Donald Trump Doesn't Understand Riots

Published in Criminal Justice .

Image credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Do you understand how to prevent a riot? Do you recognize why social harmony is frayed, and property damage is suddenly rampant?   
Donald Trump demonstrates he doesn’t know the answer to those questions. More than once, in June, the president announced his intention to send federal troops to occupy U.S. cities. 
The president is not unique. Hardly any Americans know the actual source of domestic tranquility. 
Instead, most people are convinced that we need strong shows of force by armed authorities. Otherwise, we’ll have chaos and mass victimization at the hands of a rampaging mob.
Riots are not normal. Agitators cannot build critical mass necessary. To get the numbers needed for a riot, they need to tap into an existing rage. Human Respect is already lost as soon as vandalism, looting, and arson begin.
Human Respect is a philosophy based on the recognition that using violence to “get things done” undermines happiness, reduces harmony, and damages prosperity. 
So here’s what the president and others don’t understand… 
Societal harmony is due to the fact that most people, most of the time, practice Human Respect. Your neighbors, even strangers on the street, don’t rely on violence to get things done. They choose tolerance, persuasion, and cooperation instead.
Happiness & Harmony Undermined
By now, we all know that George Floyd was killed, likely due to the actions of Minneapolis police officers. The cops involved, especially the one with his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, knew they were being filmed. They heard objections from people at the scene. 
These officers apparently believed they were just doing their jobs, simply containing a suspect. 
Right now, there are discussions about the merits of various types of police force such as chokeholds. These discussions miss a big point! Every law – EVERY single one – is backed by violence. 
The State’s primary tactic and actual purpose is force. That’s why laws require enFORCErs.
The subject of that force might object. That’s why the Enforcers are armed. Chairman Mao was right: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
But why does that subject objection? He or she does so because their happiness has been reduced. It’s automatic, therefore, that harmony will decline, and in some cases, be replaced by outright conflict when the enforcers come calling. 
If, instead, our society prioritized and practiced Human Respect, then… 

  • We would reserve the use of force to self-defense and to arrests for antisocial actions we universally agree are crimes. For example, everyone agrees that murder is wrong but pot possession is highly debatable. We should never initiate force simply to achieve a preferred social goal.
  • We would further agree that the amount of force used must be proportional. We must never permit excessive force.

But we, as a society, have REFUSED to agree on those things and to limit the use of law enforcement. 
Instead, voters have made virtually every activity the subject of some law or regulation. Republicans and Democrats have noble or pet causes. They’ve asked the cops to do the dirty work. (And the cops willingly went along because they got greater power, bigger budgets, and overtime pay.)       
Follow the steps…

  1. Law enforcement was tasked by the voters and their favorite politicians to use force.
  2. Police, doing their job, took actions that robbed human happiness. 
  3. When happiness is harmed, harmony disintegrates. 
  4. Eventually, the loss of prosperity shows up in the form of riots. 

Doubling Down
Once again, every time someone deploys initiated or excessive force they undermine happiness, reduce harmony, and damage prosperity. 
That’s a natural principleyou can count on it.   
Sending cops in riot gear, or worse, sending the military to American cities, adds more force. That might, temporarily, restore “order.” But suppressing the crowds can create pressures that burst forth in the future because nothing was done to address the root problem. Expanding the role of violence does nothing to address the loss of human happiness. The problem might get buried for now, but it isn’t solved. 
No Values, No Peace
Rioting mobs damage property, injure people, and sometimes kill people. We can trace the rioting mob back to a collapse of values. 
Practicing the values of Human Respect is the only way we can provide true and lasting harmony and prosperity. 
Strong shows of force do not make us safer. The superior approach is maximizing Human Respect. We do this by developing an appreciation for the fact that everyone is trying to pursue happiness, and that might look different from our version. 
That’s not just fortune cookie advice. Politicians generate large stacks of taxes, laws, fines, and regulations. Practicing Human Respect means we prevent and end these disruptions of personal happiness. 
This Human Respect approach would dramatically decrease the number of times cops would be called. The number of people shot or abused by police would plummet. And we could eliminate riots over cop conduct. Someone, please tell the president this solution to preventing riots. 
Jim Babka is the Editor-at-Large for Advocates for Self-Government and the co-creator of the Zero Aggression Project

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