A philosophical exploration of the reasons for violence.
"The continued mutual encouragement to demand the right to bear arms, even by those who have been listed on terror watchlists, without responsibility for those who kill with arms, is creating a fundamental schism of violence across the nation. What will inevitably happen one day? Will it simply be yet more and more mass shootings, or will it be insurrection, or secession, or even civil war?"
This article is a sidebar to the thorough analysis, "A Benthamite Solution to Gun Control" (Yofiel, 2015).
The renowned post-Jungian psychologist James Hillman said; "War is not a product of reason and does not yield to reason" ("A Terrible Love of War," Penguin Press, 2005). In the variety of causes which he explored; as real explanations, the need to shed blood in the generations after discovering new land is particularly insightful, and has particular bearing on the current affairs, as will be explained. Hillman observed how the War of independence and the Civil War were both inevitable, because a massive shedding of blood was necessary, all across the vast expanses of America, in order for later generations of Westerners to feel it was their own. The more territory there is, the more blood must be shed. And so the wars lasted many years, covering far more ground than was rationally necessary to resolve the disputes.
In another related field, the semantics psychologist Alfred Korzybski stated "the map is not the territory" ("Science and Sanity: an Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics," Institute of General Semantics, 1994). His point was that the boundaries which one might physically define do not signify the limits of a some conceptual state. For example, America is not just defined by a line, upon the other side of which is another country, but also is defined by a large set of political, religious, scientific, and other concepts upon which individuals base their actions. And already, the astute mind will observe that during the civil war, the conflict was not over control of land, but over territorial concepts, such as the righteousness of slavery and taxation.
In "The Territorial Imperative: a Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations" (Atheneum, 1966), the innovative anthropobiologist Robert Ardrey stated that the fundament of human behavior is not fundamentally distinct from animal behavior, and that society is primarily motivated by a need to conquer new territory. In the 1960s, it was considered controversial to consider humanity as animal, but with advances in sociobiology since then, now it is generally accepted as valid. Yet often ignored is his further and profound conviction that we can rise above such a animalistic state ("African Genesis: a Personal Investigation into the Origins and Nature of Man", Atheneum, 1961):
It is for those of us who seek to be more than apes, who seek such 'peaceful acres,' to find avenues which avoid more corpses, despite the irrational and bloodthirsty desire to enable violence from which we have risen, and speak out, pointing to the signposts and opening the way. We cannot avoid the blood, as Hillman stated, "when territories change, blood must be shed." But if that is true, and not yet fully explored, can we limit needless bloodshed? Does it explain why there is so much argument about violence, and the mechanisms for it, and how the tools for it should be controlled? Or is it so futile an endeavor that we are doomed to exist forever like the killer apes whence we presumably evolved?
If there must be bloodshed, how much bloodshed must there be?
What can we do to make it less?
By putting all the above facts together, one might reach a new insight and conclusion about the renewed debate on violence in America. It is not rational. Both sides on gun debates intuitively believe in their own positions, so differences of opinion are never resolved by reasonable argument, and the violence has continued despite so many efforts to end it. Simultaneously, due to the information era, vast new conceptual domains have been discovered in the last generation. Social forums are only one of the many new territorial abstractions which have appeared, from which new violence is engendered, and over which control still is in flux. But as with any violence, the deeper reasons for its existence are rarely acknowledged during the conflict, or maybe even impossible to know until the conflict is ended, for as Hegel said, "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only when the shades of night are gathering" ("Philosophy of Right," [trans. T.M. Knox, Oxford University Press, 1952)] Marxists Archive, 1820). Or, if you prefer a proactive perspective on a more hopeful, misty future, rather than the retrospective hindsight of Hegel's knowable yet vampiric past ("On Soul, Character, and Calling: a Conversation with James Hillman," The Sun, July 2012):
For many, even conceiving of a Jungian abstraction for such deeper motivations of violence is instantly beyond the pale, if only because it is dismissible as elitist far before the consideration can arise. So it is not surprising there is so continually new violence. New domains appear for the conquering, territorialism spurs the bloodshed, and naive idealism only sustains the debate as to its justification. The naive idealism is particularly obvious with gun control. Americans continually argue about constitutional rights to own a gun, often illogically. For example, when asked about gun control in a radio interview this year, the actor Kurt Russell stated "They can also make a bomb pretty easily. So what? They can also get knives and stab you. [What are you] gonna do about that? They can also get cars and run you over. [What are you] gonna do about that?" ("Kurt Russell: 'Absolutely Insane' to Think Gun Control will Change Terrorists, Breitbart News Network, 9 December 2015). Thus the actor advocated gun control as pointless, albeit a little incoherently, perhaps illustrating how America prefers Paine's naive realism over Hegel, as the actor is quoted far more often. Kurt Russell remained obstinately incognizant that his arguments also make guns entirely unnecessary in the first place.
The objective should be to reduce violence through limiting the access to lethal tools, but there has been a disjunct in evaluating the results. The objections against guns are objections against violence, to which end utilitarianism provides the method of resolution after morality balks in paradox. While some seek to end violence altogether, stopping violence altogether is not possible, and banning its tools impracticable. Gun advocates rightfully pose violence as a solution to violence in some cases. The best solution varies on specifics of situations which endless efforts strive to define in abstract, always being redefined as our known universe expands in complexity. There can be no simple or absolute answer as to when violence really can stop more violence.
Hence the expedient way to evaluate the results of gun control must be to evaluate the results of gun violence cost, because there are times when violence really does end violence, and in the face of such a quintessential paradox where conventional morality can only balk, little else but the ends serves to guide the means. As Michael Ignatieff wrote while considering the new political ethics of a post-terrorism era, "If two acts are evil, how can we say that one is the lesser, the other the greater? Qualifying evil in this way would seem to excuse it. Yet it is essential to the idea of a lesser evil that one can justify resort to it without denying that it is evil, justifiable only because other means would be insufficient or unavailable" ("The Lesser Evil: Political Politics in an Age of Terror," Princeton University Press, 2004). Maybe one day, some better calculus will appear to predict the minimum amount of required bloodshed whenever a new realm is opened, and to lessen the inevitable territorial disputes as they arrive, whether they are over physical land, or over what information about our lives comprises which data realms, or over some other new territory. In order that we may consider the discovery of a new kingdom as a horizon of hope, rather than a province of conflict, new ideas might appear. Meanwhile, at least according to experts on conflict resolution and violence, the first step to resolving the differences of opinion on gun legislature should first be to consider simple methods to gain consensus on the best solution, rather than perpetuate conflicts of interests in irresolvable debates that are based on no more than naive realism. Experts in conflict resolution, such as those who create the possibilities of treaties between enemy nations, frequently explain the sequence of necessary events:
- Enable dialog.
- Find common ground.
- Create consensus on a solution via compromise on the least-harmful derivative.
As Aristotle pointed out, democracy is the least-harmful derivative of an ideal political system ("Aristotle on Politics", [trans. Benjamin Jowett, Macmillan, 1901] MIT Classics Online, 350 BCE). Similarly, a treaty by consensus is the least harmful resolution to a conflict.
By focusing on a utilitarian solution, rather than civil rights, dialog is enabled. By removing the fiscal conflict of interest, a common ground is found. Then democratic consensus on a solution follows naturally, and the desired results, in this case the reduction of violence and its cost, follows naturally.
When presenting my article "A Benthamite Solution to Gun Control" to gun activists, the usual first reaction after hostility and scorn is usually outright denial to consider the facts. As indicated in "The New 2nd Amendment Loophole," those who follow naive realism will never change without guidance akin to parental care in the nature of idealistic thought. So I sadly here interject again on "American Delusions: the Right to Murder." In the >500 interviews of gun activists, many extensively blustered excuses to kill, embellishing them with delight any time that a new justification popped in their heads. During that time I conjectured how a type of mass brainwashing is occurring, partly as a consequence of wars, that has desensitized many Americans to suffering of their compatriots.
Perhaps in absence of any guidance otherwise, the desensitization is evolving, just as in the Stanford Prison experiments, into a callous hatred of anything which remotely 'infringes' (a popular word) on a misconceived right to violence and control, so deeply derived from the crooked roots of 18th-century militant idealism to resist any obstacle regardless of its nature. I dismally repeated that constitutional rights result in many other contrary situations where rights of each other are infringed, and their resolution is not through idealism, but through practical considerations of that which maximizes liberty, and therefore happiness, of all--not only including themselves, but others who suffer loss and liberty of happiness as the result of the way they choose to defend and exercise their own rights. For all of those who benefit from cooperation in a civil society are first expected to consider that others in the society have rights equal to their own, and that any infringement of another's rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness cannot be simply defending by upholding one's own desire to infringe upon them with impunity, else the equal benefits of living in a cooperative civilization are forfeit.
In response, more than several said it would be an act of cowardice not to shoot someone breaking into their home, and they would not even hesitate one moment lest the intruder happen to be, for instance, a child trying to find food. Via social media for the Tea Party and 2nd Amendment forums, gun activists vociferously supported each other for agreeing to kill without hesitation. Maria Konnikova wrote of this kind of phenomenon "All else being equal, we act as we think we're expected to act, especially if that expectation comes from above. Suggest, as the Stanford setup did, that we should behave in stereotypical tough-guard fashion, and we strive to fit that role" ("The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment," New Yorker, June 12, 2105).
With an ever-shrinking number of households accumulating an ever-growing horde of firearms, with ever-increasing preference for only those made to shoot other human beings, what is the inevitable consequence?
Thus one may legitimately consider whether the Tea Party, and other such movements, will become far more than a storm in a teacup, or rather not whether, but when. The continued mutual encouragement to demand the right to bear arms, even by those who have been listed on terror watchlists, without responsibility for those who kill with arms, is creating a fundamental schism of violence across the nation. What will inevitably happen one day? Will it simply be yet more and more mass shootings, or will it be insurrection, or secession, or even civil war? And lest it be thought I surmise idly as to the evil of those who ignorantly prosecute their selfish desires, I explain how they are merely ignorant as children, for only one person, in all of those who responded to this article, knew anything of the facts stated here.
I am a retired Oxford scholar of philosophy and psychology, born in Washington DC, and living in Sacramento, California. I am Master Freemason In The Wild of the 16th-century lodge of Devonshire (UK), and a member of the Society of Friends. I am retired and not paid for any work. This is my personal website, which is named after the archangel of divine beauty.
In the past, I worked to further pluralism and multinational cooperation to create a better life for all in Silicon Valley, California. I worked on specifications for the Pentium I (for Intel), the first 802.11 wireless internet protocol (for AT&T), the HTML/CSS/DOM interface for digital TV (for Comcast, Rogers, Shaw, and others), and the iPad microprocessor (for Apple). Prior to engineering work, I worked as a journalist in New York. For family reasons, I have deep knowledge of both sides of the gun-control issue. My father was on the Editorial Board of the New York Times and Washington Post responsible for human rights. My mother was an antinuclear activist. My paternal grandfather authored the first book on humanitarian reasons for conscientious objection. My maternal grandfather was special assistant to the Secretary of the U.S. Navy. My hobbies include writing, making software for Hollywood and TV, and talking with my cat.