Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's Very Simple: Stop Violent Policing, Stop the Killing, and the Disturbances Will Stop

I'm trying to get caught up with all the disturbances yesterday and last night, mirroring and supporting the uprising in Baltimore that has taken place as a consequence of the killing of Freddie Gray by police.

These uprisings and disturbances were widespread before the killing of Freddie Gray, but they have become a near permanent feature of American urban landscapes because, simply, the power structure that directs the police will not yield to the demands of the people.

"Stop killing us!" It's very simple. Stop violent policing. And still the killing goes on and on and on, violent policing and brutality continues unabated, and all the fancy military gear that has been supplied to police departments all over the country is trotted out again and again to suppress nonviolent crowds of protesters demanding that the police stop killing us.

And when vandalism and looting occur in conjunction with these protests, the authorities and their media handmaidens become all incensed because the Negroes are running wild instead of being docile little lambs like MLK would want them to be. Except he wouldn't.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an important piece for The Atlantic the other day titled "Non-violence As Compliance." As those who have followed some of my writing since the days of Occupy and before probably know, I don't take kindly to those who try to assert "non-violence" as a means of shutting down effective resistance -- which is what is done over and over and over again by most of those citing "Ghandi [sic] and King" as models of the way Those Negroes (or whomever is resisting) ought to be.

I have my issues with Ta-Nehisi, but in this piece, he brought the truth right out in the open: those who insist Those Negroes must follow the non-violent paths blazed by Gandhi and King are basically telling Those Negroes they must comply with authority. It's a way to shut down effective resistance. Which is as thorogoing a mischaracterization of Gandhi's and King's activism and resistance as there could be.

Of course it is deliberate.

The structure of power has so far refused to yield to the demands of the people that violent policing and killing stop. So there is resistance and there are disturbances. It will continue until the killing and violent policing stops.

It's that simple.

Sometimes, however, it appears that Our Betters are simply too stupid to grasp simple concepts like that.

Stop the killing. Stop violent policing.

Just stop.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Have We Finally Passed the Tipping Point on Police Violence?

Ms Ché and I have been involved in a number of literary and other adventures during April, "National Poetry Month," as it's called. We've attended quite a few poetry readings and we've enjoyed expeditions to museums of art and science, with more to come. Soon enough, planting will start and outdoor activities and adventures will take the place of mostly indoor ones. The world-cycle will continue.

I've written here mostly about the national issue-problem of police violence and murder which takes on average three lives a day, week and month in and week and month out, with uncounted numbers brutalized and injured, physically and psychologically damaged each and every day, all through this land, in a cataclysm of violence that leaves ruined lives, ruined families and ruined communities in its bloody wake.

I've compared the casualty numbers to those of a low-key but continual civil war, with more than a thousand dead and tens of thousands injured each and every year. Overall homicide rates are much higher than the rate of killings by police, however. Police involved homicides are generally about 10% of the total; in some jurisdictions they are 20% or more, but those tend to be exceptions. What makes these statistics striking is that there are no more than one million sworn officers and fewer than that are patrolling the streets -- and killing people in the process. In other words, the seeming epidemic of police violence is being committed by a relative handful of Americans, a tiny percentage of police are responsible for a relatively large percentage of homicides.

Media coverage of the issue has grown substantially over the past years -- especially since the killing of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March of 2014, and the subsequent demonstrations against police violence. The media's narrative on events surrounding police violence and the protests against it has a presumptive start date in August of 2014, with the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. The earlier Albuquerque incident(s) and protests have been -- for the most part -- vanished from the narrative, in part, I suspect, because James Boyd was white and mentally ill, and the narrative of the "national conversation" that's been going on asserts that it is about police violence against "unarmed young black men" and essentially nothing else.

That's an important aspect of police violence, but it is not the only one. Police are violent against any perceived "Other," including young black men in general, other racial minorities, the poor and the homeless in general, anyone who doesn't fit a very narrow model of appearance and behavior, or who is mentally ill, or is engaged in a domestic dispute, or who fails to obey sufficiently or fast enough to satisfy the violent officer.

Summary executions are being committed day in and day out, typically without any lasting consequence to the police officer. 

As the outrage has grown, there is a perception that the rate of killing has risen. In some jurisdictions, that's happened, but I'm not sure it's true overall. In fact, given the police killings documented so far this year, I'm seeing a slight but perceptible decrease in the overall rate of police killings, and in some jurisdictions, such as Albuquerque, the rate of police killing is dramatically lower this year than last or years prior to the advent of persistent and large-scale protest against it.

In other words, the killing can be stopped. In some places it has been stopped, or nearly so.

Stopping police violence is possible, and the world won't end.

Making sure that happens is the necessary objective of the movements against police violence that have arisen all over the country.

As we've gone about our literary and other adventures this month, I've been struck with how this issue simply doesn't enter into the minds and works of most of those whose slim volumes of poetry are being hawked at every reading we've attended. Nope. There are some exceptions, true. The slam poets make more of it than more traditional literary artists do. But even the slam poets seem less inclined to deal with the issue of police violence than is warranted.

Yet yesterday we were at a poetry reading in rural New Mexico, featuring what I would characterize as semi-Cowboy Poetry more than any other style. None of it touched on the issue of police violence, not directly, but some of it was of the "rebel" variety. Most of the readers (all of them?) were older, near or past 70, some from the rural South, one from DC, one from Upstate New York, a couple from California, one born and raised in New Mexican. All but one was white, and the one that wasn't -- Ms Ché herself, in fact -- was Native American.

Topics ranged from horses and pigs and cats and dogs to loves gained and lost,  stars sparkling in the sky, memoirs of temps perdu, and the ways of the Divine among others.

After the reading there was an open discussion which turned almost immediately to the drug war and the lives taken and ruined by its continuance. There was a nearly universal understanding that this drug war had to stop, and with its end the ruin would stop. Here we were in rural New Mexico, amid a bunch of old coots who didn't necessarily write about the killing spree that has been the topic of so many of my posts of late, but who understood fully that the killing is a consequence of a "War" declared decades ago that has literally destroyed lives and families and communities in pursuit of a "victory" that can never be won. It's insane and it must stop. Even these old folks understand that.

I was moved.

Have we finally passed the tipping point?

I'm still not sure, but the signs yesterday were suggestive that the answer is "yes."

Rallies and protests will and must continue, but more and more, the people have had enough, and the message is getting through to the barricaded high and mighty and their servants that police violence is unacceptable and must be brought under control and ended. The consequences of not doing so include "shutting shit down," which has been a widely utilized and effective strategy. More and more "People's Courts" have been holding public mock trials of killer police and their protectors, and more and more police precincts have been put under scrutiny and siege. Police are seen more and more as the problem not the solution.

And it is being shown that police violence and militarization, much of which is a direct result of the continuing (so called) drug-and-terror war must come to an end.

It's encouraging...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Every Eight Hours"

The killing and violence by police continues.

Every eight hours, three a day, day in and day out, someone is killed by police. From my own analysis of figures compiled last year by "Killed by Police," a third of those killed by police are unarmed, a third are black or brown, a third are mentally ill or suicidal, a third are involved in domestic disputes.

Very, very few are engaged in active criminality when they are killed. Sometimes the excuse for killing is that the victim had a rap sheet. The pattern is repeated over and over: someone calls police for assistance, the police arrive with guns drawn, the soon-to-be victim fails to comply immediately with often unheard or uncomprehended police orders. Or the victim runs. The victim is killed.

Until recently, almost every one of these killings was officially deemed to be "justified." Someone did a statistical study recently and found that only 1 out of 1000 police killings resulted in the prosecution of the officer. One out of a thousand. That sounds about right.

And yet I've long contended that 90% or more of police killings are not necessary. Too often, police kill their victims because they believe that's what they are expected and are supposed to do with people who don't follow their orders or who don't fit certain rigid guidelines of appearance and behavior.

They believe that because that's what they've been told by those in charge of police forces. "You have a gun; you have training; use it at your discretion." So they do.

And they are protected by law when they do.

Laws and court decisions over many years say that police have qualified immunity from prosecution, and that they can kill blamelessly -- even when they kill the innocent.

But it's not the law that enables police killings. The law protects police who kill. It is instead the policies of police departments that enable the constant rat-tat-tat of police killings, the year in and year out "every eight hours, three a day" killing spree the police have been on for decades. Those policies can change.

Many people argue that the drug war is the main cause of so much police violence and murder these days, and they have a point. Others argue that the level of police violence and murder was greater in generations past than it is now, and they have a point, too.

The idea that the police can kill or torture/beat down suspects with impunity is woven deep in the DNA of most police forces in the country. Violence and murder is part of what they were organized to do -- whether it was as slave patrols in the South, Wild West marshals, county sheriffs patrols or civil police forces in the big cities of the 19th century.

Their violence was intended to "protect" white women from negro rape, to suppress slave uprisings, to control immigrant populations, to keep the wild Indians at bay, to maintain a rough and ready order among contending white men -- by killing those who got out of bounds or out of line.

This is who our police forces are and have always been.

When the police killing spree was well under way in Albuquerque, last year for example, it was often pointed out that police shootings and killings had a strongly 'Wild West' quality to them. I don't doubt it's true. And you still see elements of Wild West shoot-em-ups in police behavior in many cities in the West, particularly in Texas, in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and even supposed Progressive bastions as Portland and Seattle.

It happens in the country, too.

Not long ago, for example, a dude was shot and killed by a state police sniper in a little town not far from us in New Mexico. The incident was eerily similar to a state police killing last year even closer to us. In both cases, a relatively young armed (white) man had an "episode" during which he became enraged and seemed to pose a threat to others. Negotiators were sent to obtain his surrender, but he would not surrender as ordered. He insisted he be left alone. In the recent case, apparently the man wanted only to go home. In the earlier case, the man was in his own home.

In addition to negotiators, a sniper was deployed by the state police -- I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same one in both cases. When the opportunity presented itself -- in the earlier case, when the victim appeared in a window, in the recent case, when the victim got out of his truck -- the sniper shot and killed the victim.

Episode concluded.

This is not unlike what happened to James Boyd in the Sandia foothills last March. After hours of negotiation, snipers were sent, and Boyd was killed. Apparently the decision was made to kill him rather than continue negotiating or allow him to surrender. There's apparently an unstated time limit on negotiations between someone having an "episode" and police before snipers are deployed and the victim is shot and killed, regardless of whether the victim chooses to surrender.

Albert Redwine, for example, was killed by a police sniper in Albuquerque as he was surrendering shortly after James Boyd was killed as he was surrendering as well. Both were aware of the jeopardy they were in -- whether or not they surrendered. They knew the police were out to kill them no matter what they did.

Redwine was Native American, Boyd was white and mentally ill. Both of the (white) men killed by state police snipers out in the country where we live were having episodes of rage, whether fueled by drugs or alcohol, I don't know. But both of them had had previous encounters with police, and I think they both had fairly long rap sheets.

Many people think that most of those killed by police are black, typically young black men. It's not true. In fact, the majority of those killed by police are white men. It seems that mostly black men are killed because those killings are the ones most widely publicized. The reason for it is clear enough: police killings of black men are a form of terrorism long used against the black community to keep them in fear of what could/would happen if they got out of line, above themselves, or made trouble. This has been going on since Slavery Time, and it hasn't substantively changed. There is a fear among white folk that if the blacks aren't kept in a state of perpetual terror, they would run wild and rape all the white women after they killed all the white men.

Publicizing the police killings of blacks while barely acknowledging the more frequent police killings of whites is one way to maintain the terror so often deemed necessary to control the black population.

The resistance through "Black Lives Matter" and other movements is growing, though, and the terror that police killings of black men is meant to inspire is fading. "We are not afraid" is part of the protest movement philosophy. Until police killings stop, people will continue to die, of course. But the movements are losing their fear. The terror no longer is as effective as it once was. Soon enough, it may not be effective at all.

When police terror is no longer effective, sometimes the terror tactics are increased, but sometimes the terrorist police or occupation forces withdraw. That's eventually what happened in Iraq. After causing as much mayhem and misery as possible and triggering a civil war, and after their own terror tactics ceased causing more than momentary fear among the Iraqi people, American ("Coalition") forces withdrew, first to bases, then out of  the country altogether, leaving only a remnant force to protect the Fortress America Embassy. Something similar was happening in Afghanistan but has recently stalled.

The use of police as domestic terror-squads to control the population is nearly at the point of diminishing returns. Payouts and settlements for police murder and misconduct are probably reaching into the billions annually, at least into the hundreds of millions, and crime, such as it is, even with many, many more activities criminalized, is at the lowest rate in generations. The purpose of police killing, brutality and terror may have been to control those deemed to be criminals, but compared to the past, there are so few such people on the streets, police aren't even considered necessary in some communities. They cause more trouble than then solve.

For the first time in anyone's memory, police are being indicted and may even go to trial for the killings and brutalizations of civilians. Police misconduct is being acknowledged by segments of the powerful -- the very powerful whom the police serve.

This startling development wouldn't have happened were it not for the sustained pressure of the nationwide movements and protests against police violence and murder that were triggered by the brave people of Albuquerque who stood in surprising solidarity against continued police violence and impunity last year following the outrageous killing of James Boyd.

Protests continue, but so does the killing.

The locus shifts. I did a quick analysis of where civilians were being killed by police most often as of February, according to data compiled by "Killed by Police," and I was startled to find that the majority of the killings were in Texas, followed closely by California, and then, with far, far fewer killings, but still at a high rate considering the smaller population, by Arizona. Florida -- with a much larger population than Arizona -- had the next highest number of police killings.

Most states had very few or none, notably New York, with only 2 at the time.

While we may think that police killing are random-universal throughout the country, they're really not. They're concentrated in certain states and certain cities of those states. One of them was once Albuquerque, and another was Oakland, CA. Both cities have reduced their police kill-rate to practically none over the last few months or a year. Many other states and cities never had a significant police kill-rate.

The strong message is that police don't have to kill, and further, that police killings can be significantly reduced without leading to collapse and chaos.

This lesson has yet to be learned in places like Texas and California where it seems that the killing has intensified since February. But there are other places where it hasn't, and some places where police killings are almost completely absent.

A key factor in police training that seems to be a cause of so much police killing is the "active shooter" scenario. Active shooter situations are very, very rare but some police forces train as if all encounters with the public were potentially active shooter scenarios -- with predictably tragic results. Hundreds of innocent and/or unarmed individuals are killed every year by police who seem to think they are defending against an active shooter -- that doesn't exist. Black and brown men are stigmatized and shot way out of proportion to their numbers in the population in part because for some unfathomable reason they are considered existential threats by police who are playing out "active shooter" scenarios or something similar in their minds eye. That's how John Crawford III and Tamir Rice -- among many others -- were summarily executed by police officers who thought that both were armed and prepared to engage in an active shooter situation. No, the only ones who were actually armed and who shot and killed were the police.

Another factor is the constant -- and inappropriate -- deployment of SWAT teams to serve warrants. Doing such is a recipe for tragedy. SWAT was never intended for routine warrant service, but since it is deployed for these actions, many individuals who have done nothing wrong have been killed -- along with their pets and children -- and lives and homes have been destroyed all to violently serve a routine warrant that could be handled much more peacefully.

These deployments must end, the active shooter scenario brainwashing must be curtailed.

Doing those two things alone would probably reduce police killings by 50% right off the bat.

The killing must stop.

Violent policing must stop as well.

Wendy Davis over at her own site clued me to one means of curbing police violence, the substitution of police forces with a model based on threat management rather than threat neutralization. It's explained in this video by Dave Brown in Detroit:

Brown makes clear in this video something I've been saying for a long time: Violent policing, let alone police killing, is almost never necessary. There is another way that works as well or better to control crime/criminals, and that is what he calls "threat management." All it takes is the will to do it and the skill to do it -- which many police forces today lack.

But that can -- and must -- change.

Friday, April 10, 2015

We've Got to Get Beyond the "National Conversation" About Police Violence to Action

The United States has been engaged in a "National Conversation" about police violence and murder since last August when Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson gunned down an unarmed black youth named Michael Brown.

This "conversation" has been driven and moderated by the media, a media which is fully in the hands of the Powers That Be and which determines the course of "discussion." The People are permitted to participate in the "discussion" so long as they adhere to the rules set by the media moderators. When they operate outside those rules, they are ignored, and so they are not part of the "discussion."

I've wondered why, during the course of this ongoing, rolling "National Conversation" the initial police killing and protests in Albuquerque in March of last year, in which an illegally camping mentally ill man named James Boyd was ruthlessly gunned down by two APD snipers, has been all but disappeared from the "discussion."

The issue of police violence and murder became nationalized due to the killing of James Boyd last year, but you hardly ever hear about it these days, and it isn't part of the overall "discussion." The activists who were determined to cause fundamental changes in the way the police in Albuquerque behave -- and so enable Albuquerque to become a model for police reform in the rest of the country -- have largely either shut up about it or have moved on to other projects.

Meanwhile, the "National Conversation" about police violence continues, as more and more Americans are killed by police -- still at the consistent rate of about three a day -- and hundreds and hundreds are assaulted and abused as part of routine policing. When these incidents of violence and death are particularly egregious and caught on video, there is a momentary shift in the "conversation" to focus on this or that incident. But on the whole, little seems to change. Police violence and killing continues as the "conversation" rolls on.

The "conversation" is in essence a stalling tactic used by elites and their allies to ensure that the status quo is maintained -- or that the appearance of the status quo is maintained while adjustments in the way Power is maintained are made behind the scenes. The "conversation" exists primarily to divert attention from the necessity for Action.

Two recent incidents of police violence have caused slight shifts in the "conversation." In one, the video of the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, caused a remarkable action by the local PTB: they arrested the officer who killed Scott and charged him with murder one, an almost unheard of action against a police officer in the performance of his duties.

In the other, the apprehension and savage beating by sheriff's deputies of a man who fell off a stolen horse in the hills above Apple Valley, CA, has caused the typical action of police departments when confronted with video evidence of apparent misconduct: an acknowledgement that the "video is disturbing" (ie: the video is disturbing, not the actions of the deputies caught on video), and the incident will be "thoroughly investigated," which typically means exoneration of the officers involved in the incident -- due to internal, unknown and unknowable policies and procedures that authorize such violence against non-resisting suspects. Happens all the time.

Sadly, in the Apple Valley incident, the local ACLU issued a mealy-mouthed and useless statement acknowledging the authorization of the use of force by law enforcement -- an authorization that may or may not have been exceeded in this case. There was no real attempt by the local ACLU to hold police accountable for the violence documented in the video. Just as a side note, San Bernardino County was the site of sheriffs deputies burning alive Christopher Dorner who dared to point out the inherent racism and violence of the LAPD and took matters into his own hands to settle some scores after he was dismissed from the force.

The tendency in the "National Conversation" about police violence is to cast the problem/issue in racial terms, even though the issue is (IMHO) more a matter of class than race. Race enters into the picture through class, not independently, at least for the most part. Yes there are racists in police departments all over the country, and some of those departments operate from a racist basis. But the focus on race to the exclusion of class or other aspects of modern policing suggests that the issues of police violence and murder can only be solved by solving the inherent racism of American society (as teacherken suggests in this essay at dKos.)

Well, no. That's a further distraction -- perhaps one of the worst going -- because "solving" the inherent racism of American society is not something that can or will happen anytime soon, if ever. In fact, racism is so deeply ingrained in American consciousness and subconscious that it probably can't be solved short of divine intervention.

What can be solved and what must be solved through persistent action is the problem of police violence and murder which seem to be universal in American policing -- but aren't quite.

I mentioned the uproar in Albuquerque that followed the egregious police killing of James Boyd in March of last year, and how that uproar seems to have dissipated or disappeared. Something else has changed, though. The killing stopped. Well, mostly stopped. There has been one killing by APD since last July. I believe there have been three killings by Bernalillo County deputies in the unincorporated areas, and two by State Police in the outlying areas since last July. Though it is still too high, that's a remarkable reduction in the rate of police killings compared to previous periods, and it happened because of concerted public action and the determination of certain segments of the Powers That Be to conduct a thoroughgoing reform of the Albuquerque Police Department's policies regarding violence and use of lethal force.

The first thing to do was to stop the killing.

It really is that simple. The order must go out to STOP THE KILLING.


Both of these actions can be taken almost instantaneously if there is the will -- and the order -- to do so. It does not mean that the inherent racism of American society is cured or even addressed. But it does mean that the violence and killing perpetrated by police (which is one aspect of inherent racism) is curbed, and at least for a while, the other social and cultural problems can be dealt with.

The actions that caused such a steep reduction in police killings in Albuquerque are mirrored in some other cities such as Oakland, CA. The lesson is that the police can unilaterally stop killing and stop being violent assholes, and the world won't come to an end, the Apocalypse isn't any more nigh than it ever was.

The further lesson is that police violence and killing simply isn't necessary -- let alone desirable -- for a civil society to function. When police are responsible for a double digit percentage of homicides in this country (as they are), then a big part of the problem is the police themselves, not the criminal element they are supposedly protecting the rest of us from.

The public needs to mobilize against police violence and murder, but in some ways the "conversation" prevents mobilization. It's by design, of course. Those who benefit from the status quo of violent policing  and all of its many subsidiary aspects, including mass incarceration and the criminalization of whole categories of the population, will do practically anything to prevent the disruption of that status quo. But at times and in certain places, the People combined with the operators of the structures of Power can not only disrupt the status quo but institute a new status quo in which official violence on the part of police is curbed and the constant litany of killing by police is suppressed.

Those who benefit from the status quo include the media -- which is driving and moderating the "National Conversation" about violent policing. It's time to get beyond the "conversation" to action, and if that means that protests intensify and actions become inconveniences, so be it.

The killing by police must stop.

The violence by police must be curbed.

It's really that simple.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Congo Thing

[Sorry for the relatively long hiatus... it's what happens in Blogistan, so I've heard...]

I've been reading a book I received as a door prize at an event in Santa Fe a few weeks ago, a book called "Captive in the Congo, A Consul's Return to the Heart of Darkness" by Michael P. E. Hoyt.

I haven't gotten very far into it, but so far it's a pretty good read as these things go, though I take strenuous issue with the notion that the United States Government is/was somehow innocent or blameless for what happened to the Congo during and after the Belgian colonial period.

The author was appointed US Consul in Stanleyville in 1964, and within a couple of weeks, he was taken hostage along with about 250 others -- Americans, Belgians and some other Westerners and Congolese -- by rebels, "Lumumbist Rebels" they are called, who captured and held Stanleyville until the hostages were rescued by a joint Belgian/American/Cuban exile quasi-military operation that routed the rebels at least temporarily.

Who remembers any of this? I do, strangely, at least I recall parts of it, some of the names of the players and the places where some of the events of the period took place. It was on all the news at the time, but there was something fascinating about the Congolese independence movement, Patrice Lumumba, the strategic jockeying for power over Darkest Africa between the Soviet Union and the "West," the appalling behavior of the Belgians, the disgusting behavior of Americans. It was all amazing and revelatory to me at a time when I was barely conscious of politics and world events at all.

I was only 12 when the Belgian Congo achieved a very fragile independence, and only 16 when the events in this book took place.

Yet what happened -- or at least what was reported -- has left an impression on me to this day.

I wrote about Lumumba and the Belgians and the coup that overthrew him and his subsequent assassination almost five years ago now. At the time it happened, it was shocking to me, but it was being purveyed as simply the "tragic way of the world," oh well, what can you do, It's Africa, and all that.

The fact that Lumumba was an African nationalist who saw the future of the Congo and Africa in general as a future freed from Euro-American colonial oppression and exploitation was what got him overthrown and killed. The Belgians had no qualms whatever about doing what wet work was necessary to maintain control over their captured territory even if a nominal independence was granted under pressure. Exterminating a pest like Lumumba was all in a day's work for the Belgian mercenaries and their allies who continued to infest the Congo long after "independence."

Americans were part of the neocolonial pattern in Africa even as all the countries of the continent were nominally freed from their colonial overlords. They would all become economic vassals of their former colonial masters or of the transnational corporate interests fostered by the United States. There would be no alternative.

And whatever ruin was brought in the wake of this new -- but not so new at all -- order would be the problems of the Natives, not of the West or the Powers the West represented.

Natives continued to struggle for freedom from neocolonialism in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa, and Hoyt makes abundantly clear what the Official Line was about that: the Rebels were savages with little or no conception of the higher purposes for which the United States and the West were "helping" in Africa; they relied on magic to achieve incoherent ends; they brutalized and killed with bloody abandon; they could not be reasoned with; they could only be met with force and crushed.

And so it would be.

I've noticed a through line of madness that's built in to the framework of the diplomatic service of which Hoyt was a part and from which he retired (like many others of his ilk have) to Santa Fe. Madness is the word I use because of the consistency of error in American foreign policy, error which literally cannot be corrected. It is built in, part of the DNA of the Foreign Service, the CIA, and all the other "helping" agencies that go to make up the Foreign Service.

Hoyt, like so many of his peers, has no conception of the policy errors he's implementing. The institutionalization of error and the inability to do anything to correct it is one of the fundamentals of American government(s) and policy, as I found out in my eleven years in the federal service.

In the Congo, the errors compound and continue. Things may get slightly better or worse at any given time, but the underlying premise of American policy in the Congo, in Africa, and in most places around the world is simply wrong. And there is no earthly way to fix it.

Thus all the nationalist and nativist uprisings we witness. People will not put up with the kinds of indignities, injustices, exploitations and worse that come with American-style or any other style of neocolonialism without resistance. The use of force to put down the rebellions ultimately leads to more and more and more of them, until inevitably the system that neocolonialism supports collapses.

The horrors that people go through in the lead-up to the collapse are unnecessary and yet somehow seem inevitable so long as colonialism and neo-colonialism is in power and able to assert power over weaker interests.

We see what a mess so much of Africa is to this day as its neocolonial exploitation continues apace. We see the rebellions of people who understand exactly what's been happening and want it stopped. We see the consistency of error in American foreign policy with regard to Africa.

This book, despite my disagreement with the premise of American exceptionalism and innocence, helps set the stage for the perpetuation of errors to come.

I am more and more convinced that changing it requires much more than an election or two...

Heart of Darkness indeed.