Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lost Along the Way

I've read a couple of online news sites about today's tragedy in Parkwood, Washington (see previous post). While the story itself is shocking, the comments left by readers are even more so! I can certainly understand the feelings of anger, dismay and fear -- I've felt all three and more myself today. Unfortunately, from my perspective, many of the so-called solutions proffered are worse than the disease they seek to heal.

The first type of comment making the rounds is that events like this only underscore the need for the death penalty. The thinking here is that, if the death penalty was utilized more frequently and for a larger number of crimes, then people wouldn't commit them.

In the abstract, it seems to make sense. If people are scared of a certain type of punishment, they will be less likely to commit acts that invoke said punishments. In reality, however, history has shown that most of the folks who perpetrate these sorts of acts aren't in their "right mind". Their thinking is irrational and some commit these acts at the behest of voices in their heads.

So, while capital punishment may well be the ultimate act of revenge imposed by society, the chances that it will prevent such carnage in the future is minimal. Many such gunmen expect to die -- by their own hands or at the hands of the authorities. It's like threatening a potential suicide bomber with death (which is not much of a threat, in that case.)

However, the second type of prevalent comment is the one that worries me far more. A lot of people believe that events such as these represent a clarion call for citizens to arm ourselves to teeth. However, this line of reasoning makes no sense in terms of what played out this morning.

The four officers shot were in full uniform, preparing to start their patrol shifts. I strongly suspect that "full uniform" means that each was packing their service weapons. So, despite the fact that each officer was armed and trained in the use of heavy force, they were each taken down by the element of surprise.

It should be noted that, from eyewitness accounts, the gunman focused SOLELY on the police officers and did not aim his gun at anyone else present. However, if citizens were today armed to the teeth (meaning that the assumption would be that most people were carrying a gun), the gunman might have attempted to shoot everyone in the coffee shop to ensure that none of the civilians produced a weapon.

For me, events like these only underscore how far society as a whole has gotten far off the path of Tao. More guns and more violence will not bring greater security and peace. Each will only beget more of the same.


  1. The US could benefit from an approach similar to Australia's response to our worst massacre 1996.

    Australia banned semi-automatic weapons outright and made several other sweeping changes to gun laws.

    There were powerful gun lobby groups who put pressure on our government but the Prime Minister threatened to hold a Referendum which would would grant the government complete control of the gun laws if our individual states didn't comply with his legislation.

    It worked and things are much safer here now.

  2. i'm for the right to own guns if you are a civilian... that said, what civilian needs a semi-automatic weapon? the only reason you'd buy that is for mass slaughter :P if you are a layperson. if you're involved with the mafia, i might understand the perceived need. ;)
    seriously though i am for the right to defend your homes and your lives with a gun. but it's like martial arts- you need to be responsible to own one! people need to go through training to get their black belt, why not to own guns too? and martial arts training is not just how to use your body as a weapon, but the responsibilities of handling violent situations as well.
    i do not think americans handle violent situations very well either.

  3. Gavin,
    It would never fly here! The gun lobby simply is too powerful and there's not enough political will.

    Personally, I wish that right have never been included in the constitution. It made some sense back then, but not now.

  4. Iktomi,

    I can't figure out what you'd do with a gun. Shoot somebody?

    In Australia, if you shoot an intruder with a gun, you go to jail.

    So instead, imagine this.

    Intruder comes to your house waving a knife or baseball bat. You pull a gun on him but you can't shoot it without going to jail.

    Maybe you shoot, maybe you don't... maybe you shoot and miss.

    Regardless, you've now introduced a gun. The intruder is just as likely to get it off you and shoot YOU.

    I like the idea of being able to defend myself but realistically, it's more than likely to be a liability.

  5. Probably only the Police forces, the Secret Police and the Armed forces should own any sort of firearm. If the US were a police state I imagine it'd be fairly simple to keep firearms out of everyone's hands. Also, the Secret Police and Army should be the only institutions possessing fossil fuel-burning motor vehicles.

  6. Dasein36,
    IF we had a secret police -- something far more sinister than the FBI & CIA -- then I would most likely SUPPORT individual gun ownership. In that sort of situation, people would have a legitimate reason to FEAR the gov't.

  7. sorry but i am a woman alone with a child for a long period during the day. if an intruder comes through my door, i will beat the sh*t out of him. however realistically if there are more than one or if he's trained in the martial arts like i am, i don't stand that much of a chance. i'd rather shoot him. in defense of my child, i will do almost anything.

    btw, we do own a gun. we own a rifle. my husband used it once to shoot a rabid raccoon before it bit any of our animals. i'm extremely glad we have it, and that we have the right to own it and use it. personally i wouldn't touch it because i haven't been trained to use it, but i'm extremely glad chris is. in the case of rabid animals, violence is the answer. in the case of violent humans, violence is a last resort but sometimes necessary.

  8. The way I see it, with a police state at least only one kind of person--a government official--is able to take life. As long as we know what the government wants from us, we are able to continue to live. If everyone is able to own a gun, we have no idea how to live to avoid getting shot--anyone for any random reason could come and kill us. Even if the totalitarian government is random--even if, say, Stalin can have you executed for no apparent reason--it's better to have to deal with only one random person than a whole bunch.

    Man is too wicked to be free.
    ~Joseph de Maistre

  9. The Taoist sages (me too) would disagree with that last sentence. It's borne of the Abrahamic religious traditions.

  10. The perennial philosophy (Guenon, Schuon et al.) point out that Taoism is the oldest of the major metaphysical traditions. Islam is the youngest, Christianity the second youngest. It would make sense that Taoism, having shaped its philosophy when mankind was still relatively young, would be more...optimistic, for lack of a better word, about human nature.

    I'm not a strict Taoist. Being a perennialist, I think all the major metaphysical traditions have an element of the truth and a validity vis-a-vis their historical and racial situation.

  11. i completely disagree, dasein, an individual has much more to fear from a police state than a non-invasive government where civilians are allowed to have guns. just because the violence is more predictable, doesn't make it any more just. how is random violence any worse than targeted violence? police states just lead to persecution. the most obvious example is nazi germany- if you were a blonde haired blue eyed german who didn't do anything radical you were safe. ummm so what? that's a better alternative than people being free to defend themselves? the reason pilgrims came to america is so that they could have religious freedom because they were persecuted by a monarchy. in europe, many innocent people died because they were either protestant during a catholic reign, or catholic during a protestant reign.
    if you think human nature is bad, what do you think about the nature of government? all government is, is a select group of people wielding power. in most cases, the power is not wielded for the good of all, but for the good of the power-holders and the rich. big government definitely does not equal equality.

  12. Police states do indeed lead to persecution, and government is persecution. I grant you that. But a liberal democracy is simply disorganized persecution whereas police states are organized persecution. In Hitler’s Germany, as long as you fulfilled certain ideological and biological prerequisites (which were not precisely the prerequisites you mention), the government would not destroy you. In Stalin’s Russia, same story for the most part despite some random paranoia on Stalin’s part. If human beings are by nature bad, then it is better to organize that badness rather than to let it run disorganized. In neither case are you going to get equality—and in any event I agree with Nietzsche when he says: Men are not equal. Nor shall they be equal! What would be my love of the overman if I spoke otherwise?

    As for the pilgrims—I do not uphold the American Revolution, although that issue would probably lead far afield to a general discussion of the problems of liberalism. Suffice it to say I support the position of Joseph de Maistre vis-à-vis both the American and French Revolutions.


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