“Nonviolence as Compliance” and “The Nature of Poverty” (Baltimore)

Baltimore Harbor

Lots of friends responded to “Nonviolence as Compliance,” this piece, which you can read here, that Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote for The Atlantic. I supposed I understand the sentiment. But what comes after violence is nothing cathartic. Just more decline because nobody comes out to clean out the rot left behind after the violence. I am curious what people think about (press reports concerning) local residents who are upset about the violence, including pastors, neighbors, and gang members. I’m not picking a fight. I’m genuinely curious. But having said this, what stands out as irreparably wrong is moralizing clucking about individual responsibility and “culture” on the part of conservative pundits and thinkers.  The important difference between calls for nonviolence would perhaps be the lack of self-righteousness, and the the tissue of deep connecting lines to the particular place of a neighborhood and to the people who live there.

Assuming that everything is situational, it’s not for anyone to judge anyone. If a situation is not about “persons,” then I won’t judge morally the anger of people abused by the police and maybe not even the police officers who abuse them. Everyone alike is caught in a situation beyond their individual control. Perhaps we’re all “sinners,” morally, if not legally, and I’m not going to cluck –not from the left, right, or center.

For his part, David Brooks, whom you can read here, makes perfectly clear that what’s wrong with Baltimore is what’s wrong with this country under its current economic structure. Alas, he makes it clear precisely in that he’s so wrong here about “the nature of poverty. Brooks writes, “Yes, jobs are necessary, but…” With this caveat, he undercuts the argument, which is that jobs are necessary but insufficient condition for creating a healthy social fabric. Indeed, the supporting data he provides in the article relate to what conservatives call “government handouts.” Mystical, what Brooks does not address are the unemployment statistics. Philosophically, he doesn’t understand what Hegel and Marx understood. Work is the only thing that can “repair” or even constitute “the invisible bonds of relationships” without which “life for too many will be nasty, brutish, solitary and short.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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