I didn’t watch the news yesterday evening so I only found out about what happened in Charlottesville this morning. I did some checking, saw what some of my friends were saying and decided to post this article. It’s from the Patreon Newsletter I wrote in March. I edited it slightly for clarity and added a few things.
Violence in Modern Society
For the last few years I’ve posted videos and articles, mostly on my blog and Facebook page, that weren’t about self-defense per se but more about trends in our modern, Western societies. Some of the feedback I got was along the lines of “What the hell are you talking about?” so I thought it might not be a bad idea for me to explain myself a bit. Here goes.
The last twenty years have seen many changes in not only the entire world, but in particular in Western societies and most notably in the US. I will focus on the latter, but have seen similar things happen in the EU where I live. I think it’s a universal trend as opposed to an isolated one. The picture is complex and I need to put several pieces of the puzzle on the table before it makes sense.
One piece of that puzzle is terrorism:
- First and foremost, 9/11 happened some fifteen years ago and it changed the world as well as the American government, its policies and its society.
- France and Belgium had their own 9/11 these last few years with the Paris and Brussels attacks.
- Germany had numerous attacks in the Summer of 2016. Though there were less casualties in total, the frequency was higher and the attacks perhaps more brutal (though we can argue about that.)
- The UK also had its share of terrorist attacks, with again, relatively speaking less victims but in a more personal (and therefor more frighting) manner.
- Since then, numerous terrorist attacks have been thwarted in several EU countries. This information rarely makes the news and when it does, it is routinely ignored by the media because it scares the readers and viewers.
A second piece is the rise of social media and alternative media channels:
- Facebook and Twitter became dominant platforms. They offer instant, worldwide communication via text, audio and video. This has positive and negative consequences, which I won’t go into here. The point is that news, fake or otherwise, goes global in an instant and can be seen by anybody with an internet connection, be they rich or poor, smart or stupid, etc. This is unprecedented in human history.
- Any message can go viral, regardless of significance or time frame. For instance, one man live-Tweeted the raid on Osama Bin Laden. Only afterwards did he realize the significance of what he tweeted. Another example is the live video broadcast on Facebook of the torture of a young man. This led to arrests and a debate on racism, violence and society in general.
- An argument can be made that humans have not yet figured out how to handle this flood of information and disinformation. We also don’t know how things will evolve in the future, but these issues are unlikely to go away.
The third piece is the advent of extreme positions in academia and lobby groups, in particular since the latest US elections:
- There have been countless protests and rallies on all sorts of positions. Many of these had people infringe upon constitutional rights or they turned to violence and involved not only students but also teachers. The Mizzou incident illustrates this best.
- Antifa groups have increased their presence and actions during such protests, in particular since the election of President Trump. There is an uptick also in the level of violence they use and the people they target. This is some footage of the Berkeley riots.
- Even the tiniest of minorities make claims and are extremely aggressive in pushing their agenda. Do some research on identity politics and you’ll see the most outrageous demands.
A fourth piece is the political and race issues.
- Many people of color are disappointed in the first black president. After eight years in office, the change they had hoped to see did not materialize. Combine this with the other pieces of the puzzle and then you get black students demanding segregation on campus. After Jim Crow laws, after the March on Washington and so much blood was spilled to have equal rights, black students demand segregation…
- The left and the right are polarized to the extreme. You see this in the way the presidential campaign was waged and how people on both sides interact with each other. I see this primarily with the many American friends I have and follow via social and other media. Some of them I have known for 20+ years; they are intelligent and good people and I’ve seen them argue many times in the past five elections. I’ve never seen this level of vitriol, anger and even hatred when they discussed politics. Friendships explode, people get unfriended on Facebook over silly arguments, etc. And that’s people who know and like each other, who call each other “friend”…
- The extreme proponents of each side are becoming increasingly bold and aggressive and there is no severe backlash. Not from the government, not from the media and not from the more mainstream part of “their” side. The result is a normalization of violence. More in a bit.
One more piece:
- Societies aren’t static. They change and evolve over time because of the millions of people involved who all make decisions and act in certain ways. There are simply too many moving parts for a society to ever be stable and remain as it always has been. The idea that we can keep things the way they are no matter what is demonstrably false.
- Societal progress is not a law of nature. Throughout human history, when taken on the whole, societies have slowly transformed into something that tends to work very well on the average. We are now organized in ways that are (once again) unprecedented in our history. However, there is an assumption many people make: that this progress cannot be undone. The opposite is true. Civil unrest, civil war and war are always possible. It doesn’t take all that much to get them started either. Our modern societies only exist as long as we do the work to keep them going. If they are attacked and nothing is done about it, they can fall. This has been true throughout human history. If you look at the rise and fall of civilizations, you’ll notice some eerie similarities with what we are seeing these last few years.
There’s a lot more to this, but this article is already long enough.
Start putting the pieces together and you get an ugly picture. One that leads me to some conclusions:
- In the last year and in particular since the election of President Trump, things have gotten markedly worse. More protests, more violence, more of all the negative factors all around. Nothing seems to suggest things will slow down any time soon. On the contrary, I see less and less willingness to compromise. People are shouting for “resistance” and “revolution”. I don’t think they truly understand what that means… For instance, the fact that almost every revolution is followed by repression and the settling of accounts. This goes extremely far and nobody is safe.
Recently, I talked to a man who survived the Rwandan genocide: it’s been thirty years and they still have a long way to go.
Another example: I personally know people who were the victims of the repression after WWII. They were wrongly accused of being collaborators, lost their civil rights and had everything taken from them. Their grandchildren still don’t talk to the grandchildren of the families who wronged them and it’s been more than seventy years… The aftermath of large scale conflict is a war in and of itself. Those egging on the violence don’t seem to care about what comes when the dust settles.
- Last week, several people who have an ear to the ground sent out a warning: the chatter has been picking up that the extremists on both sides are ready to go to the next level and “send a message”.
Let’s backtrack a bit: first there were protests and rallies. Then some of these got rowdy, but nothing too bad happened. Then some of these turned to minor violence. Then some turned to major violence as Antifa and other groups started infiltrating the protests. That is an escalation, due to the normalization of violence I mentioned before: as long as there is no strong reaction, they know they can push the envelope a bit more next time.
The first high-profile reaction from the opposing side came just last week. What you see here is protesters coming armed and ready to respond to Antifa with violence. Google “based stickman” and you’ll see how this is being glorified. This escalation of violence is predictable. That’s what I’ve been talking about for a while now.
You do not want to be anywhere near it…
- Sadly, that’s not the worst part. Read this first. To the average person, this reads like a work of fiction. I can attest to the fact that it is not. There are many people out there who feel just as strongly as the anti-Trump protestors about what is going on in society. Some of them are just as clueless as those on the extreme Left who push for revolution, whatever it takes. But many of them are not. They are, as this article mentions, willing to let the police handle things. Until it becomes clear to them that law enforcement either can’t or won’t do so. These are people who will not stand idly by as protestors or Antifa try to hurt them, burn their car or torch their business. I am not talking about something like the Korean business owners shooting looters during the LA Riots. That is the next step as riots spiral out of control, but it is not what the warning I mentioned was about: it’s about violent, calculated action to send a clear message to the other side, leaving bodies on the ground.
- If that happens, the next logical step is either the government and law enforcement step in and stop everything, or they don’t/can’t and it spirals out of control. This then speeds up the vicious cycle of escalating violence some more and has only one end point: civil war.
Will this happen? Nobody knows.
Will there be armies in the streets? Nobody knows.
I sincerely hope we never find out, but I am pessimistic about the future.
I debated long about writing this article.
A lot of it sounds like the plot of a bad movie or a conspiracy theory, I’m well aware of that. Some will think I’m exaggerating; I can only shrug and say that this is what I’m seeing while I fervently hope I am mistaken.
In spite of all this, I keep on living my life like I always have. I don’t hide under the covers, nor am I prepping for the apocalypse. But I’m not oblivious to reality either.
I suggest you do the same, whatever that may mean for you.
I wrote the above in March. I’ve seen little to convince me I was exaggerating, on the contrary. Now Charlottesville happened and for the first time there are bodies on the ground: three dead and multiple wounded, some critical.
This could be a tipping point, where the escalation of violence either slows down or speeds up. I fear it’ll be the latter, but it could also quiet down and go away again. There are too many moving parts to accurately predict the future. The only thing we can see is that de facto, the violence is still escalating.
Here’s what one of my friends (who is more than well-informed) wrote today, when responding to somebody who was asking for more information:
Far right asshats vs far left douche bags being used as an ignition source for others of their same ideological stupidity. The ones in charge are going dark. Sites and boards closed. Cell phones turned off. It’s progressing slowly. Building pressure and support from others.
Which brings me to some of the points I’d like to add to the above article:
- You aint seen nothing yet. If you think the violence in Charlottesville is bad, hard as it may be for you to fathom: it can get a whole lot worse. The way it is looking now, my guess is that we’ll see the violence escalate to professional levels in the near future. I sincerely hope I am wrong.
- Screw your politics. If your gut response is either “But they were Nazi’s!” or “But they were Communists!” then you are part of the problem. It is not really about those politics, not by a long shot. If you’d rather think in a binary political mindset than try to understand all the other factors involved, then further conversation is futile. Consider this though: bullets don’t care if the guy shooting them at you is a left or right wing extremist; you’ll be just as dead.
- Maybe, just stay home… I’m not a big fan of rallies and protests. I live next to a city where every three out of four days, there are protest marches, year round. In the past 30+ years, I have yet to see significant change happen as a result. But to each his own and if you feel it is your duty to take to the streets, then that’s your choice. Given what happened in Charlottesville and how I fear it will escalate, I would urge you to reconsider though. Maybe, you know, just stay home and take care of your family and loved ones.
- Do the work. If you do go out and protest, understand that expecting a rally to remain peaceful is naive at this point. Thinking that lethal violence cannot not happen is stupid, so prepare accordingly. With that I don’t mean prepare for war. If your intentions are violent, then you can go and fuck right off because you are part of the problem. If your intentions are peaceful, then I would suggest having contingency plans in place, medical kits at hand, etc.
- Do the work too. If you stay at home, but live in an area where there will be protests or it is en route to protest areas, prepare accordingly. Maybe not leave your car parked in the street, have food, water and supplies for several days, etc. So you won’t have to go outside if it is suddenly too dangerous to do so. And maybe be extra vigilant and keep it up for the coming weeks, at a minimum…
- Pipe down. However outraged you feel, maybe don’t fuel the fire on social media and elsewhere by spouting extreme rhetoric, regardless if it’s from the left or right. When the powder keg is being lit, jumping up and down while screaming about it is not helpful…
- Whatever dude… Some of you reading this will think I’m exaggerating. I can only shrug and say two things. One, it’s your life so do as you please. Two, they also said I that when I predicted bodies on the ground. How’s that working out? Yeah…
I wish I had better news to share. Be safe.