Tides of Flame. June 8:
We Are All We Have: On the Cafe Racer Shootings
A question always haunts violent tragedies:
Why did this happen?
Easy answers abound. The mourning public blamed the Columbine school massacre on Marilyn Manson and video-games. Rarely does anyone look deeper, to the very violent foundations of everyday life. In order to come closer to truly understanding how something like the Cafe Racer tragedy can happen, we must examine the context in which it occurs.
Journalist Kirk Johnson attempts to explore this context in a June 2nd New York Times article called “Gun Violence Wave Challenges Seattle’s Notion of Security.” In the article, Johnson links the recent spate of drive-bys and murders to the Department of Justice’s investigation of Seattle Police Department and the existence of “a small but vocal anarchist community ready on short notice to throw epithets, or sometimes rocks, at the police.” He describes Seattle as a smugly liberal city that puts its police under a bell jar of scrutiny, perhaps to our own peril. The subtext of the article seems to suggest that we wouldn’t have to suffer through quadruple homicides and accidental shooting deaths if we would just leave the police to their work and accept invasive, aggressive racial profiling tactics like New York City’s “stop, question, and frisk” program. Johnson is playing out his role as a cog in the state’s PR machine, doing what he can to help SPD weather its crisis of legitimacy.
Johnson quotes Mayor McGinn saying, “If you look back over the shootings we’ve had this year and the prior year, you can see many of them are related to the belief that it’s O.K. to carry a gun somewhere to solve a dispute.”
It’s hard to miss the irony there: this is exactly what the police—and all other agents of state violence— do all the time, every day. This is basically a cop’s job description: carrying a gun and “solving problems.” And we all know how great their problem-solving skills are.
There is the fiction of the cop—the selfless crime-fighting hero—and then there is reality. The idea that police exist to prevent anti-social violence quickly falls apart when one remembers that cops usually only enter the picture after something terrible has already occurred. The police’s primary function is to enforce the laws of ruling class; they are the wall of force that stands in the way of any struggle against business as usual. Try to recreate the commons by liberating space and see who comes for you. When the hungry steal food, when the homeless move into vacant property, when a bank is burnt, the cops, courts, and cages are there to set things right again.
This is the miserable context in which Ian Stawiki went on his rampage. Why did this horrifying, fucked-up thing happen? Because the world is a horrifying. fucked-up place.
As long as capitalism and the state continue to exist, the social cannibalism that fills the papers will persist. Coercion, exploitation, and domination are inherent to capitalist social relations. Together, they form the fabric and foundation of this culture. In this way, Ian Stawiki’s brief killing spree can be seen as a super-dense crystallization of the sociopathological essence of capitalist society.
The political-economic system that shapes our lives is fundamentally unhealthy and unsafe for most people in the world. On the local level, this becomes more and more true every day, as interpersonal relationships deteriorate and the social programs on which so many people rely are methodically stripped away. When there is nowhere to go for help, it is no surprise that individuals with mental health issues sometimes explode.
There is no easy way to solve this problem, but it is apparent that the state is doing a terrible job. Worse, it is doing it on our behalf. It’s time to take matters into our own hands, as so many throughout the world who could not rely on the benevolence of the state have done. We thus urge the creation of autonomous, self-organized networks which aim to address the emotional and physical needs of all of the individuals involved while also working to undermine the authority of the state and the omnipotence of capitalism.
Most would agree with the concept that violence is less likely to occur within a community wherein each individual has their needs met. The only reason more of these communities do not exist is because they are nearly impossible to create under this system without coming into direct conflict with the state’s forces, the police. One need not look very far to find endless examples of the violent repression of struggles for self-determination and freedom.
We have been handing decision-making power over to the cops, courts, and politicians for so long that few among us are capable of addressing even the most basic disputes. Too many expect a call to 9-11 to solve their problems. Considering cops’ horrible track record as crack-smokers, drunk-drivers, abusers, racists, and murderers, this is beyond ridiculous and borders on suicidal.
With this in mind, we must be prepare to protect ourselves and our loved ones from both horizontal violence and the violence of the state. The only way we can do this is by building strong relationships and by practicing problem-solving and self-defense (in its broadest definition) methods.
There’s no denying that the near future holds no peace in it. We can either ride this downward spiral into certain disaster or make the joyful, definitive choice to reclaim our stolen lives. Our enemies want us to forget the ferocious beauty we are capable of unleashing on this world. We destroy their power when we remember our own.