After Ferguson: In defense of non-peaceful resistance

The regular suspension of due process and the repeated failure to restrain or reasonably manage the use of lethal force by the state against its citizens violates the American social contract on a fundamental level.

The social contract is an “agreement” that the state will have a legitimate monopoly on the use of force, instead of all individual people having the use of force all over the place with no rules, in exchange for meeting those basic conditions and maintaining the safety of all people and protecting their property.

Although it’s never possible to preserve that balance 100% of the time — and the United States has an unusually extensive set of loopholes for normal civilian use of force — it is reasonably considered in effect if it is upheld the vast majority of the time and with consistent, non-discriminatory application. Significant and repeated failure of the balance or failure to apply the principles consistently across the population would constitute a breach of the contract.

With a widespread and ongoing breach in the social contract by the state, the use of force is legitimately de-monopolized and reverts to the people to use on an individual or collective level, against threats and oppressors, including but not limited to — racial supremacists, exploitative businesses, and the state. The data has been clear for some time that a breach of the social contract exists between the state (federal, local, and everything in between) and the Black citizens of the United States.

Therefore: Violent resistance to police and destruction of select private property in the aftermath of a particularly egregious violation such as witnessed in Ferguson last week (suspension of the rule of law and restricted rights to peaceful assembly) is quite easily morally justifiable — though obviously optional — until the restoration of a legitimate social contract between the people and their government, which re-monopolizes the use of force.

To be clear: I’m not calling for violence and destruction; I’m just saying it’s not inherently unacceptable right now, and that decision is a matter of basic self-determination by those for whom the social contract has been broken (a sub-population which does not include me). For the majority of Americans, the social contract remains intact and normal rules of conduct apply. For a regularly legally and forcibly repressed sub-population without redress of grievances, the contract is currently void.


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Above: Graffiti in the St. Louis area, quoting The Hunger Games series, following the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and is a Senior Editor for The Globalist. Follow him @BillHumphreyMA on twitter.
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