“When the Social Contract breaks from above, it breaks from below as well”

A photo essay. This is about the police, though that may not be obvious at first.

It’s also about Ferguson and the Social Contract.

When the Social Contract breaks from above …

The Song of the One Percent — "Who stole the people's money? Not me, I got it from this guy ..."

The Song of the One Percent — “Who stole the people’s money? Not me, I got it from this guy …”

… it breaks from below as well:

The Song of the Hopeless

The Song of the Hopeless

To see how this applies to Ferguson, read this, from Time (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Why Ferguson Was Ready to Explode

… Metrolink, St. Louis’s light rail system, completed its second line in 2006. It provided African Americans of East St. Louis, one of the poorest cities in the country, and of north St. Louis county much easier access to the St. Louis Galleria Mall and the central cultural corridor of the city, including the hip Delmar Loop district. Concurrently, the Galleria has since seen an astronomical increase in shoplifting, and there has also been an increase in general crime and hooliganism in the Delmar Loop.

This has led many to think that the Metrolink, as it has crossed racial boundaries, has enabled African American teenaged crime. This vicious cycle of young African Americans’ antisocial hostility and acting out, hardly unique to African Americans or even to Americans, and ever increasing white fear and barricade building, have intensified racial tensions, as people find the problem intractable and increasingly impossible to discuss honestly.

The current riot in Ferguson is largely a war between police and the young African Americans who think cops exist mostly to prevent African American from harming whites.

The War on the One Percent, the War on Crime, and the War on Terror are becoming three names for the same thing — forced by the One Percent. Soon they may be nearly identical. Witness this:

Salinas CA police with their new toy (and urban-friendly camouflage). Note the kick-ass sunglasses.

The Song of the Guardians — Salinas CA police with their new toy (and urban-friendly camouflage). Note the kick-ass sunglasses.

Peacekeepers, serving and protecting … the broken Social Contract.

A scheduling note

I’m back from much travel and will be posting intermittently for a while. Check here for new posts.

First up, three interviews I did at Netroots Nation, part of my Five Questions series. This year I spoke with Congressman Keith Ellison, economics professor and guru Stephanie Kelton, and political writer and activist Robert Cruickshank. Stay tuned for those. Each one was revealing.


Twitter: @Gaius_Publius
Facebook: Gaius Publi

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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41 Responses to ““When the Social Contract breaks from above, it breaks from below as well””

  1. stephaniejmota says:

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  2. Butch1 says:

    Getting ready for their new role of suspending the Constitution and policing the innocent civilians under Martial Law. Notice even their uniforms are looking more and more like military issue.

  3. rmthunter says:

    I’m not sure it’s breaking the social contract so much as rewriting it to be more along the lines of a feudal society.

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    Here’s the link to the AFL-CIO’s executive watch site. http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014

    Scroll down and you’ll find an excellent subsection where you can compare your wages to those of managers where you work.

    You can sign up to get on their email list.

  5. Fireblazes says:

    That is because we were all taught that if you work hard, everything will be alright. Another paternal lie busted. Turns out, if you work harder, they just expect you to work even harder next year.

  6. Naja pallida says:

    If only the rest of the world would start holding the US accountable for our actions, at home and abroad. Nobody is going to impose sanctions on the US because of our failure to abide by our own constitution and laws.

  7. Fireblazes says:

    I would love to see a comparison chart of the wages of the bosses for the same period.

  8. Fireblazes says:

    Tell me, the world’s largest snack company that pays me, is cutting its lower level worker’s pay by an average of 20% or more. All the while the executives salaries and bonuses have surpassed the moon. Citing that they need to stay competitive in their wages, as a reason for their greed.

  9. Naja pallida says:

    It should be noted whenever the pay drop is mentioned that worker productivity in most sectors is up significantly, and the overall cost of business operations is down in most sectors. So, really, the employers are getting a double boost, while working people are working harder, but getting paid less… and corporate employers are laughing all the way to the bank.

  10. Fireblazes says:

    Ask the people of Soweto how this works…

  11. Naja pallida says:

    I still fail to understand how throwing rocks and bottles equates to a response with riot armored cops threatening people with guns, and using tear gas, bean bag rounds, and LRADs. They can’t seem to understand that every time they escalate their response, the violence, outrage and distrust escalates in direct proportion.

  12. Naja pallida says:

    There is no officially published number, because oddly enough… out of all the myriad of things that our law enforcement agencies track, and that reports have to be filed on all of this stuff, police-involved fatalities is not something that they keep very clear data on. The FBI report excludes federal agencies, and only uses data that has been specifically reported to them, so the number is woefully inaccurate. My number comes from Department of Justice statistics, which created a program specifically to determine this kind of information, and filter through the absurd lack of data and reporting from law enforcement agencies. It also includes all reasons someone in police custody (or attempted custody) died, not just shootings.

    I didn’t imply anything at all about murder, but when every nation in western Europe can manage to get by with single digit numbers of police-related fatalities – on a bad year, even accounting for our much larger population, the numbers are staggeringly high. The DoJ statistics show that between 2003 and 2009 about 60% of police-involved fatalities were classified homicides. Again, a staggeringly high figure.

    The only thing I implied with my statement at all was that the United States on the whole has a serious problem with its police using poor judgement and using a disproportionate level of force when it is entirely unnecessary. Our police culture, and their relationship with our communities, is almost universally broken to the point where most citizens have no faith in their local law enforcement’s ability to actually do the job of protecting and serving. They’re mainly seen as thugs with government authority to do whatever they please, and for some reason far too many people seem to think that is normal.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    Racists have been whining about ‘thugs’ since Sept. 9, 1739 when a score of slaves led by “a man named Jemmy provided whites with a painful lesson on the African desire for liberty.” (1)

    According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation poverty levels in the US by race are 13% for EuroAmericans, 35% for African Americans and 35% for Hispanics. (2)

    Those statistics on race based economic inequality combined with data on overall unemployment, underemployment (see graph below) and the drop in wages and benefits under Obama and every President since and including Carter and Nixon (3) are all we need to know about the criminality of the rulers of this country and the police and military who defend the rich and enforce institutional racsim and about the end of quiescence among African American workers as the utter failure of the Democrat Obama’s attempts to calm the increasingly combative struggles of people of color and workers in general.

    (1) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/did-african-american-slaves-rebel/
    (2) http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by-raceethnicity/
    (3) “U.S. Suffers Biggest Pay Drop On Record, As Workers Squeezed Tighter The economic “recovery” just keeps getting worse for the average worker: U.S. employers squeezed their employees even harder than usual in the first quarter, leading to the biggest drop in hourly pay on record.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/us-pay-drop_n_3391664.html

  14. lynchie says:

    By ramping up the police with the National Guard we clearly see how clueless the “masters” are. They clearly feel they can put this genie back in the bottle. Increasing claims that the folks in Ferguson have been infiltrated by outsiders who are all bad. Morning Joe is playiing this up and it plays to the bias and fears of the white community No question looting is bad, no question bottle and rock throwing is bad, but get passed that, minorities live in pressure cookers and when there is some incident like this you are going to get push back our masters feel that means more police, more tear gas, more rights taken away and we saw how well that worked in Iraq and Aghanistan, but that is all America knows how to do. More guns will mean more having no hope and fully realizing they have no future.
    By the way where is the mayor of Ferguson?

  15. Tatts says:

    That is not true. The published number is 400, and that includes people killed under justifiable circumstances (shooting at the police, physical attacks on police, etc.). The overwhelming majority of police-involved fatalities occur after someone attacks or shoots at the police).

    You imply that it’s murder, when it is overwhelmingly self-defense.

  16. Naja pallida says:

    Kind of sad to consider that the US has on average around 800 police-involved fatalities per year.

  17. Tatts says:

    “The current riot in Ferguson is largely a war between police and the young African Americans who think cops exist mostly to prevent African American from harming whites.”

    Ummm…If they weren’t harming anyone (white or otherwise), we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    In Philadelphia last year, 247 people were murdered and another almost 1200 were shot. 80-85% of those crimes were committed by young black men aged 18 to 34. The exact figures are online for all to see. The number of innocent people killed by the police? Zero. Those ratios are similar in every city in America.

    So, the legitimate question is: Who should we really fear? Who should black people really fear? Who should they be protesting against (and why aren’t they)?

    And don’t blame poverty and racism, because if those were really the cause, the violence would be coming equally from all ages and genders–but it’s not. It’s not black women killing people, it’s not older adult black men, it’s not single black mothers, it’s not poor white people, it’s not poor Asian people, and it’s not most young black men. But it is a subset of young black men who revel in the thug life.

    If it were really about poverty and racism, young single black mothers would be causing the problem (they are generally in the direst financial straits). But they aren’t the problem.

    The black community has a cancer within itself and it needs to acknowledge it and deal with it. It’s identifiable and it’s a very small part of the black community–but it’s real. You don’t steal a box of cigars because you’re poor; you do it because you’re a thug.

  18. Hue-Man says:

    Right-wing Economist magazine reports:

    “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their
    weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012
    the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of
    Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely
    to be shot by a police officer than Americans.” http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/08/armed-police?fsrc=nlw|newe|18-08-2014|5356ca35899249e1ccc20de1|NA

    I started reading some of the comments but gave up when it got into “Second Amendment needed in UK” and “facts are liberal” style arguments.

  19. masaccio68 says:

    Some body promised a discussion of the problems of NN14. Taps foot.

  20. Naja pallida says:

    Anti-narcotic laws in the US started with anti-Chinese sentiment, with people making absurd claims that opium was being used by Chinese men to seduce white women – thus shutting down opium dens. Deriding cannabis because of its use by ‘savages’, and cocaine because it supposedly made black men uncontrollable and violent. It expanded from there, not really due to any outside pressure or public sentiment, but largely by government insiders who were determined to legislate morality. At a time when narcotics were marketed as medicines, so obviously only a degenerate could possibly want to use them simply for their psychoactive effects. It started with labeling requirements, then restrictions on who could sell them, and eventually to all out prohibition. The alcohol industry had their hands full with the temperance movement, and weren’t really in much of a place to be fighting other vices… unlike today, where they have no serious challenges, so have plenty of money and time to lobby against having to compete for their market share.

  21. MichaelS says:

    Thank you for that post, Gaius — though I must admit it makes me sick to my stomach.

    I had originally thought the militarization of our local police forces was a result of over-grown boys looking for new (and dangerous) toys — just check out their camouflage — why on earth do they need that for urban policing (hat tip to Rachel Maddow)??

    But your analysis, I think, is much more on target and scares the he;ll out of me. As a dual national, I always keep my EU passport current… once upon a time it would have been unthinkable to me that I might one day need it. But in the 30’s there were many people across Europe who would have said the same about their own country…

  22. nicho says:

    Not the “ruling rich.” They may get rich, but they don’t rule. They get to wield some power, but only within the parameters allowed by the true rulers. Obama is just a task rabbit for the ultrawealthy. If he became inconvenient, they would dispose of him like a used condom.

  23. nicho says:

    Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.

  24. cambridgemac says:

    Top hedge fund managers make $3 billion a year. THREE BILLION. Even when T-bills are at one percent, the interest on $3 billion is $30 million. A year. Forever.
    So, giving Clinton and Obama ten or thirty million bucks is nothing. And million dollar a year jobs on Wall Street – which is what they’re enticing Congresscritters with (and Obama’s creep who was supposed to be working on universal health care) – is the equivalent of paying a prostitute with a hamburger and fries. To the Big Boys, that is.

  25. cambridgemac says:

    Wish I could uprate this ten times. The only thing missing is the War on Common Sense / Communication – which consists of the corps paying media celebrities millions of dollars to divert people from calling things by their real names.

  26. BeccaM says:

    There’s one more ‘war’ in that summary, Gaius — and great post by the way.

    The War on Drugs. If there was ever a more glaring example of the economic and social warfare being waged by the 1% against the lower and middle classes, it’s that.

    Just look at who is being crammed into our prisons (which, due to privatization, are becoming slave labor facilities as well as incarceration units): The poor, and most of them convicted of non-violent drug crimes. Most of the no-probable-cause stop-and-frisk arrests were for MJ, with that lovely backwards justification that a cop can’t arrest someone for HAVING grass, but he can order someone to produce it from their pockets, putting it in public view, and THEN arrest them.

    Contrast this with all the accounts of the plutocrats and their scions being caught red-handed — and all they get is probation or treatment. Even if their behavior and drug abuse resulted in the deaths of others, like that sociopathic rich-man’s kid who brought the word “affluenza” into our perverse lexicon.

    From its inception more than a century ago, the War on Drugs was declared more as a war on the underclass, the immigrants, than on the actual thing itself. Even Prohibition: The wealthy had no trouble getting all the booze they ever wanted, but the poor? They were poisoning themselves with bathtub gin and being jailed. Heroin? That was an anti-Asia measure. Cocaine? Anti-Central and South America. Marijuana? Much of the propaganda at the time suggested it was associated with Black culture in America, and of course that it made people prone to violence. And of course more recently, we had the insane disparities between sentencing guidelines between coke and crack — the former having been adopted by the rich as their drug of choice, and the latter by the underclasses because it was cheap.

    That Drug War became self-perpetuating rather quickly. Confiscations became a source of seized income for the police forces and the municipalities — which helped pay for the military grade hardware many of them are now using. “No Knock” warrants are now the norm, as is overwhelming force.

    So…yeah. The social contract is pretty much in tatters, as is the economic contract and the entire myth of the American Dream. Before long, those who are the objects of oppression and threats of violence from a militarized police, who have no hope for economic justice or a decent life, eventually they start saying, “F*ck this sh*t, I got nothing to lose.”

  27. Bill_Perdue says:

    The rich are gangsters – that’s how they get rich.

  28. bertr says:

    Point taken, and I fear the Gates’ and Bloomberg’s also.

  29. Bubbles says:

    At the core, the core cause, the cause of the history of strife begins with unfairness/injustice.

    For black people it is almost impossible to find jobs. Youth even more so. Any jobs. And jobs that provide a middle class existence? Near impossible.

    The people in Ferguson are no different than the people in Kiev last winter. They are demonstrating for a hopeful future.

    The search for traction in life is a primal instinct in all of us. It’s drives us to learn to walk and to talk. Without traction we slip into an abyss of powerlessness.

    People will seek traction and fairness.

    Sooner or later this is going to bring people into Islam, and once there, it is a short trip to jihadist.

    At that point the 1% will be dreaming of the good old days when there enemies were socialist and communist.

    Islam promises (its own form) of justice: it is unlawful to practice ursury, and the rich must give 2.5% of their net worth to the poor – as a matter of Islamic law. At some point, to the people at the bottom, this looks attractive. Since no other agency in western life is providing people at the bottom with traction, Islam is going to start to attract more people.

    Once inside of Islam they can become Jihadist. That is, they fight for Islam and in their mind, justice. In that fight, if they die, they die a martyr and go straight to paradise. Suicide bombers could then proliferate. To you and me that sounds like a fools errand. To someone with absolutely no power, no traction in life, that is something.

    The 1% capitalist better realize, that there are consequences to their actions. This is a terrible drift we are in. Islam leaves in its wake little but poverty and ignorance where ever it goes. This is what happens when you undermine and destroy the social contract.

    These people, the 1%, they are playing with fire. To Islam, the 1% is an old rival. They know what to do. Restore the social contract, and the ascent of western civilization can be restored to where it left off from back in 1970 when Western Civilization was landing on the moon.

  30. Bill_Perdue says:

    That’s certainly the case with the Bushes and Clintons and will be with Obama but still, their wealth compared to that of the Walton’s, Koch’s is minuscule.

  31. bertr says:

    Politicians tend to become the ruling rich as they make the laws that govern the economy

  32. Bill_Perdue says:

    ” 99% of human history is slavery and tyranny enforced by governments” and politicians representing the ruling rich.

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    That movement is beginning and should gather steam this fall. It’s entirely independent of the Democrats and Republicans, as it has to be to succeed.



  34. emjayay says:

    OK….one more time, class. “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” Since the contraction already used up the apostrophe, the possessive of “it” doesn’t get to use it again, so it’s “its”.

  35. emjayay says:

    That of course is what the writers of the Constitution were trying to do. They weren’t contending with the same human beings but not the same business and economic structures we have today. They would have no doubt done some things differently if they were trying to accomplish the same objectives today. Just ask Teddy Roosevelt, and that was a hundred years ago.

  36. GlennBo says:

    I agree that electing Democrats or Republicans and hoping for the best is a failed strategy and was doomed to failure from the start. There needs to be a movement that forces politicians to re-balance the economy. The sad thing is that we already know the answers to our economic problems but we haven’t built the movement to seek those changes.

    I know it’s hard. I have many enviro friends who don’t want to talk about anything other than climate issues. The sad fact is that all of these economic, climate, and social justice issues are connected directly to money in politics. If we can solve that problem like we did partially in the early 20th century, we have a chance at solving the others. But until those other splintered groups get it and become a unifying force, we’ll continue to lose like we have for the last 30+ years.

  37. bertr says:

    Enforced by the same institution of power that is hauling tanks into Ferguson? 99% of human history is slavery and tyranny enforced by governments that always trend in that direction given enough time.
    Power is always abused given enough time. If you could set up a new system, giving the full control of the economic system to one of the foremost institutions of power who have used it to abused and enslaved the populace throughout human history is not a way I would be in favor of going.
    People always scheme to extort and control whatever system is set up. All systems are corruptible and always will be. The trick is to limit the power of all systems so that when they do go bad it won’t be too late to stop it.

  38. Bill_Perdue says:

    There were two subjects, capitalism and racism. My second comment is about racism and begins with a quote from an essay at Black Agenda Report by Glen Ford.

    “America: Young Black Men Have No Right to Life – A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford – “They can be arrested for nothing, or shot down in the streets with impunity.” – There are lots of pictures coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, a two-thirds Black town just outside St. Louis, where a policeman shot down Michael Brown, this past weekend. The 18 year-old’s last words before dying were: “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting.” The cop kept shooting anyway. The pictures show Brown’s body in the middle of the street, where it was left for four hours in the baking sun. Michael Brown was shot six times, twice in the head.

    When they voted for Obama, a rebranded Republican and admirer of Ronald Reagan, many liberals hoped for a period of labor peace, an end to wars in Iraq, north Africa and on the Palistan-Afghanistan front and an end to racial conflicts. Obama has been unable to deliver any real change. That’s one of the reasons that his popularity ratings age closing in on those of George Bush in the second half of his second term.

  39. Indigo says:

    That’s right and that’s why you don’t order the Lobster Bisque (because if the waiter didn’t pee in it, you’re not dinning upscale.)

  40. Bill_Perdue says:

    The ‘social contract’ was broken a long time ago when capitalism began to dominate the American economy and politics in the aftermath of the Civil war. Huge wartime government contracts transformed small companies into banking conglomerates, huge manufacturing companies and railroads with enormous power.

    These companies got richer by the super exploitation of working people and the use of state sanctioned terrorism to suppress unions. Workers on strike were attacked, beaten and murdered, union organized were ‘disappeared’ and brought up on fake charges and acts of terrorism were common. On April 20, 1914 nearly two dozen people, including women and children, were killed at a miners camp in Ludlow Colorado, near Trinidad. They were attacked by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards. CF&I was owned by John D. Rockefeller. (The attack had fewer causalities than the infamous Sand Creek massacre of people from the Arapaho nation 50 years earlier which had fewer causalities but was other wise similar.) See Wiki for Ludlow and Sand Creek.

    Capitalism has been the bane of working people since. We won some gains during the first depression from the three general strikes of 1934 and the great sit down strikes in auto in 1936 and 1937 and those gains were the sole and direct cause of the period of prosperity from 1947 until 1978. Since then, under Democrats and Republicans alike those gains have been steadily and deliberately eroded.

    Wages and our standard of living are way down while productivity, poverty, homelessness, unemployment and underemployment are way up. And the offensive against working people continues with Democrats and Republicans vying to be the first and the meanest when it comes to gutting social security.

    We have to stop this and turn it around by abandoning the Democrats (and Republicans) and building the independent workers movement workers movement around organizing the unorganized and fighting for a decent wage for ourselves.

    To begin, the Constitution needs a fundamental overhaul that eliminates the power of the rich by taxing them for any income over $250,000.00 per year from all sources. Then we need a new Bill of Rights that empowers and protects working people, people of color, women and children and retired workers with constitutional guarantees of wages at high trade union levels, free education all the way, interest free quality housing, month long paid vacations, yearlong maternal and paternal leave, socialized medicine and 40 hours pay for 30 hours work.

  41. Houndentenor says:

    Is anyone surprised by this? Yes, they are. Because most of us have been good little sheep and put up with stagnant wages and significant inflation (to the things that make up the majority of our budgets like food and gasoline and rent). The 1% are always surprised when the day comes that the people have just had enough. I don’t think they’ve ever seen it coming. That the Mormon Church earlier this year sounded alarm bells about growing income equality and it’s impact on social stability should have clued everyone in. It didn’t. The revolution will be tweeted.

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