"Looting" in the question posed in the title of this post, could be replaced with "violence against private property". Most will probably answer both questions with a resounding "no, of course not". And I'm sure that anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of looters will be even louder when negatively answering that question. Still, I ask the question today and will try to explain why it's not that obvious to immediately condemn all looting and all violence against all property all the time...
Let me just start by saying that we accept as normal the looting on a daily basis of poor and working people by the economical and political elite; that kind of looting is normalized and is called capitalism. Capitalism is many things, but at its core it is based on the private ownership of the means of production, the production facilities and the resources needed to produce the goods at those facilities, including the labor provided by the workers. Workers sell their time, physical and mental labor for wages that are worth far less than what their labor produces for the owners; this way the wealth of the owners grows, while that of the workers doesn't. That's because when the owners' wealth grows, they don't pay the workers higher wages but instead hire more workers for the same wages in order for their wealth to grow even more and even quicker. No matter how you want to euphemistically describe this process, it's a system based on exploitation and adheres to the same underlying principle of feudalism and slavery; it's still a minority exploiting the labor of the majority that is dependent on the owners of the means of production to make a living.
There's a subtle difference between private property and personal property I'd like to put before you. Personal property is the stuff we all individually own, like our cars, houses, toothbrushes, clothes and so on. It's the stuff that's necessary for any individual to lead a normal, maybe even a dignified life. Private property however is the stuff that's needed for a community of people to lead a normal life, but is not owned by that community. The "means of production" in this discussion are the things from which all is produced that all individuals that make up society need, yet isn't owned by that society; that's what's wrong with capitalism, and that's why the owners of the means of production have such power over those who don't, which is the large majority of any society on this planet.
Now, let's ask ourselves this question: when do we see looting and violence against private property take place on a large scale? You already know the answer: this always happens right after a grave injustice has been done to the large majority in name of the capitalists. Recently it has been the killing and or shooting of innocent black men by the police. We've also seen it happen after summits of the G8 or G7, where the representatives of the economical and political elites come together to make plans on how they can continue exploiting the 99%. Or during some of the "Occupy" series of international protests. The police, and this is very important to understand, is the first line of defense for the capitalists and capitalism. The "law and order" they've sworn to maintain and uphold isn't just any kind of "law and order"; the laws are made by and for the minority that owns all the private property that society needs to survive, and the order is an unchanging state of affairs in which they can keep that private property and protect that private property. This is a wild guess, but I bet that more than 90% of all the laws are directly or indirectly related to the protection of property, and most of that for the protection of private property. With that in mind it's only a short step to understanding that those with most property, the wealthiest among us, enjoy most of the protection offered by law-enforcement as well as the rest of the justice-system.
Is Property Violence Ever Morally Acceptable?
In short, the looting, rioting and violence against private property now seen in America is a reaction to the looting we've normalized, or let normalize, but actually isn't normal at all. The protests against the police are protests against the violence and the threat of violence that's used by the political and economical elite to maintain THEIR order. This and more is explained in the below linked video, one that I highly recommend you all to watch. It explains how police as we know it exists because of capitalism; the current of centralized police forces are fairly new and came into being alongside capitalism. In America particularly, early policing was done to return runaway slaves to their owners and to suppress unionization among the work-force in early industrial capitalism. What makes this video even more interesting is that it explains all this and more (a lot more) with the use of a role-playing game called Disco Elysium in which players take on the role of a police detective who has lost his memory, and will develop morals, ethics, political ideologies according to the decisions players make while trying to solve murders in an open world. The narrator played to the game twice; the first time he made decisions according to his own anarchist and communist ideology, the main character became a communist who questioned the power invested in him as a police officer. The second time he made the opposite decisions and acted like the "strong arm of the law" we're familiar with in the real world, and at the end of that play-through the main character became a fascist who gladly licked the boots of the capitalists he's supposed to serve and protect.
We can't explain systemic failures and systemic injustices by reducing every occurrence of a perceived injustice to the individual level. You can't say to the many young black men who grow up in the poor neighborhoods with badly funded and bad schools, invested with crime and drugs, who then end up in jail, or end up poor, to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That doesn't work that way; systemic problems need systemic change. In the same vein you can't condemn multiple instances of rioting, looting and violence against private property by pointing fingers at the individuals who do the violence and looting. There's something wrong with the socioeconomic arrangement that causes this to happen, ans we need to understand why it happens, and if we do, we can understand that minor tweaks in the current state of policing won't change a thing. "People who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable," is a poignant statement made in the above linked video by Kyle Kulinski. The below linked video gives an example of how rioting and looting was the only reason for the state to convict a policeman who murdered an innocent black man. The policeman wasn't convicted for murder though, but for "involuntary manslaughter", and not because he shot that black man in the back, but because the riots cost the city money and arresting and convicting him was the best guarantee against further riots... See how that works? This is another great statement, borrowed by Kyle Kulinski from Martin Luther King Jr.: "A riot is the language of the unheard". Now, after reading this and after watching the videos, ask yourself again: "Is Looting Ever Justifiable?"
Disco Elysium - All Hobocops Are ...
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