Interesting Question

The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another....We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men.

- Gustav Landauer, Schwache Stattsmanner, Schwacheres Volk!, June, 1910

Selected Correspondence:

22 June 2006

Don't cross the tracks before putting on your shiny shoes

Do you need a witness?
I am a witness.

Do you need a lawyer?
My father is a lawyer.

The state does what it can get away with.

The state does what we let it get away with.

The state does what we let ourselves get away with, for we, in our interaction with others, form the state.

The bureaucratat knows the average man, and especially men of the underclass are victims in waiting. The force of their action is in inverse proportion to the perception that the victim's father may be an influential lawyer or have contacts in the political classes that control them.

The anonymisation of peoples through high population density strips state victims of retributive power; in small communities, "you beat my son" is soon followed by "your cousin shall not marry my daughter". The anonymous megaloposis denies this kind of retribution.

Additional freedom is granted alone to the trikster, who through adopting the manner and dress of the establishment may fool the agents of the state into deference.

In full circle, every so often a member of the establishment, foolish enough to believe that power was within, puts on their bathers, or their sweat suit and becomes a victim. The grunts protest... "we didn't think you were the man; you weren't dressed right. it's not our fault. you must play by the rules.".

From Tiki Swain:

On the scene - 1818, Wednesday 21 June 2006

As I walk out onto the platform at Newport Train Station, I hear a woman's voice, upset but calming. She's telling someone to let them do it, it'll be OK. I look over to the far platform, across two sets of tracks. In the open-front waiting room a man is seated on the bench having his arm twisted up over his shoulder and behind his back by two other men. He's resisting. The two men handling him are nondescript, in casual clothing - both beefy, both in clothes that show wear and use, but that's all they have in common visually. The woman speaking stands outside, pacing back and forth, talking constantly. "Love, it's all right. We'll work it out. It'll be ok. I don't know who they are. They haven't told us anything. It'll be OK, just let them handcuff you. They just want to ask you some questions. Just stay calm."

Sure enough, the two men have somehow produced handcuffs from somewhere. They now have the first man facing the wall, held down, and are trying to handcuff his hands behind his back. A second woman stands outside, looking down the platform, glancing in every so often, talking steadily and inaudibly into a walkietalkie. She is also carrying no identifying marks or badges, wearing nondescript casual clothing - flared boot-topper jeans, a jacket with some random brand slogan. There is nothing to show that she has any association with the men other than her proximity and her walkietalkie - not a normal civilian carry item.

"It'll be OK. Just let them do it. I don't know who they are. They're just going to find out what you know. It can't be much, maybe a $500 fine. You haven't done anything illegal or broken the law or anything. They'll take you down to the station. It'll take only two hours or so. Just two hours, and we'll come and get you. It's OK, we'll come and get you. Just sit down now."

I wonder to myself how she knows how long a station visit takes, and how she knows they're going to "a station" if she still doesn't know who they are. I wonder if she comprehends the various levels of law involved in the conflicting statements "you haven't broken the law" and "only a $500 fine". I wonder what happened in the sixty seconds before I walked through the platform door.

She asides (at the same volume) to the other woman "I'm just trying to keep him calm". Her voice is not angry, not shrill - but definitely upset and slightly panicky. She knows she doesn't know what's happening, and that none of the three are saying anything to her or giving any explanation. Inside the waiting room they've now moved to the other wall, and are now holding the man out of my sight. She looks back in at them and starts quickly saying "Give him some fresh air! You've got to let him come outside! He needs fresh air!". She gestures frantically but frustratedly with her arms, waving her lit cigarette across the entrance as she does so.

It seems a pointless thing to say - they don't appear to be taking any notice of her as long as she's not hindering them. But then the two men bring out the first, handcuffed. He doesn't walk well. "What did you hit him with? Was it mace?" she says. "Was it pepper spray? Why did you have to do that? You didn't need to do that!" The two men lead the third into the male toilets, out of sight. The woman follows them partway, then comes back out, sobbing. "That's police brutality! All he did was jump onto the tracks!" She's making no attempt to be soothing now that she's not in front of them, letting her upset fully show, and it's not clear who she's talking to. Perhaps just all of us watching silently on both platforms. Walkie-talkie woman holds in place, walking a few steps up and down the platform, keeping the device horizontal to her ear and mouth, talking steadily, not watching the men.

The upset woman dashes into the waiting room, to a corner out of sight, and comes out carrying a collection of bags and bits, their gear. She calls out to her partner in that same calming voice again "It'll be OK. I'll find out where they're taking you and we'll get you." She approaches the woman and says in the same clear medium volume as everything else she's said: "Excuse me, where are you taking him? I need to know because I need to ring his dad and tell him, he was going to pick us up at the station." The walkietalkie woman looks past her, eyes on space and ears on the walkie talkie. The first woman comes closer. "Excuse me, lady, I need to talk to you. Please." She says it calmly and straightforwardly, with no rudeness or aggression. She is ignored. She repeats herself, and continues to be ignored. Walkietalkie woman is following one of the simple rules of enforcing submission - do not engage. Do not give any action, speech or emotion power by acknowledging it exists. Do not act in any way which encourages them to think they can make a difference to your actions.

It works. The first woman returns to her stuff, obviously waiting for a chance to speak with anyone. She intersperses her fretful pacing and cigarette waving with random callings out to her partner. "It'll be OK."
"They'll just take you to the station." "It won't take long." One of the men returns from the toilets, carrying an open notebook, and asks her if she has any ID. She says "No, but my partner does." The two of them begin speaking more quietly. I overhear a lone phrase - "We were running to try and catch the train...". She goes into the toilets with him, and almost immediately dashes out again and grabs a lone shoe from the pile of stuff. "It's OK, love, I've got your shoe. Here's your shoe." She goes in again. The only one left visible is walkietalkie woman, listening intently to the far away voices. She begins to speak again, but puts an arm over her lower face, hiding her mouth.

The Flinders St train pulls in in front of me, and I don't/can't see any more. Instead I catch the train onwards, wondering. Wondering if I'd feel trusting if I was being manhandled by two of three unmarked unknowns. Wondering at the logic of "let them put the handcuffs on you" combined with "We don't know who they are". Wondering what he did to elicit this response.

I think about the people on the platforms, who in their behaviour assume that everything is meant to happen this way, this is all orderly and expected, who assume that these three unknowns are official and that they are responding to a fellow passenger this way because he did something that deserved it.

And I think about the woman most of all. I wonder at the trust in our society that she's displaying by assuming he is being taken to a station, or is it hope? and her assuming that a station visit is something he will return from, unharmed, in a relatively short time. I consider the luxury of living in a society where people can make those assumptions, have those hopes. I wonder at her implicit belief in voice, in wording and in behaviour that playing the system and supporting it fully is the best method for survival, even when she's not sure which bit of the system they've fallen afoul of. Sort of an adult version of the child's belief in the sanctity of goodness - that bad things will not happen to you if you are good. I note that she never spoke angrily or aggressively to any of the three unknowns, or even unleashed the full extent of her feelings at them. And I wonder at this apparent belief/behaviour that intelligent reason will bring them through, eventually. I wonder at this latter because it's such a great belief of our society, yet I've never considered it true by fact, only true by mutual agreement. It only lasts until someone disagrees.

Moshe and the glass eye

Sometimes my eyes are lovingly full of Eastern European tradegy. The surest escape from the mundane is to teleport into the tragic realm. To topple kings someone must die. One soon revels in the carnage of change; whatever flowers grow at the end of Lear or Hamlet we know they blossem into a different world, stronger for the corpses under their roots.

This tradition is still alive in the Ukraine, the bread basket and basket case of 20th century Europe. Within in the life span of a working school master the Ukraine saw Stalin's genocidal collectivisation of the Kulaks and subsequent mass famine, the NKVD terror of 1937, the 1943 Axis rout of soviet forces and subsequent Weirmacht control, another round of crop distruction, SS extermination of the Slavs, scorched earth Axis widthdrawl, gradual Warsaw Pact repression and bureaucratization, and then, in homage to the Gnostic view of God, the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe just outside of Kiev (see

Man must suffer constraint to write, for a man with a gun needs no thought, but the prison state gives its citizens nothing but thoughts. Before words on paper, there must be words in the head, that that plaintive, demanding upwelling of reason that takes the place of action because the environment has action constrained. Where words have the power to change, the state tries hard to trap, burn, or blank them, such is its fear of their power. But where words are emasculated before birth, where words are powerless playings, smothered, half drowned kittens, scrabbling for someone, anyone to hold them, the state is fearless and words like birds, bees and other creatures of no political consequence are free. Now I offer you the following based on a tale of my grandfather's, which I have taken to using as a filter of men; women do not seem to feel it, being too full of future life to enjoy the austere bleakness of concentration camp sarcasm.

Moshe shuffled in the prisoner selection line with his daughter. When he came to the selection guard Moshe was told both father and daughter would be sent either to the extermination camp or the work camp. The guard found their numbers and said the daughter was go to the extermination camp. Moshe wailed, fell to the ground and threw his arms about the guard's legs, begging for his daugther to be spared. He kissed the guard's boots and offered his own life and the extraction of the last of his gold teeth. The guard smiled thinly and said, "Very well, but first you must pass my test. My eyes are completely indistinguishable from each other but are not the same. One is glass and was modeled on the other. Reichsmarshal Goering himself appointed the finest jewelers in Potsdam to craft it after I returned from the front. If you can find a way to distinguish the glass eye from the real one, I will trade your life for your daughter's". Moshe starred into the guard's eyes and slowly raised his hand, pointing to the left eye. The guard looked at Moshe and shouted, "What! How did you know?!". "I am sorry.. " trembled Moshe, "but the left eye looks at me with a kindly gleam".