Why Do We Have Urban Violence? WTFK.

Many of my readers may not be old enough to remember the urban riots that occurred in Newark, Detroit, and many other cities during the summer months of 1967. But I remember them very well because I spent that summer driving across the country to enroll in graduate school, and it seemed that just about every city I drove through was experiencing some degree of civil unrest.

What was the reaction to those riots? The Right said that law and order had broken down and needed to be restored. The Left said that the violence, burnings, and lootings were a response to police brutality, poverty, and other ways in which African-Americans were getting screwed. The federal government appointed a commission to study the problem, various community leaders, religious and otherwise, called for calm.

Here we are, more than fifty years later, and the same scenario is playing out again. The cops shoot some unarmed guy or stomp someone to death, the video goes viral, the crowds go into the streets, Trump calls for the police to crack down on the lawbreakers, Joe says that what happened is ‘too bad.’

If you don’t mind, I’d like to give you a little historical perspective on all this.

In 1936, a civil war broke out in Spain which resulted in the appearance of a brutal, Fascist regime. Headed by Francisco Franco, the dictatorship lasted until 1975.

The 1936-39 civil war unleashed a level of violence and death that touched just about everyone living in Spain. Franco kept the country from any further unrest by cracking down on anyone who said or did anything that evoked feelings on either side. It was said that ‘ni palabra ni pio’ was allowed, which meant not a word, not a sound.

When Franco died, everyone believed that the violence would break out again. After all, many of the people who were killed, tortured, or expelled from the country had relatives and close friends who were still alive.

Know what happened? In short order Spain went from being the most,repressive political regime to what is the most progressive, liberated and openly free society in Europe today. And it happened without so much as a peep. Not one shot was fired, not one old score was settled with violence, things moved on.

Now let’s look at what happened in Yugoslavia, during and after World War II. The country was invaded by the Nazis but a strong, left-wing resistance led by Joseph Broz Tito pushed the Wehrmacht out of the country by the end of 1944 with Tito then taking power and running the country for the next 36 years.

During and after the war, all kinds of personal and political scores were settled, the estimates of deaths run into the several millions, nobody knows how many were killed. What we do know is that Tito installed the same kind of repressive government from the Left that Franco installed from the Right. If you wanted to say anything which might be considered a challenge to the Tito regime, you better say it outside the country, not within.

It took 11 years for things to unravel after Tito’s demise, but in 1991 a series of violent conflicts broke out which ultimately resulted in the disappearance of Yugoslavia, the emergence of six separate nation-states, and the loss of as many as 200,000 lives. As late as 2010, there are still more than 10,000 people who disappeared and have never been seen again.

How is it that a repressive regime goes away in one country without so much as the slightest violence at all, and in another country, the same shift from dictatorship to democracy causes thousands of lives to be destroyed? I’ll give you an answer right out of the corporate playbook: WTFK (Who The F### Knows.)

I have been listening to the Right and the Left ‘explain’ urban violence in America to me for what is now more than 50 years and at some point, I go back to what happened in Yugoslavia and Spain. The only thing I can say about what happened in those two countries and what is happening in Kenosha, Portland and other American cities right now is WTFK.

But I’m still going to vote for Joe and Kammie and you better vote for them too.

1 thought on “Why Do We Have Urban Violence? WTFK.

  1. Michael, pardon my buffoonish question, but what little (very little) I know about the two countries was that Yugoslavia was cobbled together out of diverse states after WWI while Spain, some provinces and the Basques notwithstanding, was perhaps more cohesive? Does that explain part of it? It seems there were a lot of scores to settle in Yugoslavia but I’m not a historian. My knowledge of the Spanish Civil war is not very deep: a three day short course, Orwell, Hemingway, and Malroux. I do recall your Ph.D. was on Spain.

    Of course there was our own experiment with civil war. Bottom line is once you open up the Pandora’s Box of violence, you have a hard time getting it shut again.


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