Response to Seattle’s May Day Riots: Part 2
In the first post of this series, I explained why the media’s targeting of “anarchists” as the party to blame for this issue is ignorant if not intentionally misleading. In this second part, I’ll address what I feel specifically about the damage caused to the City Centre building in downtown Seattle, as well as generally, about the tactic of property destruction as a means toward affecting social change.
Before I do that however, I’ll briefly state the obvious point that the breaking of random car windows is nothing more than aimless destruction. You would be hard pressed to find a person anywhere who thinks that that action is a prudent method toward their agenda. When we see such senseless acts of cathartic destruction, it is obvious that we are dealing with a person who is facing a very large amount of hurt and frustration in their own life. Seeing as no people were physically harmed in this situation, I wonder if maybe- just maybe- that might be worth more of our consideration than the fact that they were breaking the law…
Anyway, let’s consider the damage to NikeTown and American Apparel.
Estimates for the cost to replace the smashed in windows ranged from 12,000 to 16,000 dollars- per window, per store. So, this could potentially indicate as much as 32,000 dollars each- a pretty significant chunk of change. However it is worth asking the question: who is ultimately coming out of pocket for these damages? Is it Nike? Is it American Apparel? Actually, no. Both companies are simply leasing their space in that building, and are not, in fact, responsible for replacing the broken windows. The building (called City Centre) is owned by the Bentall Kennedy Group, a Toronto-based fiduciary (wealth management) firm, specializing in real estate. In addition to this skyscraper (which they purchased for $237 million in 1998 ), the firm manages over 26 Billion dollars in property assets throughout the US and Canada. But don’t worry, because they won’t be paying for it either. Like all commercial real estate, City Centre is undoubtedly well-insured. Though I couldn’t find any public disclosure of who their insurance provider is, I figured it would be decent example to consider MetLife Inc, a relatively large insurer of commercial real estate. According to Y-Chart, Metlife’s total assets are valued at just over 799.6 Billion USD .
Therefore, we must be prepared for the fact that this event could well have cost an insurance company some .000004% of its wealth.
I bring up this metric to point out two things:
- that it would take almost 25 million events like this just to bring down one large insurance company- forget about the system of capitalism. In other words, this strategy is simply never going to free humanity from monetary oppression.
- That the property destruction to these windows had no realistic effect whatsoever on anyone’s livelihood. While I don’t support their methods, I think its important that we recognize that this really wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Over 1.4 million Iraqis have died in military conflict since US forces invaded , however. That, I do feel is a big deal.
The biggest drawback
While I haven’t lost any sleep over the fact that a few windows were broken, there is one big, unintended consequence of this property damage: that it will be used as a propaganda tool. Events like this give government an excuse to be more proactive and aggressive with police forces in shutting down protests in the future. This is the last thing we want. They also give it an event to spin as “domestic terrorism” in advocacy for increasing military intelligence and doing things like monitoring private messages on Facebook, and shutting down bloggers. If you think I’m inventing that last part, I suggest you Google the word CISPA and see what comes up.
More than anything, this event was a distraction. It fooled a lot of people into thinking that “anarchists” are the enemy. Like “terrorists,” this word is ambiguous and a terrible description of what the group is actually about. But that’s exactly what they want. They don’t want you to understand your enemy- they want you to hate them and look to the police and military as your savior. In fixating on events like this, people forget the much larger systemic oppression to which they and the “anarchists” are both subjected. Don’t be one of those people. Step back, connect the dots, and try to see what’s going on in the bigger picture.
If it seems like there are more police in black body armor carrying plastic shields these days, it’s because there are. If it seems like congress is making an effort to remove more and more of our online freedom, it’s because they are. The powers that run our government are systematically working to remove our free speech and increase their police state occupation in our cities. But as always, don’t take my word for it. Just pay attention.