Making plans to attend the Auburn Philosophy Conference (8th annual! Aristotle and Kant in conversation! Talks by Karen Stohr, Jennifer Whiting, Michael Thompson….!). This Thursday, starting at 9am, at Pebble Hill in Auburn.
Posts from March 2016
Happy Tyrannicide Day (observed)! To-day, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two notorious tyrants.
On the Ides of March in 2016 CE, we mark the 2,059th anniversary — give or take the relevant calendar adjustments — of the death of Gaius Julius Caesar, the ruthless usurper, war-monger, mass murderer, slave-trader and military dictator, who rose to power in the midst of Rome’s most violent civil wars, who boasted of butchering and enslaving two million Gauls, who set fire to Alexandria, who battered and broke through every remaining restraint that Roman politics and civil society had left against unilateral military rule and executive power. Driving his enemies before him in triumphs, having himself proclaimed Father of His Country, dictator perpetuo, censor, supreme pontiff, imperator, the King of Rome in all but name, taking unilateral command of all political power in Rome and having his images placed among the statues of the kings of old and even the gods themselves, he met his fate at the hands of a group of republican conspirators. Led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, calling themselves the
Liberators, on 15 March 44 BCE, they surrounded Caesar and put an end to his reign of terror by stabbing him to death on the floor of the Senate.
By a coincidence of fate, March 13th also marks the anniversary (the 135th this year) of the assassination of Alexander II Nikolaevitch Romanov, the self-styled Imperator, Caesar and Autocrat of All the Russias. A group of Narodnik conspirators, acting in self-defense against ongoing repression and violence that they faced at the hands of the autocratic state, put an end to the Czar’s reign by throwing grenades underneath his carriage on March 13th, 1881 CE, in an act of propaganda by the deed.
In honor of the coinciding events, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one, together with fellow republics and federations of the free world, proclaims the 15th of March Tyrannicide Day (observed), a commemoration of the death of two tyrants at the hands of their enraged victims, people choosing to defend themselves even against the violence and oppression exercised by men wrapped in the bloody cloak of the State, with the sword of the Law and in the name of their fraudulent claims to higher authority. It’s a two-for-one historical holiday, kind of like President’s Day, except cooler: instead of another dull theo-nationalist hymn on the miraculous birth of two of the canonized saints of the United States federal government, we have instead one day on which we can honor the memory, and note the cultural celebrations, of men and women who defied tyrants’ arbitrary claims to an unchecked power that they had neither the wisdom, the virtue, nor the right to wield against their fellow creatures.
My favorite collectible coin. This silver denarius was actually minted and circulated in Macedonia by M. Junius Brutus after he and his fellow conspirators stabbed Caesar to death. The obverse features Brutus’s head in profile. The thing in the middle, above EID MAR (Ides of March) and flanked by the two daggers, is a Liberty Cap, traditionally given to emancipated slaves on the day of their freedom.
It is worth remembering in these days that the State has always tried to pass off attacks against its own commanders and military forces (Czars, Kings, soldiers in the field, etc.) as acts of
terrorism. That is, in fact, what almost every so-called act of
terrorism attributed to 19th century anarchists happened to be: direct attacks on the commanders of the State's repressive forces. The linguistic bait-and-switch is a way of trying to get moral sympathy on the cheap, in which the combat deaths of trained fighters and commanders are fraudulently passed off, by a professionalized armed faction sanctimoniously playing the victim, as if they were just so many innocent bystanders killed out of the blue. Tyrannicide Day is a day to expose this for the cynical lie that it is.
There are actually many reasons to set aside tyrannicide as a political tactic. After all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the carnage that followed as Imperator Gaius Julius Son-of-God Caesar Octavianus Augustus, beginning the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s also important to recognize that these failures were strategic failures, not moral ones; the regicides were doing what they had every right to do, even though their acts of resistance proved ultimately suicidal.
What we celebrate on the Ides of March is not the practice of tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather the reality of tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed
sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street.
Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had these moral insights at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.
How did you celebrate Tyrannicide Day? (Personally, I’ll be toasting the event at home, and doing a bit of commemorative translation work on the skolion for the celebrated Athenian lovers and tyrannicides Harmodius and Aristogeiton.) And you? Done anything online or off for this festive season? Give a shout-out in the comments.
Thus always to tyrants. And many happy returns!
Beware the State. Celebrate the Ides of March!
Damn. Hillary Putnam (1926-2016), R.I.P.
Mentality is a real and autonomous feature of our world. But even more important, at least in my feeling, is the fact that this whole question has nothing to do with our substance. Strange as it may seem to common sense and to sophisticated intuition alike, the question of the autonomy of our mental life does not hinge on and has nothing to do with that all too popular, all too old question about matter or soul-stuff. We could be made of Swiss cheese and it wouldn’t matter. –Hillary Putnam, “Philosophy and Our Mental Life” (1975)
There was an uprising this weekend at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama. Prisoners stabbed a hack, and then they stabbed the warden, and took over a dormitory building. According to the inmates, they were rioting because the guard used excessive force when trying to break up a fight between inmates. The state and every surrounding law-enforcement agency deployed massive force to seize back control over this one building and the prison is now on lockdown.
Holman Prison is a Jim Crow-era prison that was opened in 1969 and designed to hold 637 prisoners. Like all Alabama prisons, Holman is desperately overcrowded, with 991 prisoners locked together, including 157 inmates awaiting execution on death row. The prison population exploded in the 1970s, due largely to changes in sentencing for drug crimes as part of the War on Drugs; the inmate population is about 60% African-American, 40% white. The prison is located near Mobile on the South Alabama coastal plains. Temperatures routinely rise to over 100 degrees every summer. The prison has no air conditioning. Holman has a reputation for being one of the most violent prisons in Alabama, partly due to the constant overcrowding and the brutal conditions. The prison’s nicknames among the inmates include “the Slaughterhouse,” “the Bottom,” and “the Pit.”
Since they took back control over the dormitory building, Alabama DOC authorities have responded by making an intensive search for contraband cell phones, because apparently the real crime here is that you were able to see photo and videos of this happening.
Every prison is a factory of brutality and a slaughterhouse of systemic violence. Every human being caged is an offense against humanity. Free every prisoner, abolish every prison. Break the cages, burn down the prisons, and bury the chains.