If a person wants to read about racist policemen killing Black men or using excessive force against them, there's no shortage of stories this week. New York City has come again into the spotlight, which isn't surprising, given their long history of questionable policing. But for this post, I want to continue to focus on Ferguson, Missouri, and Saint Louis County, where Ferguson is located.
An early indication of the fairness of the “justice” which Michael Brown's family can expect is the refusal by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor to replace Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County district attorney who will likely be prosecuting the case against the officer who shot Mr. Brown to death while he was unarmed. I see no justice coming for Michael Brown or his family from St. Louis County or the Missouri state government.
But a Business Week story that caught my eye a few days ago provoked a few strands of thought. The story concerns the description of the causes of the extreme fragmentation of St. Louis County. Over time, the county has fragmented into 91 municipalities that “range from small to tiny, along with clots of population in unincorporated areas.” Why this fragmentation? First, because the law allowed residents to fragment themselves. Secondly, because of the hellishly selfish motives of the residents, who “set themselves up as municipalities to capture control of tax revenue from local businesses, to avoid paying taxes to support poorer neighbors, or to exclude blacks.” One of the municipalities has only thirteen members – all of whom are white. And according to the Business Week article, the extreme fragmentation of St. Louis County is a key factor holding back economic development in that county.
This description of St. Louis County reminded me of the description of Hell in The Great Divorce, a short novel written by C.S. Lewis in the early 1940's. In the story, Hell was likened to a shabby gray town (or grey, if you prefer the British spelling) that seemed to go on forever, where the time was always evening, and where it was always raining. Why was the town so big? Because all the residents were so selfish and self-centered that within 24 hours of arriving from Earth, a new arrival would have quarreled with his or her neighbors and decided to move on. Because their selfishness was by now incurable, the residents continued to quarrel, and to move farther and farther apart. When the narrator in the story asked whether one could meet any famous people, he was told that they all lived really far apart. He was also told of an expedition undertaken by a few ordinary people to visit Napoleon Bonaparte – a journey which took 20,000 years. In order to locate his house, the expedition had to use a telescope. It seems those who hold power in St. Louis County have turned it into a little bit of Hell, which is ironic considering how many churches there are in the county. Truly “the salt has lost its flavor!” (Matthew 5:13)
But St. Louis County seems also to be a shining example of Dmitry Orlov's Fifth Stage of Collapse, in which “faith in the goodness of humanity is lost.” People lose their capacity for selflessness and concern for others, and become like the Donner Party, except that they don't wait for each other to die before trying to chew on each other. Anglo-American supremacist culture is an organism born already collapsed, with its emphasis on self-reliance, “freedom” from responsibility to anyone but oneself, and unrestrained competition. Even the privileged members of our society cannot rest easy, as their identity depends a great deal on who and how many people they can identify as being beneath them.
And that leads to the third strand in this web of thought, namely, how typical St. Louis County is of a narcissistically disordered family, whose head cannot stand the presence of people different from himself unless they are under his heel as scapegoats and dumping grounds for unresolved anger and insecurity. The thing that many white supremacists in this country don't realize is that even if they succeed in ridding themselves of the “named” scapegoats, that won't be the end of scapegoating, for some of their own number will be selected as the replacements for the old scapegoats. They don't seem to have the imagination to picture what that will be like.
St. Louis County, Missouri. This is the sort of place where Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot to death by a white policeman.