The State’s Monopoly on Violence
It is too early to say yet how future historians will view the present moment in history. But as we are learning about the true costs of the pandemic lockdowns—and also learning how negligible have been the benefits—it’s not unlikely that these historians will view the lockdowns as a massive exercise of violence by so-called liberal democratic states on their people.
This view is in keeping with the German sociologist Max Weber’s contention years ago that one of the characteristics of the modern state is that it reserves for itself and jealously guards a monopoly on violence. Weber’s basic idea is that in feudal times the right to exercise violence was shared from superior vassal to inferior vassal down the line in classic feudal relationships, but when those relationships dissolved and were absorbed into the modern state it accrued to itself a monopoly of violence.
In the present political moment, violence is usually thought of as being physical. But quite often, in fact increasingly more often than not, it is psychological or financial violence in the mode that sometimes is referred to as passive aggressive. Examples of the type of violence of the state on the people by unprecedented and foolish (but some would say deliberately manipulative) lockdowns are too obvious to ignore and too numerous to list.
First and foremost, and most concerning from my point of view, is the violence done by the lockdown to children. We mustn’t forget that the public school system is an agency of the state. Closing down the schools for two years has hurt our children, and in particular our most marginalized and vulnerable ones, immeasurably in terms of mental health deterioration, including anxiety and depression, attempted suicide and suicidal ideation, the destruction of socialization opportunities, as well as simple basic academic achievement. Millions upon millions of students -- those members of our society with their whole lives ahead of them -- have been harmed in a scientifically unsound and ultimately futile attempt to try to save the lives of a much smaller number of mainly unhealthy ancient members of society whose lives had largely already petered out. The butcher’s bill on this score has already for some time now been paid in instalments and will continue to come in for the foreseeable future.
The second level of violence has of course been financial. Jobs lost, businesses which took a lifetime to build destroyed, parents forced to stay home to care for children not in school -- the list goes on and on. The impact now being felt most acutely by the general public, notably among its most vulnerable sectors, is in the form of runaway inflation that has been caused by over-the-top reckless spending of printed money, none of which would have been necessary or justified except for these spurious lockdowns.
The smash-and-grab lawlessness that is now a major trend in the U.S. is a logical follow-up to the summer of 2020’s riots following the death in police custody of George Floyd and is also part of state violence because it has been blatantly allowed, even encouraged by elected, radical district attorneys.
Finally, one cannot help but mention the unlimited detention without due process and in despicable conditions of the January 6 protesters. Along with the months-long militarization of the U.S. capital this is an inescapable example of both state violence as well as a state show of strength of potential violence.
By no means is state violence limited to the United States. If we stick to so-called liberal democracies, the UK for decades now has allowed the flourishing of the so-called grooming gangs in cities such as Telford and Rotherham. Grooming is a euphemism for the incessant gang-raping, pimping and torturing of thousands of vulnerable working-class girls predominantly by Muslim immigrants. For decades, the state, from the level of municipal councils all the way up to cabinet members of the national government, turned a blind-eye on these activities until they were finally exposed by a few brave investigative journalists.
Police officers and social workers—yes, those social workers that are supposed to be replacing the police after they have been defunded—pretended that they knew nothing or, if they couldn’t help knowing something because of evidence presented to them, did nothing to stop this atrocious activity. When, in recent years, it was finally exposed, the authorities lamely explained that their lack of prosecution and other preventative activity was due to a desire to keep social peace. In other words, they were afraid that the visible minorities might riot in protest if the criminal activity were stopped. In other words, these vulnerable female children were being used as protection money, a modern-day version of Danegeld, so that the state might be able to dispense with its sworn duty to serve and protect its citizenry.
Which brings us to the present moment in the form, finally, of pushback against the state by the Canadian truckers’ convoy. Despite the smearing of these protestors by Trudeau, his minions, and the ever-complicit mainstream press, those independent journalists who have taken to interviewing hundreds of them have learned that they are ordinary citizens, workers, who are protesting not merely vaccine mandates but all of the other oppressive lockdown measures that have been in place now for more than two years and which more and more people are seeing now as having been useless or worse than useless. Even after the end of the blockade of Ambassador Bridge the state has responded with the freezing of bank accounts, suspending of licenses, confiscation of diesel fuel and now with the use of vast numbers of riot police and horses against peaceful demonstrators. At a meeting of the Canadian House of Commons on Monday evening the two leftist parties, Liberals and NDP voted to continue and extend the government’s emergency powers invoked by the Emergency Act despite the fact that the truckers demonstration has been broken up and the blockades have ended
But this type of violence is not enough; it appears that intimidation is also necessary. I live in downtown Toronto and everywhere I go I see police cars blocking of intersections, impeding or actually stopping traffic. There are so many of them that even the vehicles of parking constables and court agents have been commandeered into use. They haven’t recruited the dog catchers yet—at least not in Toronto but in Ottawa they have indeed started impounding the truckers’ pets under the pretense that the truckers are unable to take care of them.
There is no truckers convoy here in Toronto. For some months now there have been entirely peaceful marches, first protesting vaccine mandates and then demanding freedom in general, that have ended up in front of the provincial legislature. These police cars are a warning: don’t start up because if you do, we are ready for you with the entire force of the state. What they say is that the state has a monopoly on violence and will do everything it can to preserve it.
It’s impossible to predict whether Canadian police will ever get really physically violent against the general population. Those of us who lived, as I did, through the police riots during the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago, have no delusions how ugly that can get. Heck, what the Democrats have been calling the January 6 insurrection was also a police riot and you don’t have to be too old to remember that.
Max Dublin is a writer living in Toronto. He is the author of Futurehype: The Tyranny of Prophecy, Penguin/Dutton.