I am a scholar by profession and that makes me look beyond the surface when I view events in the world. To me the associaton between the events in Boston and the US Senate are closely related. Realize that as a complexity scientist I reject simple notions of cause and effect and see complex interactions being the basis for what happens in the world.
What is the relationship between these news items this week? Well, clearly there are many. I want to focus on the message I got from both events and why they are so closely related. Read on below and I will explain.
There is a simple idea that cannot be covered by rhetoric or word games. It is clearly possible to have your will prevail over others, even if temporarily and clearly reversible (in a sense), by force. I am painfully aware of this having been a USMC officer where I was taught that we held our ground to our death but kept spewing out lethal stuff to the bitter end. That “lethal stuff” included many techniques for killing with your bare hands. That experience is in me and cannot be erased. As a result I will never own a weapon nor engage in a fight.
To so many others, the ability to kill others or to maim them or to threaten these forms of harm is a source of “freedom”. Clearly there are different notions of “freedom”. My freedom comes from the choice to live and respect life as I do. I eat and wash and do other things that do destroy life forms but we all do and cannot escape it.
When it comes to collective action, the birth of our Nation was a demonstration, among so many others, that enough force the threat of force can change circumstances for all time. The idea was so strong that it allowed (or caused) us to do genocide. We have lived in that mode since our beginnings. As a result we have been able to dominate much of the world to our material advantage.
The Senate has responded to the threat of encroachment on the ability of anyone to arm themselves to the utmost with the usual myths and rhetoric. Meanwhile two guys (apparently) have demonstrated the force of their will in the region around Boston. They will not prevail. Or will they? Will Boston ever be the same? Will you feel the same in a public gathering when people with backpacks or other items are around.
Already our schools have changed. Public life has changed. The use of force as a principle has been upheld over and over again by the government which supposedly reflects our will. These events are not readily reversible. If you own the means, you too can prevail over other people. This is supposed to be good. Carry a weapon. It is a symbol. It shows you can dominate others if you so choose and who cares about the consequences.
I, as a scholar and writer, also try to inject myself into the lives of others. The reaction is also often one of hostility and retaliation. The attacks here can be very violent and I am not innocent. Yet there is a difference. Pulling a trigger or breaking a bone is not the same. However, the difference dissolves when one kind of action leads to the other. If what I write leads others to eventually choose violence, then I have done wrong. On the other hand, how can my writing prevent violence? How did Ghandi and Martin Luther King fare? (no comparison implied)
The world is different now. Once again a few individuals changed it. They used violence and its threat to do it. The NRA and its Senate lackeys will claim that we need even more violent capacity to prevent such things. I was up to 4 AM EST last night watching live feed from Boston. I saw more fire power than I did in most things we did in the USMC. What did it do? It seems like it stimulated these guys to do more destruction, not less, but I could be wrong.
To those who arm themselves for their “protection” I will say that I do not believe you. You like the power. You like the idea that can kill or maim or threaten the same to prevail over others. I will suggest to you that some of you may even become tempted to do as the two in Boston did. Show you can control lots of others if you choose to.
We keep going backward. When will we ever learn?