrievers are both dogs. One of them will happily eat your face. That’s what they do. It’s still correct to call the other one a dog, too, and nobody’s feelings should be hurt by that.

    I’ve been harrassed and bullied by police. I recognize the power that gun and badge wield in the hands of evil. I just can’t bring myself to label them all bad guys all the time. The fact is for me, when my car’s broken down and the blue lights pull up behind me, I have a reasonable expectation of help instead of being murdered for my shoes.

    In an emergency situation, firefighters and police are part of the same function. The label isn’t wrong. Even in your revolution when they’re shooting at your people, they’ll be first responders. I think the category you’re looking for is more along the lines of “problems for the revolution,” which police are but firefighters and paramedics are not.

  4. I agree with Robert, especially since someone has to make the call in the first place. 😉

  5. For me, the gendarmes in this case can be compared to the infamy of truck drivers. 80+% of them are pillars of society, but in order to fill out the ranks, less desirables are required in order to get the job done.

  6. The fire fighters in my area *asked* to be first responders. It’s not an insult in their minds.

  7. A well trained Rottweiler will only eat your face if you do something aggressive to her human.

    My mom has had two Rottweilers, both around 90 lbs. The younger, the female, would attempt to catch anything in her mouth that my youngest daughter would throw to/at her: appropriate toys, snowballs, dirt, rocks, anything, and she’d play catch/fetch with my daughter for hours.

    The older one, the male was even more awesome. This daughter of mine had a tendency to do her own thing, and would wander off into the woods if left to her own devices. About the third time my mom (who was babysitting at the time) went to call my daughter back, she stopped, because the Rottweiler was carefully walking in front of my daughter, frankly herding her back to the main part of the yard.

    Now, that said, it may be that Rottweilers are more likely to react in violence during periods of stress – I don’t know. We live a pretty boring life, by most measures.

    How well were my mom’s Rottweilers trained? Probably pretty well. How would they react in circumstances outside their training? Hard to say.

    Is one human more or less likely to harm another human? I daresay that it depends on what tools they’ve been given to deal with the situation they are faced with, combined with their own nature.

    (trying to keep my defense of Rottweilers slightly on topic…)

  8. Mackerel, you’re being entirely unfair to Golden Retrievers. Sure, some of them might occasionally devour a face just lying around, but really, to suggest it’s normal behavior is just not reasonable.

  9. Or, to put it another way:

    1) Firefighters and paramedics are unlikely to threaten citizens watching them do their job with arrest.
    2) Firefighters fight fires. Paramedics administer first aid. Policemen arrest people.
    3) If the firefighters and paramedics break down your door and rush into your house, it’s because it’s on fire and/or you’re dying in there.
    4) When was the last time you heard, or worried, about corrupt firefighters or paramedics?
    5) Firefighters and paramedics are unlikely to impound your property for their own use.
    6) When was the last time you heard of secret firemen or secret paramedics?

  10. I know an old man who was there they day they burned Washington, DC. He has told me about it several times. He went out on the street and there was nobody there, nobody, and no cops. Usually he’d see a cop car every now and then but they were all gone. His pocket radio told him they were burning down DC and he got worried. He went to the bus station and got the last bus to Richmond. Just as the bus was pulling out he saw a big mob of blacks and hippies coming, and he hadn’t seen a cop all day.

    I find myself doubting the mob of blacks and hippies. People tend to see what they expect to see, and remember what they think they ought to remember. I don’t so much doubt the missing police. When it looks like something is happening that’s bigger than the police can handle, they get out of the way. That’s pretty consistent.

    If the police think they can prevent a revolution by stopping a few ringleaders, they will do it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE#1985_bombing

    If they think there is a violent mass movement going on, they do not respond at all. Not first responders. No-responders.

  11. Mr. Brust I have been a police officer in Texas for almost 10 years now and have been an avid reader of yours for much longer than that. While I agree with some of the comments in your blog entry I’d also like to submit that while there are most certainly law enforcement personnel that unfortunately live up to the dark picture you’ve painted of the profession I’d have to say those are in the minority. You rarely hear about the good ones because media outlets rarely report on the positive, and the idiots that seem determined to ruin our reputation are the ones that tend to get the spot light.

    I have no issue with being called a first responder or not being called a first responder. I took the job because I wanted to take on what I feel is a noble profession and it is my sincerest goal to help those in need and to some how have left this place better than I’ve found it. We are not here to solely protect property. We often times are called upon to assist those who are being victimized by some form of the criminal element, and sometimes we protect criminals from other criminals. We don’t get to choose who we are called to help, or what call we are given to answer. We answer the call, regardless of social status, race, geographical location, etc and use the limited resources we have to try and make a positive impact on whatever situation we are tasked with. Now certainly there are those who signed up with the sole purpose of screwing with people, or those that want the authority to make life miserable for others but I wholeheartedly believe those truly are not the majority.

    I do not agree with the statement that the police would gun down those involved in a revolution either. We are free thinking citizens just as you are and most recognize that change is needed and needed in a horrible way. I believe that if and when that day comes, the good officers I have spoken of will choose the side of ‘right’ and will help accordingly. All revolutionists are just that until they win, then they become the leaders and they too will require peacekeepers, which is a title I personally embrace more so than first responder.

    I would only ask that you reconsider your somewhat blanket opinion of law enforcement in general. Some have views and ideals that are more in line with your views than I believe you would suspect.

    Respectfully submitted.

  12. @evergreen – Do you really believe that is all police do? Arrest people? You don’t think that thousands of police were involved in rescue operations during the superstorm this winter? Or that it was useful for police to set up barricades when the WTC was coming down?

    And are we talking about the “thin blue line” or the KGB? I don’t see how a conversation can move forward while you’re conflating the two.

    Law enforcement is something we need, and I believe that will be the case even if the utopia Steve believes in will be the result of the revolution, because there will ALWAYS be people who believe in doing unto others.

    KGB/CIA/FBI…. that’s a much tougher sell. Sometimes I wonder how many problems wouldn’t even exist without stuff like the CIA – the problems in Afghanistan, for example.

    @JThomas if he wasn’t seeing many other people, why would the cops have been where there were few people? Not to dispute your point, not really, but … in a city the size of DC, it looks like they have two police departments, of 3800 and 1800 today, so probably fewer in the 60s? That many folks aren’t going to be able to blanket the city. You send them to places that maybe have to be protected? Send them to where they can do some good? There’s probably no where they can do any good against that many rioters.

    Wow, that MOVE thing. I forgot about that, until you reminded me just now. I remember thinking at the time that those dudes were probably really frustrating for people who lived near them, and then wondering why the cops got to serious about it.

    And Evergreen, there’s your answer about firefighters:

    NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM “JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS” UNLESS THEY REFUSE TO FOLLOW SHITTY ORDERS.

    You can’t just classify a group of people as the enemy. It doesn’t work in 2013. If you want, suppose that [the illuminati or whatever] mixes good people with bad people deliberately.

    The crappy little town in deepest Nevada where I live in has been on the national news at least once for law enforcement corruption, and for conflict between the county sheriff’s department and the city police – which continues to this day. There isn’t enough evidence to convict anyone, but we’re pretty sure local law enforcement may have been murdering homeless as recently as 30 years ago.

    I’m not blind to the problems of police, and if the time comes, I’ll do what I have to do. But Steve’s post read to me as demonizing as … as something that would invoke Godwin’s law, ffs. I read that and all I can see is “police are the enemy”.

    I told my brother once, that we have the worst possible law enforcement system in existence on earth today. Except that the rest of them are all worse. That’s certainly an exaggeration, and it is bad enough, but MAN it could be worse.

    I’m not a real revolutionary, I guess. I hate the system, and I sort of hope you lot manage to stage an uprising, and I’ll help if someone else starts it, but I am not the least bit confident that we’re going to come up with something better, and I am plenty confident we’ll collectively come up with something worse, or that the Bush family will put Rick Perry in charge when the dust settles.

  13. For the record, let me say that honest, wise and well-intentioned policemen (and I know such do exist) are a great boon to a society. My concerns are a bit different from Steve’s; for me it boils down to the fact that with the police you always, always have the problem of “qui custodiet ipsos custodes?”, which is very rarely the case with firefighters or paramedics.

  14. @evergreen gotcha.

    Aaaaand now I have to go watch Watchmen again.

  15. So Mr. Brust, I feel like something triggered this post of yours. Any chance we can get some of the more immediate background, by way of context? You know, when you’re up or whatever 🙂 Not sure why I’m still posting on other people’s blogs at 1am my time…

  16. skzb

    Hurniss:”80+% of them are pillars of society, but in order to fill out the ranks, less desirables are required in order to get the job done.”

    With all due respect, you’re sort of missing my point. It’s the 80% of them I have the problem with. Not because they don’t do their job well, but because they do. It is not a question of individuals who are good or bad to some degree or another, but of a task it is their job to carry out. No doubt the best of them do that job as well as they can; just as many a reactionary politician determined to make unions illegal and to stop abortion and gay marriage is serving his beliefs to the best of his ability. His sincerity is not the issue; his social role is.

    DDB: I see what you did there.

    Sankentris: Noted. Have you considered that, if what you say is true, you could (and, if I am correct, certainly will) be forced to chose between your job and your conscience? (PS: I’ve edited out the duplication in your post; hope you don’t mind.)

    Mechaninja: “You can’t just classify a group of people as the enemy.”

    I beg to submit that a military leader who held that opinion would have a lot of trouble telling his troops which way to point their weapons.

    Jen: Thanks very much for that link; it is quite appropriate. Should anyone want more details and a Marxist analysis, it can be found here: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/08/mpls-a26.html

  17. “… in a city the size of DC, it looks like they have two police departments, of 3800 and 1800 today, so probably fewer in the 60s? That many folks aren’t going to be able to blanket the city. You send them to places that maybe have to be protected? Send them to where they can do some good? There’s probably no where they can do any good against that many rioters.”

    Mechaninja, your last line was my point. If the police find themselves facing such a big threat that they are mostly targets, it doesn’t make sense for them to spread out through a city. They can be a force to concentrate in one place. And if things look real bad then the one place for them to concentrate is someplace safe, because it does nobody much good for them to get killed off. They can go back to work after the National Guard or whoever has restored order.

    So as a tactical thing, I don’t see that the police will do much to prevent Steven Brust’s revolution. They can oppress poor people in the short run (in the course of enforcing laws which are designed to oppress poor people). If it actually comes to some sort of decisive action, they will not be much involved unless it fails so thoroughly that they can arrest a few failures.

  18. “Even those of us on the far Left, when we hear of someone shooting at a Firefighter, have an instant reaction of outrage and disgust.”

    You make it sound as if that were an extraordinary thing to do for us on the far left. Actually, I’d say it is entirely reasonable to react with outrage and disgust whenever you hear about people being senselessly harmed and killed, because we happen to live in a society that values profit more than the life and welfare of human beings, AND at the same time we happen to live in a historical situation in which the development of the productive fores has come to a point where it would easily be possible to create a society in which the life and welfare of an individual human being not only isn’t a value anymore, but the condition for the free development of all.

  19. skzb

    Mechaninja: Actually, no; there was no particular event except the epiphany of, “Oh, THAT’s why the term annoys me so much.” If something triggered the epiphany, it was something I’m not consciously aware of.

    Anubis: I’m contrasting it with my reaction when I hear of someone shooting at a police officer. Sometimes I’m worried because the repercussions could be damaging. Sometimes, indeed, I feel bad for the innocent family of someone who was hurt. If it happens during a civil war I can’t but approve. However, “outrage and disgust” have never described my reaction to such news.

  20. In England it’s the other way around; the vast majority of police do not carry firearms and the use of armed military personnel in civil disturbances is generally regarded as ‘A Very Bad Thing’, not least by military personnel.

    Of course the vast majority of the population do not own firearms and do not wish to either own them themselves or have more members of the police carrying them; this has always seemed sensible to me…

  21. “I’m contrasting it with my reaction when I hear of someone shooting at a police officer.”

    Okay, now I got it. I just didn’t see where the word “even” in your blogpost came from, so thanks for clarifying!

  22. Thanks for fixing my original post. My phone was not cooperating and I thought I had deleted the duplicate text… my iPhone apparently wanted to increase my word count.

    In answer to your question, if indeed a revolution comes, my concscience would most certainly dictate my actions, and all I’d hope was that my conscience led me in the right direction. The direction things are heading, for lack of better ‘phraseology’, suck and I’d be delighted to help with real change. I have two young kiddos and it’s disheartening at the world they will soon inherit in it’s current state.

    J Thomas I don’t agree with the idea that the police ‘oppress the poor’. Of course there are always examples of when it has happened but I wouldn’t say it was the norm. We rarely have choices in who we are asked to defend or who we are asked to help out. As someone who’s had to work within the confines of the law, it’s readily apparent that the laws were written in most cases to protect the criminals, as they have far more rights than the citizens that they victimize. It’s not hard to prove you’re a victim, it’s another story proving you’re the bad guy.

    As a side note, while reading The Phoenix Guards I remember when Khaavren spoke of not wanting to be called ‘police’ and took it as almost a slur how I wondered at which group I would fall under.

    This is good conversation I appreciate getting to be a part of it.

  23. “J Thomas I don’t agree with the idea that the police ‘oppress the poor’.”

    You personally can do your best to smooth things so that everybody can get by, without coming down hard on people who have few adequate choices.

    But at some point you have a responsibility to uphold the law. And then you run into one of Steven’s quotes:

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” — Anatole France

    Say for example you wind up supervising an eviction. By the time a landlord can get an eviction today he’s likely lost more than the person being evicted. There isn’t just one victim here. You keep the process orderly, and protect everybody’s rights such as they are. It wasn’t your fault the poor person couldn’t pay his rent. That’s more just poverty itself. Not like you personally have done anything wrong. But here you are, making sure that somebody gets thrown out into the street. It’s in the nature of things that the poor get oppressed, and you must do your part in that.

  24. ~sighs~ I am stuck in the middle on this.

    A bit of background: I am the daughter of a Deputy Sheriff who retired last year after 28 years of service. That is my dear mother, and I am very proud of her.

    Being “in the midst” of law enforcement, as it were, I have seen the good, the bad, and the downright corrupt. Things of note:

    Our current sheriff, over the Trayvon Martin affair, was shocked by the actions of law enforcement in Florida. As far as he is concerned, nothing like that would happen in HIS county. If someone gets killed, and the killer is accessible, he or she IS GETTING arrested, and who did what and why can be sorted out by the lawyers, as far as our sheriff is concerned, and he doesn’t care if the victim is a purple-polka-dotted alien waving tentacles and the killer is Jesus reincarnated as the son of the governor.

    On the other hand, I have seen sheriff’s that were pure hell on drug dealers; they wouldn’t stand for having competition.

    Like the rest of humanity, some cops are good, some cops are bad, and a bunch are just trying to do their jobs and make a living.

    As long as there is law, there HAS to be law enforcement. That is just the way it is. Do I hear any suggestions and recommendations for living in a society without any laws? We can look at Somalia; how is that working out for them? Okay, we are agreed then. A civilized society must have laws, and therefore law enforcement.

    Yes, some laws are unjust, and law enforcement officers may be called upon to enforce them. However, would anyone here prefer that law enforcement are allowed to *selectively* chose which laws they enforce (although that goes on for good and evil purposes as well, but not legally)? “Hmmmmm, while assault and battery are against the law, I don’t like your nose, so I am not going to enforce it this time. Maybe that will teach you to get some plastic surgery BEFORE getting the shit beat out of you.”

    The problem isn’t with LEO; the problem is with the LAWS. Change the laws, don’t demonize the enforcers. They are people, and when it comes down to it, they will choose their own sides when the time comes.

    Was it only me that noticed that during the OWS movement, the places where police brutality occurred were areas *already known for having a corrupt police force*? We didn’t have any problems here in B/CS. My friends in Little Rock didn’t have problems with brutality. There were many, many places where there was no police intervention *at all*. There were even places where there was police presence to *protect the rights of the protesters to protest* and keep them from being unduly harassed by onlookers.

    (Was it only me who noticed that in areas without police interference, or places where protesters enjoyed police protection, the “movement” petered out pretty quickly and without incidence? )

    But, to get back to the topic of calling police “First Responders”. In many cases, police ARE the first on a scene, most especially involving accidents, which any firefighter can tell you make up a majority of calls. (If one doesn’t count the cat-in-a-tree, locked-in-the-bathroom, etc., kinds of minor calls. And yes, when I was with the fire department, I did, indeed, get a cat out of a tree.) So, technically, the deserve the name as much as any emergency personnel.

    However, Steve, if it makes you feel better, Firefighters tend to call LEO “blue canaries”, due to the fact that most LEO are clueless when it comes to possible hazmat situations.

  25. @SKZB: In point of fact, I did almost totally miss your point, but only caught the side of it. Happily, what I was trying to say, and failing to do so, still did address your point, but it has been said better by others on here, already, so I won’t rehash.

    @janphalian: read it, thank you, and again, won’t rehash.

  26. @Hurniss – I do think I see what you were trying to say. I’m not sure where my opinion lies in all this. I posted the link because even though I grew up in Minneapolis, I never learned that streets I walked on all the time had been the site of pitched battle between police and truck drivers. They don’t teach about it in schools. Seemed appropriate to point out here.

  27. A military leader that classified a broad swatch of American society as the enemy would hopefully be removed from his position…

  28. J Thomas, I read “I know an old man who was there they day they burned Washington, DC” and thought of this. Apparently my conception of “old man” is different from yours.

  29. Emma Bull, I don’t know anybody that old.

    The time I’m thinking of, I was living about 70 miles from DC. There was no news, for nearly a week the TV stations had pictures of American flags on them with a simple statement asking people not to spread rumors. The two local gun stores ran out of guns.

    After order was restored my father drove me into DC. The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress were untouched, but a whole lot of the city was indeed burned down, areas of 10 or 12 blocks square were all burned with some unburned buildings in little clusters. Some of it got fixed up pretty quick but there were a bunch of burned out shells of buildings that were still there 20 years later.

    http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/10005/43-years-ago-today-dc-stopped-burning/

    There were still soldiers with guns various places, and I felt scared so I waved to them and usually they smiled and waved back.

    The newspapers reported that throughout it all hardly anybody got killed. Back in my hometown there was a newspaper editorial congratulating our town for having no violence. It was my first experience with anything like that.

    I was in Greensboro when there was some trouble at A&T. I met some people who drove within a few blocks of there and little kids threw rocks at their cars. They had scratched paint and dents and some broken windshields, and they all wondered why they should be hurt when they didn’t have anything to do with it. I met some policemen at the Huddle House, and one of them said that his partner had been shot from a machine gun nest at A&T. He was pinned down for more than half an hour unable to get to his partner and help him. I discounted that since the newspapers reported that no police were injured.

    I got to take a pre-college Fortran course at NC State and one of the other students claimed to have been with the National Guard at Watts. He said they stuffed as many bodies as they could into buildings and set the buildings on fire. They stuffed bodies down manholes, anything to get them out of the way. His own unit was responsible for hundreds of bodies. I listened to him carefully and decided he was only telling irresponsible stories. The official claim was that around 5000 soldiers pacified a large area, bravely going places they expected snipers etc, and only a couple dozen people died. If there had been hundreds or thousands of deaths, the public records would have turned that up. If his story was anything like true, the government would have had to censor it.

  30. skzb

    Mechaninja: Oh, you meant *American*. I see. That’s different. No *American* ought see a whole group of *Americans* as the enemy. On account of, of all the myriad factors that make human beings similar and different, the one that matters most is–geography. I live within these boundaries, so anyone else within those boundaries must not be my enemy. Is that it? Seriously? That’s what you’re going with?

    National boundaries, however arbitrary (and stupid) they are, are *real*. How do we know they are real? Because there are people with guns who are willing to kill to defend them.

    The boundary between those who must sell their labor-power to live, and those who exploit the labor of others and sell the results, is also real. How do we know it is real? Because there are people with guns who are willing to kill to defend that, too.

    The people who have the task to defend that boundary, killing if necessary, are called the police. Those of us on the other side of that border do not, as a rule, have any armed organization at all; which is exactly what protects that border. It means that, most of the time, the police can do what they want. In this country alone, they have murdered thousands in defense of profit. Not because they are necessarily bad people, but because that is their job.

    You can, I daresay, chose whichever side you want. Indeed, as long as you are not a member of the exploited or exploiting class, you can chose neither, at least for a while. But when you say the police cannot be my enemies because we are all *Americans* for chrissakes, you just make yourself look ridiculous.

  31. There are probably ways to make a police force less corrupt, but I don’t think you can eliminate the need for one. If somebody kills another person, somebody is going to investigate, and it’s not going to be all of us. And in general, the person who spends more time specializing in the job is better at it. I’m not sure what you are proposing replacing police with?

    I do have a problem with the glorification of police (and the military). That they are all heroes just because of their job. Or they deserve better privileges or are more truthful and anything that says they don’t have to follow the law themselves because their job is so hard..

  32. skzb

    Apparently my original post was really muddled, because people keep saying things like, “Police will always be necessary.” Though I might dispute that (I can imagine a rational world in which they are not), that isn’t the point I was making.

    I’ll put it as simply as I can.

    The police have the job of defending capitalism. I oppose capitalism. Ipso facto, I oppose the police. Establish a social system I support, and I will necessarily support those who defend it. If they are called “Police” I will still support them.

    Does that help?

  33. “but we know the police will be on the other side”
    Isn’t that a failure to educate? People are people, not jobs. If police always take the other side, then there is a failure on our side to convince them why they should not?

    I don’t think most police view their job as defending capitalism. I see your logic in saying they are, but I think most police do not want that as their job description.

  34. skzb

    “but I think most police do not want that as their job description.”

    I’m sure you’re right. And an auto-worker does not want, “help put more money into the pockets of billionaires” as his job description. For that matter, I would say very few soldiers want, “Kill and oppress the innocent and helpless” as THEIR job description. But there they are.

  35. Because everything in my Internets is related to everything else in my Internets, this essay showed up linked in Bruce Schneier’s blog today. It illuminated for me part of the problem you’re having: firefighters and paramedics are not part of the enforcer class, and the police are. And the existence of an enforcer class, as a class with its own imperatives and loyalties, becomes a problem even for the class that created it to defend its power.

    It’s also a useful answer to a suggestion from an on-line friend that frustrated the hell out of me recently, because the suggestion failed to acknowledge the bigger picture in so many ways. The friend linked to a news story about a man who was refusing to answer questions at DHS checkpoints, and said that [people who shared my friend’s minority identity] couldn’t do this, but he hoped a lot more white people would follow the man’s example.

    My first thought was, “Malcom X just rose from his grave and wants to know why the hell you’re asking white people to do the work you see needs to be done.” My second was, “Ask Peter Watts how well that being-white thing worked for him.

    Because the enforcer class doesn’t care what color you are. Their loyalty is to their class, and the system that supports their class.

  36. The police have the job of defending capitalism. I oppose capitalism. Ipso facto, I oppose the police.

    I think equating the enforcers with the system is a fallacy. I sincerely doubt you can construct a societal system that doesn’t require enforcers, whether librarians telling you to “shush” or cops with batons trying to shut down a march. Hating the enforcers because you hate the system they represent, at best, only weakens efforts to change the system as it leads to applying the lever to the wrong place. If you don’t like the tree, aim for the roots, not the branches. If you can’t reach the roots because the branches are in the way, I submit you’re either using the wrong lever or allowing the system to convince you your lever isn’t long enough.

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