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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘guns’

Madmen and Crowds

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

There was a temporary interval in American life when a shooting spree by a madman would have been viewed as the crime of one man. The dead would have been mourned. The killer, if he had been taken alive, would have been punished, and while the memorial might have been accompanied by some leading sermons, the country would have been spared the media exploitation and blame-a-thon that invariably follows such events.

The trouble is that there are no more individuals. Or rather the individual is no longer recognized as having any standing. “All private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger,” Roosevelt declared in 1940 to the Democratic National Convention.  And the repeal never seems to have been repealed. Instead all private plans and private lives are being constantly repealed by a turmoil of overriding public dangers, most of them sociological in nature.

A shooting takes place and the media urges that millions of firearms be confiscated. Every crisis requires that more freedoms be sacrificed for that overriding public danger that the talking heads are screaming about this week over news feeds from every corner of the globe. There are no more private lives. Only public ones. Everyone will sooner or later pass before the camera and be judged by millions of strangers in a narrative that will transform him or her into a hero or villain in the great social struggle against the public danger of the day.

Calling Adam Lanza a madman has little meaning now. The madman retreats to a private world of his own making. But the collective culture does not recognize madness as a detachment from the crowd. Instead it views it as yet another social malady to be solved. Re-open the asylums. Provide more mental health funding. Open hotlines for anyone with suicidal thoughts. Social solutions for a social society coping with the anti-social.

But even our madmen are public figures now. Cut off from the collective culture by their minds, they still strive to connect to its most fundamental value. Fame.

America’s spree killers don’t drive pickup trucks with gun racks. They aren’t NRA members and have never opened a bible. They are young, mentally ill and famous. They are exactly like the real and fake celebrities who crowd magazine covers, television screens and paparazzi-choked premieres. But they can’t sing or dance, and have no unique way to embarrass themselves into staged fame. Instead they kill their way to being famous.

As schizophrenic as our shooters were, as unable to connect to the groupthink of the larger culture, they understood the one thing that we valued. And they got it in a brute force way. They became what every girl with dyed blonde hair waiting on line to impress the judges of television’s dueling singing competitions, every waiter with sunglasses waiting to become a movie star on Rodeo Drive, every “internet personality” leaning precariously over a webcam on YouTube, every kid trying out rhymes on his friends and building a fake biography of all the people he shot in drug deals gone bad, want to be. Famous.

In mass culture, fame is the only oxygen of the individual. It is the only thing that distinguishes the vanishing individual from the herd. The celebrity is to 21st Century America as the general, the writer, the poet, the politician and the genius were to former eras. All these things and many more have been distilled down to the simple status of celebrity. You are either famous or you aren’t. You either have a private life that everyone knows about or your private life has already been repealed by the overriding public dangers of cow farts, racism and large sodas. You are either a slave to the public or just a public slave.

A culture of crowds makes crazy people even crazier. There’s nothing for paranoia like a major city and these days we all live in the major city of a culture that is crowded in even its most rural areas. Crowd culture expects everyone to follow the leader, to join the meme, to move with the flow, but that is something that crazy people cannot do. The madman is always out of step and out of sync, the paranoid schizophrenic occasionally makes a compelling leader, but he is unable to be a follower.

Madness can at its simplest be viewed as the gap between his thinking and our own. Like cultural differences, it often explodes into violence, but unlike cultural differences it cannot be bridged because there is no common language. The madman is a member of a unique culture of one. He is a citizen of himself. He has his own laws, his own values and even his own mental language. And it is one that no sane person will ever understand.

The madman is the ultimate individual dying in his own private rebellions that mean nothing to anyone else. A sane society may lock him up, it may crudely tinker with his brain chemistry or even carve up his gray matter, but it will never truly make him one with the group. And our society, addled by nearly as many drugs as your average madman, is a long way from sane. It flirts with madness in its aimless attempts at reestablishing the place of the individual in a collectivist culture, and it veers recklessly from sympathizing with violence to pretending not to understand where violence comes from. It’s the feigned innocence of those who are just jaded enough not to want to know how jaded they have truly become.

If the madman has lost the ability to speak to the crowd, the crowd has equally lost the ability to speak to the individual. The madman suffers from a defective mental vocabulary and the mad society has lost the ability to formulate concepts relating to individual behavior.

In our society the individual is always seen as putting on a public performance of accepting or rejecting group values. All private lives become a public competition to see who recycles the most, is the least racist, the most giving and the best example of what a cog in the great social machine should be. Every individual act is a commentary, not ultimately on the individual, but on the social machine. Crime is no longer a private act, but a public one, that emerges out of social factors such as the poverty rate, race relations, the availability of firearms, cold medication in pharmacies and the amount of funding for midnight basketball, outpatient mental health therapy and a thousand others.

All private plans are a public danger. All individual acts are really collective acts. There is no “I” in individual. There is only the crowd, its avatars who live out their fantasies and entertain them, and the masses shuffling off toward their daily labors until they are released from the grind and allowed a few hours to entertain themselves watching their avatars live a public show of private life.

How does one speak of individual responsibility to such people and how can they be expected to distinguish individualism from madness? The ant hive cannot be expected to think of the ant. It cannot understand anthood apart from the hive.

The Blame-a-Thon continues. Blaming Adam Lanza for his own actions is insufficient. Even blaming his dead mother is insufficient. Individuals do not matter. Only groups do. Corporations. The NRA. The Tea Party. Private tragedy becomes a political event complete with campaign speeches and fundraising letters. Organizations converge. New offices are opened and phone lines are installed. Press conferences are given. “This is a wake up call. A call for action. It’s time we did something.”

Within an hour, the responsibility is transferred from a killer to the society at large and then to the groups that do not share the values of the new collectivist society. War is declared. Press releases are faxed. Letters are sent out. “We need your help, Michael.” “Stand with us, Susan.” The dead are buried and their bodies are used to make the mulch of a new wave of political repression and profiteering. The dead, like singing competition contestants, are ultimately disposable, as are their killers. It is the producers and the judges who endure.

Each call to action is signed with the promise, “So that this will never have happen again.” That is the sociological siren song of the crowd. The promise of a powerful government safety net that will keep every terrible thing from ever happening a second time. But there is no net that madmen cannot slip through when they choose to. It is possible to repeal the private lives and private plans of all gun owners, but not the private lives and plans of madmen who are not peninsulas, but islands in the stream, who do not care about laws, regulations and expectations. Broken men looking to break.

There is more danger than safety in the crowd. Not only can the crowd not deter a madman, for the same reason that Kitty Genovese bled to death lay dying for an hour, but the crowd is also mad. It is a madness that is harder to detect because it is the madness of a crowd. The individual irrationality of a madman is detectable by outsiders, because of its conflict with the group reality, and even to the person of the madman by that same conflict, which fuels his paranoia toward the outside world, but the group cannot detect its own irrationality and is too large and pervasive for its irrationality to be recognized on the outside.

Our crowd is not yet as collectively insane as Adam Lanza, but it’s getting there. And it will not be pretty when it does. The madness of crowds is not a pretty thing. It can be seen in the hysterical crowds that greeted Hitler or the equally hysterical crowds swooning at the sight of a celebrity. Individual madness is flawed chemistry, but crowd madness is a will to madness, a raving desire to be one with the collective view, to be famous or almost famous, to exchange reason for sensation and individuality for the group immortality of the group.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The Perfect Prison

Monday, December 24th, 2012

There are as many ways to look at a man as there are at a glass of water. Either half empty or half full. Either people are basically good or they are basically rotten. And all theories of government come down to one view or the other.

If people are basically good, then they can also be left to their own devices. They may even be allowed to run their own affairs. If however they are basically rotten, then a system is needed that will force goodness on them. And this system’s own goodness will be protected by strict conformity to an ideology that is also inherently good. Those who run the system can only be chosen from the ranks of the faithful adherents of that ideology.

Arguments for goodness or “badness” are wholly anecdotal. And always have been. A man walks into a school and murders children. A man throws himself under a car to save a woman. Which of them is a definite commentary on the species or the culture? That’s a matter of picking and choosing. Both are arguably exceptions to the rule. But on the whole we have far more people who do not shoot anyone than those who do. Far more who do not steal, than steal. Far more who may not wear a halo, or that we would want to share a long train ride with, but who on the whole could be trusted not to turn on their neighbors if one day every police department within a 100 miles folds up shop.

Gun control, like most liberal social legislation, is a barometer for the state of the human glass. It is a Rorschach test for how we see others. This week’s MSNBC commentary has been the usual notes about the paranoia of gun owners. But if there is gun owner paranoia about being attacked, it seems to be outmatched by the paranoia of gun controllers who believe that every gun owner is a ticking time bomb. Or pretend to believe it when the red light turns on and the commercial break ends.

“How much firepower does a law-abiding gun owner need?” is the leading talking point of the gun controllers. But it could just as well be, “How much cold medicine does a law-abiding sneezer need?” Cold medicine has been regulated to the extent that you need a photo ID if your nose is stuffed up under a bill sponsored by a community organizer from Chicago who stayed briefly in the Senate on his way to bigger and worse things. And people have been arrested for buying too much cold medicine.

If you believe that people are basically good, then they can be trusted with an AR-15. If you believe that people are basically bad, then they can’t even be trusted with cold medicine.

We have come a long way from the muckrakers who headed downtown from their cozy digs, toting along heavy cameras and notebooks to document the conditions there. And proposed reforms. Some of the reforms were even salutary. Others were cruel and capricious. The reformers saw to it that a woman walking alone in 19th Century New York City could be arrested for prostitution. Because if you believe that people are basically bad… then you already know the rest of the story whether it’s cold medicines, guns or a woman walking down the street.

When you dig up enough dirt, then everyone looks dirty and the justification is there for a mandatory clean-up program. That is what the reformers and the muckrakers accomplished by displaying an image of a broken society. Their work was selective and biased, and they insisted on defining the city by its worst parts, and the entire country by the city. Their grand achievements have culminated in a national system of one-size-fits-all legislation. Lanza is America. America is Lanza.

Mayor Bloomberg is right that New York City has a problem with gun violence, but it’s not a problem caused by guns. Still talking about guns is easier than talking about shooters. Urban mayors are waging war on gun shops in more rural and better behaved parts of the country as if urban social problems come from those gun shops, when if anything it’s the other way around.

It’s Time We Had a Serious Discussion About Assault Vehicles

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Americans are in love with anything on wheels. This is the country of the Corvette and the Hog where driving fast is considered a national birthright despite the toll in lives and pollutants. And most of the rest of us have come to accept that.

We may shake our heads at the billions wasted on gasoline, on air fresheners and dashboard ornaments that could have been used to feed the starving children of the world. But when tragedy strikes it is important for us to set aside the political rhetoric and have a serious discussion about assault vehicles.

Let’s talk about motorcycles.

Unlike cars, motorcycles have no practical purpose. No one commutes to work on a motorcycle. No one drives to pick up their children from soccer practice on a motorcycle. But for some people a motorcycle is a symbol of their masculinity and that symbol has become death on wheels.

Americans are in love with motorcycles. 9 percent of Americans own 11 million motorcycles as part of the 18 billion dollar motorcycle industry. Some Americans even own more than one motorcycle, even though one motorcycle is the most that any normal person could possibly need.

Motorcycle deaths have risen sharply in the last ten years and the motorcycle industry is to blame for preventing us from addressing this horrifying epidemic of highway death.

In 1994, there were 2,320 motorcycle deaths. In 2012 that number increased to 4,500 as the assault vehicles greased their wheels with the blood of innocent men, women and children.

1 in 7 US traffic deaths is now caused by the motorcycle. Or what we should properly rename the Assault Cycle. Unfortunately movies like Easy Rider glamorize motorcycle culture and the motorcycle industry preys on the vulnerable male psyche as riders chase after some escapist fantasy of personal autonomy.

Motorcycle culture has always been associated with violence and the escalating death toll now threatens our moral standing as a country. America was once known as a nation that the rest of the world looked up to, but now whenever I visit Lichtenstein or Luxembourg for an environmental conference, one of the first questions that I am asked is when Americans will join the rest of the civilized world in restricting the manufacture and sale of assault cycles. And I can only sadly shake my head while downing another Shirley Temple.

But perhaps tragedy will serve as a wake-up call. In Fairfield, California, an off-duty California Highway Patrolman is killed in a collision with a pickup truck. In Duarte, California, former MLB pitcher Frank Pastore died of injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident.  In Florence, Kentucky, a motorcycle driver lost control of his assault vehicle and collided with a utility pole. In Tarpon Springs, Florida, a woman riding as a passenger on the back of a motorcycle fell off and was run over by a passing vehicle. These are just a few of the deaths caused by assault cycles that have taken place in the last week.

We cannot meet these awful tragedies with apathy. Only immediate unthinking action will suffice. A serious dialogue must begin in which all options are on the table. The politicians who have been in thrall to the motorcycle industry must look at these dead people that I have just mentioned and completely ignore the law and all other considerations to do whatever I want.

No one is talking about completely banning the motorcycle, except for those who are, but we must work together to reach a sensible solution. Motorcycle owners will still be able to keep and even drive their toys, but we must take action against the deadliest overpowered assault cycles with too much horsepower that have no legitimate purpose.

There is no reason for any law-abiding motorcycle owner to own one of the “superbikes” whose accident rate is 30 times higher than that of cars. These insanely overpowered assault vehicles, such as the Suzuki GSXR1000 and the Kawasaki Ninja, are literal killing machines. Although assault cycles only account for 10 percent of the motorcycles on the road, they account for 25 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents.

200 horsepower is far too much for any legitimate street bike and it’s time that our elected officials stood up to the motorcycle industry and said no to the assault cycle.

And it cannot end there.

As pernicious as motorcycle culture is, car culture is even deadlier. Millions of children will grow up coughing and wheezing from asthma attacks because they live near a highway. And many more will die in the daily car accidents that mar our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels.

Americans are in love with their Assault Sedans and their Murder Hatchbacks.  The U.S. had 246 million registered vehicles for just 209 million drivers in a country of 311 million. There is no better evidence of the power of car culture than the fact that some people actually own more than one car, so that they can perhaps crash their first car into a crowd, and then get into their second car and crash that it into a crowd too to maximize the death toll.

40,000 people die in car crashes a year. That’s 400,000 a decade or 4 million over a century. That is the grim ugly face of America’s macabre love affair with cars. America leads the world in car ownership, aside from Monaco, and if we are going to take a horrible place like Monaco as our role model, then I no longer want to be an American.

The children, the most innocent among us, are the real victims of America’s insane car culture.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children from 2 to 14 years old. An average of 6 children die every day in car crashes… and 700 more are injured. Some of those injuries will cripple them for life.

Any decent person, even a car owner, can’t help but look at these statistics and demand immediate unthinking action of some kind. It is up to decent people like us, and even them, to join together and call for that action. It is up to us to capitalize on the deaths of these sweet innocent children for the greater good of all.

No one is talking about banning all cars. Some cars, like those that drive environmental activists to environmental conferences, are strictly necessary. But there is a big difference between legitimate and illegitimate cars.

There’s no reason for a law-abiding driver to own a car that goes faster than 35 miles per hour. Above that speed is when most fatal accidents occur and closing that speed loophole will save millions of lives. Cars that travel faster than 35 miles per hour, let’s call them assault vehicles, have no purpose except to cater to a sick car culture that values speed over the lives of innocent children. We owe it to our children to give them a better world. A world where 35 miles per hour isn’t just the speed limit in  my gated community, but throughout the entire land.

An assault vehicle ban will also be good for the environment. Many drivers will discover that they can get to work faster by riding a bike than by driving their fume-spewing murder machines.

Speaking of bicycles, there has unfortunately been a sharp rise in cyclist deaths as well. I remember many hours of joy riding my bike up and down the street as a child, and I still put in a few miles on my exercise bike when my schedule allows for it, but these innocent vehicles are being upstaged on the road by killing machines that have very little in common with my 12 inch Huffy and exist only to race and kill.

I have never understood why there must be any bikes with more than 6 speeds. The bike industry, the bike lobby and the bike culture is irresponsibly pushing multi-speed bikes that are completely unnecessary. These Assault Bicycles which have 18 speeds are murder vehicles of death.

It might be best if we put an end to vehicle culture altogether. It might be best if everyone just walked. So long as they walk responsibly.

The number of pedestrian deaths has risen sharply in 2012 and the problem may lie with what I like to call, Assault Walking, or walking too fast, not to mention Assault Running.

To all the paranoid alarmists out there, no one is talking about banning you from going on a light jog or even a brisk walk; so long as you keep it under the speed indicated on your government issued Citizen Pedometer with built-in breathalyzer. If you wish to walk faster than that, you will have to apply for a license, undergo a psychological evaluation, give up your health insurance and then wait six weeks.

America is a great country, but we can be an even greater country if we just banned everything… for the children.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Stop Messing with our Children

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

In the Middle East, children are being used by the adults who should be caring for them to turn them into jihadist weapons to conquer the world — sometimes with bombs strapped onto them to kill their perceived enemies. Children are given gun training to learn how to kill Jews, and are told that dying for the sake of jihad is the highest honor and the only guarantee to go to heaven. If these are not abuses of the human rights of the child, what is? In the elementary school we attended in Gaza, the political and cultural agenda of the Arab world was pushed down our throats in effectively every subject.

American children today are also suffering from adult agendas shoved down their throats: the environmental agenda, the feminist agenda, the gay agenda, the Islamist agenda, the class-envy agenda, the racial-divide agendas, the animal-rights agenda, ad infinitum. What people in the West fail to see is that they, too, are using their children as weapons: as tools to bring about social, cultural and political change, often to destroy the American system as we know it and replace it with a new America that the popular culture and many Americans seem so desperate to accomplish.

Experiments in child rearing do not only happen in ignorant third world countries, where people do not know better. My daughter came home from high school asking which topic to pick for an essay she was asked to write. The topics were: suicide, mass murder, or being bullied and oppressed because you are gay or from a certain race or national background. When I suggested “none of the above,” her answer was that this was the list the teacher given.

Boys are told that what was once considered normal boy play. Roughhousing, has now become a crime, bullying. Girls are encouraged to perceive themselves as victims of men and marriage and to feel hurt about it.

The American political and social divides are trickling down to our schools and placing horrific pressure on our kids. In divorces, the father watches his kids taken away from him while the mother is told she can do everything on her own without a father. In political and cultural divisions, adults are also acting like hostile, divorcing parents tearing their kids apart during custody battles. As in the Middle East, where kids are unintentionally hurt for political, social and psychological experimentation, in America we are also usurping their innocence.

Adam Lanza, mentally ill or not, may not have had to end the way he did. He lacked fear of authority while living in the isolation of a large home with a mother desperate to please him by taking him shooting, buying assault weapons, guns and ammunition for a son she knew was not well. This mother was told by the popular culture that she could replace the father in her son’s life and that the son would not feel any difference whether the father’s activities were done by the father or her. This poor mother told her friends she was trying to bond with her 20-year-old son — what she unfortunately did not know was that this is an age when young men hate to be seen with their mothers.

American culture has hurt women, children and the family structure by telling women they could do everything, by telling men they are disposable and by telling girls that motherhood and marriage are unnecessary.

In the larger picture, the American epidemic of mass gun shootings by young men could be a cry for help by several generations of American kids who have suffered under decades of experimentation and indoctrination in our public schools. It could also be a cry for help by American single mothers, who are told they can take the role of both men and women in the family including the difficult task of raising young boys to adulthood alone. Women need a break; kids need fathers as much as they need mothers. They also need the traditional extended family relations: the nurturing grandmother, the funny uncle or aunt, cousins. It is time for America to end the self-righteous pressure on our kids to change America.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

The Sandy Hook Tragedy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The 26 murders at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday have triggered yet another nationwide debate over how something so horrific could happen in the United States.

We’ve seen similar discussions after other mass killings, but usually they are forgotten in a matter of weeks. Perhaps the Newtown massacre, with its sheer number of dead and the heartbreakingly young age of most of the victims, will prove to be different.

In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, most are still focused on the adequacy of gun control measures and the attention paid to the special threats posed by the mentally ill. And these concerns are obviously on point.

Yet far too little attention is being paid to the steady diet of violence and depravity – including depictions and even celebrations of murder, torture, dismemberment and rape – being served up to our young people in movies, song lyrics, video games and of course on the Internet.

While more details about the Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, are sure to become known in the days ahead, we already know he spent an inordinate amount of time behind closed doors playing violent Internet games.

Understandably, as a nation that revels in free speech we tend to be reluctant to dwell on these matters, but a clearer understanding of the long-term effects of this kind of exposure would seem to be crucial in understanding and possibly preventing such unthinkable violence.

In the meantime, we join our fellow Americans and indeed the rest of the world in expressing our deepest sorrow and sympathy to the families and friends of the children and teachers whose lives were so senselessly ended last week.

Gun Control and Gun Control Culture

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Hardly had the blood been scrubbed off the floors in Newtown than everyone who was anyone had begun shifting the blame from Adam Lanza to some intangible social failure.

Back in 2002, Michael Moore trundled his bulk over to Colorado to exploit the Columbine massacre for a general rant about gun culture, American foreign policy and how hard it was to find a shop selling bacon grease by the ton at two in the morning.

In his film, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary, Moore gave his audience what they wanted, lots of scenes of “hicks and hillbillies” buying, selling and giving away guns all over the place to illustrate the murderous ravages of American gun culture. Some of those scenes were staged, but it didn’t matter since Moore was catering to an audience that had nothing but contempt for working class Americans and would believe any awful thing about them.

What did gun culture have to do with a plot by two disgruntled dorks upset over being called “Faggots” a few times too many? About as much as gun culture has to do with Adam Lanza, another award winning product of the, “Maybe some people deserve to get beaten up” club.

Your average school shooter is unhappy and angry, irreligious, incapable of fitting into a community and filled with rage that he exercises through violent fantasies. His culture isn’t gun culture. It’s loner culture. Video games do not cause him to kill, but they are how he entertains himself until he can get a taste of the real thing.

Adam Lanza, Dylan Kleibold, Eric Harris, Seung-Hui Cho, James Holmes, One L. Goh and Jared Loughner had as much in common with what the Michael Moore Fan Club thinks of as “gun culture” as Michael Moore does with the working class. Whatever gun culture they had was not the American Scots-Irish culture of the hunter, the rancher and the militia member, but the urban posse of emasculated men of no worth that brandishes weapons as a way to get respect.

The gun culture of the school shooter is the lobby scene in The Matrix, the frag or be fragged multiplayer gaming culture of Halo and Doom, and the Joker killing his way across Gotham. None of these products of mass entertainment make one a killer, but they are also far more illustrative of the type of gun culture that defines school shooters, than anything that Michael Moore and the MSNBC talking heads mean by gun culture.

For most Americans there is no gun culture, only the ownership of guns. To the extent that any gun culture has developed it was in response to a gun control culture that sought to demonize the ownership of firearms. The traditional and religious culture of the American gun owner has little in common with the power fantasies of the school shooter. To the gun owner, a firearm is a necessary tool. To the school shooter, it is a way to stop feeling powerless, a way to get beyond the ersatz joys of killing bots and avatars, of watching Keanu Reeves spin through the air while filling a mob of policemen full of lead, with the joy of the real kill.

But that has not stopped anyone and everyone from opining on the great malady of American gun culture. Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse basketball coach, took the time out to blather on about it for ten minutes. A Washington Post writer named Max Fisher claimed that American gun culture was “unique” because Americans own a lot of guns. That is roughly the level of fact-based discourse on gun culture that you can expect from gun-control culture which asserts that ownership is identity.

The Battle Creek Enquirer ran an editorial which asserted that “The gun culture in this country is insane” and then failed to define what that gun culture consisted of except to say that, “The insanity of America’s gun culture is that in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary, the gun lobby successfully peddles the lie that we are safer when we ease access to firearms.”

The definition of gun culture insanity then is believing that when a dork who has seen the Matrix or The Dark Knight or blood splatter on his monitor a few times too many comes bearing lead, it is better to be able to defend yourself than to be a target. It’s absurd, of course, we are told by gun control culturalists, to believe that ordinary civilians can do anything in such a crisis except wet their pants and hope that the SWAT team doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

Gun Control, Thought Control and People Control

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The gun control debate, like all debates with the Left, is reducible to the question of whether we are individuals who make our own decisions or a great squishy social mass that helplessly responds to stimuli. Do people kill with guns or does the availability of guns kill people? Do bad eating habits kill people or does the availability of junk food kill people?

To the Left these are distinctions without a difference. If a thing is available then it is the cause of the problem. The individual cannot be held accountable for shooting someone if there are guns for sale. Individuals have no role to play because they are not moral actors, only members of a mob responding to stimuli.

You wouldn’t blame a dog for overeating; you blame the owners for overfeeding him. Nor do you blame a dog for biting a neighbor. You might punish him, but the punishment is training, not a recognition of authentic responsibility on the part of the canine. And the way that you think of a dog, is the way that the Left thinks of you. When you misbehave, the Left looks around for your owner.

The cult of the Left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been “liberated” to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it’s because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it’s because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem.

Individual behavior is a symptom of a social problem. Identify the social problem and you fix the behavior. The individual is nothing, the crowd is everything. Control the mass and you control the individual.

That is how the Left approached this election. Instead of appealing to individual interests, they went after identity groups. They targeted low-information voters and used behavioral science to find ways to manipulate people. The Right treated voters like human beings. The Left treated them like lab monkeys. And the lab monkey approach is triumphantly toted by progressives as proof that the Left is more intelligent than the right. And what better proof of intelligence can there be than treating half the country like buttons of unthinking responses that you can push to get them to do what you want.

Would you let a lab monkey own a gun? Hell no. Would you let it choose what to eat? Only as an experiment. Would you let it vote for laws in a referendum? Not unless it’s trained to push the right button. Would you let it drive a car? Nope. Maybe a bicycle. And if it has to travel a long way, you’ll encourage it to use mass transit. Does a monkey have freedom of speech? Only until it annoys you.

You’ll take away most of the monkey’s bananas, which you’re too lazy to go and find for yourself because you have more important things to do than fetch bananas. You train monkeys to fetch bananas for you. That is how the enlightened elites of the Left see the workers whose taxes they harvest; as monkeys that they taught in their schools and created jobs for with their stimulus plans for. And the least that the monkeys could do is pay their taxes, because the monkeys didn’t build that. You did.

You do plan to take care of monkey’s medical expenses, at least until they get too high, and spay and neuter it with free birth control. You will train it to be the smartest and most well-behaved monkey it can be. And when it gets too sick, you plan to have it mercifully put down so it doesn’t hang around spreading diseases and depressing you with its misery.

And what’s wrong with any of that? Human beings are just evolved monkeys. It’s not as if you’re being cruel to the monkey. You’re engaged in what you might charitably think of as a symbiotic relationship with the monkey. If the monkey were smart, it might think of you as a parasite. But you have a whole lot of rounds of ammunition stockpiled in case of a Planet of the Apes scenario.

If you assume that there is as much of a substantive difference the elite and the common man as there is between a man and a monkey, there is nothing particularly inappropriate about such behavior. We herd animals. Liberals herd people. The human being is the livestock of the liberal animal farm.

The Nazis believed that they were the master race because they were genetically superior. Liberals believe that they are the master race on account of their superior empathy and intelligence. There’s an obvious paradox in believing that you have the right to enslave and kill people because you care more, but that didn’t stop millions of people from joining in with revolutions that led to a century of bloodshed in the name of movements that cared more.

The defining American code is freedom. The defining liberal code is compassion. Conservatives have attempted to counter that by defining freedom as compassionate, as George W. Bush did. Liberals counter by attempting to define compassion as liberating, the way that FDR did by classing freedoms with entitlements in his Four Freedoms.

On one side stands the individual with his rights and responsibilities. On the other side is the remorseless state machinery of supreme compassion. And there is no bridging this gap.

Liberal compassion is not the compassion of equals. It is a revolutionary pity that uses empathy only as fuel for outrage. It is the sort of compassion practiced by people who like to be angry and who like to pretend that their anger makes them better people. It is the sort of compassion that eats like poison into the bones of a man or a society, even while swelling their egos with their own wonderfulness.

Compassion of this sort is outrage fuel. It is hatred toward people masquerading as love. And that hatred is a desire for power masquerading as outrage which in turn is dressed up as a deep love for others and empathy for all living creatures. Peel away the mask of compassion and all that is underneath is a terrible lust for power. And the only way to truly justify the kind of total power summoned by such lusts is by reducing the people you would rule over to the status of non-persons.

The clash that will define the future of America is this collision between the individual and the state, between disorganized freedom and organized compassion, between a self-directed experiment in self-government and an experiment conducted by trained experts on a lab monkey population. And the defining idea of this conflict is accountability.

To understand the Left’s position on nearly any issue, imagine a 20th Century American and then take away accountability. Assume that the individual is helpless and stupid, has little to no control over his own behavior and is only responding to stimuli and functions in a purely reactive capacity. Then use that data to come up with a response to anything from kids getting fat to a football player shooting his wife to terrorists firing rockets at Israel. The only possible answer to reactive behavior is to find the thing being reacted to and condemn it.

If you want to fake being a member of the Left on any topic and in any setting, master this simple phrase. “But we have to look at the root causes to see who is really responsible.” Congratulations, you can now get by anywhere from Caracas to Brussels to Berkeley.

The root cause is a perpetual search for an accountability vested in systems rather than people. That search always ends up with systems and ideologies, rather than mere people, because it justifies the destruction of those systems and ideologies. And destroying systems and ideologies allows them to be replaced by their progressive replacements.

The final failure of accountability for the Left is a failure of moral organization, while for the right it is a failure of personal character. The right asks, “Why did you kill?” The Left asks, “Who let him have a gun?” “Who didn’t provide him with a job” and “Who neglected his self-esteem?”

Freedom goes hand in hand with personal moral organization of the individual by the individual. Organized compassion however requires the moral organization of the society as a whole. A shooting is not a failure of the character of one man alone, or even his family and social circle, it is the total failure of our entire society and perhaps even the world, for not leveraging a sufficient level of moral organization that would have made such a crime impossible. No man is an island. Every man is a traffic jam.

Social accountability on this scale requires the nullification of the personhood and accountability of the individual, just as the moral organization that it mandates requires removing the freedom of choice of the individual, to assure a truly moral society. When compassion and morality are collective, then everyone and no one is moral and compassionate at the same time. And that is the society of the welfare state where compassion is administered by a salaried bureaucracy.

Choice is what makes us moral creatures and collective compassion leaves us less than human. The collective society of mass movements and mass decisions leaves us little better than lab monkeys trying to compose Shakespeare without understanding language, meaning or ideas, or anything more than the rote feel of our fingers hitting the keyboard.

This is the society that the Left is creating, a place filled with as many social problems as there are people, where everyone is a lab monkey except the experts running the experiments, and where no one has any rights because freedom is the enemy of a system whose moral code derives from creating a perfect society by replacing the individual with the mass. It is a society where there is no accountability, only constant compulsion. It is a society where you are a social problem and there are highly paid experts working day and night to figure out how to solve you.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/gun-control-thought-control-and-people-control/2012/12/18/

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