Last year in light of the ‘London Bridge’ attack and a General Election, the Labour Party argued for more and better-equipped police. There was talk of the police having been spread thin and having ‘lost control of the streets’. There was talk of increasing the number of police jobs and putting more money into centralised services such as prisons. I do not share this dream. The US police are equipped with war machinery, and recent events show there this does not improve anything in any sense what so ever.
My dreaming begins with the observation that the administrative institution of policing has never had ‘control of the streets’. The police patently do not control the illicit activities on the fancy streets of those in our world that play oligopoly with our lives and freedoms. Yes, the police do manage our domestication, stopping some individual acts that may upset the social order that exists – an order that produces so much inequality.
But it was not the police who stopped a man being kicked to a pulp when a massive street-fight railed on in front of my eyes last week, but my friends, a young couple who intervened amongst brawling men to appeal to their sense of humanity. With the COVID19 lockdown, public space became a vacuum, absent of the self-organising relations of human presence. All our social relations were suddenly subject to a centralised broadcast. This created a weird centralised lockstep where people spent months organising every social relation according to it, from the intimacy of their sex lives to holding newborn members of their family; organised through the nightly broadcasts of a single marketing slogan.
Then this lockstep was realised to be incapable of addressing reality, with the political leaders who came up with it finding this out themselves. Suddenly, the physical vacuum of empty town squares and community spaces filled with bodies, but now also empty of the self-organising social life that manages them. It is not that people ‘reverted’ to the tyranny of ‘dog eat dog’, but like a prison that strips away our social relations with simplistic dogmas, when they momentarily crumble a riotous explosion emerges. Precisely because our social fabric was reduced to a Pavlovian bell, and we became reliant on central dogma (every other option than what has happened would have pretty much been better, especially TTI). Yes, there is much that feels possible when the social fabric is broken in some way, but it is our social fabric that has been unwoven, not that of the institutions of policing capital and state. They have continued largely untouched. And we have not even begun to feel that fabric tested just yet.
And this problem is not unique to the times of COVID19. It wasnt COVID 19 that stopped the police, or ‘the law’, from doing anything to the man who turned my elderly family members home into a shell, open to the elements, almost collapsing and steal their lifetimes’ savings. This is just a moment to be reminded.
So lets take the opportunity to value our social fabric, but not confuse it with these policing institutions that need reimagining and remaking. They are the problem. Yes they should be applauded when they break. But they are not broken. Whilst our everyday social relations are in disrepair.
One example of a post-policing world I have encountered emerges out of the coherent decolonial practice and ideology of the Rojava revolution. A few descriptive pages touching on what form this takes in terms of security forces that defend society rather than capital and the state are included below:
From ‘Revolution in Rojava’ by Knapp, Flach and Ayboga 2016 Pg 170-174