A Bayonet Is a Weapon With a Worker on Each End: Rethinking Veterans Day
A Bayonet Is a Weapon With a Worker on Each End: Rethinking Veterans Day
By Colin Jenkins / hamptoninstitution.org
Nov 26, 2015

In 1885, the Knights of Labor organized a successful strike against Jay Gould's Missouri Pacific Railroad. In response to the strike, Gould famously growled, "I can hire half the working class to kill the other half."

Gould was right. In any hierarchical arrangement, where power and wealth become concentrated in the hands of a few, this tactic becomes available to those wielding this power over a vast majority. Among the masses of workers, slaves, and impoverished, there will inevitably be many willing to "police their own" in order to be in the masters' good graces. History is rife with these examples.

In ancient Greece, the "most prized" slaves were awarded authority positions over their fellow slaves, sometimes given special status as overseers. Masses of slaves captured or bought from nearby Scythia were transformed into an official police force, known as the Scythian Archers, and were "brought back to Athens to carry out the laws of the state," which basically amounted to controlling and strong-arming the slave population in the city. Naturally, their willingness to brutalize their fellow slaves was rewarded with special privileges.

On the colonial American slave plantation there were those who became actively complicit in the subjugation of their fellow slaves. In return for special privileges, these particular slaves agreed to stay close to the master, live among the master and his family, and report to the master any wrongdoings or subversive actions on the part of the masses of field slaves. William Wells Brown, a slave from Kentucky, later described the privileged status he was awarded for his "service": "I was a house servant - a situation preferable to that of a field hand, as I was better fed, better clothed, and not obliged to rise at the ringing of the bell, but about half an hour after."

In Gould's time, referred to by Mark Twain as "the Gilded Age" due to its insidious corruption and wealth inequality, social unrest among the masses of workers became commonplace. "New York City had 5,090 strikes, involving almost a million workers from 1880 to 1900; Chicago had 1,737 strikes, involving over a half a million workers in the same period." The economic elites of the time, like Gould, had two choices in addressing this unrest: (1) share a bigger piece of the pie with their workers, or (2) use force to beat workers into obedience. They chose the latter, taking Gould's words to heart, and proceeded to hire much of the working class to beat and kill the remainder into submission. Police forces and Pinkertons were amassed by the thousands to break strikes throughout the country. As consistent with history, Gould and his counterparts found plenty of workers willing to "serve" them in this role.

On a global scale, international warfare reflects this same dynamic. Throughout history, the ruling classes of each nation have utilized their working-class masses as tools of war, sending them off to fight and kill other workers in remote parts of the world. The willingness of workers to follow these orders is preconditioned through various means, all of which stem from the need to maintain systems of hierarchy. The desperation that comes with being a worker in a coercive system creates immense pressure to merely survive. Today, workers who find themselves choosing between minimum-wage jobs or unfathomable student loan debt are left with very little options in supporting themselves and their families. Material conditions force many into increasingly subservient positions. The mythological construction of boogeymen - savages, radicals, extremists, and terrorists - is all that is needed to create the illusion of an imminent threat. And grand tales of patriotism and "freedom" are all that is needed to persuade many to "volunteer" as tools of war.

So, we volunteer en masse. We literally hand over our bodies to powerful people whom we've never met, whose intentions and interests are not to be questioned, and whose authority over us is to be accepted as the natural order of things. We travel across the world, put our bodies in big metal machines, and take the lives of masses of workers whom we've never met, whose intentions and interests are not to be questioned, and whose perceived threat to us is to be accepted as the natural order of things.

Much like the Scythian archer in ancient Athens, the house slave on a colonial Kentucky plantation, and the worker-turned-Pinkerton in Jay Gould's private army, we become willing tools of powerful interests. We choose to "serve" our masters. Many of us do this because we have no other options. Many of us do this because we are promised glory. Many of us do this because we hear the boogeyman coming. And many of us do this to simply "get in the masters' good graces." Whatever the reason, our unquestioned participation makes us complicit in maintaining the coercive systems of hierarchy that continue to dominate our world. And, despite the pats on our backs and choruses of "thank you" directed at us one day a year, we remain collectively buried in this system, no different than our working-class counterparts throughout the world who we've been ordered to extinguish for the past two centuries.

The best way to honor Veterans is to question the system that creates us, uses us, and discards us. And the best way to honor our service is to ask ourselves who we really served and for what purpose.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 5,779 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
PROPAGANDA (2012)
95 min · 5,455 views today · Since it mysteriously appeared on YouTube on July 18, 2012, ‘Propaganda’ has been described as ‘1984 meets The Blair Witch Project’, ‘A mouthful of scary porridge’, and ‘Even...
The Science Behind Connection
9 min · 3,714 views today · Evolutionary Biologist, Bruce Lipton, visits the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India with UPLIFT writer, Jacob Devaney. Making a pilgrimage back to one of the epicenters of...
Life Goes On: A Positive and Uplifting Response to Dark Times
2 min · 2,644 views today · Recent world events have a lot of people feeling fearful and angry. But there is much more good than bad in this world, and I choose to remain hopeful. This video explains why.
The Safety Pin and the Swastika
Shuja Haider · 1,790 views today · The frameworks of liberal identity politics and “alt-right” white nationalism are proving curiously compatible.
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 1,750 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,223 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Obama's Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Stansfield Smith · 504 views today · It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years...
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 422 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 396 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 351 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 340 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Make The Serengeti Great Again | Resource Scarcity, Demagogues and How Creativity Can Trump Hate (2017)
5 min · 269 views today · A Familiar Tale of Resource Scarcity, Demagogues, and How Creativity Can Trump Hate A quick, original, illustrated allegory that pokes at the demagogues we’ve got with an...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 261 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 243 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 227 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Money & Life (2013)
86 min · 227 views today · Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 190 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More
Josh Jones · 186 views today · Why must we all work long hours to earn the right to live? Why must only the wealthy have a access to leisure, aesthetic pleasure, self-actualization…? Everyone seems to have...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 186 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
A Bayonet Is a Weapon With a Worker on Each End: Rethinking Veterans Day