An Aug. 19, 2014 Wall Street Journal article headline blared: Strong Police Presence Felt After Night of Violence in Ferguson.
“Night of violence.” Singular.
Corporate media lessons:
The unarmed man shot and killed by a local cop? Not violent.
Militarized Ferguson police officers shooting rubber bullets and tear gas while releasing dogs on unarmed civilians? Not violent.
A QuikTrip is burned down? Look out now, things have finally turned violent.
The most violent element in society is ignorance.” - Emma Goldman
The most violent element in society is ignorance.” - Emma Goldman
When such a rare incidence of anomalous violence randomly erupts, the Wall Street Journal is here to assure us that the proper authorities step in and do things like construct “a brand-new steel fence” to surround the “burned-out QuikTrip convenience store” that had been at “the center of protests and was the site of confrontation with police.”
This misinformation model should come as no surprise to anyone paying even an iota of attention so, instead of focusing on media mendacity, I'm gonna take this opportunity to present a much wider, longer perspective.
From veteran activists to mainstream couch potatoes, non-violent dissent is typically revered and tossing a rock through a convenience [sic] store window is deemed misguided and counterproductive, at best.
Since “diversity of tactics” is a topic for another article, so I'll simply ask: How non-violent is your QuikTrip coffee break?
Ferguson is a city in St. Louis, Missouri, with a population of 21,203 modern-day humans. However, indigenous humans inhabited this area for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. A little history:
“Archaeological excavations along the rivers have shown continuous habitation for more than 7,000 years. Beginning before 1000 CE, there arose the complex Mississippian culture, whose people created regional political centers at present-day St. Louis … Their large cities included thousands of individual residences, but they are known for their surviving massive earthwork mounds, built for religious, political and social reasons, in platform, ridgetop, and conical shapes.”
In fact, “St. Louis was at one time known as Mound City by the European Americans, because of the numerous surviving prehistoric mounds, since lost to urban development.”
Urban development = violence.
Yes, long before modern humans smashed the modern windows of a modern coffee shop in 2014 Ferguson, the Kaskaskia, Osage, and Illini Native American groups inhabited that general locale. But in order to make way for civilized fun like the Gateway Arch and tear gas canisters, the “Indian Removals” of the 1800s forced most native peoples onto reservations in Oklahoma.
“Indian removal” = violence.
Today, there are no federally recognized Indian tribes in Missouri. Nationwide, of course, the native population was reduced by roughly 90 percent during the 19th century.
So, go ahead and stir all that into your QuikTrip coffee and let me know if it's a touch too bitter for ya'.
While you're at it, be sure to include a generous helping of the myriad eco-systems destroyed and replaced by steel and concrete. Perhaps the contractor hired undocumented and vastly underpaid workers who were not likely to balk at long hours, unsafe work conditions, and the lack of adherence to building codes and environmental regulations. Then, of course, there’s the nature-killing materials and human-exploiting methods used to build and maintain the shop.
If that's not enough carnage in your brew, let's consider the actual coffee in your destined-for-a-landfill cup.
Most coffee is not locally sourced and therefore traveled drastically more food miles and doesn't support local independent farms and roasters.
Most coffee is not shade grown which, as explained by the Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign, is coffee is "grown under a canopy of diverse species of shade trees, often on small farms using traditional techniques." As Grounds for Change reminds us: "By purchasing shade grown coffee, you send a message to coffee farmers that there is economic viability in returning to traditional methods of coffee cultivation."
Most coffee is not Fair Trade which refers to actively putting the concepts of "fair price, environmental sustainability, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, and community development” into everyday action.
Most coffee is not organic, meaning it's not grown and processed without toxic chemicals, or cultivated and harvested in ways that protect sensitive ecosystems, and spare workers from exposure to harmful pesticides and herbicides.
Most coffee gets sugar added to it. Not only does sugar inflict violence upon those ingesting it (e.g. “The average person loses more than 90 percent of their immune function within 15 minutes of indulging in this poisonous substance,” says Walt Stoll, MD, a physician with a background in orthodox and complementary medicine. “This deficiency lasts for about two hours after the stress occurs.”), but the sugar industry is as rife with exploited workers as the coffee industry.
Most coffee gets cow's milk added to it. This is violent to the eco-system because it contributes to climate change. The dairy industry is an extension of the beef industry (used-up dairy cows are sent to the slaughterhouse after an average of four years, one-fifth their normal life expectancy), which means it plays a major role in creating 51 percent of greenhouse gases. (#factoryfarming)
In addition, humans consuming cow's milk is violent to cows: "The 9 million cows living on dairy farms in the United States spend most of their lives in large sheds or on feces-caked mud lots, where disease is rampant. Cows raised for their milk are repeatedly impregnated. Their babies are taken away so that humans can drink the milk intended for the calves. When their exhausted bodies can no longer provide enough milk, they are sent to slaughter and ground up for hamburgers."
Cow's milk is also violent to the humans who drink it for far too many reasons to list here. For now, consider the toxic bovine brew of man-made ingredients like bio-engineered hormones, antibiotics (55 percent of U.S. antibiotics are fed to livestock), and pesticides -- all of which are bad for us and the environment.
Translation: Those who discuss violence/non-violence while chowing down off the global animal food [sic] industry need to re-examine their worldview -- big time.
If we’d begin recognizing the dominant culture for what it is, the paths to collective liberation would become increasingly visible.
Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.