I’m trying to understand what has been happening after George Floyd’s death. And, as always, that damn Rene comes to mind. The murder of Floyd triggered a social dynamic that no one could have predicted. Riots broke out in many US cities, London, with protests spreading across European cities, including Poznan in Poland.
When covering these events, most commentators have been focusing on the notions of “racism”, “white supremacy”, or “antifa”, “hooligans”, and “terrorism”. I, however, have a theory that what has been identified and given a name is usually not the only (and likely not the most important) reason at all.
The real reasons are usually hidden because we may be one of them. This is well demonstrated by the protests in Poznan, Poland, which – in an area that exhibits tendencies seemingly unrelated to the dynamics in countries where there are deep racial divisions – show that it can also be about something other than the conflict between whites and blacks. That it truly is!
In order to understand global protests, one must start with why Poles protest. I would like to point to one reason that is obvious and that nobody is talking about. The reason that connects those tumultuous countries and cities, and which divides almost everything (class, race, gender): the epidemic, the plague – the coronavirus.
After a period of “law and order”, societies are moving into a time of “ritual”, where what was once forbidden is no more, and so an unrestrained carnival of violence began. Just as the time of quarantine – with its repression of all our violent desires – was radical and all-encompassing, so does the next phase of violating the restrictions become radical and all-encompassing, as these desires break out of the civilizational process.
The coronavirus has put us in a great state of anxiety – for the first time on such a scale in history. This condition was only further reinforced by the quarantine. It served as a container, a katechon, a boiling kettle in which emotions and unconsciousness quivered.
This rising anxiety led to an explosion. There was a global threat, a global response (the quarantine), and a global discharge of tension (the ritual and violence). Just a moment ago, you could not see your loved ones, and now – in the name of solidarity with the Floyd family – thousands of people are uniting around the world, standing arm in arm. One big human family of mourners.
The paradoxical transition between the dynamics of the “law” and the dynamics of violence was triggered by the murder of Floyd. It is also significant that Floyd represented a minority (a real minority is always invisible, violence against it is not considered violence), which in the past has often been the victim of unpunished violence in the US (lynching).
The act itself is also telling, i.e. death by suffocation. This is how, according to Evans-Pritchard (and Girard), kings of the tribes used to be killed. Why? This method of inflicting death tends to hide the act of killing itself, leaves no traces, no perpetrators, no one is guilty, the victim seems as if asleep.
In the gruesome video from Minneapolis, we see that the police avert their eyes from the act – it was, after all, “a routine procedure” – and so they cannot see what is happening, or what one of them is doing.
This key fact is also important: Floyd, as the autopsy revealed, was a carrier of COVID-19. Meanwhile, African Americans have been said to be most at risk of this infection in the US. Therefore, Floyd did not only seem to have represented the “infectious” minority that could not be locked up in sterile hospitals, but he was also a carrier of the “plague”.
In archaic societies, this death would reinforce the order of “law”, which is always based on invisible and unrecognized violence. But it was this murder, which was supposed to reinforce order – the invisible murder of the invisible minority carrying the invisible virus – and that was exposed as a murder.
Hence the uncontrolled transition to the spiral of violence. In archaic societies, the culmination of the spiral of violence is precisely the elimination of the victim. In modern societies, however, the sequence is reversed.
Disclosure of violence leads to an increase in violence. The paradox is that our societies are unable to regain peace and go from extreme to extreme, i.e. into a small apocalypse. Some talk about the brutal introduction of law and order, others about the equally brutal elimination of white supremacy. But as usual, nobody talks about love and forgiveness.
Western societies are Christian enough to see the original murders, but not enough to be able to love our neighbors and enemies and to know what to do at all.
The article was originally published in Polish: https://liberte.pl/wrzenie-czyli-globalne-rozladowanie-napiecia/
Translated by Olga Łabendowicz