Armed Unfreedom and Undemocratic Culture
This is an excellent piece. The term “freedom” in the title should be in quotes. Four thoughts:
(1) I appreciated the passage where the author asserts that “guns chasten speech.” They cause pre-censorship. The NRA president would say that’s a good thing (they enforce politeness). Is a “politeness” based on fear really politeness? And, on the flip side, guns give full free speech rights only to the gun owners. Guns are the end of genuine conversation in the polis—of civil space. Democratic culture is a shadow of itself in an armed society
(2) I hadn’t thought about how Hannah Arendt had/could be used to discuss gun control. That’s just my ignorance of her work speaking. Given that, I’m intrigued by this line of thought based on her work: “Violence — and the threat of it — is a pre-political manner of communication and control, characteristic of undemocratic organizations and hierarchical relationships.” One knows this instinctively, but seeing it spelled out, articulated, brings it into relief. It makes sense because a thesis is a provocation, and it needs an antithesis in order to form a synthesis.
(3) From the piece: “After all, a population of privately armed citizens is one that is increasingly fragmented, and vulnerable as a result. Private gun ownership invites retreat into extreme individualism — I heard numerous calls for homeschooling in the wake of the Newtown shootings — and nourishes the illusion that I can be my own police, or military, as the case may be. …As Michel Foucault pointed out in his detailed study of the mechanisms of power, nothing suits power so well as extreme individualism. In fact, he explains, political and corporate interests aim at nothing less than “individualization,” since it is far easier to manipulate a collection of discrete and increasingly independent individuals than a community. Guns undermine just that — community. ”
This excerpt goes to a line of thought I expressed here: We lack courage. We’re a nation of fear, preferring to live in bunkers that insulate our hearts, souls, and minds from the “dangerous” other. Our gun laws, more than anything else I think, show our lack of empathy and sympathy, as well as our still-present need to learn diversity. We inhabit our own spaces such that there is no room to deeply understand the other. This feeds our fear and our need for guns. …Guns foster bunkered individualism and isolation.
(4) I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series. I know that “The Stone” philosophy entries are not always well received in the professional philosophical community (i.e. Brian Leiter has trashed them several times). But I think they help the larger conversation about various topics.
Update/addendum: Here’s a nice piece from E.J. Dionne on the culture of fear, guns, and policy issues.