In connection with recent events in Baltimore, a number of my friends, both real 3-D friends and the facebunk variety, have observed, in more or less this form of words, “Of course I don’t condone riots, but…”
Since most of my friends are sensible and fair-minded people, what follows the ‘but’ is usually some fairly intelligent observation on the order of ‘Whaddya expect, you treat people like this? Of course they’re gonna riot.’
I began to wonder why we feel obliged to issue this pre-emptive caveat about not ‘condoning’ something. What danger are we guarding against by saying that? The observation is nonsensical on its face, of course; what we ‘condone’ or don’t condone has absolutely no effect in the world. It’s like saying ‘I don’t condone hurricanes.’ To say that you don’t ‘condone’ something that’s inevitable and under no one’s control is just incoherent.
Does the language of ‘condoning’ suggest some sort of unitary agency, some single collective will we can blame for bad decisions? (Zionists, by the way, love this line of argument: The Palestinians collectively fucked up back in 1933, or whenever, so therefore….) Or are we preserving our liberal bona fides by suggesting, implicitly, that some kind of Gandhi schtick or (worse yet) electoral activity would be better?
Let the record show that for what it’s worth, I do condone riots. They’re not my first choice, of course. What I would prefer is a well-armed and well-organized insurrection, led by relentless, bloody-minded Bolsheviks. But until that comes along, riots are a great deal better than acquiescence.