17 July 2000
Gun Control, Trees, Drugs,
by David Mitchell
It seems as though no consideration is ever given in any of these hotly contested debates to the actual issue of what happens when and if the status quo is shifted in one direction or the other. The gun control wars are directly related to other such recent conflicts:
a) The semi-defeat of and public spotlight on organized crime cost us their pseudo-legitimate function as proprietors of crime and stout defenders of their right to be the primary deterrent to free-lancers in criminality. Many lower-middle-class neighborhoods lived in utter tranquility as a consequence of this role.
b) The conflict between environmentalists and the lumbering industry fostered the belief in an illusory economic displacement that was actually caused by the replacement of a substantial proportion of human labor with
mechanized systems. Oddly, the amount of timber harvested continued to grow, and while supply rose so did prices...
c) The war on drugs is vigorously stimulating the development of electrical substitutes, whose psychoactivity is rapidly approaching that of
the various forms of religious fervor that serve as sops to the consciences of those who wish to control the intoxication of others. We are going to have a very difficult time banning wire, batteries, transistors, and microcomputers.
Returning to the central topic: the disarming of any population that feels itself threatened is almost immediately followed by the growth of a
cottage arms-manufacture industry based on readily available scrap and commodity materials and light, even home-brew, machine tools, together with an upsurge in designer explosives similar to that in designer drugs.
The dangers presented by unreliable weaponry in the hands of persons for whom it has great symbolic value include the possibility that a competent and highly intelligent terrorist community will learn from its mistakes and rise to a truly disruptive level. While this might serve the economic function of a national sabotage corps, relieving the industrial community of the need to sustain its expansion through creative obsolescence or the ferocious marketing of newer and newer gimmickery, it might equally produce a generation of sincere ideological resisters of constituted authority, equal in destabilizing power to the Maquisards of the Second World War. The latter's greatest contribution to European politics (other than truly devout desire for personal freedom) has been an enduring tension between the instability of free choice and the imposed autocracies of regimented social systems.
We are presently caught in the same tension. It will cost the society much more than the '60s, during which the best and brightest were able to survive and bring about a technical and social revolution of some magnitude while reveling in their public pillorying.
There is no current space for a vaguely subversive activity (as personal computing and communications in furtherance of detachment from society and independent subsistence were at their inception) to integrate itself with a national defense goal (in the '60s, support of all
antiauthoritarian movements that might weaken totalitarian regimes of the left).
We have created through selective imprisonment for manufactured crimes
(criminalization of previously legal, if not legitimated, activities) a pool of highly motivated and increasingly well-schooled individuals who consider the very structure of the legal and governmental systems to be invalid: their logical move to destabilize them is to push the society toward martial law. This guarantees a self-recruiting resistance appalled at the overt application of the previously (ill-)concealed Draconian measures that have
for centuries been employed by the power structure through support of institutionalized corruption and economic suppression of dissent, denying of access to basic societal amenities (you may see its traces in the current flap over denial of homeowner's insurance to pet owners in some jurisdictions, with consequent threat of foreclosure for failure to meet mortgage lender requirements and disqualification for home ownership).
It is a reflection of institutional fear that we are seeing an outcry against the initiative and recall ingrained in some regional traditions: and it is indicative that the Oregon Constitution retains its preamble affirming the right of the people to reform, alter, or abolish their government, while the corresponding section of the California Constitution has disappeared.
So the cogent question to be asked in the entire debate over weaponry is whether we are willing to allow our children to go back to killing one another primarily with blunt instruments and edged tools, thus assuring that
the physically strongest and morally least affected survive the wars of adolescence (as was justifiably the case in the almost-concluded era of global warfare), or whether some examination should first be made of what
measures are likely to be chosen by prospective victim populations to ensure their survival. History shows that elevation of the most ingenious criminal minds to control of such a society is the usual outcome: their own self
interest demands the continuation of a subject pool for labor, consumption, and exploitation.
If this analysis is disquieting, I would advise you to give some thought to the way that human interactions directed at subjugation
inevitably backfire: your decision is to be the choice of which human drive needs subjugating over the lives of your children and grandchildren. How are you to deal with the explosions in the wake of your actions?
There are no easy answers, which is why we seem to never ask the questions.....
So much for Bastille Day....