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  • Writer's pictureLex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA

Late-Stage Capitalism and the Tyre Nichols Moment

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

The slaying of Tyre Nichols is a moment in late-stage capitalism which must give all social justice minded thinkers and humanistic folks pause. It is time to reflect and see where the movement is and how to move forward. An African American young man died at the hands of 5 African American police officers in a brutal and disturbing fashion. This orgy of violence and inhumanity has shaken me to the core and given me such a frustration and anger that I am done playing nice.

To most of the liberal minded folks in the United States this is a shocking revelation that the police state in the United States is, in fact, colorblind in violence to who wields the baton. To the left I say: wake up. To the right, which sees this moment as a cause warm to increased policing or points to the urban decay, I say this: wake up. It is much greater than all that.

Since, in a free state during late-stage capitalism, the police are part of enforcing of laws and maintaining a power structure in society, then the police will view anyone who challenges the state or who challenges their power as a threat. This is not to mean--ALL--police are part of that system, there are police officers who are humanistically minded but the professionalization of maintaining law-and-order has a very real stake in the game. Therefore, in late-stage capitalism, the actors of militancy in our society may look identical to us, regardless of the uniform. We cannot depend on identity politics to save us. The very police that killed Tyre felt hundreds if not thousands of collective moments of injustice in their own lives. They felt a lack of power for much of their lives. Then, they wielded it during a transformative time in their lives and decided to exact that the power so that they wielded their batons to crash down on their young brother. This tells us that while there is no hierarchy of oppression, the utility of negating, or letting go of favoritism to "let a brother go" has a cost to all involved.

This is because, in late-stage capitalism we have come to a point where all life has become dispensable. And I mean ALL: life. The income equality and the forces of power and inequity—for anyone who is not born into the 1% to live a violence free life is simply a gamble. Whether you die at the hands of doctors, security forces, or are forced into capitalist servitude with no benefit other than social capital and cheap disposable wealth, we have come to apex of late stage capitalism. It is going to get very messy from here on out unless we all realize we as a country need to change. Until we view our fellow man—regardless of their political affiliation and where they sit on various issues—as dispensable, we will be nowhere.

Our basic human connection to one another is slipping. It is much bigger than republican and democratic. It is bigger than black and white. It is the basic fabric or our sense of identity with one another. Worse, we view anyone who is not like us, or is without the same power or identifies in our same tribe as garbage. Fueled by media outrage, and the worst of political enforcers, the bad actors who align themselves with solely political ideology, are essentially liars and as inhuman and their counterparts on the opposite side. The mouth pieces of the left and right create a system of alienation that views When people view others as disposable, it its the result of rampant alienation at all levels of society as all people—collectively—view themselves as a preciously lucky to not be beaten alive.

We are being beaten alive by income inequality. By student debt. We are beaten alive by war-after-war in our society. Beaten by the rising cost of living. We are beaten alive by a consumer culture that sees its citizens as soley consumers and that the lives that are being destroyed by one another pointless. And guns, which are the antithesis of being beaten alive; in the hands of the tattered-and-desperate-masses-of- disempowered-with-a-grudge, are being wielded to make record numbers of other humans easily disposable. And so on.

This is how a young man is beaten to death for no reason other than he ran from his car to his mother’s house to get safe.

Unless we begin the process of seeing one another’s value and stop with the idiotic and violent rhetoric which pits neighbor against neighbor and fetishizes a civil war to play out like a bad Hollywood movie, we will be nowhere in this process of finding a way towards healing our world.

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