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A Lonesome Hallelujah

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 5, 2020 16:47

4 users

We have been here many times before. Cycles of repression, protest, repression … Our modern political system was designed, over centuries, exactly to prevent this, and somehow we seem to want to revert to medieval habits of violence instead of reason.

Leonard Cohen’s words echoed in my brain this week and more:

Baby, I've been here before

I know this room, I've walked this floor…

Because I have. I was where Apartheid police brutally repressed political opinion, where protests turned into revolt. I have witnessed urban riots. Mandela said it: "When people see no viable way of political expression, they will turn to violence."

In Rwanda, society turned on itself, exploiting perceived ethnic differences and murdering hundreds of thousands. I sat with Tutsi survivors who pointed out the skeletons of husbands, children, neighbors, and laughed at some among them who broke down in tears, "because we must be soldiers, to fight for our rights." Because the next genocide is but a week, a month, a year away.

I stood at my great-uncle’s grave in Iringa, Tanzania, where great powers sought to settle political differences by violence, and where today little remains to show why millions died in futility. I visited the trenches and the memorial at Thiepval which commemorates 72,000 soldiers who have no known graves, in the midst of fields where you never see less than two cemeteries. Commemorated by enemies who, today, work together in peace.

Thiepval memorial. Thiepval Chris Hartford/Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

In my name police in a rural South African town shot service delivery protester Andries Tatane "for taking his shirt off in an aggressive way."

Police shot Andries Tatane. www.libcom.org

In my name, South African soldiers killed Collins Khosa for drinking beer in his house. A military board of inquiry absolved the soldiers from responsibility, claiming that Khosa "undermined the two female soldiers" and that the force used was "pushing and clapping (sic)." South African President Ramaphosa called 11 deaths from police action and 230 arrests under the COVID-19 lockdown "over-enthusiasm" on the part of security forces.

Soldier antivirus patrol. www.dearsouthafrica.co.za

Police forces have known for two centuries how to manage protests and demonstrations professionally. The final point of the classic Peelian principles of policing by consent, which should underlie any ethical, professional police service, is that the test of effective policing is the absence of crime and disorder and not the visible evidence of police action. 

The presence of racism in some of these police overreach actions should be recognized, but there is a deeper basis, a desire by politicians to revert to rule by force, a desire to undo the democratic project of centuries and an urge to a brutal, oppressive rule by force, triggered by the socio-pathology of our present crisis.

Let us think this through. The political systems we have developed since the middle ages are based on using reason, and not force and compulsion, to decide on political aims. History has shown that systems relying on compulsion, like slavery, are economically inefficient and prone to violent ends. Political dissent is the lifeblood of modern politics.

Compulsion, domination and "stamping authority" can only lead us to a

cold and lonely Hallelujah.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 5, 2020 16:47

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Source: Al Jazeera

Rio de Janeiro favela residents rally against police brutality, corruption, impunity and ruthless state oppression.

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