Tony Soprano, Malcolm X, Terrorism and Our Current Ills
December 30, 2014
Everyone seems to think that there is “something happening here, what it is, ain’t exactly clear,” but it isn’t good. So let us posit, for a few moments, that what we are experiencing is a breakdown, the demise of what I will call “the rule of law.” By the rule of law I mean rule or governance in accordance with principles or processes that “limit” or “channel” the exercise of power, especially social or political power.
Question: What is the origin of this breakdown?
One possibility, which is often cited, is crime. That is, crime or criminality leads to the demise of the “law and order,” thereby creating social chaos and undermining civil society. As a result, we hear cries for “law and order,” ala’ Richard Nixon in 1968, which we then identify with reconstructing a rule of law.
But, it may be asked: Can or does crime itself undermine civil society or is it only part and parcel of civil society? To which an answer suggests itself if we ask in which manifestation did Malcolm Little/X threaten civil society, in his guise as Malcolm Little, pimp and drug dealer or in his guise of Malcolm X, member of the Black Muslims when he obeyed the law even while defying its authority? It would seem that it was Malcolm X, not Malcolm Little, who threatened civil society more.
Similarly, was Tony Soprano, for example, a threat to civil society? Not really, we can say, as his residence in a suburb in New Jersey illustrated, along with his attempts to deal, therapeutically, with his “issues.” What is safer than those engaging in therapy to deal with their “issues?” There are reasons to fear those like Tony Soprano but the destruction of civil society is not among them.
So, we can speculate that the breakdown of the rule of law has other sources, e.g., political or governmental attempts to control social phenomena like crime, attempts that to be effective lead the government to abandon or compromise those principles or processes endemic to the rule of law. These principles or processes are seen as barriers to effective government.
We can then speculate as well that the rule of law is threatened more by a “war on crime” than by crime itself or that it is threatened more by a “war on terror” than by “terrorism” itself – for, after all, what we label “terrorism” is little more than a tactic, a strategy perhaps, necessitated by the prevailing configuration of forces.