The Myth of White Culture

‘Other People’s Babies’ make us stronger; Steve King makes us weaker

It saddens me to discover that one of my favorite quotes is almost undoubtedly false – or ‘apocryphal’ as eddykated pipples like to say about lies when they like the lie or the liar.  Mahatma Gandhi should have said, but didn’t, when getting off a boat to visit England in the 1930’s and being asked what he thought of Western Civilization, that he thought it might be a good idea.

Challenging the popular misconceptions around our American culture sounds like an early ’90’s Saturday Night Live Mike Myers skit – ‘Coffee Talk (“Coaffee Toauk”) with Linda Richman’, when he/she’d become ‘a little verklempt’ and instruct the audience to talk amongst themselves; “I’ll give you a subject: Western Civilization is neither Western nor a Civilization.  Discuss!”

Because, of those two words, neither is true.  Western civilization isn’t all that ‘western’, and ‘civilized’ is an argument with little evidence to support it.

Civilization, to the degree it has ever been in evidence in Europe and, applying guilt by association, the European infestation of the New World, began as the cultures developed in and around the mountain passes of the Himalayas spread into India, the Middle East, around the Mediterranean Sea and northward; and as I have argued elsewhere, that culture that seeded it was itself a development of all the cultures that existed at the beginning of the most recent interglacial period, around ten thousand years ago.  The mongrel culture we know as the Aryans made, of all the cultures those extremely varied individuals came from, a melange of solutions to the dangerous environment they found themselves in as they took advantage of the trade flowing though it, the connections from the developing civilizations in Asia, Africa and Europe; and having made this powerful, practical culture, flowed out into India and the Mediterranean not as a conquering nation but as a powerful idea – the force of useful variety – giving a tremendous boost to the evolving cultures they encountered.

Thus from the very beginning, from the foundation of the Classical worlds of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, ours has been an inheritance with its roots deep in the most ancient cultures of Asia and Africa, influenced even by the earliest American native populations.  At the very earliest moment, it was already a World, more than a Western, culture.

We choose, of course, to ignore the pre-Classical contribution, and so start with the Greek and Roman contributions.  Even here, we err; the advancements those classical European cultures made depended to a very great extent on the cultures they had conquered, including those in Africa and Asia.

This brings us forward to the Renaissance, which would not have happened at all if not for that knowledge available to it from the Islamic cultures that had safeguarded the knowledge those Classical cultures had discovered, and considerably added to it, after the Germanic hordes had destroyed Rome and brought about the Dark Ages in Europe. Especially helpful to European cultural progress was the Moorish culture in Spain, before intolerant Christianity destroyed it.  What we call ‘Arabic numerals’ are called that because they came to us from the Islamic world, though in fact they originated in India; and it took us pasty-fleshed a long time to understand the importance of ‘0’, which lack of understanding shows up in Gregory’s calender in the moronic absence of the year 0 which should have separated BC from AD, and the reason the first year of this century was 2001, not 2000.

Where would Western science have been without the decimal system?  Without algebra – “al Jabr”, Arabic for ‘the re-attachment of separated parts’?  The Arab world first proved that the planet was a sphere, and for centuries, the only place you could study geometry, mathematics, or any science, was in the Middle East.

Most of the racist Ohio Congressman Steve King’s racist fans would not include the Jewish world as part of ‘Western Civilization’.  Little do they know – well, anything, but particularly that this marvelous technological world we’ve made could not have happened without the powerful, transformative contributions of both Hebrew culture and Jewish individuals.  Because of the idiocy of Christianity, expressed through the Middle Ages money-making center known as the Vatican, free enterprise could never have evolved without Jewish lenders; the Pope, in order to protect Church power and wealth, decided that any interest added to loans constituted usury, and was thus not permitted.  Talmudic scholars knew this was wrong, and so Hebrew wealth became the only source of the capital that nascent Capitalism needed.  The Renaissance and the later Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without the development of what would become modern banking, but that development depended on lending, on the ability to use wealth as a resource in creating new industries; without interest, why would anyone lend money?  Throughout the blossoming that was European cultural renewal, the Jewish world was the source of funding that made their persecutors rich.

And on and on.  Gutenberg was only able to print his Bibles because of the Chinese invention of reusable block printing elements.  Glass was first produced in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, as were iron implements; air-dried clay brick appears to have been an ancient Chinese invention, and kiln-baked (vitrified) brick in the Indus Valley; Sumeria (now part of Iraq), as well as India and China, first started making the copper alloy bronze; steel from Anatolia, now Turkey; paper from China; alphabetic writing, and the collecting together of such writing into scrolls and, later, books, from Egypt; astronomy from Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China and South America, as well as Greece; libraries from Sumeria and Egypt, with the greatest library of the ancient world, in Alexandria, destroyed by the Romans; it’s hard to find a single pivotal invention or idea of our ‘Western’ culture that wasn’t either discovered or helped in its development by the rest of the planet.

And how could it be otherwise?  Because humans really like sex, every culture on the planet, including ‘ours’, was constantly added to by peoples from other places.  This is hard to believe for uneducated Americans – that we’ve always had Other People’s Babies added to our mix.  So many of the markers we use to make distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ depend on visible cues that are entirely undependable and meaningless.  For example, it seems that symmetry of features is in every culture a marker of beauty, and its absence seen as ugly; this then would seem to have more to do with us as animals than as sentient beings.

Homo Sapiens is clearly a black-skinned species with local variations.  All human beings are brown; since our brains are so powerfully focused on detecting small differences, the shades that Humanity come in seem hugely varied to us, but from the blackest to the whitest to the reddest to the yellowest of us – if you simply put all those colors on a chart of samples, as if selecting paint for your bathroom, you’d easily see they are just different hues of brown.

Skin color, as well as every other physical characteristic, is strongly influenced by ideas of beauty, which in turn are determined by signals of health.  Light-colored skin is dangerous near the Equator because the direct rays of sunlight leads to cancers and other diseases of too-irradiated skin; but as cultures move north, dark skins lead to health problems brought about by too little Vitamin D, which is produced on the skin by sweat and sunlight.

Consider what modern science has discovered about one of the ‘proofs’ of evolution that Victorian England discovered.  A species of light-colored moths that gather on the trunks of trees ‘evolved’ into dark brown moths as the Industrial Revolution turned the bark from light tan to dark as they were covered with soot; it wasn’t until something like fifty years ago that genetic studies discovered that that change was not evolutionary at all.  The genetic makeup of those moths didn’t change – the species had always had light-colored and dark-colored individuals, but the increasing carbon in the air had changed the ratio of light-to-dark as birds increasingly found the light, rather than the dark, moths on their perches.

Let’s try a mind experiment.  Let’s take the darkest Africans we can find and put them on an island in the far North, and the lily-whitest Europeans and put them on a similar island on the Equator.  How many generations would it take for those populations to adjust to their new realities?  In truth, not that many; the signs of ill-health among the dark-skinned in the North or the light-skinned on the Equator would be so immediate and so powerful that our perfectly natural tendency to see health as equating beauty would punish those showing skin problems in every generation by reducing the number of breedings they would produce.  And yet these populations would not change genetically, beyond the normal ‘drift’ of any species of anything.

That explains some of those differences we think mean so much, and don’t – but that’s only a gross effect.  More subtle are the ways cultures develop their own distinct concepts of beauty.  The other thing we could say about our two islands is that, at least assuming we were isolating them, each would, for reasons both vital and insignificant, develop their own ideas of beauty.

Was Helen truly so beautiful, or did her particular facial features become themselves a definition of the desirable which started a selection process where those features became part of the Greek definition of beauty?  Was there something that happened early in the Chinese culture that made that particular color of tan, and the almond-shaped eye, a desideratum?  These sometimes-logical, often-random markers of what one or another culture thinks of as beautiful, or ugly, can rapidly have a determinative effect as power and beauty, or powerlessness and ugliness, come together.  It may be that one culture’s constricted or limited environment shows up as a need to define beauty as having diminutive stature.  It might just as easily be that great height quite accidentally becomes a desired thing.

So what the hell is ‘white’?  Genetic studies show these many European cultures to be as variable as any other, containing markers from the entire planet; whiteness (let’s be honest here; wallpaper-paste-ness) of skin was continuously selected for no matter the source of the genetic contribution to any particular individual in those cultures – but not an evolutionary selection, simply a cultural one as ‘beautiful’ individuals did better than ‘ugly’ ones.  Thus we peckerwood adopted as indications of beauty a whiteness of skin that could be achieved by any genetic contribution given only a few generations to show up; it has been well-established that a light-skinned or dark-skinned Brazilian is just as likely as not to have more of the opposite skin colored individuals in his genetic ancestry as similarly colored.  After all, using height as an example from African, the very tall Watusi are most closely related genetically to some of the many peoples we call ‘pygmies’, while quite distant from others.

I had for many year a very good friend who was born in Yakima, Washington.  Though he was a third-generation American, he had a peculiarly pure genetic history.  That area of the semi-arid West had been settled by immigrants from Germany – assuming I’m remembering correctly, from a small area in Bavaria; his parents, and their parents, were descendants of a group of Germans that had married exclusively with other immigrants from the same area.  Thus he and his five brothers represented a ‘pure’ genetic history going back hundreds of years from one small German area.  And on his wall he had a picture of himself with his exclusively-Bavarian brothers.

It was a fascinating picture, and I’d often look at it in amazement.  There was dark skin, light skin, ruddy skin; every size from quite tall to relatively short; broad shoulders, narrow shoulders, sloped shoulders; black hair, red hair, blond hair, brown hair, straight and long, curled and short, kinky, wavy; fat bodies, muscular bodies, skinny bodies; and he had other pictures going back to his Black Forrest ancestors that show the same wild variation.

Hitler proved the point.  He created select Army units, tall, broad-shouldered, blond, the very epitome of what idiot German researchers falsely thought of as ‘Aryan’, and fully expected they would lead their Army to victory.  They were useless in the field; if you want to select for effective soldiers, you have to accept that every other characteristic will be random and widely variable.

So, again – what the hell does ‘white’ mean?

In America, to be ‘white’ has come to mean to unquestioningly assume privilege, to expect a dominant position to ‘non-white’.  To avoid objective, rational thought in favor of ‘scenario thinking’, whereby the goal – such as proving one’s inherent right to rule – is reached by any means possible, no matter how contorted and illogical the path.  Thus idiocy like “No nation can survive without secure borders” is an unexamined assumption; how did we ever come to create the American Century with borders like sieves for countless generations?  How is it that those few nations that have managed to secure their borders – North Korea comes to mind as an excellent example – are such minor players on the world’s stage?  Conservatives used to fear dictatorship; now they seem to revel in it, and to glorify its characteristics, like ‘secure borders’.

The histories of immigrant cultures and their contributions are well-known, well-researched.  First generations of immigrants strongly tend to be law-abiding and hard-working, usually at menial jobs ‘whites’ won’t do.  Their children powerfully adapt to the American way of life, and are driven to excel in it in any field open to them and to push against their assumed limitations, often developing great wealth and making tremendous contributions; their grandchildren may try to re-discover their roots, but just as often seem to want to forget them – and become as American as anybody.  It’s only in the fourth and fifth generations – when they’ve become as ‘white’ as Steve King, no matter their ancestry – that this strong urge to prove their American-ness becomes the privilege-assuming, arrogant, condescending snideness we know as ‘white’.

And to introduce here an aspect of ‘white’ that infuriates and embarrasses me – to lose the simple, basic, essential ability to clap in time to the damned music!  Jeeze, what a bunch of apes!  Some dreadful polka starts up, the Colorless Clods start clapping immediately, and in two bars they’ve lost the beat!  And this is the Master Race?  Gag me with a spoon!

Here’s a truth you won’t like – beauty, as defined within any particular culture, almost ensures stupidity.  The uncomfortable fact is that, unless a child is strongly influenced to use its brain, it won’t.  Our brains, depending entirely on what you measure and how you define it, use from a third to two-thirds of the energy we take in.  Not thinking very much or very hard thus becomes the norm, a wise conservation of energy that is its own reward.  To be diverted away from this norm, the growing child must encounter some strong influence, some situation that drives it to use and develop its intelligence.  Thus it is not surprising at all that, when you examine the lives of the creative among us, you always find some strong trigger that moves them to think; a disability, a difference, like poverty, or sexuality, or social constrictions – some situation in their upbringing, some difference from the norm, that forces them to use their brains.

Whereas the beautiful are seldom drawn to think.  Why should they?  The people who surround the Rich and Beautiful are always so willing to do as the Beautiful wish; their assumption of privilege is always fulfilled.  What is there to think about?  Why waste the energy?  The Beautiful skate across a world created and maintained by the energies of the Different, the Weird.  ‘Whiteness’ is too often the froth on America’s delicious latte, itself adding no flavor, empty of any meaning, not making any contribution – but always assumed to be there, on top, pretty, mindless, pointless.

So Representative King need not worry about ‘other people’s babies’.  His wealthy backers will take advantage of newcomers’ economic slavery; Wall Street investors will jump at the chance to profit from those babies’ and their babies’ inventiveness and strong work ethic; McDonalds and Burger King will feed them lousy food and employ them at insulting wages; they’ll pay taxes so that King’s true bosses can avoid paying their share; and in only a few short years, these ‘other’ babies will be sitting on a porch in King’s district, with their tee-shirts barely covering their beer bellies, belching at the passing cars, listening to Country&Western music, complaining about ‘other people’s babies’ and voting for idiots like King.

Ecce whiteness.


Our (Mostly Imaginary) Aryan Ancestry

How the Racists get it Backward: The Aryans were a Mongrel ‘Race’

Discussions about ‘race’ are hopeless, for one fundamental and inescapable reason: In the human species, there are no races. We are one, closely related family. A ‘race’ is a population of a species that has, for any of many reasons, become separate from the rest of that species for long enough, or in a sufficiently different environment to speed up evolution enough, that the process of genetic divergence has left them still able to mate with members of the greater population but less able to successfully raise the results of that mating. This is known as ‘fecundity’ and its loss is the only characteristic of any importance in deciding whether or not that population is separate enough from the rest to be called a race while not separate enough to be a new species.

For which reason, the human species has no races, or any populations displaying any loss of fecundity and thus even on the road to becoming a race. We have absolutely nothing even remotely like races; our species suffered a near-extinction event 75,000 years ago that reduced our population to so few members that we had only somewhere between seven and thirty-five breeding females left. That’s why, even as our numbers on the planet reach seven billions, spread over the whole planet, we are all more closely related to each other than the litter-mates of purebred dogs are, by some seven times.

If you presented to a geneticist the genes of an Inuit and those of a South African, or any other two examples of populations no matter how separated in time or space, that geneticist would say, if he had no other information to go on, that the species sampled had insufficient genetic variation to survive as a species.

This is so hard for people to believe because so much of our brainpower is dedicated to detecting patterns, to organizing what we see into groups of similar characteristics.

We’re fooled by our own assumptions. We take the kind of adaptations that one group of fully human beings make to their local conditions, like the need for dark skins in the presence of direct solar radiation and light skin in more angled, muted sunlight, as if they had some larger genetic meaning. They don’t. Populations of cultural animals will create a local culture among themselves, which will unavoidably be different from that in other places; we take that, too, to mean something larger than it does. We are driven to judge others by how much like us they are or aren’t, as if that has some larger meaning.

It doesn’t. The use of the word ‘race’ in speaking of humans is incorrect and even dangerous.

White supremacists and Trump supporters – forgive the redundancy – believe above all else in the superiority of ‘Euro-Americans’, and cling desperately to their ideas of a ‘white civilization.’ They base this delusion on a group of people called Aryans who brought advancement and civilization first to India, then east to the Mediterranean and into Europe some eight to six thousand years ago; this group is supposed to have been a blond-haired, blue-eyed race of superior super-beings that we need to somehow selective-breed our way back to.

Which is garbage. Yes, there were Aryans; yes, some of them were light-complected; but no, no, no. They did exist. They did bring great advancements in cultures they encountered. But they were never a ‘race’, they had no genetic ‘purity’ at all, and this great sweep of Indo-European culture owed its vitality and inventiveness to all the other cultures of the prehistoric world.

They were everybody from everywhere. They were not a ‘race’ at all; they were mongrels.

This is the simple, complex truth that turns the very core of the racial supremacist argument inside out. If people did but know, their shining claim to genetic greatness is the world’s best argument for inclusion.

Between 10 and 15 millennia ago, a group of people started moving into ‘The Roof of the World’ from the populations already established in ice-free areas of China, Africa, the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, and moving into the Caucuses and Russia as the ice receded. The Himalayans were right in the middle of an explosion of growing civilizations in the lowlands in almost every direction.

People were moving into valleys and along passes throughout the range, primarily, in that unforgiving, unproductive place, as passageways between those developing civilizations for travel and trade. They were there to help, hinder, house, rob, care for and kill the many travelers traversing this land with their goods. It wasn’t a mass movement of peoples, but a slow trickle of individuals there for their own interests. It was a demanding, and often deadly, place to be; but the growing trade between these cultures made these dangerous passes yet the easiest path between these centers.

Over the early millennia of the interglacial period that began about 10,000 years ago and is now ending, this disparate group was so advantaged by their cut of the exchange that they became powerful, and eventually their culture and gene pool swept down to the south and west, transforming cultures in a huge sweep whose influence is still being felt.

It’s clear from what we know of this nascent culture that their growing power was not just from the wealth pouring through their hands. Not being a specific culture growing out of a population’s adaptations to some specific environment with all the superstitions and prejudices inherent to such tribal groups, but an ad-hoc assembly of cut-throats and pirates, the culture that very gradually developed was able to take materials and ideas from every civilization it encountered and apply those as needed, helpfully bereft of all that local cultural garbage. Thus it was strongly pragmatic; stories of magical beings resident in a tree had no appeal for people with a vital, essential need for using that tree, and any other asset, to survive a very hostile, dangerous environment. And by being central to all these diverse cultures around it, it was able to use anything anyone on the planet had learned about that tree, stripped of religious connotations.

And so these people gradually developed an amazing powerful culture out of all those around it, and open to use every resource available in the Eastern Hemisphere – because the Aryans were themselves built out of people from all areas of the populated world. Even natives from North America made it into this group, which is not as surprising as it seems; before it receded, the ocean-facing front of the vast fields of ice covering northern continents was a highway rather than barrier to prehistoric native groups who knew how to make and use boats that gave them access to the animals that feed along these glacial fronts as they dump nutrients from the land into the sea.

So how do we know all this? Some of it is from modern genetic studies. We can see the genetic footprint of the path the Aryan civilization took as it influenced the Indian and Mediterranean cultures it blended with. Before this intrusion, Europeans were largely inter-related, a genetic stock that now shows its purest manifestations in the people of Sardinia, where the incoming populations had least effect.

But that doesn’t mean one distinct gene pool being blended into or replacing another. The way we can use gene studies to see the influence of the Aryan outmigration is that, in place after place, a specific genetic stock is replaced by one that blends all the genetic material from Europe, Asia and Africa. So the genetic picture is clear; in location after location as they moved South and West, relatively consistent genetic stocks were replaced not by one other but by all the gene pools on the planet – purity replaced by variety.

The most direct evidence we have is from art. We have almost nothing that reveals who these people were or what they thought of the world, or how they organized themselves. We don’t know what they called themselves; since it was a constantly changing group, continually taking in people from all the cultures of the world, it has been suggested our failure to discover what language they spoke or what name they gave themselves may well be because they had no consistent language, and didn’t give themselves a name. Maybe they didn’t even see themselves as a ‘people’ in the modern sense at all, and so the only name that comes down to us, ‘Aryan’, is that given to them by the people they encountered.  Aryan is simply a word in a Northern Indian dialect meaning ‘The People’ as a term of admiration, sometimes interpreted as The Right or The Good People, the people who had it all figured out.

But we have their art.

People traveling through this amazing culture would have been astounded at what they saw. From any place they would have come out of, their culture would have found all the natural dyes available to them in that place, and so their eyes would have gotten used to that fairly limited palette. But the Aryans had every dye from every culture available to them, and flaunted it.  They would have used them everywhere they could to impress others with their power and reach. It must have been astounding to see brilliant and subtle colors and fine shading such as they could see nowhere else.

Apparently for this reason, the Aryans developed a style of art we would almost call ‘photo-realism.’ So precise and vivid were these portrayals and the colors they used that scientists have been able to study the flora and fauna of the time by them; animals in exquisite detail from all over the hemisphere are shown. And they made pictures and mosaics that have come down to us as the primary way we study who they were. Prominent citizens covered their walls and decorated their houses with very realistic portrayals of themselves; thus we can say with certainty that they were white, yellow, black and even red, wearing what we know were traditional costumes of the time from China, the powerful trading cultures of the east coast of Africa, from Middle Eastern cultures developing in the Fertile Crescent, and from Europe. One picture fascinates; a family we can be sure by the extensive domicile it was found were important people, that showed them as short, stocky individuals with kinky red hair, ruddy complexions, and looking for all the world like Scotsmen.

This band of savvy conquerers never were a consistent, self-contained genetic stock. Confused and prejudiced early researchers assumed these Aryans were out of the Caucasus Mountains, and so we honkeys became ‘Caucasians’ in their honor. Some of them doubtless were, but more often Chinese, African, everyone from everywhere, many faces, many cultures, greedily using whatever worked best from all the world’s peoples.

That’s the point. And it’s not accidental, but pivotal to the growth and power of these people, and why their influence spread across India, North Africa, around the Mediterranean and into Europe. People from everywhere, living in challenging conditions to take advantage of the flow of communications, over time developed their own culture from the best – in those conditions, defined as the most useful – of all the cultures they were composed of. They were stronger exactly because they weren’t homogeneous. Having all that genetic material, and samples from every culture on the planet – that variation, that ‘mongrel-ness’, was the very core of their success as they spread through the Mediterranean world and beyond. Not an accident; the whole point. You can say many things about these people. ‘Pure’, whether genetically, racially, or morally, isn’t one of them. In the face not only of their blended genetic and cultural advantages but also how fundamentally important this ‘mongrel’ condition was to their success, imagining a genetically pure Aryan ‘race’ is a sick joke.

The association between the Aryans and some theoretical pure Northern European is thus shown to be pointless. Blond hair, fair skin and blue eyes is a local development, among a consort of characteristics common to populations in the far north, having nothing to do with the Aryan spread, which would on any account have been pretty watered down by the time it got to Germany.

But what fascinates me is the perfectness of it. The people who racists hold high as an ideal of genetic superiority is in fact the best argument for all of us from everywhere getting back together to build a culture strong and brave enough to heal and restore the planet and reach for the stars.

And of course for me, a dirty-minded old white man who’s been in favor for his entire life of everybody everywhere coming together in the holy pursuit of having more sex, a delight. So this is my advice, which I’m so happy to see is increasingly being listened to even while entirely unheard:  Everybody from every place should get together and fuck.

Though probably they’re doing it for their own reasons, and not listening to me at all. Which is good: Instead of reading this, who could you be screwing?

No Lives Matter

We expect the impossible, and get the unendurable

Almost all Americans believe in The Majesty of Law as if it was magic; that it creates Order, that Order depends on Law, that everything is built on a sand that will wash away if not defended by Law. The national mythology that we pretend to worship – life, liberty, the purfuit of happineff as inalienable rights resident in the individual – that mythos is believed by few if any. But this, this assumption that everything and everyone (but ourselves, of course; I know Right From Wrong, but you I’m not so sure of, so I’ll keep watch) depends on Law as the foundation of Order – this impossible thing is believed by all.

And all are wrong.

This idea is false, impossible, and dangerous.  It finds and greatly magnifies any extant prejudice those tasked with applying it have. If Order depends for its continued existence on the application of Law, then those who police our society, at all levels, must prevail, else all is doomed. It is inescapable. Once you assume that civilization depends on law, the application of that law must be vigorous, remorseless, unstinting and unlimited – because you believe our system depends on it.  How can we risk all this for just one life?

Nor does it matter how opposed to this aggressive policing you might be, even if you are a policeman. It doesn’t matter at all. It may be that somewhere – nowhere I’ve ever been, nowhere around here, certainly, but somewhere – there is a police force dedicated to respect for the citizen and a thorough professionalism. It will still strongly, forcefully gravitate toward racist brutality if Order depends on Law.

A thing like a robbery is no longer simply an attack on those robbed, which is all that it should be about. No. You’ve made it into An Act of Revolt, a crime against us all, a clear attempt to overthrow order.

So the Thin Blue Line fallacy; that there are Good People, whom the police need to protect from the Bad People who seek to hurt them, and only the Police can separate the two.

Bullpucky. Horse hockey. Television logic, devoid of reality.

Wherever you are now, if there is a line of police around you, you are in prison, yourself a policeman, or – horrors! – running for President. For the rest, for the best and worst of us – if someone right now wanted to get to you and do you harm, is there anything to stop them? No. (Gun freaks; even if you are well armed, someone not that far from you is better armed.) People in our nation, in 2016, are less likely to be harmed by anyone or anything than at any other time in history. That you got through today unharmed by anyone is because you live with people who have no desire to hurt you; they don’t want to hurt you because they want to live with people who don’t hurt them.  If you have trouble believing that, if you see theft and murder every day of your life –

Turn off the TV.

Portland experienced a particularly cowardly death at police hands some few years ago, an excruciating memory for the decent of my city. A young man was tried at the only court of justice that mattered in his short life in a trial in which prosecution, judge and jury were all emotion-guided men and women with loaded weapons pointing at the accused.  They found him guilty of being an unarmed black man with emotions, and carried out the sentence because he was obeying commands, yet had the temerity to flinch when hit with a rubber slug. So the brave white policeman shot him with a high-powered rifle.

In the back.

Brave, courageous Thin Blue Line.  Protecting us good people from – uh – What ‘Thin Blue’ barrier was the murderer a part of, again?

If he was a member of a force dedicated to Serve and Protect (or if the assassin had a shred of decency) this would have been a career-ending move. But if the actual goal was, as you think it must be, to be a prophylactic against Bad People on behalf of Good People, to protect our society against attack, then, no fault no foul. We know the young unarmed man was Dangerous, that (White) Society has to be protected from people like him.  So not only did pointlessly ending a life not end a career, it was, in Portland’s deeply racist, amateurish Clown Show in Blue – I love my city, but our police are and always have been vicious, openly racist thugs – a well-trod path to promotion.

Because if the safety of our whole culture depends on Good People being protected from Bad People, those doing the protecting have to be able to discern instantly who the Bad People are, and be free to act preventively. The entire Thin Blue Line concept depends on it: The Police cannot see into people’s hearts and know what their intentions are, yet at the same time we demand that they do and thereby prevent bad things happening. The police will, no matter how they struggle against it – and few do – desperately seek to find some external clue to that manifest goodness they must protect against evil, and immediately see its lack, else all things fail and fall into death and destruction.

There is no label, no tag, no signal that Bad People show, no smell or sound that gives them away.  (If I were given to imagining that a visual clue to Evil did exist, I would conclude from personal experience that that clue would wear a suit and hold a Bible.) But so many Americans – going out on a limb here and saying most – and an even greater percentage of Police, believe there is a clue.


A young black man is, on average, slightly less likely than a white to use drugs, commit crime, be on welfare or be any danger to you. If you are white, and possibly even if you are not, there is absolutely no chance in Heaven or on Earth that I can convince you of this. Some one hundred years of research, hundred of millions of dollars spent on tens of thousands of studies have consistently shown this. But you know that a young black man is dangerous, reality be damned.  You see it on TV.  You get evidence from movies.

So what chance is there that putting a blue uniform on you and strapping a gun on your hip will not focus this, give it free reign? And if you have even the slightest trace of such an expectation, putting you and your blue and your gun on the streets and telling you that your job, a condom protecting Good from Bad, is the foundation of all we see, which will collapse if you don’t do it well –

What is the chance that you will not come to see color as a danger sign? That you will start to see the behaviors you’ve already decided are there? Even the smallest slice of racism, the smallest drop of discomfort around minorities no matter how well hidden or denied, will blossom into full bloom if you are put in the position our Police have been put in: the demand that they protect Us from Them by instantly knowing which is which.  There are no signs, no labels, but we insist there are.  So of course policemen imagine them, project them, find them.  As would you.  As would I.

Which is why the police keep killing so many of our innocent citizens, men, women, children. We have put impossible expectations on them and regularly abuse them for their failure to meet them. How could the Police have allowed this awful thing to happen? What do we pay them for? We’ve bought so many toys for them, bigger guns, more helicopters, maybe a tank or two; how is it bad things keep happening?

Few things are more dangerous, more damaging to the mind, than giving someone an impossible job and telling them the whole world depends on them doing it. Functional insanity is the result; we see the same thing in servicemen in nuclear missile silos tasked with waiting day after day after day for nuclear Armageddon, which impossible mental conflict – calmly waiting for catastrophe, forced to imagine as part of a daily routine the un-imaginable  – leads to a great deal of self-damaging behavior.

Given the impossible conflict of applying this Blue Line expectation, where neither part of the equation is true – leaving aside the very small number of criminally insane, who tend to weed themselves out of society, ‘bad people’ are the same people as ‘good people’, different only by poor decisions, limited choices created by poverty, or by the reduced ability compared with the rich to afford and hide their addictions, and can’t be told apart by any signs; and the Police have no ability to prevent crime before it happens – given that conflict, it is entirely logical and predictable that the brain will focus tremendous energy on finding a way to square that circle.

As, for example, by deciding that there are such visual badness clues. Like color. Or any other easy, unexamined prejudice. And it is much to our shame that the police – our police, that we put on the street – predictably fail at the impossible, that they make bad decisions based on the racism that our expectations so powerfully magnifies, and in the throes of that impossible conflict, that they instinctively protect themselves by changing their own memories of, or lying about, their actions.  In that intolerable conflict we create in their all-too-human minds, ‘truth’ becomes anything they need in that moment for it to be.  So do we all.

I beg you hear my words, my warning: If you have become convinced, as part of your world-view foundation, some thing that your subconscious mind knows doesn’t wash – our brains are better than our minds at weighing probabilities and seeing reality – if you Believe some not-real thing, and are faced with evidence of that believed-but-impossible thing not being true, you will, beyond your ability to control or shape your own thoughts, automatically add all the emotion, all the blessed Moral Certainty that you need to overcome your conflicted mind.  Again, you must not see this as weakness; it’s how the brain works.

If you are racist and confronted with a black man showing signs of not being inferior, you will instantly add all the emotion – all the lizard-brain certainty – that you need in order to overwhelm this uncertainty.  Such an emotion-swamped mind, insisting on imposing this Certainty on the situation, will easily pull that trigger.  We cannot tolerate this conflict, and we resolve it internally by projecting all our expectations of behavior onto the real person and real behaviors in front of us.

So the Assassin in Blue didn’t shoot a human being – he pulled the trigger and drove a high-powered chunk of lead through a cartoon of his mind’s creation.  Unfortunately there was a human being standing behind it, with his arms raised.

That’s what we put our Police through by our stupidity; we tell them they must do something they can’t do – and, oh, yeah, here’s a gun. I’m sure that will go well.

While the Thin Blue Line fallacy rules the land, no life is safe – when the citizenry indulges the magical thinking that there are Good and Bad people you can tell apart by the labels we imagine they wear, who have to be kept separated or everything will fall into chaos, that society must be hammered into shape on the anvil of Law, then a life becomes a tiny, unimportant, disposable thing when weighed against All of Civilization.

Nobody is safe until we give up this delusion.  White is advantaged and black and brown suffer, for now; but prejudice is itself stunningly unprejudiced – any characteristic will serve, any at all, including yours.  This myth is madness, a machine to grind to paste anyone it needs to grease its wheels.

But we will not give up our Thin Blue Line delusion.  Until we do – until we think more deeply about the place of law, until we learn hubris –

No lives matter.