Guest Author: Reginald Nievera
The recent events that occurred on the UC Davis campus are tragic and outright appalling. If you haven’t heard, campus police at the University of California-Davis decided to pepper spray a group of students for their participation in an Occupy Wall Street peaceful protest demonstration. Amidst public outcry, two of the officers were suspended for their part in the event.
The suspension of these officers is an unwarranted reaction by the university; it suggests that the officers consciously and individually made the decision to pepper spray the students. Blame should not be placed onto the officer’s character; rather it should be projected onto authority figures’ general response to the Occupy movement.
The police’s solution and response to peaceful protesters suggest a broader significance than simply a group of officers that responded improperly. It suggests that the influence of ‘Wall Street’ and transnational corporations has penetrated law enforcement, creating a perceived notion of ‘us against them’. Law enforcement officials have lost all sense of their individual values and morals; the unconscious influence of ‘Wall Street’ has officers pepper spraying harmless students.
This pattern has been exemplified multiple times throughout history: the Nazi regime, the Milgram experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and now the pepper spraying at UC Davis. The theme that connects all of these events is obedience. We respond to a higher authority’s instructions, even if it compromises our own personal values.
The Nazi’s killed and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people, not because they were clinically insane, but because they were told to. Ordinary civilians in Europe delivered perceived intense, electric shocks to other civilians because a man in a white coat told them they ‘must proceed’. UC Davis campus police administered pepper spray to the faces of harmless students because they were told to break up the protest.
In a book called, The Corrosion of Character, author Richard Sennett suggests that the nature of our line of work can compromise our individual character and personal identities. The officers on the UC Davis campus are not monsters, they are human beings. They showed obedience to a higher authority, even though, they personally know that pepper spraying a student is wrong.
‘Wall Street’ and transnational corporations are that higher authority. In order to protect the so-called ‘peace’ is to rid of protesters by any means necessary. Law enforcement officials have been hired as corporate foot soldiers taking care of their dirty work. Corporate executives cannot legally pepper spray the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the eyes, but somehow they found a way to manipulate the system and have police officers do it for them.
*The opinion of the guest blogger are theirs and theirs alone.