FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Attacking Gun Culture at Its Source

There’s an old saying about what happens when ideas, um … copulate. This column is the byproduct of a comment by Dawie Coetzee on the Center for a Stateless Society working group email, and a subsequent exchange of tweets I had with @SugarKovalczyk. Dawie pointed out that such shootings tend to be carried out by people who feel “a loss of moral agency; that is, active and creative selfhood, self-authorship.”

Further, “such incidents are not, as a rule, impulsive, but are the culmination of long and careful planning. They are not ‘sparked’ by guns being at hand, for instance. The necessary means will be found: there is no effort too great to one expecting imminent death.”

This strengthened my belief that changing gun laws will probably have little effect on the incidence of mass shootings. Laws on paper are only effective, generally speaking, when people are already culturally predisposed to obey them, and in societies where the behavior they regulate wasn’t that much of a problem to begin with. If most mass shootings are long premeditated and intended as a demonstration of authentic selfhood by someone who feels robbed of moral agency, and if — as is almost certain — there will always be a thriving black market in firearms in the United States, I doubt waiting periods or restrictions on magazine capacity will make much difference.

So what will make a difference? Let’s get back to moral agency. The first thing that popped into my head when I read Dawie’s observation was an interview I heard on NPR years ago. A psychologist was talking about a statistical analysis of Palestinian suicide bombers on the West Bank. The one factor tying all of them together was that, as small children, they’d been traumatized by the sight of their fathers humiliated and powerless in the face of house-to-house raids by the IDF, and their mothers and siblings screaming facedown on the floor. They grew up with their very sense of self hinging on the need to assert their agency in the face of powerlessness by avenging this dishonor to their families.

Shortly afterward, @SugarKovalczyk brought to my attention the role loss of agency plays as a common thread in so many other forms of violence classed as “terror.” If we’re talking about perceived powerlessness and loss of moral agency, it’s hard to avoid noticing that so many shootings take place in — ahem — the workplace. Who’d have thought, in this age of cowboy CEOs, union-busting, downsizings, speedups, stagnant wages, micromanagement, management bullying and job insecurity, that workers would feel powerless?

And how many “terrorists” are being bred by urban police doing “show of force” jumpouts, or by cops kicking in doors, screaming “Down on the floor, m*****f*****s,” shooting pets, and reducing children to hysterics? Or by children witnessing their parents and siblings — or rescue workers — being murdered by drones on orders from a “Commander-in-Chief” ten thousand miles away?

It’s probably also relevant that these people decide to assert their agency after growing up in a culture where the “good guys” are violent predators (Die Hard, Dirty Harry and COPS). Or that America uses the “poverty draft” to send people into a machine that creates William Calleys and Lynndie Englands — and then brings them back home?

When you rob people of their self-respect and sense of control over their own lives, use them as means to your own ends, and treat them like garbage, don’t be surprised if you don’t like the destructive methods they choose to assert their sense of self. By all means let’s feel sympathy for the innocent victims when the worm turns — but let’s also never forget who set things in motion.

Want social peace? Disarm the cops and soldiers. Take away the power of bloodsucking CEOs — created by the same state that would regulate guns — over our very right to exist on the earth.

No justice, no peace. That’s not a threat or an apologetic. It’s a fact.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

More articles by:

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail