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Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Gunday: A Troubling Philosophy

I've been working on this post for a while, so my apologies for being late. I wanted to get it right, rather than be on time.

There was a webcomic I used to read. (No links = no drama). I don't read it any more, because the creator said something which didn't sit right with me, and rather than get annoyed as politics crept into a once-fun comic I just decided to stop reading it altogether.

That statement stuck with me, though, and continues to bug me, and so I figure I need to have a nice rant about it in order to purge it from my head.

Here's what was said:
I'm not a big fan of personal firearm use.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with hunting. A personal handgun isn't a hunting weapon. And I don't even think guns should be banned or even really restricted among competent, trained adults. If you feel the need to own a gun and you know what you're doing with it, then I think you should certainly be allowed to have it... but, to me, ownership of a handgun tells me that you've more or less given up on civilization.

You see, while handguns can, in theory, be used for other purposes, they're really designed and intended to shoot other human beings - and, while you certainly can shoot to wound, any responsible firearm user will tell you that you never draw on anything you wouldn't mind seeing dead.

Presuming that you intend to use your firearm legally and ethically, there's really only one situation in which you can whip it out - when deadly force is threatened against you or your loved ones, and you need to respond appropriately, to kill or threaten to kill before you or your loved ones can be killed. When I see someone who owns a personal firearm, the unspoken implication I hear is "I fully expect that dangerous criminals will pose a danger to myself and my loved ones, and I do not believe that local law enforcement is sufficient to keep these threats at bay - the only way I can ensure my safety is to be prepared at all times to end the life of one or more of my fellow human beings".

I do not own a gun for the same reason I do not filter my own drinking water or generate my own electricity - I live in a city, where, for a reasonable price, security, like water or electricity, is provided by trained professionals.
Normally I'd just jump right in and start making my thesis points, because I wouldn't want to dilute or divert my argument by listing things I didn't intend to address. However, I've been at this game long enough to know that if I don't mention them someone is going to say "But what about X?"  and then I end up talking about the things I didn't think were worth talking about in the first place.

Therefore, here are the things that my post is not about:
  1. Whether or not the author is entitled to his opinion. I mean, duh. Of course he's entitled. That also means he doesn't need to defend his opinion, either. His comic, his rules. 
  2. Whether or not it was the author's actual opinion. It was below the comic and next to the author's icon, and not spoken by a webcomic character. 
  3. The right to keep and bear arms; America, the Constitution, history, etc.  The author is from Canada, if I recall. 
  4. Paragraphs 1 and 3. I have no problem with those. 
  5. The whole "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." While this is true, I have larger concepts to deal with in this post. 
So what's this article about, then?
Two statements which bug me. Not so much simply because I disagree with them, but why I disagree with them.

1)  "To me, ownership of a handgun tells me that you've more or less given up on civilization."

There are two ways to parse this, and both of them have troubling implications. The first is the assertion that anyone who owns a handgun is, effectively, a savage. After all, isn't that "giving up on civilization" means -- saying "screw it" and either figuratively or literally embracing the ways of wild barbarism in order to eschew civilization? If you give up on civilization, aren't you ipso facto uncivilized? I find it troubling that the author is effectively dehumanizing those who disagree with him by calling them unworthy of being able to exist within civilization.

The second possible interpretation, albeit unspoken, is that anyone who chooses to own a handgun as opposed to owning one as part of their job, i.e. the military and the police, has given up on civilization. This is actually far more troubling to me than the former, as it ties into the second objectionable statement below.


2) "I do not own a gun for the same reason I do not filter my own drinking water or generate my own electricity - I live in a city, where, for a reasonable price, security, like water or electricity, is provided by trained professionals."

With this statement, the author is essentially saying "I don't need to protect myself, there are people who will do that for me." And, referring back to statement one above, these trained professionals are either savages (because they carry handguns) or -- and this is actually the worse interpretation -- he supports the creation of police as "a separate moral species, specially bred for violence, to be called from their fortified compound to vacuum up problems and guilt."
Not-really-pacifist “pacifist” liberals, I find, often get wrapped up in a recurring ideological process of shedding and assigning guilt. I wouldn’t touch a gun. I’ll just call my paid servant the policeman to come and shoot my assailant for me. My hands stay clean of gunshot residue and other stains; he wields the horrid gun and the moral responsibility, and quandary, of using deadly force – which I’ll endlessly analyze with my colleagues over dinner. And if it really was my ass that was saved, we’ll all congratulate ourselves for maintaining our “pacifist” guiltlessness, while romanticizing the guy who did the dirty work for us.
"The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights", The Polemicist, 1/31/13
Later, the Polemicist (correctly) calls our current concept of police a "quasi-professional caste created to be my absolving wet workers".  This troubles me, and it ought to trouble all of you, because it once again reinforces the concept that handgun owners are The Other:  a thing which is not human, and doesn't deserve to exist within polite society, and yet which society needs for protection because truly civilized beings don't engage in such behavior.

Or put another way, because I am a gigantic nerd and sometimes people do better with fantastic analogies:
  • Elves/Starfleet Officers/My Little Ponies do not believe in violence, as it is barbaric and uncivilized. 
  • However, sometimes violence is necessary to defend Lothlorien/The Federation/Equestria. 
  • But because civilized beings in a civilized society don't DO violence, that violence must be subcontracted out to Orcs/Klingons/Griffons. 
  • This creates a "moral slave class" of Orcs/Klingons/Griffons, who are looked down upon because they do the filthy work of necessity. 
  • Therefore, Elven/Federation/Equestrian Civilization (which is pacifist) is protected by the warlike and uncivilized (who are hated and feared and shunned) and yet whose service is admirable and lauded because it is necessary for the continuation of civilization. 
  • And somehow, the disconnect between these two positions isn't noticed by those espousing this philosophy.

Conclusion
This individual posits a society where predators protect their prey, and yet still believes that the prey will be in charge of the predators because it's in the predator's best interests to keep their prey happy.

What does this remind me of, again? Ah, yes: livestock in a slaughterhouse.

But, Erin, the police aren't predators.

An excellent point. Why then do we treat them as the only ones with moral dispensation to kill? And why are we surprised when, treating them as such, they increasingly see us not as citizens but as the enemy?

My position is that treating law enforcement as a separate class, the Morlocks to our Eloi, is dangerous and wrong and will only result in greater "us versus them" confrontations where the purpose of "protecting and serving" comes dead last and the Thin Blue Lie is to be upheld no matter what egregious violations occur.

If, on the other hand, we stop looking at the police as state-sanctioned gunmen and instead return to Sir Robert Peel's Principles of Policing, we would realize that "the police are the public and that the public are the police."  This would handily reduce the "us versus them" conflict. 

It would, however, require certain people to face the uncomfortable truth that the dirty matter of self-defense is not something to be pawned off onto some moral scapegoat in uniform, but a duty that is an inherent to humanity as is the duty to keep oneself fed and clothed -- in other words, it's your own damn duty as an adult to keep yourself alive. But that would be icky for certain people, and we certainly can't have that in today's enlightened society. 

Ickiness today, or civil war tomorrow. I know what my choice is. What's yours?

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