On the murder of and by NYPD

There is nothing that can “justify” murder, there are only things that can *explain* it. Cause-and-effect operates outside of morality. Which is not to say that murder (or any human action) can be boiled down to a single cause but rather that a confluence of circumstances can be understood to have a certain potential to lead to a specific outcome, not unlike the way we understand the physical sciences. For example, different plants grow in different areas of the earth, they require a specific set of ecological circumstances in order to thrive, and changes to the environment consequently change the way plants grow, evolve, or die.

Human behavior is of course more complex, but I believe it still operates under the same basic laws of nature. By extension, I would argue that when you live in society dominated by a tiny minority of wealthy individuals who use murder, torture, exploitation, oppression, deception, etc. as a way to maintain their rule, you can expect to reap all sorts of unhealthy outcomes, including a police force that murders with impunity and individuals who see no other recourse than to murder back.

I do not believe we should seek to justify either side of this cycle of violence; rather, we should seek to expose the underlying causes of violence and move forward with the project of transforming this society into one that is capable of producing good rather than evil. Your individual morality does not change the inherent immorality upon which our current society is based. Only collective action can do that.

The Verdict

The jury has spoken.
But what has she said?

She has said that we are a nation of Laws
and that according to those Laws
George Zimmerman is
not guilty.

And thus
she has reminded us that
Law ≠ Justice.

Law is meant to be a tool of Justice.
But when instead it is used as a tool of Tyranny—
when laws are used to exonerate killers
when laws are used to sanctify killing
when laws are used to spy, torture, oppress, and exploit

Then we,
the civilized masses of people being brutalized by this uncivilization
have a duty
to ourselves, to each other, to life itself
to not respect these unjust laws
to instead expose them, resist them, defy them, belie them
to fight until true justice is served.

Because if George Zimmerman is not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin,
then we are.

We as a society are guilty.

Guilty of creating a world where George Zimmermans exist,
where they exist and flourish and get away with murder
every single day.
Guilty of allowing our world to be governed by sociopaths
who pillage the earth and crush human souls
in a parasitic quest for power.
Guilty of betraying our own freedom,
by adoring the chains that keep us bound to our oppressors
and divided from one another.

This is the real verdict,
the one woven in between the delusional lines of the court’s determination
the one hovering above the anguish in the courtroom and on the streets
the one staring us in the face at every crossroad that we refuse to see.

We are guilty.
Sentenced to life in prison.
Of our own volition.

Because we accept this fate
every day that we live our lives
without naming injustice for what it is
without fighting against it with all we have.

Our silence.
Our apathy.
Our ignorance.
Our compliance.
All accessories to our collective murder-suicide.

This is what the jury said today.

©Stavroula Harissis

Serving 30 Years to Life

My body
is a prison
incarcerating
an innocent soul
suffocating
on the means of survival
imposed by this sick society.

And I don’t want it anymore.

I don’t want this skeleton.
I don’t want these muscles and organs that keep it together.
I’m tired of trying to keep it together.

I am so tired
of trying to find ways to cope
with an illness that has an obvious cure.

But they withhold it
and shove pills down my throat instead
so that my body stays alive
while my soul’s as good as dead.

Still, you can hear the agony
radiating from my eyes
and see the fever
emanating from my skin.

I am not this body.
I am not this prison.

I am the soul
withering within.

©2013, Stavroula Harissis

A Revolution in Human Relations

I was greatly inspired by this blog post, Transforming Troubled Schools by Robert C. Koehler. It is heartening to hear about progressive, alternative conflict resolution initiatives being implemented in schools. The lessons learned here can and should be applied to all areas of society. The broader idea is a revolutionary transformation in human relations.

Restorative Practices Circle http://coto2.wordpress.com

As human beings, we are all interconnected, part of the larger whole we call “society.” No individual’s action can be interpreted in isolation from its societal context. We need to move beyond the primitive idea of punishing “offenders” and realize that in so doing we are only perpetuating the cycles of crime, violence, poverty,etc. that hurt us all.

In order to do this, we have to be able to let go of the ego that assures us that we ourselves are “good” but others can be wholly “bad.” There is no such thing as a purely good or purely bad person, there are only good or bad actions (if that). When someone commits a crime and we label them as “a criminal,” we strip them of their humanity. This not only tends to lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy for the “criminal” but also hardens our own hearts and strengthens our egotistical belief that “we” are good and “they” are bad.

The ills of society are a product of society. In order to cure them, both the individual and the larger community must work together, with compassion and respect toward all involved parties. For too long, we have tried to quarantine evil—ignore it, deny it, ascribe it to something outside of ourselves. It is time to face our true nature, to see the good and the bad in ALL of us. This includes not only acknowledging our own faults but, perhaps more importantly, acknowledging the GOOD in our perceived “enemies.”

Peace will never be achieved by fighting “enemies” or punishing “criminals.” Those are relative terms, used to divide us. The only label we can use to describe ourselves in absolute terms, the one label that applies to us all, is “human.” Peace can only be achieved by respecting our common humanity and choosing to unite, rather than divide.

The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons: Ron Paul

What does it mean to do the “right” thing? Is it still the “right” thing if it’s for the “wrong” reasons? Can you do the “wrong” thing for the “right” reasons? How are people’s moral values manipulated by larger forces to support immoral causes?

These are questions that I seem to be coming up against a lot lately. It seems to me that most, if not all, of the horrors being perpetrated in our world today are allowed to continue due to the manipulation of people’s perceptions of morality. We all strive to be moral, but we are easily lead astray. There are several examples in current events that I’d like to point to in this discussion. Here is the first.

Ron Paul

This man’s name stirs up more impassioned arguments than any other in the political arena today. And for that, I love him. I think it is essential that we grapple with the ideas he presents and the contradictions they evoke in many of our consciences. I appreciate his candor and his commitment to principle (although, to be clear, I disagree with his principles). I admire his fearlessness in speaking what he believes. These are qualities sorely absent in most politicians today, and I believe that RP’s appeal to the masses begins there.

His appeal is further strengthened by his rhetoric of Individual Liberty. Because who doesn’t support the ideals of liberty and freedom? Indeed, at a time when our civil liberties are being increasingly eroded in the name of safety against “terrorism,” it is crucial to be speaking about these issues. But on what terms does Ron Paul support liberty and freedom? How does he ultimately believe these ideals should be manifested? These are equally important questions. The answers, according to Ron Paul, revolve around the ideas of individualism, private property, and the “free market”. Ron Paul wants an absolutely minimal federal government, with maximum personal freedoms.

While this may sound good at first, I believe it is crucial to dig deeper into these issues, to see what’s really at stake. His faith in the “free market” to balance out human moral shortcomings is particularly troublesome to me. Free Market Capitalism is predicated on exploitation of resources in pursuit of personal profit. And, in line with his Libertarian belief in individual liberty, this works out just fine, because it is an individual’s right to exploit whatever resources he can get his hands on in order to better himself, i.e. in pursuit of individual freedom and prosperity. This, in turn, creates an imbalance of power in society, where a handful of people can gain control of the vast majority of resources and thus exploit the masses of people, who must subordinate themselves to those who control the resources that they themselves need to survive. Clearly, this is precisely the situation we have today, with a fraction of a percentage of people controlling the vast majority of the world’s wealth, while billions of others suffer in abject poverty, with no prospect for freedom.

So is that the ultimate manifestation of freedom, Social Darwinism? Do only those (and the descendants of those) who most successfully exploit resources and their fellow human beings deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? I hope that for most people that answer is “No.” I hope that most people are compassionate enough to say “No, I do not believe that my ‘freedom’ should come at the expense of any other human being’s freedom.” But if compassion isn’t motivation enough for you, I will also point out that this unfettered exploitation wreaks havoc on the planet itself, the ecosystem that we all depend on to survive. If we do not change course, if we continue to pursue infinite growth with individual profit as our bottom line, then none of us will survive. We have reached a point in the evolution of our species where cooperation is truly pivotal to our survival.

Thus, while I am glad to hear a major political figure saying that we need to end our imperialistic wars, I also have a responsibility to go beyond the surface of his stance and figure out why he holds that position and what he proposes in its place. When I do that, I see that Ron Paul is not opposed to war for moral reasons but for financial reasons. He believes we spend too much money on our military, particularly in foreign wars for “nation building.” His National Defense plan is based on isolationism, i.e. do what’s best for our country and let the others fend for themselves. Again, if this doesn’t bother you on a humanitarian level, at least consider the impracticality of this stance in our current global economy and our common planet of inhabitance. Moreover, his reinforcement of the notion that our foreign wars are truly based on “nation building” or “policing the world,” when clearly they are based on imperialistic motives, leads me to conclude that he is either lying through his teeth or profoundly naive.

In conclusion, to go back to my original thought on “the right thing for the wrong reasons” and our distorted perceptions of morality, I believe that Ron Paul’s anti-war, pro-liberty positions are an example of both. It took me some time to reach this conclusion, as I was initially drawn to his positive qualities mentioned earlier and the surface of his stances. But once I started to really look into his positions and fight my urge to cheerlead for anyone who opposes war, it became unquestionably clear that Ron Paul was not the progressive candidate I so wanted him to be.

It’s sad, really, that our political field is so devoid of decency that Ron Paul would be the only glimmer of hope to a mass of people desperate (still, 4 years later) for change. Certainly, some of these people really do believe in Ron Paul’s ideals and plans—if I’m lucky, they will descend upon my blog to defend him to the death. With those supporters, I will just have to agree to disagree. But I believe another large portion of his supporters have simply been lead astray, either not understanding the true ideological basis for his seemingly progressive stances or supporting him despite this, as the new “lesser of two evils.”

This blog post is aimed at those supporters, the ones who fell in line with Ron Paul by default of not having any other candidate to believe in. To you, I say: Please rethink your stance. Do not resign yourself to simply supporting the lesser of two Evils. Demand Good. Demand real change, though it has no political figure as its face. We simply cannot afford to fight for anything less.