Given current events, I thought it would be helpful to repost my episode with anti-policing expert Alex Vitale. If you need to get your bearings on current events, or if you simply need to re-articulate your emotions, I hope this is helpful.
I invited the great Alex Vitale - author, activist, professor, and police consultant - to the show. Alex's book The End of Policing is an extraordinary book about undoing the role of police in society. Not just a critique, but a guide for how to get there. The awakening to police brutality, police militarization, and police racism in the US has opened up new pathways of how communities can work and what the role of justice and punishment might mean. Alex and I cover it all, and he's really, really great on just about everything we discussed. Way better than me at first, because I ramble a bit in the face of the expert. But that's okay! I get back on my feet and we have an amazing conversation.
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• For more of Alex, buy his book, The End of Policing and check out his earlier work, City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. His website is also pretty great and has a lot of his articles as well as media appearances.
• A great book on the militarization of the police is Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. And there's a lot on the aesthetic dimensions of militarized police in, Beauty and the Beast by one of my favorite thinkers, Michael Taussig.
• One of my favorite books on punishment and the state is Sex Panic and the Punitive State by Roger Lancaster. And as far as how to punish kids, I love Jillian Keenan, who discusses how spanking intersects with sexual abuse and fetish.
• Alex mentions a book which I have yet to read, but which I definitely will - Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor Rios.
• School is a fucking nightmare. I wish someone would have gotten me The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewllyn so I could've quit instead of enduring it.
(And here's Alex's article, "A Short History of Cops Terrorizing Students")
• My views on culture are generally informed in one way or another by the occult. Here's a quote on punishment by my main occult teacher, Rudolf Steiner ("anthroposophy," if you don't know, is his system of spiritual science).
"It would actually be a severe reproach if one were able to maintain that anthroposophy prompts people to develop moral action not out of sympathy and compassion but out of fear of punishment. Let us now ask ourselves whether such a reproach is really justified. We must reach very deeply into occult research if we wish to refute such a reproach to anthroposophy in a really fundamental way.
Let us assume that someone were to say that if a person does not already possess this striving for perfection, anthrosophy will certainly never prompt him to moral actions. A deeper understanding of what anthroposophy has to say can teach us that the individual is related to the whole of humanity in such a way that by acting immorally he not only does something that may earn him a punishment. It is rather the case that through an immoral thought, an immoral action or attitude he brings about something really absurd, something that cannot be reconciled with truly healthy thinking.
The statement has many implications. An immoral action not only implies a subsequent karmic punishment; it is rather in the most fundamental respect an action that one definitely ought not to do. Let us assume that a person commits a theft. In so doing the person incurs a karmic punishment. If one wishes to avoid this punishment one simply does not steal. But the matter is still more complicated. Let us ask ourselves what really motivates the person who lies or steals. The liar or thief seeks personal advantage — the liar perhaps wishing to wiggle out of an unpleasant situation. Such an action is only meaningful if one actually does gain an advantage through lying or stealing. If the person were now to realize that he simply cannot have that advantage, that he is wrong, that on the contrary he will bring about a disadvantage, he would then say to himself that it is nonsense even to think about such an action. As anthroposophy penetrates ever deeper into human civilization, people will know that it is absurd, indeed that it is ridiculous, to believe that through lying or stealing one can acquire what one seeks to acquire."
• What is the secret of Soylent Green? You probably already know, but it's a worthwhile watch either way!
• I gave a little nod to Guy Debord, the author of Society of the Spectacle which changed my life. A really clear examination of Debord and his group of anarchists, the Situationists, is featured in Greil Marcus's great book, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.
• The George Orwell quote I've mentioned in a few episodes, is from The Road To Wigan Pier:
"Please notice that I am arguing for Socialism, not against it. […] The job of the thinking person, therefore, is not to reject Socialism but to make up his mind to humanize it…For the moment, the only possible course of any decent person, however much of a Tory or an anarchist by temperament, is to work for the establishment of Socialism. Nothing else can save us from the misery of the present or the nightmare of the future […] Indeed, from one point of view, Socialism is such elementary common sense that I am sometimes amazed it has not established itself already. The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody; the idea that we must all co-operate and see to it that everyone does his fair share of the work and gets his fair share of the provisions, seems so blatantly obvious that one would say that nobody could possibly fail to accept it unless he had some corrupt motive for clinging to the present system. […] To recoil from Socialism because so many socialists are inferior people is as absurd as refusing to travel by train because you dislike the ticket-collector’s face."
• "I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at a system that produces this dynamic..." - that's a great framing, Alex.
Oh and by the way, dudes love margaritas..