(Or, on why it has taken hundreds of years of publicly lynching Blacks, for most of y’all to find out last week.)
Bismillahi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim:
We live under the hegemony of a European project of istikbaar (aggrandizement), and istighna (delusion of self-sufficiency), which for over half a millennia has aimed to enthrone elite human whim as the sole measurement of thought and practice, policy and virtue. Like all historical recovery, the exact account of this development is contested, but certainly we can describe much of this growing enterprise. The Renaissance established a revolt against Christianity’s exaltation of monastic world abnegation and self-mortification. As with all revolts, it was accompanied by a full swing of the pendulum. Rather than seek a holistic path between spirit and flesh, a new imagination was born which reimagined the human as majestic Titan, daring enough to steal fire from the heavens so as to kindle a new life of earthly delights. This was the Renaissance’s new interpretation of the myth of Prometheus. This reconfiguration of the human kingdom, as divorced from Christian stewardship, was for the most part artistic, poetic, aesthetic. It was not until the scientific revolution where its true aim would become clear.
This stage of the modern venture attempted to project some egos as transcendent and “neutral” through its objectification and neutralization of the dynamic agency of both nature and “the other.” From among its main aims, was the leveling of all alternative systems, in favor of a Universal Objective knowledge, which the Colombian philosopher Santiago Castro Gomez calls the Hubris of Point Zero. In his work Novo Organon, Francis Bacon, one of the “prophets” of this new enterprise, confused raw instrumental power with knowledge, all the while dismissing the type of contemplative knowledge which leads to self-refinement and purification, as utterly nonsensical. For him, there were only four types of knowledge quests: the first gave the individual power over others; the second, gave the individual power over his people; the third, gave the individual, in the name of his people, power over all nations; but the fourth, and most honorable quest of knowledge gave the individual power, in the name of humanity, over the whole universe. If put into effect, this new instrumentalist conception of knowledge, would “enlarge the bounds of the Human Empire to the effecting of all things possible.”
With this redefinition of knowledge in mind, the human-right, was established by the power of the state, as vicegerent of “human” sovereignty, and not, by the dignity of being ensouled through a relationship with the Divine Breath. The proof of this is the sentence and fate of the politically disenfranchised – think, for example, of today’s Rohingya. The consequence of this, is that in all modern human projects (individualist/liberal or collectivist/socialist), the human, rather than valorized by its very nature and relation to the Divine, becomes an instrument and object of the state and of social structures set to further the changing caprice of the elite, in other words, capitalist excess and form domination.
For some, this has meant the continuous expansion of pleasure technology, and of being circumscribed by the duty to produce and consume. For others, in relation to steep margins of profit and exploitation, objectification turns gloomier. This is indeed a morbid vision of human dignity which spits in the face of the modern narrative of freedom, wherein through time, and Western proactivity, reason, freedom and civilization have triumphed over obscurantism. To alleviate the dissonance of this narrative, race and the racial contract has always been instrumental. The (full) human, has been able to avert their gaze from the ghastly bi-products of this titanic enterprise, by constructing a literal no-man’s land of the human-mule, the subhuman, and the raced. The philosopher Charles Mills has called this an epistemology of forgetfulness, a term he has used to explain phenomenon like: the gross undercounting of the indigenous by settlers, the absurd misrepresentations of our bodies by expert European anatomists, the strange notions of multiple European medical experts through the ages that this or that race feel less pain, and generally the crass apathy we feel for the suffering of the raced. The modern construction of race, and the cultural and biological racism which follow it, have forged the dual political geographies of north and south, with its dual rules of engagement as well as the state of the art and the state of war. But it has also forged two virtual epistemologies, two moralities, two standards, two moralities, and even two sense perceptions, within any single geography.
What this has meant, with regard to policing and occupation, is that the police force, with its monopoly on legalized violence, have been given the right to determine and circumscribe life and execute any form of corporal punishment based on their own, racialized, precarious, subjective, determination of criminality. And most of us have been blind to it, because, well because, they, the subhuman, human-mule (insert according to regional socio-economic contentions: Blacks, Mexicans, Latinos, Palestinians, Desi, Somali, etc…), are not alien to pain and violence; it constitutes their lives. It is part of their (our) essential definition. Such a view has been naturalized, for us, and by us.
All in all, we live under the towering shadow of scientistic racial justifications of an empire forged to uphold and promote opulent individuality, and its absolute oppression and commodification of vast populations. Now that racism is becoming (once again) a liberal faux pas, here in its cradle and port of exportation, I wonder how we, with our liberal-consumer subjectivities, will justify the type of racist occupation and oppressive policing which affords us cheap thrills through prison labor, and maquiladoras (sweatshop economies), and the big stick and glock nine policy which accompanies them.