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Sabotage: Part 12 - The Foundational War
The final step of the process of repair is reparation—the actual work of repair, and the payment of repair’s natural costs. The final sabotage is war.
Note: this essay was originally published on Revue on November 6, 2022.
Welcome to all the new Twitter refugees. You may be used to me in 240 character bursts.
It *ahem* goes a bit longer here.
I should mention perhaps that you can now find me easily enough at @JuliusGoat@mastodon.social if that’s something you want to do, where I’ll probably be doing something called (improbably enough) “tooting.” If that’s not something you want to do, it’s even easier.
Perhaps the sight of an grotesque oligarch buying an ostensible public commons and demolishing it, by insisting that it accommodate and promote our society’s most vile and hateful voices rather than allowing it to moderate itself in order to accommodate as many voices as possible will put you in a good mind to contemplate what we’ve been contemplating for months, which is the ways supremacy sabotages the process of repair.
We’re almost there.
I can almost see the conclusion.
Stay with me.
I’m going to ease into it.
It’s good to think about how things get repaired.
It’s a process—a progressive sequential process. As my tradition is Evangelical Christian, I’m using terms from that tradition to describe those steps: awakening, conviction, confession, repentance, and reparation.
It’s OK; Evangelical Christians won’t mind us borrowing them. To be honest, I don’t think they’ve noticed yet that they’re missing from the shed.
Awakening to the fact that something is broken naturally brings us to conviction that it should be fixed and that we bear some shared responsibility for the repair, which brings us to a public confession of that awakening and conviction, which moves us into repentance; that is, realigning our minds and beliefs and resources away from our present direction and toward a new one—in this case, away from brokenness and toward repair; away from making other people pay the unnatural higher costs of brokenness so we can avoid the costs of repair, and toward sharing the natural costs of improvement and maintenance and repair, to benefit all in the natural human system that is society, just as every human in society enriches us by their presence.
And once all that is done, we finally engage in reparation, which is when things get fixed—and that’s what I want to talk about in this essay.
Reparation is when the work gets done, and the cost gets paid.
Reparation is when things that have been wrong are put right.
Reparation is when things of value are maintained and improved.
Reparation is when the actual repair happens.
Repair always involves costs—natural costs.
To be somebody who is aligned toward fixing broken things means being a person aligned for reparation.
Reparation, as you’re probably well aware, is not a popular word these days. To me, this is as good a way as any of detecting just how aligned we are as a society with brokenness.
If I am opposed to paying any costs, then I am also opposed to every one of the steps in repair’s process. And, as blame for brokenness is a cost of repair, if I am opposed to paying costs, then I must create a narrative of my own blamelessness. And, as remaining in brokenness carries a much higher cost than repair, I must find other people to pay those higher costs—which means creating a narrative that some people matter less than me, and in fact are the cause of the brokenness, and therefore deserve all cost and all blame of brokenness. And it this last thing—this belief that I matter more than others, or that I matter while others do not—that makes me a supremacist.
So, to be a person opposed to the costs of repair—that is, opposed to reparation—inevitably means becoming a blameless supremacist.
And, if a society is one where most people say they want to see broken things fixed, yet repair never comes, one could conclude that such a society that is, at its core, a blameless supremacist society—a society that sabotages the process of repair and never lets itself know about it.
It’s good to think about how repair gets sabotaged by blameless supremacy.
Just as the process of repair is a progressive and restorative sequence, so sabotage is a series of regressive and violent steps.
So, any awakening to awareness about brokenness is sabotaged by deliberate and manufactured ignorance.
And, if ignorance fails, blameless supremacy attacks any conviction that arises with a complacency that uses any excuse it can find.
And, if complacency fails, blameless supremacy attacks any confession of awareness or conviction with a denial that casts itself as a victim.
And, if denial fails, and people actually begin to align their beliefs and resources and wills toward repair, then blameless supremacy abandons suppression of ignorance and complacency and denial, and attacks this repentance through oppression—by making awareness and confession of truth, and conviction and intention to repair, and the very existence of other people who do not matter, into crimes, an oppression that frames the punishment of these crimes as just and deserving.
And if oppression fails? If people actually start to repair what is broken, maintain what has been abandoned, improve what has stagnated, what then? What does blameless supremacy do when it starts to fail?
The last sabotage is war.
Supremacists have been fighting a war against other people throughout the history of this nation. It’s been a war waged without cease.
There even was a time in our country’s history, from 1860 to 1864, that this war flared into battles between armies of Americans opposing one another on battlefields.
That war was over the right to own other human beings like cattle, because those other human beings were Black.
It was over the right to protect and expand white supremacy.
The supremacists who fought for that sad and failed cause saw it as their heritage. You’ll never guess: they claimed to be blameless. They said it was everyone else’s fault. These wagers of war said they were the victims of aggression.
Their descendants—some of them moral descendants, some of them literal descendants, still say so.
Go ask them if you doubt me. Don’t expect polite answers.
Question: What do I mean by war?
It’s hard to know where to start.
Life expectancy for Black people is only 71.8 years compared to 77.6 years for white people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Let’s start there.
That’s a difference of 5.8 years, according to the math I just did in my head.
According to the last U.S. census, there are 41.1 million Black people in the United States.
In the next 75 years or so something is going to steal 238.38 million years of Black people’s lives. That’s 3.07 million full lives, if expectancy is 77.6 years. That’s 41,000 people a year, every year.
I had to use a calculator for all that.
In the United States, something is stealing life—a lot of life—from Black people. It’s killing the equivalent of 41,000 full lives.
If that thing is intentional, I think we should think of it as war—a genocidal war, no less.
Let me put my cards on the table and flip them over: I think that thing is supremacy, and I think supremacy is intentional, so I think that thing is war.
I know that this way of framing the matter can result in a lot of argument and dissent, and if these words are ever widely shared, I daresay it will have that result.
And I think it will be very interesting to see how many of those arguments will be formulated and offered in a spirit that is incurious about the problem, which makes it clear that the purpose of the argument is to make sure that it is known as a first priority that this discrepancy is not intentional, and is in fact caused by any number of factors that are unknowable and unsolvable, to such a degree that any attempt to know them or solve them is dangerous foolishness.
I think it will be interesting to see how many of those arguments are formulated and offered in a complacent spirit that makes it clear that the purpose of the argument is to find reasons not to solve the problem of racial based discrepancies in the United States, or to find reasons to not even see it as a problem, or to suggest that the problem cannot be solved, or should not be solved, or must be solved exclusively by Black people who are having millions of years stolen away, because (since it is Black people who suffer from it) it is a Black problem.
I think it will be interesting to see how many of these arguments are formulated and offered in an oppressive spirit that makes the case that the thing that is stealing millions of years from Black people is Black people themselves; that they are somehow to blame, or in some way intrinsically physically or spiritually defective; fated to, or even deserving of, the loss of these millions of years.
I think it will be interesting to see how many of these arguments are formulated and offered in a spirit designed to sabotage our awakening to awareness of the problem, and our conviction that it is a problem, and any public confession of the problem, and any alignment toward repair of the problem, and most especially any repair and any cost of repair of the problem.
How many of the arguments will be formulated and offered in such a spirit? A lot, if my previous encounters with such arguments serve as any indication. Almost all of them, actually.
And what I think is most revealing is the hostility that inevitably comes, whenever there is any attempt to know or broadcast this fact about racial based life expectancy; the anger that arises whenever there is an attempt to locate the causes, the atavistic, almost instinctive rage that erupts whenever it seems that our systems might actually be aligning to try to address those causes, the way that any actual attempts to do so are spoken of almost exclusively in terms of cost, and the way that cost is spoken of almost exclusively as theft, and how that theft is used to promote and excuse further violence and marginalization and harm, and as a rationale to ensure that any efforts to address the problem are made to fail. The way the manufactured failure is used as proof that any attempts to repair are fated to fail.
And I think these reactions to solving the problem actually reveal the deeper intention, the true intention—an intent to not repair our most foundational brokenness, which is supremacy itself.
Which shows me that it was intentional all along.
And I think that’s war—a civil war that never stopped, that has been there since our very founding, the war of blameless supremacy against the process of repair, waged against the bodies and lives of people it demands must pay the high costs of a brokenness it refuses to fix, so it can avoid paying even the costs of its own blame for doing so, and demands accommodation for everything it does, on the threat of escalating the war once again to terrorists, and if the terrorists fail, to guns and armies in battlefields.
It’s a determination to overthrow the government if the government ever even hints that it might stop being oppressive to people who don’t matter.
It’s a determination to destroy everything rather than pay any cost.
It’s a war our Founding Fathers started when they ratified it into our Constitution, right next to the soaring words that we (when we are at our best) strive, finally and at last, and for the first time, to live up to.
It’s our Foundational War.
We’re still fighting it.
We inherited it.
Here’s the thing: I could have started in a lot of other places.
That was the hard part of even starting.
I could start almost anywhere, really, because when you have a supremacist society, supremacy pokes up everywhere. I could have started with any of the other statistics in the medical arena that help explain the racial discrepancy in life expectancy, by diagnosing the telltale symptoms of white supremacy: the way that Covid harms Black communities disproportionately, the way that medical care facilities and doctors treat Black patients differently than white patients; the ways that lack of access to abortion disproportionately affects Black people; the ways almost any breakdown of our heath and public apparatus disproportionately affects Black people; the ways it literally steals life from Black people.
Or I could start by talking about the effects of wealth supremacy or property supremacy, and how they ensure that people without property and wealth are thought of as less, and how they are made to struggle to survive as a result, and how all of this robs people without property and wealth of opportunity for property and wealth, steals their time and energy and resources to provide enough profit and convenience to people of property and wealth to be permitted to exist for a while longer, and makes them disproportionately more likely to experience insecurities and deprivation of food and water and shelter, and more susceptible to poor health and illness and disease and pain, and early death. The way these supremacies steal the lives of impoverished people—literal years of their lives, in ways that are statistically measurable, because they are the people forced to pay the higher costs of brokenness by blameless supremacists who refuse to shoulder their own share of the lower costs of repair, in order to go on profiting from an unnatural system designed to consume human beings.
Or I could start by talking about the effects of all these supremacies within our apparatuses of lawmaking and legal enforcement and prosecution and punishment, and the way all punishment is disproportionately levied against people without wealth or property, and the ways it resists enforcement of any real consequence against those with wealth and property, until as a practical matter “crime” actually must be understood not as infractions against the law’s letter, but as existing as a person whose life has been determined to not matter. I could talk about all the statistically measurable ways this enforcement system exists to protect property and wealth, rather than people, and the violence that does, and the ways it profits by cataloguing and warehousing human beings in prisons like no other nation in the world, and the conditions of hidden legal slavery this manufactures. I could talk about the lives it steals—literal years of human lives, and the profits this generates for already wealthy people.
Or I could start with all the ways that this application and operation of the supremacist apparatus of law encourages blameless supremacists to see society as exclusively theirs, and to resent any incursion into society by anyone who is not them, or how our lawmakers ensure that these people, puffed up with entitlement and resentment, never lack for targets or weapons, in ways that make violence and massacre and terror and insurrection not only a likely response to any attempt to repair all this inequality and supremacy, but an inevitable one. I could talk about the inevitable conclusion that must eventually be reached, that the reason we have a political apparatus that opposes any attempt to curtail massacres is because that political apparatus desires massacres as a matter of policy and strategy; that massacres should be seen not as isolated events, but as as a shadow war, fought by terrorists in uniform and civilian terror cells, radicalized and armed by a far-right supremacist political apparatus who insists on bestowing to supremacists the ability to kill those it believes need to die, as a matter of freedom.
Or I could circle all the way back around to talk about the ways white supremacy guarantees that all the adverse effects of the application, operationalization, and enforcement of wealth supremacy and property supremacy just so happen to ensure—as a matter of historical record and a matter of current public policy—that wealth and property are disproportionately more difficult for Black people to acquire and hold, and the punishments for failing to acquire them fall disproportionately harder on Black people, stealing from them hundreds of billions of dollars. I could talk about how this theft of wealth and property inevitably steals life—literal years of their lives, in ways that are statistically measurable, because they are forced to pay the higher costs of brokenness by blameless supremacists who refuse to shoulder their share of the lower costs of repair, in order to go on profiting from an unnatural system that is designed to consume human beings whose lives it has deemed do not matter.
Or I could talk about how male supremacy ensures that it all falls more heavily on women.
Or I could talk about how health supremacy ensures that it all falls more heavily on people who are sick and disabled.
Or I could talk about how Christian supremacy ensures that it all falls more heavily on people who do not choose to adhere to Christian dogmas.
Or I could talk about how gender supremacy ensures that it all falls more heavily on people who are trans and intersex and nonbinary.
And the more I did this, trying and failing to start, the more we might begin to think that the whole thing is a connected web of overlapping and interlocking supremacies, of wealth supremacy and male supremacy and white supremacy and Christian supremacy that in actuality is all one supremacy; a supremacy that different people decide to participate in from different levels of privilege seeking different advantages, but which all amount to a picture of murder and suicide: of a man with an empty gas can and two torches standing atop the prow of a lone sinking boat aflame in the middle of an icy ocean, laughing at the horrified faces of everyone else as the deck tilts toward the sky, and screaming:
“Enjoy swimming, you fuckers! This boat is MINE!”
That’s the final joke, you know; the punchline: everyone dies. Supremacy is designed to eat people, and so, if you are a person, it will eventually eat you.
The supremacist wars against repair, for brokenness; against sustainability, for unsustainability, against an attainable generative society, for an impossible individuality; against life, for death. It’s a war to be allowed to sink our shared boat, just for the privilege of being last to drown.
This is our Foundational War, which we have inherited, in which we don’t get to not participate; we just get to decide how we want to fight, and on which side.
It’s a war being fought over whether or not the human race intends to consume itself.
Supremacists are fighting to make sure that it does.
I dare to hope you have chosen the opposing side.
I think we had better win.
The opposite of reparation is brokenness—disrepair, dissolution, degradation, injustice, theft, corruption.
The opposition to reparation is the final and greatest sabotage: war.
Literally, war. Genocide and slavery.
It’s the promise that before you can repair things that are broken, you will have to fight people who would rather die than see broken things fixed.
And people quite naturally don’t want to fight. So, at every stage of the process of repair, blameless supremacy threatens escalation and offers de-escalation; a higher and escalating cost for refusing to accommodate supremacy, and a significant discount for accommodating it.
The offer is: Uncomplicated relationships and comfortable rewards for those who offer neutrality to ignorance of brokenness, who offer compromise to apathetic neglect of brokenness; who offer exonerations to those who deny any responsibility for brokenness, who appease brokenness by staying in our broken frame. Discomfort, vilification, and attacks for those who are biased enough to insist on witnessing the reality of brokenness, who are hopeful enough to believe that repair is possible and to demand it, who possess the moral clarity to know who is benefitting from the higher cost of brokenness and who is being forced to pay, who enter solidarity with those who suffer from our broken culture of blameless supremacy and refuse to leave it.
The trick is to make sure the cost of repair is always made unnaturally higher than the cost of brokenness, for a long enough time, that people learn to desire brokenness and fear repair.
War is the final threat, the final escalation. War is blameless supremacy’s response to repair; it’s the determination to destroy and kill rather than suffer unacceptable natural costs of repair maintenance and improvement.
Again this is literally war—something which steals people’s lives in ways that we can detect mathematically, statistically.
Let’s talk about something basic. Let’s talk about water.
Let’s talk about the town of Flint, MI, a town of 95,000, where people went years without drinkable water; and some still don’t have it, nearly a decade later. And you can learn that Nestle (whose former chairman and CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe believes that water should be a sold commodity rather than a human right) donated 1.6 million bottles of water in relief, and you can also learn that Governor Rick Snyder, who presided over the strangulation of Flint, sold Michigan aquafers to Nestle for $200 a year, but you won’t usually discover both things in the same place.
Yes, and also Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is delaying funds needed to operationalize the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans, funds that city of 400,000 needs for flood response—in retribution for that city not complying with Louisiana’s harmful and predatory abortion bans.
Yes, and now, in the year, 2022, Jackson, Mississippi, a town of 163,000, has had no water for months, after decades of neglect of its infrastructure.
And Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of over 3 million people, suffered a power outage for weeks this year due to hurricane, on the 5 year anniversary of the hurricane where it was left without power for nearly a year by politicians who refused to recognize that they were us.
The people of Puerto Rico happen to be mostly brown people. The people affected by the neglected water emergencies in New Orleans and Jackson and Flint are predominately Black people, it just so happens.
Nothing racial, I’m often told. It just happens that way.
We could expand this globally, to look at how we are dealing with climate catastrophe generally, and the floods that are coming and the ones that have already come, who we are making pay for our neglectful convenience.
We could talk about so many things.
We could talk about almost anything.
If you confront a blameless supremacist about this, you’ll learn that there are a host of reasons they’ve received for why this isn’t anything to do with them, why those who suffer this reality are to blame for their suffering, why their blame makes them solely responsible, why they themselves feel no responsibility and resent the suggestion they should.
My observation is a simple one: human beings need drinkable water to live, and without it they die, so if you prevent people from having access to drinkable water, you’re killing them, and if you decide to enter a spirit that makes access to drinkable water a matter of deserving it, you’re aligning with a spirit that will eventually make genocide and war not only likely but inevitable, to such a degree that it has to be considered intentional.
It’s the willing and unnatural reconfiguration of our natural human society—which provides its shared, foundational, generative inheritance of benefits automatically and inextricably—so that it instead delivers inherited harm and inherited theft, while passing on the cost of responsibility to the victims, so that it consumes more and more people to the benefit of fewer and fewer.
As we now see.
Above all, the blameless society sabotages reparation in order to claim society itself, and all the value it naturally delivers, as the exclusive property of blameless supremacists; in order to establish a framework whereby any systemic or individual violence committed to keep society its exclusive property is automatically seen as justified, and any claim of ownership of society from anyone else is seen as an aggressive act of theft, deserving whatever aggression it receives in response.
Why sabotage? To make supremacy popular, and then to borrow against that popularity to lend it credibility, and then using that credibility to further increase supremacy’s popularity.
To force people to engage in a daily fight to defend reparation, in order to frame the people who engage in that fight as the aggressors, as a pretext for waging further war against them.
To make repair an unfavorable option, a difficult burden, and highly undesirable compared to the relative ease of capitulation to supremacy.
To make repair hard, and painful, and draining, so that people learn to instinctively avoid repair, and resent those who enter into the progressive redemptive work of reparation.
To recontextualize the natural act of repairing what is broken into an unacceptably aggressive act of war.
It all amounts to sabotage: a refusal to fix broken things, to avoid paying any of a society’s natural costs, while reaping all of a society’s benefits.
Ignorance to sabotage our awakening.
Complacency to sabotage our conviction.
Denial to sabotage all confession.
Oppression to sabotage any realigning repentance.
Supremacy is a sabotage that makes war and genocide and slavery inevitable, to such a degree that supremacy and war and genocide and slavery should be considered commingled; and an inevitability that makes the cost of repair high—as high as the highest price; as high as war.
And remember, it’s all to avoid the threat of improvement; all to avoid the costs of repair; all to preserve the profits from the higher price of brokenness.
This is war: the final step in the sabotaging work of blameless supremacy.
Why would people of awareness and conviction allow a sabotage that makes brokenness inevitable? I suspect the answer isn’t so comfortable. Those of us who accept it do so because we are in the blameless society, too. We want to fight for repair, but the cost has been made too high for our comfort. We’re instinctively optimized against paying our share of the lower cost of repair, provided somebody else remains to pay the higher cost of disrepair—and blameless supremacy will always make sure that the cost of opposition is high, and that there is somebody new for the blameless system to kill.
Sabotage of the process of repair is a supremacist process, and supremacy offers its enablers temporary limited membership in its supremacy, in exchange for enablement.
And while supremacists may indeed be hateful, I think enablement of their hate is what creates the supremacy. The accommodation is the supremacy.
So we will always find that very fine people have decided to accommodate our blameless society’s supremacist war—our Foundational War—by agreeing to abandon reparation for a pre-defeated surrender.
That’s next time.
A.R. Moxon is the author of the novel The Revisionaries, available in most of the usual places and some of the unusual places, and co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media. He fakes the funk on a nasty dunk.