Archives for posts with tag: United States
Child and the water-gun

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Short version: With the US gun-debate in full-swing in the aftermath of the latest mass-shooting (Connecticut 2012), I find myself wishing it would become less of a gun-debate and more of a cultural-priorities debate.

Longer version: Having just read yet a few more essays and articles [1], [2], [3] about the gun-situation in USA, I felt even more need than usual to add my fourpence to the blogosphere. Sometimes when the “left” and the “right” sides of an argument have locked horns so tightly that it feels like an impasse, you need to step back and find a broader definition of parameters, rather than bouncing disagreements back and forth ad nauseam. You need context.

I am lucky in that I am a New Zealander who has spent most of my adult life living in different countries (on every continent except Africa) and ended up spending the last decade living in Greece. One of the best lessons these experiences have taught me has been that extreme opinions about any subject (both for and against) are 95% of the time both just plain Wrong. Another important lesson has been that law and politics are ultimately just conceptual frameworks. Enforcement of them is just an attempt to shape a culture around those frameworks. The only way to change the real lives of people (in a way which is more than just blowing hot air) is to steer the very culture of those people. The only way to do that in a lasting fashion (i.e. fairly) is to incrementally reach consensus on cultural issues, so that The People steer the culture of The People. None of this gun debate is dealing with that because almost everyone is myopically focused on knee-jerk reactions (both for and against) rather than dealing with the less vote-winning/emphasis-friendly, less immediately intellectually “rewarding” and more uncomfortable subject of how to reach a consensus on ways of steering the culture out of an addiction to the “you’re for us or against us” mentality – from which gun addiction (as well as state obsession with control) have both organically, and unsurprisingly, sprung.

For a parallel example, two of the biggest reasons I stopped living in the UK are also two of the main reasons I moved to Greece:

  1. to get away from the culture of binge-drinking
  2. to get away from the undercurrent of day-to-day violence and frustration

Of course this is not a racial issue, because in both cases there are oases in the UK where these things are not so prevalent, but of course those are exceptions to the cultural “rule”. Also, the laws and the politics in both countries (about drinking and violence) have some variance but overall are not that different. The difference is the cultural momentum, changes to which are not measured in years or even in electoral terms, but are measured in lifetimes (of course I could conversely make similar arguments about aspects of life in which Greece look tarnished in comparison to the UK, etc). My point is that the gun problem in USA (<rant>United States, as opposed to “America” which is an entire continent, by the way</rant>) is not as much a political problem, or a legal problem, as a cultural problem. I would go further and say that it is merely a large side-effect of an even bigger cultural problem. By the way, if you think I am making some racial generalisation – I would add that some of the most advanced thinkers and wisest people I have discussed this issue with over the years have been good friends of mine from the US. Interestingly, all of them have lived in many countries, and gained context that many of the most vocal players in this debate inside the US could never dream of having. Those friends have learned to live with the discomfort of not being so “certain”, of avoiding “confirmation bias”, and always looking to test their own beliefs – i.e. the opposite of how the US has decided its “leaders”, and trained its “enforcers” for the last few decades at least.

I am not going to preach on about my own personal opinions regarding the specific cultural problems which I believe are causing this gun-violence crisis, because I think those are easy enough to discern (especially from other rants of mine [1], [2], [3], [4]), and anyway people would then just nit-pick (straw-man style) on those opinions to distract and detract from the bigger point I am trying to make. If you want to have a fruitful debate, shift at least some of the debate from nit-picking over symptoms, into a debate about causes – about how you define and uphold your own cultural identity. What do you represent in universal human terms? What do you deem important in life? Who are your true heroes? How do you make it possible for your people to keep learning throughout their lifetimes, rather than be brainwashed with a limited set of accepted behaviours during the first few years of their childhood? etc…

As this picture comes into focus the debate about guns eventually becomes as relevant as the debate about how quickly a fish can climb a tree (yes, I did obliquely reference a famous Einstein quote on purpose). Until then of course some short-term measures must also be taken to treat the violent “symptoms”, just like a doctor might need to treat an AIDS patient’s pneumonia (for example), but just as for the doctor – if you are too focused on the present symptoms and ignoring the underlying cause:

  1. there will always be new symptoms anyway
  2. eventually the “patient” (cultural and national identity) will collapse, no matter what you do

Ask the Ancient Romans, Mongols, Ottomans, British, Egyptians, etc…

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Bernie Sanders imageWatch Senator Sanders’ awesome speech blasting income-inequality in the US, where he goes so far as to identify it as a war (I concur).

Wikipedia says “Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist, and has praised European social democracy. He is the first person elected to the U.S. Senate to identify as a socialist.” So he’s the odd one out. Not a coincidence, probably. I hope he doesn’t end up assassinated, like the only catholic president they ever had, or harassed and demonised like their first openly black president (although apparently as many as five presidents before Obama likely had black ancestry, by the way)…

© 2010 rowanthorpe.wordpress.com. This RSS Feed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Greece License. If you believe the version of this material which you are reading infringes this license, please send details to rowanthorpe(at)gmail[dot]com so legal action can be taken immediately.

White crossThe way this video from April 2010 unfolds is deeply disturbing, especially considering it happened to a citizen who was entirely correct about this session of the Hawaii State Legislature breaking the law (by not maintaining a separation between church and state). What’s more they then charged him with disorderly conduct, yet he wasn’t breaking any law by speaking out non-violently in the senate chambers. Even the courts agreed with him. This is disturbing for two reasons. Firstly, occurrences like this are hypocritical in the extreme, coming from a nation (USA) who invade other countries without UN authorisation, and retrospectively take the moral high-ground by thrashing around “news” articles demonising religious (non-Christian) extremists for trampling civil-liberties, in a last-minute attempt to drum up sympathy for their illegal “wars” when no OBLs or WMDs magically materialised on request. The second disturbing aspect is that this is yet another example of how heavy-handed violence from authorities is becoming almost a daily occurrence in the US recently, especially in the years since Bush Jr staged his little Cowboys & Indians farce (which is surely no coincidence). It seems a new kind of slavery is rearing its ugly head across the “Land of the Free”…

My guess is that the reason we are seeing a general increase in wild and erratic behaviour from authorities in the USA is because the fundamentalists are panicking, as their beloved hegemony is now sinking fast – due to the Euro becoming a logical alternative for the international reserve currency. This spells disaster for the US because their empire has primarily been built on the seldom-mentioned fact that (due to the US historically being the prime consumer of oil), US dollars have been the international reserve currency since 1945. This has allowed the US to continually spend far more than it earns while the rest of the world has had to earn far more than it spends. What’s really silly is that logical solutions (which could still avoid the US economy belly-flopping into the gutter overnight) have been floating around for a long time now, like installing a dual or triple OPEC oil transaction currency standard (US dollar, Euro, Yen/Yuan) as proposed by William R Clark back in January 2003. Even countries less sympathetic with the US want the US economy not to fail catastrophically, because they know the ripple effect would cause a global recession/depression (far worse than the present one) as a consequence. The problem is that the neocon Axis of Authority firmly embedded at Washington (visibly, and insidiously) will never let that happen, even if Obama begged them, ultimately because they’re greedy and myopic. They’d rather take their country down in flames than let go even an inch of their beloved yet illusory status as “Economic Superpower”.

It’s interesting too that religious fundamentalists in the US are showing the worst lack of self-restraint. I would have thought that they should follow their own advice about “trusting in God to provide”, if they really believed what they were saying, yes?

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Having heard various things about the HAARP project, which has a home page and a wikipedia entry, I did a bit of digging myself. It seems to me that there are three distinct causes for concern, and for debate:

  1. is it really only being developed and used for the benevolent purposes (research & environmental/societal protection) that the authorities would like people to believe, as opposed to “weather-warfare”?
  2. might it have a dangerous capacity for malevolent use even if developed benevolently?
  3. even if used with purely benevolent intentions, can it potentially have dangerous side-effects (damaging/destroying the ionosphere’s capacity to protect us from cosmic rays)?

After much reading and cross-referencing I realised it is one of those rare subjects which is really quite split down the middle in terms of debate and facts. This is due to a deeply cynical and speculative post-Bush public clashing philosophically with a paranoid military who have surrounded certain aspects of this project with a veil of secrecy (cunningly cushioned by an apparently contrasting level of openness about the more innocent aspects of it). I won’t draw conclusions yet, I’ll wait and see. I only recommend following a trail of links about the subject though. The two links above are a good place to start. Regarding “debate”, the talk page for this entry on wikipedia makes for entertaining reading…

© 2009 rowanthorpe.wordpress.com. This RSS Feed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Greece License. If you believe the version of this material which you are reading infringes this license, please send details to rowanthorpe(at)gmail[dot]com so legal action can be taken immediately.