?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Hogarth judge

November 2017

S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Hogarth judge

The real problem with guns

I think that ultimately, I'm uncomfortable with guns and the gun culture of the USA because I fear it could turn us into the kind of people Al Qaeda likes, and undermines civilization itself.

Historians contrast 'cultures of honor' with 'cultures of law'. 'Culture of honor' is one of those vaguely PC terms, and couching it in terms of 'honor' makes it even vaguer, but 'honor' in this context means something specific, and much more unpleasant than the word suggests. In this context, "honor" means a person's reputation for willingness and ability to inflict violent and disproportionate revenge for perceived slights. In a culture of honor, individuals and clans are ranked not only by wealth but also by reputation as dangerous enemies. Your personal safety is contingent on reputation: both your own, and your clan's, for being a badass. Anything that threatens reputation, or that makes you look weak, must be met with violence.

The "honor killings" you hear about from Middle Eastern countries are undertaken to defend the reputation of the clan: not being able to keep the females under control is a sign of weakness, and threatens the reputation of more than the individual. Elaborate codes such as the burqa and complicated ettiquettes arise in these situations to avoid giving even a whiff of offense, because the threat of violence is omnipresent.

In a culture of law, people do not take immediate revenge for perceived slights, and there is a formal social system for resolving disputes whose authority is generally respected. Cultures of honor tend to arise where law is simply unavailable, unreliable, or hostile. They arise naturally among nomadic herdsmen, such as you find in the mountains of Afghanistan or the Scottish border and highlands. There is no law they can appeal to if their herds are rustled away. The strong clans can and do raid each other's cattle, and low level warfare is commonplace. You can't police the areas without an army of your own, and once you organize as an army you're just another one of them.

They also arise naturally among aristocrats, to the extent that they believe themselves above the law. You also find them associated with gangsters and the criminal underclass. Like the herdsmen, their stashes and cash are easily stolen, and they can't look to the law for help. The perennial chip on the shoulder is diagnostic: they're not one of us.

In short, "culture of honor" is just PC talk for barbarism.

This is why the ideology of the gun culture strikes me as dangerous. It perpetuates attitudes I associate with criminals while maintaining its own sense of self-worthiness. The gun ideologues tell us that the police are too distant and the forces of organized society cannot help you. You must arm yourself to be ready to instantly retaliate against enemies. Guns are a key aspect of freedom, with a political dimension; not having one somehow dishonors and unmans you. So I must posture that I will fight to the death to keep them. I am always the first line of defense against my enemies.

This bullshit is corrosive to civilization. This is how the criminal underclass thinks. The only therapy that works on it is consistent and persistent humiliation.

I really don't have strong opinions about guns themselves. But we can't encourage more cultures of honor to take root in the United States. We have enough thugs as it is. To the extent that you internalize values consistent with a culture of honor, you are already a criminal. That's why the rhetoric of the "Second Amendment" gun nuts disturbs me immensely, and why I simply prefer to keep people like that several counties away from me.
Tags: ,

Comments

As much as I have to admit that owning and using (properly) firearms is a constitutional right, I have yet heard a truly convincing argument from gun rights advocates to support their side. Other than the fact that gun rights are protected under the 2nd Amendment, as been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, all other arguments have been based on a proposed scenario of conflict and antagonism. It's either "well the only criminals will have guns!" or "we have our guns to safeguard our freedoms, against the tyranny of the state!" I always thought that police and law enforcement would also have the weapons for the protection of the people from such criminals, in the former scenario, and that any claims of rebelling against the "tyranny" of the State just amounts to sedition, treason, and overall lawlessness, in the latter.

I had thought that the rhetoric of the NRA and other gun rights advocates sounds very similar to gangsta' rap from the late 70's and 80's. Despite the overtly violent content, gangsta rap alluded to how the disenfranchised Black minority felt discriminated against by the so-called authority of society, collectively referred to as "The Man." They felt that the White men in power treated them with fear and disdain, as second class citizens, who are routinely harassed by the police, who are always held in suspicion at best, enforcers and thugs for the government at worse. And so they would take up arms, to fight and kill so that they can carve out a life of their own without interference from The Man, and from other rival gangs who are also fighting for those same urban resources.

That doesn't sound too far off from NRA members who claim that the liberal media, and clueless government officials only want to take away their guns, so they can't fight back, and then to take away their rights.

Because I doubt any gun right advocate would just as easily accept any comparison of their arguments with gangsta rap, I really love how you made the comparison between their rhetoric and the "honor killings" of the Middle East. I also appreciate the comparisons of "cultures of honor" and "cultures of law." I tend to always go engage the philosophical rationale for my stance on gun control (I'm for gun control and regulation), as well as attacking the circular and sometimes contradictory "logic" used by the other side. So your take of using a historian's perspective is not only refreshing, but also damn enlightening.

I don't think you would have a problem with this, but I still feel the need to ask anyway. Would you mind if I link or re-post or otherwise distribute this article of yours, properly credited of course?
Be my guest.

I suppose I need to listen to more gansta rap. :D
I cannot guarantee that you will appreciate the artistic merits of gangsta' rap, but some of the more "controversial" songs have been political in content, to make aware of the plight of the Inner City. This is, of course, not original (the first example that pops into my mind is John Lennon's Imagine but I know that many other songs of political statement and protest predate John Lennon's solo career). Public Enemy is considered one of the early, if not the first, hip-hop acts to develop a strong pro-Black political stance.

Fast forward several years, and then you see N.W.A making waves with their gangsta' rap style, if not necessarily promoting, but definitely glorifying the life of a gang member living in the "ghetto." N.W.A. and other related rappers probably did not do much to promote the political, social, and cultural consciousness of the Black Community, but their music invoked the image of the young angry man, doing whatever it takes to survive in the 'hood despite the dystopian conditions imposed upon them by the Man. The frustrations and violence depicted in the lyrics might have been a bit hyped up, but they were nonetheless real. And that attitude of outright rebellion and criminality mirrors so much of the American gun culture that you have described.

Edited at 2013-01-31 02:39 am (UTC)
Gangsta rap never appealed to me musically. I was, of course, made curious by all the publicity it got for the violent and rebellious lyrics. That Sort of Thing will attract me; the best music always starts moral panics.

What I found was disappointment. The music that accompanied them was far less rousing than the alleged violence of the lyrics suggested, and I found it hard to make out a lot of the words anyways. I suppose this is just the white boy in me talking.

Still, the culture of honor is one of the basic patterns in the human behavioral repertoire. You don't have to look deep into American folk culture to find it. The Godfather movies, obviously. Just about every Western, many of which move on to depict the end of lawlessness as somehow tragic. A lone gunman taking on a corrupt system is one of the worst clichés in American cinema.

Even Mr. Whitebread Christmas Special, Kenny Rogers, has recorded two of the most repulsive songs ever written. Coward of the County is the lesser of these two. But Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town is a mini-masterpiece of sick-mindedness, with its tale of a crippled war veteran fantasizing about his wife's affairs, and wishing he could move so he could murder her. It's evil. I wish I had thought of it.