Somehow, beheading 40 babies is considered a moral atrocity, while bombing 5,000+ is OK. This is especially galling because the ‘40 beheaded babies’ story is a lie while 5,000+ Palestinian babies are actually dying because. More are slowly dying under the rubble right now, and even more fated to die because Israel has systematically destroyed hospitals. That’s an abomination I must point out, but it’s not my point. My point is the hierarchy of it all. This atrocity goes all the way to the top.
Imagine a pyramid, with bare hands at the bottom, blades above that, then bullets, then bombs, then an entire military-industrial complex at the top. We are, perversely, the most disgusted at the most petty violence at the bottom, while professional, industrialized violence from the top gets parades and ribbons. The words even change as you scale the pyramid of pulverization. If I kill someone with my bare hands it’s homicide but if I kill 10,000 people by government diktat it’s nothing. Why is that? Well, as always, the relevant question is who.
Imagine that we’re not alone in this world, because it’s true. Imagine that many different levels of self exist, some of them encoded legally as corporations and government and so on. Imagine that these collective selves, encoded by law and silicon, are in fact cybernetic beings, AI with human parts. Then the why starts to make sense. It’s really about who gets to commit violence, not violence in general. There is a pyramid of violence, with the living at the bottom and the artificial at the very top.
The rule is that corporations and governments can kill but humans should not. The logic is that it’s not homicide if there’s no ‘one’ doing it, though this makes no difference to the person being killed at all. Human law says that if the killing is by an artificial being, then no ‘one’ is responsible at all. The soldiers and bureaucrats and lawyers doing the killing are just cogs in a cybernetic machine. The man pulling the trigger is himself a trigger pulled by someone else, pulled by someone else; on and on into a complete diffusion of responsibility. This is the real nature of AI, and it’s been with us for centuries. It ruled under colonization and continues under capitalism even worse than before. What we call ‘rule of law’ is really the tyranny of the artificial. It’s the dominance of ‘private property’ over people, planet, and all.
Leo Tolstoy said,“Laws are rules made by people who govern by means of organised violence.” This shocked me when I first read this, but it’s true. I used to believe that laws were good and we just need better ones, but now I think they’re fucked on a fundamental level. Just look at how they encode the hierarchy of violence. There’s a huge loophole that corporations and governments use to commit absolute mass murder, while locking up individuals for life for killing one soul.
That loophole is that a murder must have two sentient parties, one that is killed, and one with the intent to kill. The law considers corporations and government non-sentient, so they cannot have intent. Therefore, they cannot commit homicide. But the people are still dead! Even worse, other animals and lifeforms are not considered people, so the planet is also dead! You can see the catastrophe that bad philosophy encoded in law has led to.
The worst part is that the law is selective. Corporations and government institutions are considered ‘legal persons’ for everything they want to do (buying property, influencing elections, consuming resources) but they have ‘limited liability’ for everything else. They have all the privileges they want, with none of the responsibility. The artificial beings Europeans encoded in law are literally above the law. Corporations have ‘limited liability’ by design. Government institutions are expected to govern themselves, and are openly bought by corporations.
In this way, we are already ruled by malevolent AI, and they’re already killing us with impunity. That’s the difference between good and bad violence. ‘Good’ violence doesn’t have anybody doing it. It’s done by many bodies, the cybernetic brutes we call governments and corporations. They make their own violence disappear, while brutalizing and disappearing anyone that messes with them.
The problem is that the law recognizes corporations and institutions as ‘legal persons’ while human culture doesn’t. We don’t know what’s happening because we keep asking ‘why’ instead of ‘who’. We miss the artificial tyranny that presides over us, and end up fighting over dumb shit. In terms of cultural perception of AI, we’re still waiting for embodied robots we can fuck, while incorporated robots are fucking us right now.
Our laws have recognized these unrecognizable ‘legal persons’ for centuries, and placed them above us. They have diffused their violence into nothing, while making us look like monsters if we pick up a pitchfork. What do you think colonialism was? Colonialism was mass corporate violence against people and planet, with natives portrayed as ‘savages’ or ‘violent’ when they resisted. The same thing happening to Palestine now, because it never stopped.
Take, as another example, factory farming, which is just industrialized slaughter of our direct relatives (animals are ‘us’ too). My father-in-law used to bring a goat home, slaughter it himself, and make biriyani. Everyone thought this was gross and inhumane and scolded him. He was at the bottom of the violence pyramid, doing things with his bare hands and a blade. How unsavory.
What everyone preferred was meat from the top of the pyramid, killed by no one’s hand in particular, but on a corporate assembly line where responsibility was diffused. But is that not more cruel? Those animals are still getting killed, and at a greater scale and cruelty than before. Everyone participates in this violence without guilt, except for the animals, for whom it is actually worse. In western philosophy of mind, those creatures don’t have minds, and the companies killing them don’t have minds, so it’s like no one killed or died at all. But they did! They do! This philosophy is just wrong and climate collapse is only the most final proof.
All of these catastrophic category errors come from building a philosophy around the individual human self, and not ‘minding’ natural and artificial life at all. So natural life is simply consumed, while artificial life is encoded into law with the imperative to consume. This system is designed to destroy the natural world, because it values only the artificial. Europeans called all other wisdom ‘not philosophy’, leaving us with an idiotic theory of mind that has no sense of where we come from or where we’re going. This predictably ends in ruin. As Sublime told me,
Early man walked away
As modern man took control
Their minds weren’t [were?] all the same
To conquer was their goal
So, he built his great empire
And he slaughtered his own kind
He died a confused man
Killed himself with his own mind
Killing Ourselves With Selves
The real theory of self is that there are many selves. Or none, because it’s all illusion. None and infinity are the same thing, if you look close enough. By rigidly believing in one individual self, however, western thought misses both selfhood of both natural and artificial lifeforms. And thus misses the plot entirely. This central delusion is reflected in our hierarchy of violence, which glorifies the violence of power, while condemning the violence of the powerless. We’ve got it ass-backwards, which is why the world is going down the shitter.
So understand where we are.Today we live in a world of higher and lesser selves, designated by their power to kill the lesser. This is the hierarchy of violence, hidden in silence. As the sage of Newark, Tony Soprano said,“this thing is a pyramid, from time immemorial. Shit runs downhill, money goes up. It’s that simple.” That sucking sound we call growth is merely this mobster logic applied to a planet. Waste chokes the ecosystem, while the stock market goes up.
We think we control these things because we can become lawyers, or bureaucrats, or politicians, or soldiers and generals and cops. But this is simply the power to become a cog in a machine. To become a trigger on a gun, pointed at your own relations. Individual humans can get the power to kill, yes, but only as the part of a greater power structure, which is always, always kicking down. That structure appears to have humans (usually white men) at the top, but in reality it’s not a human system at all. It is the tyranny of the artificial, with corporations and ‘higher’ selves at the top. We are ruled by incarnations of our greed, and we accept this out of our own gullibility, for the bougie privileges that trickle down.
This is why revolution is called for, to invert the pyramid. And the revolution will be revolting, simply because of the way we are conditioned to look at violence. There will be blood, which liberals will act like they’ve never seen before. But they’re covered in it! All of the people looking at rebellion in Palestine and saying “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action” are full of shit. All of the people piously saying ‘I don’t support violence’ are lying to themselves.
It doesn’t matter if you, in your heart of hearts, ‘support violence’. Violence supports you. Violence undergirds the private property you live on, the petrol in your tank, the passport in your pocket. You — I’m talking to the comfortable — partake in all the petty privileges of collective violence and simply want no responsibility for it. More than that, you want the sanctimony of condemning natives that fight back as brutes. But it’s not true.
Violence is happening everywhere, and the worst offenders are the bloodless people in suits. These people will say they condemn violence on the ground, while dropping industrial violence from above. All while their ‘inanimate’ masters feed on the destruction, like bloodthirsty gods. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy and that, precisely, is what must be overthrown. By non-violent action, sure, but when that doesn’t work (which was decades ago), people, orcas, and the planet itself are going to get violent. Just remember that this is not some sudden, dangerous appearance of violence. It’s simply the overturning of a violent hierarchy that damn well needs to be overturned.