The Abysses, the whole Hell Holes into which have fallen whole Populations


The United States has a very meager safety net for an ‘advanced industrial society’. 


There is very little support for individuals and families in any area of life if they cannot pay for the support themselves. 





Die.  American People Series #20, oil on canvas, 1967, and details.

Faith Ringgold, born 1930, American.  MOMA, NY




What safety net there was has been shredded further since the 1980s.  



The consequences result in public disturbances and public expression of private disturbances.






As above




The homeless have grown in numbers as homes have become too expensive to buy or rent in major metropolitan areas. 


Mental illness for whose treatment there is very little or no public support has increased homelessness.





As above




Opioids and other drugs for whose treatment there is little public support have increased the number of the homeless. 



As factories have closed down and been replaced with 0-hours contracts or with minimum-wage jobs or with no jobs, tax revenues which are the primary support of public schools, have declined. 



The streets beckon young people, functionally illiterate and with futures difficult to see.   



Political decisions have been taken over decades to turn over the handling of these publicly expressed private disturbances to the police. 




PhJuly2018 126PhJuly2018 128

Untitled (Policeman), 2015, synthetic polymer paint on PVC panel with plexi frame. 

Kelly James Marshall, American born 1955. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY




The police are expected to keep order on the street, in schools, in the encampments of the homeless, in private homes.  Everywhere. 




Early Norman Lewis-12

Police Beating (Untitled), 1943; ink, graphite, watercolor on paper. 

Norman Lewis, 1909-1979, American.  I do not know where this painting, exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia in 2015/16, is.




The police.  And with what tools and with what training?  With what back-up resources?




Police have very large immunity from prosecution in the United States. 


While this derives from the activity of police unions and from the famous ‘omerta’ of the police, the primary source of this immunity are the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1967 onwards. 


The Supreme Court has said, over and over again, that the police cannot be prosecuted for enforcing the law ‘in good faith and probable cause’. 



Further, for a police(wo)man to be prosecuted, a court somewhere has to have already ruled on similar circumstances that the police(wo)man involved there was not immune. 


No two cases being similar means that police are rarely prosecutable.




PhJuly2018 127

As above




On the ground and in reality, these two sets of facts amount to institutionalized forms of discrimination against those communities who make up the population in most need of public services, of a healthy safety net.



In reality, black and brown populations in metropolitan areas. 


But not only and not only.  We are speaking here of the poor of all races.




And so, periodically, the cities – the fabled cities on the hills – burn. 





Photo taken during looting, fire-setting and widespread damage to an area of the center of Philadelphia on May 30, 2020 after peaceful demonstrations

precipitated by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a policeman on May 25, 2020.  The police had apprehended George Floyd for suspicion of a forgery in progress said to be the use of a fake $20 bill.     


Photo by Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) (Jessica Griffin/AP.  May 30, 2020




And so, also, the United States is probably the only country where there is a category of suicide known as ‘suicide by police’.  A death which occurs after an individual has positioned himself (usually him, usually young) to be killed by the police.   


This is not the reason why the majority of  black Americans  who die at police hands die.


But it occurs.  That it occurs speaks volumes.



Are you with me?  





Norman Lewis abstract paintings-39

Norman Lewis abstract paintings-40

Confrontation; and detail; 1971; oil on canvas. 

Norman Lewis, 1909-1979, American.  I do not know where this painting, exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia in 2015/16 , is.








11 thoughts on “The Abysses, the whole Hell Holes into which have fallen whole Populations

  1. In the United States, rather I’d say the rest of the world itself; the political powers function on building up support for the rich and the powerful, for money, or for power; leaving behind the interests of the weak and the vulnerable- the one whom it’s most important to empower. Just like us ourselves; we rely upon an impulse, an option to touch new highs of possessions and pleasures, in our own lives we leave behind the fundamentals of our own existence – which means that it’s not just the government itself to blame, but humanity itself for the ways it has turned out to be. Cities have become places for the rich, the fittest- and time has raced in ways that to look at someone mentally ill, poor, sick or a minority is something hardly any of us does anything about- rather ignore; after crying a bucketful of tears or a simple sigh. Yes, it’s like being killed to be vulnerable or poor- as tells as the world with a smack, and so does, to mention casually here, the virus.

  2. Except that the virus is not an organism with morality or ethics. It is merely an organism and very successful at what all organisms do: reproducing itself.

  3. It’s scary. A lot of times when people look somewhere for protection the protector becomes the oppressor. I don’t know the answer to the problem. Frustration with the situation can lead to violence. As long as the majority can tolerate it, it will continue. When the scales get tipped and the majority can’t tolerate it we’re in for a war or something. Things have got to change before it gets to that point.

    1. I think you have hit one of the nails on the head about this situation, Chris: these massive deprivations are felt by a minority of the population although it is a large minority and ever growing as more and more of the ‘middle class’ fall into poverty after two economic meltdowns.

      The majority can – to some extent – support themselves. This is not true for mental illness, though, which is not supported in most people’s health plans. It is not supported, either, for public schools if you cannot afford private or parochial.

      So long as the relative majority tolerate that a minority simply subsist, that is as long as this will go on. But this is not just. Sarah

      1. It’s unjust, for sure. And we’d be in more trouble if the govt. became our nanny from the cradle to the grave as some people wish. I’m not certain on any political question, but the govt. is the last one I’d trust because they would be the worst oppressors. Ideally, the churches and non govt. social services should be able to make a difference. Maybe they’re unable to fix the problem because of lack of funds coming in and the problems all through the system. We could be seriously screwed as a society if we don’t stop letting so many people fall through the cracks. So many never recover and have a good life, the American dream. And it can go on for generations.

      2. $76 million for one of David Hockney’s paintings (the one where a young man is looking into the swimming pool) and very little money to help people! This has gone on for generations already. Started with the ‘flight’ (as though on their own with no human intervention) of jobs to China etc. just after WW2.


      3. Yeah, outrageous waste of money! Also outrageous that we can’t make our own clothes here anymore and all that’s in stores is cheap stuff from China or another country in Asia. What are the business barons doing? Did they all die? Maybe another manufacturing boom will happen. That would help. I’m just grasping at straws. I don’t really know.

      4. It is going to be interesting to see what exactly changes. And now that you mention business barons, we are officially on the severe outs again with China and so it is going to be really interesting what the business barons do now. Hoping for life-enhancing changes.

        Thanks for your comments! Sarah

  4. Powerful images and commentary. The breakup of the strong family unit and the fragmentation of Institutions, schools, communities leaves individuals isolated and frightened. Also unaccountable. The police are not trained to deal with this. Where are there care centers, sports centers, community centres gatherings that cut across ethnicity, even age and economic difference?

    1. Voluntary associations do exist on a massive scale. The generosity of Americans is legendary. People help. People work in food banks. People coach children of all groups. During this pandemic, people have voluntarily co-operated to look after children not their own.

      But this does nothing for public institutions which are failing or which do not exist at all.

      Voluntary organizations cannot fill the plugs of a public education system in which teachers are paying for books. Nor can they handle the epidemic of opioid addictions; of diagnoses for serious mental illnesses not covered by our health plans. For the care of seniors and those with the debilitating diseases of the elderly whose children are at work. For the care of infants whose parents are at work.

      For the payment of water bill arrears in cities like Detroit where thousands have been cut off for non-payment because they have no jobs. These are the catastrophes of an ordinary life for which there is no public support and for which private support cannot easily be extended.

      This virus and the burden on the police have outed the rotting skeleton in which millions of Americans live. It is unbelievable and has been so for decades.


  5. Despite not being physically present in the United States, yts conditions reach far and wide, and become renown for political notoriety. And all the representatives have become symbols of a different and very particular culture. The prejudice, underdevelopment in the whole world and anot a particularly country has darted to a position of total abstraction and is monumentally esoteric and seethes bubbles of scandal to the surface if the news. Homelessness, or other variations of lack of resources, have not been giving a pillar strong enough, or at all, to lean on without falling to its feet

Comments are closed.