The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, December 21, 2012

Leviathan, the State of Nature, and the NRA

In Genesis 16, it is said of Ishmael that "his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."

I thought of that today as I watched this:

From the transcript:
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,.... Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them ... in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk....

Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you'll print tomorrow morning: "More guns," you'll claim, "are the NRA's answer to everything!" Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the word "gun" automatically become a bad word?

....With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school? Even if they did that, politicians have no business — and no authority — denying us the right, the ability, or the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.
Now, the lunacy of this suggestion has been noted by others, but leave that aside. (Other than to note that LaPierre wants to curtail the First Amendment to protect his extremist vision of the Second, that is.)

Because the sheer nihilism of that view is what I'm getting at. It's at one with the nihilism of Megan McArdle's otiose suggestion that the prospective victims should rush the shooter--both LaPierre and McArdle assume a world in which the citizenry must adapt to the presence of gun-toting would-be mass-killers, and counter that force with force of their own.

In other words, LaPierre and McArdle (ok, much more LaPierre and much less McArdle, to be fair) assume a world that is straight out of Thomas Hobbes:
[I]t is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.....

[I]n all times kings and persons of sovereign authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators, having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neighbours, which is a posture of war. But because they uphold thereby the industry of their subjects, there does not follow from it that misery which accompanies the liberty of particular men.

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind.
That is the world of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA: one where the force of the Other must be anticipated and countered at all times, where we are constantly on guard, never free to enjoy what Franklin Roosevelt called the "Fourth Freedom"--Freedom from Fear. Even at primary school, our small children will learn to spend every day under the ever-present Leviathan of armed guards to protect against danger. Indeed, especially at primary school, as children are the future, right? And since mass shooting take place in movie theaters, shopping malls, restaurants, government buildings, and military bases, well, all those areas will need the protection of what LaPierre calls "good guys with guns." (Of course, the failure of guards at said military bases undermines LaPierre's theory at the most pragmatic level.) So all public spaces will be under the protection of, and under the constant surveillance of, gun-toting guardians.

Life under constant surveillance, oneself ready to blow away any suspicious or threatening character--that's the NRA's vision of freedom. The freedom to kill (or at least to try) is the highest freedom; all other freedoms must yield to it. How very unfree it sounds to me.


rick allen said...

An interesting excerpt from the first chapter of Thucydide's History of the Peloponnesian War, on the barbarous nature of societies where weapons are normally carried:

"And even at the present day many of Hellas still follow the old fashion, the Ozolian Locrians for instance, the Aetolians, the Acarnanians, and that region of the continent; and the custom of carrying arms is still kept up among these continentals, from the old piratical habits. The whole of Hellas used once to carry arms, their habitations being unprotected and their communication with each other unsafe; indeed, to wear arms was as much a part of everyday life with them as with the barbarians. And the fact that the people in these parts of Hellas are still living in the old way points to a time when the same mode of life was once equally common to all. The Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons...."

Anglocat said...

Thank you, Rick. That's an excellent example of what I was hoping to get at.