A String Of Thoughts On Last Night

What is a society?

Is it simply a conglomeration of peoples who agree to live in close proximity to each other without attempting to kill each other?  Is it more than that, is it less than that?  It has to be more.  It has to be more than just a social contract that takes us out of a state of nature by keeping you from stealing my stuff or me from stealing your stuff.

In a real society, the answer to the question, am I my brother’s keeper, has to be one in the affirmative.  If your brother feels aggrieved and beset by you, you cannot respond to that with the back of your hand.  Not in a real society.  If your brother complains that he believes his anguished cries to be unheard, you cannot respond with tear gas.  Not in a real society.

There is never one thing that sets people off and sends them to the streets to protest.  We mistakenly believe in the great man and great moment way of looking at history.  The idea that history is made up of these momentous occasions in which everything changes all it once.  That is only partly true, the world does change all at once, but it is gradual.  The seeds of change are sown over time, but only spring forth once the moment when the combination of rain and sunlight are in perfect harmony. 

If people take to the streets in protest, it is not because one young man died tragically.  If people take to the streets in protest it is because they feel systematically ignored and betrayed by their government and their fellow citizens and feel this is the only way they can finally be heard.

A strange moment occurred last night.  On one channel, the police chief of a small Southern (or near Southern) community used the words “outside agitators” to describe why some of the protests in his city began and on another channel US troops were being mobilized to go fight a war in a place our government seems trapped in fighting against its own will.  The word quagmire comes to mind. 

Tear gas in the streets and troop ships flying off to foreign lands.  All this has happened before and all of this will happen again.  That is one of the depressing things about humans.  While history does bend itself towards justice, it is a very slight and slow bend.  Humans congregate towards the familiar and the comfortable.  When given two choices the human preference is for the one that causes the least amount of work and pain for the greatest amount of pleasure.  History may bend us towards justice, but only with a kick in the ass.

A society whose government enforces the law with two separate standards, a society who creates laws to protect one group over another, a society that treats one group of citizens as citizens and the other group as something less, a society whose government doesn’t accept dissent or allows itself to be questioned in any way is an unsustainable society. 

We must ask more of our government then just to collect taxes and enforce property laws.  We must expect more of our fellow citizens then to drive on the right side of the road.  Everyone in a functioning society must be their brother’s keeper and government must be the main mechanism by which a society takes care of its own.  This country’s government was built to allow itself to be dragged back towards justice no matter how painful the dragging may be.  Ferguson, MO is the latest reminder of that.

Here is another reminder for your reading pleasure. 


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