By Robert S. Hertz
On March 14, 1974, a 30-year-old woman named Inez García was raped by two men in Soledad, California. About twenty minutes after the attack, Inez took a rifle and shot one of the rapists to death. The police picked her up soon afterward, and in August of that year she went on trial for first degree murder.
Her defense attorney was Charles Garry, who gained nationwide fame for his work with Huey Newton and the Black Panthers. Garry hoped to prove that Inez was temporarily insane when she killed her attacker—certainly such a state was imaginable in the traumatic aftermath of rape. He wanted to show that Inez had lost her wits and had done violence, but now she regretted her extreme response. So long as she showed a degree of remorse, perhaps a jury might overlook what she had done.
But midway through the trial, something went horribly wrong. After describing the rape in detail for several hours, Inez thought she heard someone laugh at her in the courtroom. She jumped from her chair and pounded her fists on the judge’s chair. “Why don’t you find me guilty and put me in jail?” Inez screamed. “I killed the motherfucker because I was raped, and I’d kill him again if I had the chance. I am not sorry that I did it; and the only thing I am sorry for is that I missed the other one.”
There went the trial, of course. Inez had shown that her killing was deliberate; and moreover, that she thought it was right. Both judge and jury lost all sympathy at that point, and Inez was convicted of second degree murder. The case is currently on appeal.
Though Inez Garcia’s main supporters were feminists, I do not think she was being punished just for being a woman—or a Chicano, or young, or any other “minority.” She was convicted for taking the law into her own hands—and any man would have been treated the same. American law is sex-blind against all private violence, whether crimes of passion or barroom fistfights. Inez was guilty of reaching her own judgement, and then enacting her own vengeance. She had cut on the state-run monopoly of violence, and this was what the judge found unforgivable.
Therefore we should speak of Inez Garcia as a kind of libertarian—and a self-willed, survival-of-the-fittest libertarian at that. Whatever her allegiances, the fact remains that she murdered and she was glad. She had her own law, her own code of honor; thereby she was an anarchist, and in a proud tradition at that.
But wait a minute! Murder? Anarchism? A tradition? What kind of tradition is that? Well, this is not the genteel anarchism of roly-poly Russian peasants, praying a little and then building a barn, embroidering their shirts, and then gathering in the family for a lecture on Kropotkin… No, and it’s not the logical, horn-rimmed anarchism of Ayn Rand, with their contracts and mobile workers and empires of free enterprise, their pipe-smoking professors who extol competition while teaching on tenure… No, and we are also a long way from the flower-child moralists, the drop-out sixties collegians, who talked so plaintively of doing “whatever you want, so long as you don’t hurt anyone else…”
No, with Inez Garcia and rape and vengeance, we are dealing with a much older, much harsher anarchism, the anarchy of Spanish hills and wounded pride and family debts paid in blood. This is an anarchy above all of private violence, conducted on its own laws. It is an anarchy where anything is legal, and everyone is volatile… where dignity is carried on the sleeve and must always be taken into account. The social currency of this brand of anarchism is nothing other than fear and respect. Hurt me and I’ll hurt you back, double for good measure, and I don’t wait around for the police. I don’t care about statutes or justice—all I want is my self-respect.
Okay, maybe that is an anarchism, you say, but…but isn’t it a little like machismo? Well, of course it is, but machismo (or machisma, here) is a cultural concept more than just a sexual one. It is a personal quality of rebellion, self-esteem and privacy; it says, “I am somebody” in a way that no one can forget. By this standard, Inez Garcia had a lot more “machismo” than either her assailants or her judge—she was doing the proving and the self-assertion, above and beyond any conventional morality.
What Inez was doing, more precisely, was defending her honor against a serious insult. By this code, there are certain provocations which must be answered both immediately and decisively. Violence here is forgiven, so long as the motive is sufficient. Pride and bravery are both more important than the maintenance of legal forms. When anyone appears to insult you, you do not consider whether he may have misunderstood what you previously said and you do not accept his apology. You consider only your honor and the consequences his remarks are likely to have if you do not act.
Unfortunately for Inez, however, noble motives mean nothing to an American judge—actually, outside of self-defense he knows no worthy motives for murder. If Inez has killed and the law says no killing, then Inez is hopelessly guilty. “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…” Jack Webb on Dragnet used to say this with relish, and for all the man’s oafishness, she was certainly The Law. Webb could almost treat crime like science, since the motives behind it had no integrity in themselves. In place of a sensitive code of honor, Jack Webb could use the bluntest classifications—you either broke The Law or you didn’t. If you stepped outside the code, he could throw the book at you. Family honor or personal pride were the only hindrances if they led you apart from The Law.
But Inez was uninterested in the entire legal system… She was having no part of courts and jails and suspended sentences. Selfishly enough, her only concern was her own rehabilitation. She wanted nothing less than a full restoration of her dignity, and the fate of the criminal was unimportant. Like most partisans of vengeance, she probably did not believe in rehabilitation anyway. From her point of view, the man committed rape because he enjoyed it, not because he was “deviant” or “sick;” he enjoyed the power and the viciousness of the act, and he enjoyed it because he was evil. He did not “sink” to a subhuman level; he was already existing at one, and probably will never change. Sin gave him pleasure, and the man was totally responsible for his deed; here as always, the law of vengeance assumes absolute free will, no matter how much a paternalistic society may try to convince him otherwise.
By these assumptions a prison is quite useless. The whole idea as “an education” was originally based on the possibility of Christian conversion, and the partisans of vengeance may sneer at it. To them, a crime is like the declaration of a whole life. They understand better than any criminologist what it means to declare war on a portion of society, and moreover, just how impossible it is to “rehabilitate” from such a stance. Inez was aware that a man who goes as far as rape has made it plain that his destiny is to kill women. Such a man is her foe in a war that goes far beyond their personal existences. His essence is different from hers, and if one of them must die, it is not always tragic.
Notice that already we have strayed far from the principles of mild-mannered. “do anything you want to, but” sort of libertarianism. We are actually admitting that suffering can bring pleasure, and that it really matters just where and when and for what reason people are hurt. In the Darwinist-style libertarianism I am describing, a certain portion of pain is assumed to be inevitable, and the real concern is to channel that pain, to economize it, to extract the most pleasure and compensation for it. Society’s total suffering would not diminish from his sort of libertarianism; instead, it would be distributed more enjoyably and more precisely.
In a Darwinist state, people who lose in social competition would not be rescued or protected. Instead they would be pushed down even further, so that their losses are both final and complete, and thus demonstrate the penalties of foolishness. They do not deserve their freedom if they let it be taken from them. People would be made to face all the consequences of selfish or short-sighted decisions. They would have no legalistic opportunity to escape any anger they might arouse. If you are a journalist, for example, no one would moralize against you or convict you in court, but somebody might shoot you and face no penalty for doing so. Private force would increasingly take the place of humane, “idealistic” coercion. There might be no vice squad, no board of censorship, no labor laws and no environmental regulations. But there might also be an incredible and unchallenged increase in firebombed brothels, crippled reporters, wounded foremen and terrorized factory owners. Anything goes, and anyone can stop it.
Needless to say, this would be quite a change from our present culture. Consider our way of punishing criminals. The victim of the crime gets no direct satisfaction at all; in fact, he has to pay taxes for the upkeep of his assailant. Does an aggrieved parent, for example, really care if the hit-run murderer of his child is “brought to justice?” Are people really so high-minded where their own flesh and kin are concerned. No, of course not—they want vengeance, and our convoluted, moralistic prison system provides pitifully little of it. Prisoners do suffer, of course and sometimes hideously, but it is only the guards and the other prisoners who can enjoy it.
How much better it would be to admit that each American city now contains a criminal class, i.e., citizens who have few misgivings about stealing from other people. This class consists chiefly of young men who are unwilling to work at the kinds of jobs our economy offers them—and very few men in this category have any real incentive to reform. The convicts who reach prison are only a fraction of the real criminals, and were probably convicted of a fraction of their actual crimes. The accountants are way overbalanced in the criminals’ favor, with lax laws and coddling courts and clever lawyers. Truthfully, many citizens feel, anything they get in prison they had coming to them, and more. A clubbing or two is just late and insufficient payment, part of a debt accumulated. Do-gooders do not understand this, because they do not have to deal with the vicious men in prison; instead, our nation shows hesitation and passivity in the face of rowing street crime. Could it be that Americans are unwilling to “write off” anyone at all, even a mugger who would casually kill them?
Here again, one must remember the Christian aspiration in the laws intended to stifle violence. Both legislators and preachers would preface a law with their vision of a Christ-loving, harmonious society. They wanted a world of reasonable, God-fearing men, who never even thought of vengeance as an option…aggressiveness and pride were only pitiable throwbacks, mere temporary concessions to the fall of mankind. For Christians, there was no possibility that violence returned might be good for the soul; instead, all good worshippers were told to turn the other cheek, both in church and in court, and then wait for The Law to step in with fit and proper punishment.
These law-making Christians were especially down on Pride; it was godless and tribal and it hinted at worshipping one’s own destiny. Pride brought back memories of the Romans with all that paganism and carnality and guiltless bloodshed. As for private violence, it was almost like taking over God’s profession. It showed no confidence in the justice of heaven; it demonstrated a very dangerous kind of impetuousness and self-confidence.
Even today, the residue of Christian ethics is still quite influential on our laws. The current notion that all life is sacred, and therefore nothing which ends it is legal, goes right down to the Christian party line. It is all a part of healing the sick, leper colonies, nuns with medicine, missionaries in China, the whole routine of let’s-keep-everybody-alive-because –God-really-wants-it that-way.
There’s no place in this syndrome for private violence; for Christians, only the cross of “mankind” is worth dying for, and officially there is nothing worth killing for. No matter if the charity is futile or misguided; what matters to Christians is that human life is good, and so let’s have as much of it as possible. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche,
The Church protects the botched and bungled… and keeps them from performing the deed of nihilism, which is suicide. In its place it puts lingering suicide, and a puny, meager, but durable life; gradually a perfectly ordinary life… For what is Christian altruism, if not the mob egotism of the weak which divines that if everybody looks after everybody else, every individual will be preserved for a longer period of time. … In the end, he who is good is simply not strong enough to be evil.
(Taken from various works)
In any Darwinist state, i.e., one run by Nietzschean principles, there would be no great sorrow at the death or misfortune of others. The unspoken assumption is that people get what they deserve, and neither time nor money should be wasted in postponing the inevitable. The fundamental Darwinist attitude is “less of them, thus more for me,” though naturally with exceptions for family or allies. Such a state is not afraid of “heathen concepts” such as celebrating the death of enemies. The thought that others’ suffering might nourish our own lives is culturally hard to swallow, but no less true for all that. A Darwinist’s version of a meaningful life is one with plenty of power over others; naturally, then, he tries to protect no one from themselves, and is particularly harsh towards wasteful slow suicides such as drug addiction. Better to up the doses, accelerate their demise—yes, pull the plugs, close the hospitals, and let the dead bury the half-dead! Addicts of any kind should be exploited to the very last dollar, and anyone who wants elaborate medical treatment should be expected to pay for it themselves. The victims of violence may deserve a certain sympathy, but no automatic respect and certainly no kind of imitation.
In Darwinist theory, the whole effort of nature is to get rid of them anyway, and make room for something better. The person who dies from stupidity or bad habits is in the same class as all the other malformed. Under nature’s law, everyone goes on trial. The only alternative to the survival of the fittest is the survival of the unfittest. Nature has been struggling for centuries to create more efficient and powerful human types—why should we constantly allow sentiment to get in the way?
Ironically enough, though, a Darwinist world might be less violent than what we have today; when people are constantly responsible for violence, they gradually form rules of conduct to control it. There is plenty of proof of this in bandit societies; and there is also proof by analogy.
Don’t you wonder why people who drive fastest also drive safest; or why boxers are often very gentle outside the ring; or why professional soldiers often show the most respect for their enemy? The principle is: responsibility brings control. If people grew to love private violence, they would engage in less and less of it. The general principles of refinement would take over; instead of wallowing in gross destructiveness, they would treasure the psychic nuances of a perfect act of vengeance. When they knew that an insult could bring violent retaliation, they would surely be more circumspect, and even gentler in their dealings. Right now, a rapist or murderer has only the law to fear—if the police don’t catch him, then no one will, least of all his cowed and bamboozled victims. Under vengeance though, every criminal would fear that a posse of vengeful citizens was out to get him.
An increase in physical fear would probably benefit all social life. For example, the boastful man would think twice about insulting any women around him; the arrogant boss or officer might be more cautious when giving impossible orders; the officious clerk or bureaucrat or teacher, who deals every day with the poor and minorities, would be a lot less arrogant if an insult could get them beaten. A great deal of what blacks call “institutional racism” is totally dependent on the laws against vengeance.
And not only would violence be better handled under anarchy, it would also encourage more self-respect and mental health. Just look at Inez… by killing her assailant, she was effectively discharging any memory of his attack. Not literally, perhaps, but effectively, her mind was engaging in a symbolic dismissal, a rupture of the hold he would otherwise have had on her. Vengeance is like a sustained, public, primal scream, exploding resentment and clearing the mind for new advances. After all, what we now call “neurosis” may well be the result of endless physical restraint. Just consider the result if all laws were relaxed, and people could do violence upon whomever was tormenting them. My lord, how the spirits of the survivors would soar! What good is medical science, one wants to ask, when the real causes of disease lay embedded in artificial deficiencies? In the words of Alan Harrington,
Bourgeois culture has been organized to avoid pain! Pain should be sought out, mastered, given, received. To be intimidated is to die a little. A psychic backdown is equivalent to sustaining a bodily insult with biological deterioration in store for the insulted person.
As of now, all law-abiding people pay a huge psychic tax to their system of state-punishment. In exchange for the security of letting judges and prisons do the dirty work, the average citizen must bury all active expressions of hatred. Perhaps the total of pain and death in the world does decrease, after years of these inhibitions; unfortunately, so does the general vitality. You can always sense the lassitude and bloodlessness of people who have been pacifists for centuries.
Of course, these same “bloodless” Americans are also quite prosperous, and you cannot dismiss any nation’s middle class too quickly. By their emotional discipline and sublimation, they are usually instrumental in the prosperity that even libertarians take for granted. In a Darwinist state, with everyone so volatile and murderous, a stable economy might be almost impossible. Workers would shoot their bosses if fired; bosses would beat on their workers if disappointed; partnerships would end in duels, and it might be difficult to plan anything long-term.
But even if Darwinist libertarianism would lower the Gross National Product, one must also ask: what is material prosperity really worth, if you lose the primary psychic pleasure of taking revenge on those who hurt you?
In a Darwinist state, the rich might indeed be more ruthless in grinding down the poor, either for short-term advantage or more casually for the fun and contempt of it. When a Darwinist sees suffering, he thinks of further aggression, and not of justice or redistribution. There would be no social welfare, no unemployment checks, no public housing or food stamps—in other words, the so-called “safety net” would simply be pulled away, and victims would hit the street a lot sooner and a whole lot harder. If this makes them docile and thus better servants in rich households, then a Darwinist will have no complaint. By the same token, if the workers new hardships turn them into revolutionaries, the Darwinist will still be pleased because now there is going to be a real struggle. He supports the rich if their viciousness has style and energy, but he also supports the poor when their revolution has intelligence and audacity. He need not really believe that either group is noble, and the very idea of “justice” is irrelevant. If the poor cannot mount a revolution with their numerical superiority, then they deserve to stay poor; and at the same time, if the rich are too cowardly to be violent, and cannot use their money and guns and estates to hold off the masses, then they certainly don’t deserve to stay rich. A Darwinist supports the aggressors, whomever they turn out to be; he stands behind anyone who forces the issue, and then clearly establishes lasting dominance. As Max Stirner put it,”The tiger has the right when he seizes me, and I have the right when I kill him…”
If Darwinist libertarianism could be established, then what kinds of practical effects would it have? It would put most of our lawyers out of work, as there is no point in suing or defending a target of vengeance. Civil suits would be settled “out of court”, to put it mildly; the hired gun and the crafty poisoner would essentially replace the studious lawyer. Entire societies would be run on the boundary of Chicago-style urban gang wars; if vengeance created jobs at all, it would be more for bodyguards rather than public relations men.
With law becoming suddenly an undesirable profession, the entire premises of education might change. After all, it is hardly a secret that most “college level” jobs have been mandated in some way by law; when tax collectors start being murdered, and governments are forced into bankruptcy, then bureaucrats and highly-paid reformers everywhere might be feeling a little shaky. It is a myth that higher education is always a good “investment” in something called “human potential.” “Who needs it?” will become the common question, and, in fact, all prestige of the written word might suffer a general decline. People would not be so ready to believe what they read, whether newspapers or laws or platforms or ledgers or memos or regulations. The middle class which produces these documents may suddenly be scraping for survival. Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists and their studies might all appear useless in a world of vengeance. Vengeance broadcasts plainly that it knows what is valuable; there is no relativity here, no John Stuart Mill and his friendly competing ideas, no Alistair Cooke easy-chair-lecture-and-series-of-discussions-on-today’s-changing-life-styles… No sirree, in the vengeance world there are no changing life-styles. The change industry is up a creek if vengeance takes over, because then certain values are simply not questioned for a moment. Such a society would never listen to psychologists who claimed that violence was “insane,” when to them the only insane act is a calm acceptance of social humiliation. Vengeful people are much more worried about a failure to use violence properly, than they are about any of its physical consequences.
But then what will happen to the society as a whole? What is the collective destiny of all this private violence? In a nutshell, can the society hold together?
In another nutshell, probably not—at least not as a broad-based, multi-racial, democratic republic that moves in concert from sea to shining sea. America or any nation that adopted such anarchism would turn into a series of small principalities… maybe even city-states, or little kingdoms, or just private estates with personal law.
The central government in a libertarian America would be vastly reduced from anything we see today. Courts, police forces, roads and even post offices would be supplied from the private market, with all the attendant gains in responsiveness and efficiency.
Private business in a libertarian state wants nothing to do with citizen commissions, professional planners, government ecology agencies, etc.: business cannot wait upon their proven incompetence and their willingness to tax, blunder, and then tax some more. In our state, the income tax would certainly be abolished, so that legislatures would have fewer laws to make and much less money to play with. Government borrowing would be immediately curtailed, as the passing on of debts to one’s grandchildren violates every libertarian canon. Conventional politicians have tried for years to cash out more benefits and to buy more weapons than Americans were really willing to pay for. This has led to spectacular deficits, high-interest borrowing, and systematic evasion. A democracy will never cut its own budget significantly, so an outside force is both necessary and inevitable. Darwinist libertarians are perfect for this budget-slashing task because they do what is right regardless of whom it impacts. Darwinists do not hesitate if others must be sacrificed; they can watch a lot of pain if they know it is in a good cause. Any Darwinist budget cuts will be savage and final: no lawsuits, no severance pay, and no unemployment checks—just padlocked doors and indifference to all protests. Libertarians will gladly shut the spending window to interest groups, if that is what it takes to bring a budget under control. They might be called “heartless”, but how much does that mean coming from legislators who have run up a trillion-dollar debt?
Congress should actually lose forever the right to spend other people’s money. The only government programs that deserve to survive are those which pay their own way. The others will have to let go of their pampered consultants and high-paid employees. Morally speaking, there is no difference between public employees and gangsters; the number of beneficiaries does not change the nature of the action. In fact, the private hoodlum has a slight edge in moral superiority; he has no power to devastate an entire nation, and his victims are not legally disarmed.
All a Darwinist wants from government is the right to be left alone—perhaps the most comprehensive of all rights, and surely the right most value by all afficinados of private power. As Max Stirner said,
Our declaration of war against the State and a systematic disregard of its laws are not motivated by any passion for human dignity or concern for the integrity of the individual, which are foundations of the anarchist attitude. We simply see in the state an omnipresent threat to our own private interests, which are continuously jeopardized by its prying and officious agents.
(From THE EGO AND ITS OWN)
The logical end of this Darwinist system is probably a low-grade, continuous civil war. Probably just enough to keep the major private armies in business; perhaps flaring up now and then into real territorial hostilities. Hopefully there would be no foreign wars at all, at least among nation-states. The libertarian position is that if some American company or individual wants to get something out of a foreigner, they can hire the troops themselves. They won’t be hemmed in by idealistic anti-bribery laws, nor will they be investigated by holier-than-thou Congressional do-gooders. At the same time, however, they will not have a CIA or Marine Corps or US Air Force to do the dirty work for them. If an individual citizen wants to support a foreign war, he can do so by investing in the company that started it. But he cannot send his neighbor’s child off to fight in it,or vote to use taxes to finance it. If America really needs a military presence in the Persian Gulf, then let the oil companies pay for it; by the same token, if Europe really needs protection from the Soviets, then those wealthy nations will certainly be willing to pay someone to provide it. If the American Army survives at all in a Darwinist state, it would be as a kind of super-mercenary force, stripped of all civilian niceties and living off its loot and protection money. The military will not be exempt from the requirement that all parts of government start to pay for themselves.
Which does bring up a sore point: does this mean that the U.S.A “does nothing” to stop Communism, which after all, is a total enemy of both Darwinism and libertarianism? Well, America has spent trillions of dollars over 30 years for the U.S. government to “do something” about Communism and with what results? Private armies would certainly have been cheaper and more honest, and could hardly have been less effective. Besides, warfare may not be hideously expensive, especially if one uses assassination and surprise rather than strategies of attrition.
Of course, with all these implications, and all these theories I have spun from her case, poor Inez Garcia may well have decided not to be anyone’s symbol or martyr. After all, she could easily have internalized the loud social message that she was a criminal and not respectable at all. For so many judges and juries and citizens, Inez Garcia would not even be worth studying so long as she broke the law, they might say, then all her human qualities cancel out.
To them, Inez was illegal, and therefore immoral, and therefore barely thinkable. These people see none of the relativity of laws: the fact that what today is sacred and decent, may tomorrow become totally reprehensible. They fix on the details and the gore of each crime, without considering the ambition and courage that lies behind it. They have no sympathy with a beautiful, doomed gesture of vengeance; they are insensitive to the energy in such a proud, archaic response. Inez was more than a squalid killer, doing her murder in the slums of Soledad… rather she was like an evocation of that stern, haughty culture of vengeance which only sleeps but has not disappeared. Let the feminists or chicanos have their way with Inez; we anarchists know to whom she was really speaking. She was obeying a more ancient morality, one which does not change and is incapable of change. Its roots in man’s being are too deep, for it springs from the ineradicable desires of the human body—blood, bone, and senses. It has the force of instinct; the instinct to preserve and amplify one’s own life. It has more in common with hatred than what is called love; and thus it is the emotion, not of a dutiful intellectual, but of a warrior in battle. It depends on hatred for the enemy. Our justice is nothing abstract; it is simply the joyful elimination from the face of the earth of those who oppose you.
Can’t say I’m totally on board, though I like Hertz’s equal opportunity ruthlessness; more than that, I love how he endorses the placement of “justice” back into individual hands.
I really don’t remember that Stirner quote Hertz cites popping up anywhere in Ego (read: it’s nonexistent), but I do remember one that mirrors much of the sentiment behind his piece…
But it is exactly punishment that must make room for satisfaction, which, again, cannot aim at satisfying right or justice, but at procuring us a satisfactory outcome. If one does to us what we will not put up with, we break his power and bring our own to bear: we satisfy ourselves on him, and do not fall into the folly of wanting to satisfy right (the spook). It is not the sacred that is to defend itself against man, but man against man…
…and I’ll give that the thumbs-up, at least!
In any case, whatever one’s opinion on Hertztopia as a viable or desirable system, it’d certainly make for a great fictional backdrop…