The analogy to the 1981 John Carpenter film Escape from New York is a limited one, for Manhattan in the fictional account, turned into one giant prison – set in what seems a now nostalgic 1997 – at least has law enforcement on the fringes. The real-life city of Seattle of 2020, on the other hand, is on the verge of ditching even that, going completely police-free, replacing them with community outreach groups, social justice committees, rehabilitation seminars, and no jail time.
Parallels with the prelude to the French Revolution seem more apt, with wandering bands of the disaffected, disillusioned and even the seemingly demonic, marauding through the streets, besieging the houses of politicians (the modern ‘nobles’), getting them out of bed under threat of their very lives to make bleary-eyed promises – reduction of police budgets and staff and so on all filmed on camera – or else – and demanding ‘reparation’ payments from whites.
Seattle may be the canary in the coal mine for what is about to dawn in America, or what once was that great nation, now dissolving before our eyes. ‘Burn it all down‘ is their mantra, which one would think a rather radical reset.
Saint Thomas teaches that there are two aspects to law: First, there is the pedagogical – teaching us the right thing to do, or, more to the point, the wrong thing not to do, which is enough for most people, who are even remotely well raised. Second, there is the coercive, by force and fear, for those not so inclined to virtue, but rather quite prone to vice. These must be kept in line, with harsh and even lethal means, if necessary, so as to keep the rest of us in peace.
In his own words:
And as to those young people who are inclined to acts of virtue, by their good natural disposition, or by custom, or rather by the gift of God, paternal training suffices, which is by admonitions. But since some are found to be depraved, and prone to vice and not easily amenable to words, it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil-doing, and leave others in peace
Without the coercive dimension of law and its executive branch, the lawless – those who have no qualms about maiming and killing – will dominate the law-abiding, until the latter have had enough, and full-scale revolution unfolds.
Since it was difficult to make New York look like a semi-destroyed urban prison – at least back then – they sent one of their producers, Barry Bernardi, on a trip across the States to find the worst-looking, most run-down city, and he came up with East St. Louis, Illinois, with row upon row of bombed-out, burned buildings, and whole blocks razed, in large part due to recent riots. If things keep going the way they are, Bernardi won’t have to travel far next time.
But as Adam Smith opined, there is a lot of ruin in a nation, which means that there is also a lot of good left in a nation, right up to the end. And if that good can be rediscovered, re-appropriated, and put into effect, well, they might – just maybe, by the grace of God – turn this around. But it’s going to take a lot of help from that same God, and zeal from well-disposed and well-brought-up citizens, who still believe in all that is true, good and beautiful.
Either that, or it’s time to escape from Seattle, and Portland, and Minneapolis and Chicago…