Letter to Berkeley Council Re Pepper Spray Use

Dr. James McFadden
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:38:00 PM

Once again you are on center stage nationally for your pepper spray votes. 

Steve Martinot hits the nail on its head. 

"To authorize the police to use OC on people is to authorize state sanctioned torture." 

Your votes will haunt you. Sept 12 - Ayes Arreguin, Maio, Bartlett, Wengraf, Droste, Hahn Dec 19 - Ayes Arreguin, Maio, Bartlett, Wengraf, Droste, (Hahn absent) 

In addition, the admonishment of the PRC on Dec 19 for requesting that the Council reconsider its "shock doctrine" vote was hypocritical at best. (The PRC was not consulted prior to the Sept 12 pepper spray vote.) The mayor and several Council members had called for strengthening PRC oversight and for PRC input - so to admonish them for doing their job, a voluntary job, is disrespectful. Perhaps members of the Council should rethink their defensive reaction to that PRC request -- where the mayor and several Council members appeared to huddle in their sectarian bunkers, aghast at the impertinent PRC for requesting a second vote in calmer times. 

I think the words of Michael Albert from his new book are appropriate here: 

“We know that when a person is sectarian, logic, evidence, reason, empathy, mutual regard, and respect become only weakly operative, if present at all. What is symptomatic of sectarianism is, instead, inflexibility, dogmatism, and imperious disregard. … Perhaps sectarianism occurs when a person comes to feel a subset of their views to be their identity … When we take our views to be who we are, any criticism of our views feels like and attack on our essence. … then we tend to perceive in the criticism of our views not just words of disagreement about ideas but a deadly attack on our personhood. We promptly assume the posture appropriate to warding off a deadly attack, and we strike back. Our rebuttal likely includes some harsh rejection of the critic’s defining views. Now our critic feels assaulted … and prepares for further verbal, if not physical, conflict. This observation suggests that the spiral of defensive/aggressive behavior characterizing sectarian conflict stems largely from perceiving disagreement with our views as an assault on our identity. … If someone tells me a view upon which I premise my identity is wrong – berserk is what I may become. In sectarian exchange we aren’t really arguing about ideas and evidence so much as we are protecting our identity and even our very existence.” 

So a question you might want to ask yourself is whether you believe that your vote for pepper spray was defending your identity - your personhood. And how did your identity get linked to pepper spray? Why are you identifying with the police (who have all the weapons) and not with the protesting public who will be the hapless victims of police tactics of torture (pepper spray) -- tactics that will be used to force obedience during legal protests.