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The Children of Cain

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"Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power's disappearance."

Hannah Arendt (190675), German-born U.S. political philosopher. Crises of the Republic, "On Violence" (1972).

"A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it."
Lewis H. Lapham (b. 1935), U.S. essayist, editor. "Citizen Goetz," in Harper's (New York, March 1985).

"Under all conditions well-organized violence seems to him the shortest distance between two points."
Leon Trotsky (18791940), Russian revolutionary. Unfinished biography of Josef Stalin; Stalin, chapter 3 (1947).

There are times I pity conservatives. They are such a fearful lot.

They fear change. They fear those who are different from them, whether they worship the Divine differently (or not at all), have a different coloration to their skin, speak a different language, have different political views, a different sexual orientation, a different level of education, or even a different sex.

Conservatives also have a liking for guns looking on them as the great equalizer, or as they used to say in the Old West, "God made man, Colonel Colt made them equal." I think that they believe the very real and understandable fear which human beings have of guns, somehow equalizes and compensates for their own inadequacies and fear they have about the changing world around them.

Many conservatives are under the grave misapprehension that in the event of the Federal government becoming a full blown dictatorship, they will take to the streets, and the soldiers sent to put down their insurrection will join them, and then together they will overthrow the nascent dictatorship. I hate to tell them this, there is only one instance I can think of where the soldiers crossed over to join the revolutionaries--as opposed to the military fomenting the revolution--was Russia in 1917, and we all know how well that turned out.

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These conservatives are expecting an easy time against a dictatorship that overthrows our Constitution, as the nation rises as one against the dictatorship. As any old Leftist from the Sixties can tell them, they are living in a fool's paradise. It took four years after the launching of an illegal war in Cambodia to throw Richard Nixon out of office. Even then, it was a third rate political burglary that forced Nixon's resignation, not his and Henry Kissinger's war crimes, including complicity in the overthrow and murder of Salvador Allende in Chile. Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him, preventing an important object lesson for our nation, especially for certain Nixon subordinates, who went on to commit their own high crimes, including Iran-Contra and approving torture at Abu Ghraib.

The belief of so many conservatives in the effectiveness of torture as an interrogation technique mirrors their overall belief in the effectiveness of violence to resolve disputes or other problems. As Carl Jung observed concerning torture, "The healthy man does not torture others--generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers;" (DU magazine, volume 1; "Return to the Simple Life," Zurich, May 1941). Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his 1973 Nobel Prize lecture, spoke of what is the ultimate weakness of violence as a means to resolve human problems; "Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle." Or as Isaac Asimov so succinctly put it in his Foundation books, "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

If we are to understand the conservatives', or any other groups need for violence, we must first understand where the violence comes from in the human psyche.

Non-psychopathic violence--which, on the face of it, may be an oxymoron--arises when an individual or a group feels that they lack power, or that somehow they have lost, or are in danger of losing what power that they once had, or (finally) from the conflict that can arise between two or more individuals or groups who are attempting to gain or regain power that they believe that they need or require to maintain or improve their current political, economic, social or cultural position.

When violence arises from a perceived lack of power, there can be two excuses given for the violence. The first is when an individual or group believing they have no power, attempts to illegitimately acquire power in some form from properly constituted, legitimate, authority; i.e., criminal acts up to and including treason. The second excuse is when an already constituted authority attempts to seize power beyond that which it has a legitimate right to hold. The acts of the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the Silent Brotherhood (who killed Alan Berg), and Timothy McVeigh fall into the first category. The use of violence, including incarceration in concentration camps on questionable charges, by the Nazis in Germany to suppress their political opposition after the Reichstag fire, falls into the second.

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When violence arises from a loss of power or the threat of a loss of power--real or imagined--it is a reaction by those who believed that they held that power (and its underlying authority) legitimately, whether or not they did at one time, against those whom they believe are usurping their power. Whether it is riot police with hoses and dogs against civil rights demonstrators, leg breakers and private detectives hired by owners against union organizers, the militia against antiwar protesters, or hired assassins against political figures; it is always the same: those who feel threatened by a loss of power do not react well to those they feel pose a threat to their power. Examples are (in order): Selma, Alabama in 1965, the United Auto Workers in the 1930's, Kent State in 1970, and President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Violence can also arise from a conflict over power and authority. This category can be two or more groups or individuals lacking power, who are struggling to obtain both power and authority in a period of anarchy. This category can also be a group or an individual lacking power, struggling to acquire power from a group or an individual that has power, but whom they perceive as beginning to lose their grip on that power. Finally, this category can also be one or more groups or individuals who have roughly equivalent power and authority, who then attempt to seize power and authority away from their competitors.

This brings us to one of the ideas that conservatives seem to have a very difficult time understanding. That idea is the difference between legitimate power and its concomitant authority, and a position of influence.

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Richard Girard is an increasingly radical representative of the disabled and disenfranchised members of America's downtrodden, who suffers from bipolar disorder (type II or type III, the professionals do not agree). He has put together a team to (more...)

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For all of the members of the Tea Party to take a ... by Richard Girard on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 6:05:19 AM
Richard,Correct me if I'm wrong, and this is a str... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 3:00:39 AM
Oh, us benighted conservatives are just quivering ... by Recce1 on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 8:12:12 AM
My parents too, of course.I personally would appre... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 12:47:18 PM
1. Do not put words in my mouth. The only referenc... by Richard Girard on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 4:51:13 PM
You cheapen any argument you have with your poor u... by Walter Barton on Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010 at 1:22:30 PM
Of course you expected this, by which I assume you... by Recce1 on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010 at 3:35:38 AM
I respect you having a different point of view but... by Walter Barton on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010 at 10:51:24 AM
Walter,What I see as a thread through all too many... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 2:38:21 AM
When one make a statement, an absolute statement, ... by Walter Barton on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:52:27 AM
Walter,As I've pointed out, the debate in question... by Recce1 on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 7:28:24 AM
So much here my filters are cogged. But let me sta... by Walter Barton on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 10:56:16 AM
Walter,You're such a persistent propagandist. I've... by Recce1 on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 2:44:45 AM
What does it mean to do the same thing repeatedly ... by Walter Barton on Sunday, Apr 25, 2010 at 12:14:58 PM
Walter,As I understand him, Lyndon LaRouche is a l... by Recce1 on Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010 at 1:02:53 AM
LaRouche movement is a cult much like the neoconse... by Walter Barton on Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010 at 9:43:26 AM
Walter,Writing of implications, you're the one who... by Recce1 on Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010 at 3:17:36 AM
The Tea Party has shown that the conservative move... by Walter Barton on Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010 at 7:37:12 AM
By your standards Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Reve... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 29, 2010 at 6:06:23 AM
Different people can look at exactly the same thin... by Walter Barton on Thursday, Apr 29, 2010 at 9:53:28 AM
Walter,All I need do is just mention Beck's name a... by Recce1 on Friday, Apr 30, 2010 at 7:39:33 AM
Walter,Since we correspond a lot, I want to ask yo... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 29, 2010 at 6:16:36 AM
I have had no issues like you describe.... by Walter Barton on Thursday, Apr 29, 2010 at 10:02:41 AM
To answer your unproven, unsubstantiated, and undi... by Richard Girard on Thursday, Apr 29, 2010 at 2:45:47 PM
Richard Girard,To what unproven, unsubstantiated, ... by Recce1 on Friday, Apr 30, 2010 at 8:11:41 AM
I seem to have missed it. I see another article to... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 11:22:26 AM
The neo-cons use, gay marriage, killing babies, an... by marko polo on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 12:01:09 PM
Marko,Whether it's in criminal cases, financial sk... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 3:09:49 AM
Among other things I really liked the words about ... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 1:01:24 PM
Mark,What do you mean by, "The very fact that we h... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 3:52:37 AM
Extreme positions meet from left to right. There i... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 5:04:06 PM
You have cut through the odoriferous fecal matter ... by Richard Girard on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 at 5:35:44 PM
You thought the article is a "discerning piece" [y... by Walter Barton on Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010 at 1:28:32 PM
Your assessment on Reece 1 is concise and to the p... by Richard Girard on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010 at 2:35:15 PM
My father served in the Army Air Corps in WWII, hi... by Richard Girard on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010 at 2:30:45 PM
Mr. Richard Girard,How dare I question my superior... by Recce1 on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 6:47:26 AM
Mr. "Reece 1," You make it a bit difficult to add... by Richard Girard on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 3:45:02 PM
Mr. Girard,What is it with liberals? Not only can'... by Recce1 on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 4:12:20 AM