You probably know by now that UC Davis is the newest hotspot for the Occupy Movement.
Thomas Hobbes’ real genius was to recognize that the State of Nature is a lurking logical possibility—NOT a chronological moment in the past. Humans are chaos and violence and pride and self-interest, and this always threatens to burst forth through our fine social niceties. No matter how much we’d like to believe that Enlightenment-style reason and politesse have altered the human condition, this ever-present, barely-submerged natural violence is still the awful truth. Hobbes argued that humans were so deeply anxious and untrustworthy that they required a unitary, powerful ruler just to domesticate them for society.
None of that means, of course, that police brutality is excusable in the context of positive liberal laws like ours. We can certainly expect and demand better, even if we understand—with Hobbes—that such violence is always lurking.
Indeed, this sort of incident actually shows why Hobbes’ prescriptions don’t match his critique. Humans are just as violent when they take the reins of power. We are every bit as dangerous when wearing a police uniform as when we are outside a community of laws.