Posts Tagged With: violence

Myths that murder: Why gun owners would not stop Hitler.

One of the commonly argued myths used against gun control is that civilian gun ownership is necessary to prevent or overthrow dictators. The assertion goes that if someone like Hitler were to ever try to take over the country, it would be the armed populace that would take him down and preserve freedom and democracy. This argument is offered with the assumption of fact without any actual analysis or reality test. It is often accepted as true without any attempt to see if the claim holds up, and gets passed around as if it were the definitive argument in the discussion.

The problem is, if you actually took a substantive look at research and actual history, this myth completely falls apart.

First, research is actually clear on this. When trying to overthrow a dictator, non-violent resistance is twice as effective as violent resistance. People who regard guns as the cure-all against dictatorships are actually praising the less effective option and doubling the possibility of keeping the dictator in power.

But since people are rarely swayed by facts and science, we also have history to look at to back this up.

Since Hitler is brought up most often as the prototype dictator, Nazi Germany is often brought up to support the myth of the armed civilian over-thrower of evil. However, as Jon Greenberg of Politifact points out, an actual analysis of history of Germany’s gun laws and gun politics destroys this myth. Despite the claims made in the myth, Hitler actually loosened gun regulations, instead of increasing them, to build his rise to power. When taking power in 1938, Hitler deregulated the buying and selling of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. But even before that, the German people were already well armed. the 1928 gun control laws were not well enforced, and during the 1920’s, paramilitary groups sprouted  up all over Germany. These armed civilian groups, however, contrary to the myth of armed citizenry, ended up being the backbone of the growth of the Nazi movement. They didn’t stop despotism, they enabled it, and if you look at the connections between paramilitary groups and white supremacy groups today, those same processes are still in play. And when the paramilitary groups became too difficult to control, the German SS easily destroyed them.

It is often then pointed out that the gun laws that still remained banned Jews from owning any weapons, and this gun regulation is what lead to the Holocaust. However, as Greenberg points out, despite regulations both before and after Hitler’s initial rise to power, Jews still were able to aquire and own firearms. If gun ownership itself were sufficient to prevent dictatorship, the problem would have solved itself. However, the problem that lead to the Holocaust had little to do with Jewish weapon possession, but with the German civilian permissiveness of and agreement with racial persecution. The remainder of Germany was still armed, and there were plenty of paramilitary groups that could have stepped in and stood up for their fellow Jewish Germans citizens.

But they didn’t.

In fact, they did the opposite. The armed civilians, did not prevent the Holocaust, they enabled it. The paramilitary groups protected Hitler in his rise and continued to support him until Hitler decided to get rid of them. Even if the Jews had moved like an army in response to Hitler, they would have been quickly defeated as they were still a minority in the country and the majority of the citizens were also armed and willing to treat them as a less than human group deserving of oppression. In the end, the Holocaust was not ended by an armed civilian force, but by a military coalition.

This bring us back to the research and what it says about overthrowing dictators in reality. According to the Stephan and Chenoweth study, dictators fall when a minimum of 3.5% is engaged in active resistance, and non-violent resistance achieves this more successfully. When you look at the world, both in the present and recent past, the reasons for this becomes quite apparent. First, dictators and despotism does rely on the will of the people. Dictators come into power because the people are convinced that they belong in power. Dictators start by wooing the people and only switch to oppression after their power is secured, and most of those oppressive policies move into place with the blessing of the people who are convinced it is only going to get used on some outgroup only to see its application expanded. Because people are still agreeing to hand over their rule step by step, initial violent resistance does not get a lot of support socially, often gets labeled as a terrorist organization, and can even empower fascist civilian groups, as we saw with the rise of the Brownshirts as we saw play out in Nazi Germany. Once people realize they tiptoed their way into despotic rule, it does become harder to violently oust them, as they now control the police and military who outgun them, and the political spin machine that can dissuade people from the resistance by labeling them a terrorist organization. In short, your violence becomes the easiest thing to use against you. But non-violent resistance is harder to suppress. Dictators know that they still rule at the will of the people, and suppression of non-violent protest is an act that can cause that to crumble down. They can’t move against the non-violent without carefully crafted strategies that can easily fall apart if exposed, especially in the modern information age. In addition, most people are averse to the idea of killing another person, and so violent resistance tends to dissuade recruitment. What this creates is an environment where the pivotal 3.5% tipping point is easier to reach non-violently. And once that point of active resistance is reached, the dictator topples.

In the end, the myth of the armed civilian protecting democracy is just a myth, but it is a myth that leaves people vulnerable to gun violence. Ultimately, history has shown that dictators rise and fall at the will of the people, and that armed civilian is more likely to put the dictator into power. Once the dictatorship is established, the armed civilian, if they realize the problem they welcomed, is outgunned by the government, and their chances of success are actually half as  effective as non-violent mass resistance.

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We need your Courage, not your Violence

All battles are fought on two fronts: the battle with the enemy without, and the battle with ourselves within. This struggle we currently face is no difference, as there has been a regular contentious and argument over the use of violence as a form of political action. And what has been interesting about this argument is that it follows the same path as all discussions on the use of violence tool, whether it be about hitting a child for discipline or the excessive use of force by police: the opponents of violence use history and outcome research to show that violence works against goals and that the the non-violent methods are more effective, while the proponents of violence claim that the facts and research are not reality, that if they can’t be violent then they are just being permissive, and then accuse the opponents of of making the situation worse.

We have the science that shows non-violence is twice as effective as violence when it comes to taking down corrupt regimes, and that it can be aggressive and varied. But as my friend Mark has been regularly pointing out, facts don’t change minds in the current political environment. And the truth is, he’s right, and we sadly have the science about that too. It wasn’t until I was graced with the opportunity to hear the (hopefully soon-to-be Honorable Judge) Henry Sias speak that I was given some insight into the side calling for violence.

Anxiety is the mood, par excellence, of ethicity,” he told the crowd, invoking the words of the great activist Avital Ronell.

All emotions have a purpose for their existence, and anxiety is no different. Anxiety is a warning emotion. It tells you that something is wrong and gives you energy and motivation to address the problem. For those of us in the resistance, this anxiety is our primal motivator, as we fear not just for ourselves, but those we love.

The great problem caused by anxiety, however, comes from the fact that the anxiety of modern man is not the same as it was for early man.

When we were first becoming hardwired as humanity, the threats posed were directly physical. The problems of early man were the beasts and opposing tribes for whom the simplistic solution of violence was appropriate, and because of this, natural selection programmed violence as our instinctual response of fight or flight. This hard wiring is why non-violence seems to counter-intuitive to so many, there is a base level programming in our brains that causes us to see violence as the answer. Violently attack the problem and you can drive it away, and you can drive the anxiety away with it.

However, as humanity matured, our problems became less physical and more existential and abstract. We no longer have the monsters at the opening to our caves ready to strike with tooth and claw. Our monsters sit in ivory buildings attacking us with prejudice and inequalities. These are problems that cannot just be driven away in simple actions, as they are not caused by singular actors but are embedded in the larger social fabric itself. Today’s problems cannot be driven off, as doing so just pushes them out of your bubble for someone else to deal with. Anxiety is the mood of ethicity because anxiety is necessary as a prolonged state for the decisions that need to be made to create an ethical world. Truly solving modern problems requires prolonged and sustained efforts, and maintaining motivation for these efforts requires us to also maintain our motivating anxiety.

In regards to the current administration, I have seen both the fight and the flight reactions to the anxiety that has come to warn us about this very real problem. I know many people who are working hard to maintain the psychological flight of denial in order to chase away that anxiety, and we all know that kind of denial is detrimental in the long run. But they are running into denial because they are answering their anxiety with the flight response. But just as those who are fleeing the anxiety are not choosing the effective answer, those who are calling for violence are likewise just confusing driving away a problem with solving it. You may be able to punch low level nazis out of your personal bubble, but that won’t really effect the well protected administration or change the forces that put it into power in the first place.

It is in building the capacity to tolerate anxiety for the long fight that non-violence finds its true strength. This is not about playing nice so that normal people will feel good about playing with you. Non-violence has nothing to do with placation. Non-violence is about assuring people that you will be beside them to face the anxiety with them until the end, not just push it away from your sphere and leave. Non-violence is about pulling people in and holding their hands so they are willing to push past their own anxious reactions, which can just as likely, or even more likely, turn to flight as it does fight. The methods of non-violent resistance are about saying that they are safe enough to hold their anxiety because you will hold it with them. Non-violence is about keeping each other going until the problem no longer exists, not just merely about driving it away. Violence cannot do this because violence is just the flip side to the flight from anxiety, non-violence is the real counter argument to it.

For the resistance to be successful, need courage, not violence. Courage is not about defeating anxiety, its about persisting in the face of anxiety. The violent reaction to anxiety is the antithesis  to this, as it seeks to drive the anxiety away, not solve the problem that caused it.

As I finish, I need to point out that the call for non-violence does not mean there is not a place for those who see themselves as the soldiers of the resistance. Right now, there is a need to provide for the safety of the many who are threatened by the administration’s unofficial agitators. Mosques, Jewish Community Centers, LGBT community centers, synagogues, and minority owned businesses are all under constant threat. Volunteering to stand vigil for the safety of these centers is technically non-violent, as you are not intending to start any fights. Standing as the sentinels of equality and justice is not the same as anxiously reacting through violence. Rather, by standing guard, you are taking on and sharing the anxiety of those who are already threatened, and letting them know you are there to see this through to the end for them. The greatest warriors of legend were more about who they fought for, not who they fought against.

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You are Missing the Damned Point – A Few Thoughts on Ferguson and the Ferguson Riots

In life, we have the ideal and we have what is. The goal is to move from what is to the ideal. It is true that in a just world, there would be no rioting, no looting, and no destruction. It is true that the wiser man can seek change without violence. However, that is not the point right now.

I see a lot of people trying to criticize the rioters in Ferguson, and I see a lot of people absolving them. I see people calling out the rioters for losing control, and I see people posting pictures to show how the privileged riot with far less provocation.

You all are missing the damned point.

The riots in Ferguson are supposed to be uncomfortable reminders of what happens when you let the system break. They are the tragic result of ignoring problems and sweeping them under the rug until they get to the point of compounding and exploding. They are not supposed to be good, they are not supposed to be absolved, but they are not supposed to be criticized and othered either. They are supposed to leave you feeling bad about it all. They are supposed to be upsetting.

They are supposed to be the consequence that smacks you across the face after you ignored all the gentler warning that this problem is spinning out of control. They are supposed to be the wake-up call that shakes you from your passivity and apathy. They are supposed to let you know what happens when you decide to ignore the problems screaming in your face.

So stop judging, stop pontificating, and stop pointing fingers. Stop burying, stop denying and stop passing the buck.

Start taking the problems that lead to these riots seriously, otherwise, despite your quick words, internet memes, and posted pictures, the problem is going to continue to escalate and increase in violence ans scope.

Stop being witty, stop being clever, and start being meaningful. Don’t passively talk about the problem, actively work on the solution.

Otherwise you are missing the damned point

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Stop Being Stupid About Guns

This post was originally written after the Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy in Colorado. But it is currently being updated after the Newton CT school shooting, because once again, the gun control debate has gone into full gear. I would like to say that what has resulted is a reasoned and informed argument on the subject.

I would like to. But I can’t. This is the age of the internet, and the debate is turning into masses of uninformed arguments thrown the way monkeys throw their feces.

To begin, I should disclose that I am a gun owner, I was on my high school’s varsity rifle team, and placed in the top 10 of the league. I enjoy the art of target shooting, and don’t think guns need to be totally banned. I do believe that there are reasonable limits that should be in place. I also believe that the current gun rights debate has become stupid.

1) Banning guns would not have prevented the crimes and arming everyone would not have stopped it.

James Eagen Holmes planned his attack well. He used confusion and body armor to protect him. If he didn’t have access to the guns, he had access to home made explosives. More armed individuals may have caused more casualties due to stray gun fire, especially in that confusion.

In Newton, the shooter was the son of the teacher he targeted. No amount of arming would have enabled a mother to easily kill her own son, so arming her in a classroom would not have prevented this.

2)  Guns don’t prevent crime.

If you want to prevent a crime you address its precipitating causes like income inequality, gentrification, social expectancy stressors, etc. Violent deterrent only leads to violent escalation. Criminals use violence instrumentally, using enough to get the job done. If they perceive that their target is capable of more violence, they will adjust accordingly. They will work in larger groups to assure they can’t be outgunned, or they will shoot first to prevent their victim from using the gun they assume they have.

Now a lot of the people who make the “more guns, less crime” argument are basing it on the correlation that there has been an increase in gun ownership and a decrease in violent crime. But this conclusion is flawed. Why?

Repeat after me: “Correlation does not prove causation.”

First of all, the drop in crime has occurred across the board in this country in gun loving and gun fearing states alike. If the arming of the populace were the reason, we would see the drop only in the gun loving states. In fact, what we see is that there  is little correlation between gun ownership and crime in cities. Also, there are other variables which could better account for for the drop in crime, such as the aging of the baby boomer population (the majority of Americans are less violent due to age), better policing to prevent crime, and abortion access reducing the stresses on the impoverished. The data does not  allow for an indisputable connection between gun ownership and crime reduction.

3) Gun control does not address the causes of crime.

Limiting gun access will reduce violence in many ways. Of the mass shootings in America, about three quarters of shooters acquired their guns from legal sources. Common sense regulations can close these loopholes. Also, when it comes to violence from legal gun owners, a pissed off guy on the street is far less dangerous than a pissed off guy on the street with a gun. And when it comes to responding to violence, society is better served by learning how to de-escalate the pissed off guy on the street than it is by shooting him.

That being said, the argument about gun control ignores and distracts from the real causes (like this, for instance). Gun violence is a symptom, not the disease.

4) Guns kill people.

Before you start chanting that stupid slogan like chorus of mindless drones, realize the immense irresponsibility of denying a gun’s lethality. Guns were invented to kill. Target shooting has developed as an additional use for firearms, but it hasn’t removed the lethality. It is that acknowledgement that motivates me to be damn careful with my firearm. I know it kills, so I make sure that I use it safely and responsibly. I don’t wave it around, fire it randomly, leave it out when not in use, or do anything else that could cause it to unintentionally be misused because I know that if I am irresponsible with my firearm, it could kill someone.

Gun owners need to own up to this. Too often, guns are being introduced to prove virility, score political points, and intimidate in arguments. This is irresponsible. If you want to win any argument for gun rights, you need to understand this. Every right, after all, bares with it a responsibility. Remove that responsibility, and you are arguing entitlement. And I cannot support gun entitlement.

It also should be noted that on the same day as the Newton shootings, there was a mass stabbing in a school in China. None of the 22 children who were stabbed died. A difference in weaponry does make a difference in the severity of injury. If guns did not make killing more efficient, they wouldn’t be used in combat, hunting, etc. To deny this is to deny common sense.

5) Common sense gun control will keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Only about 10-15% of guns that criminals have access to are the result of gun thefts. The rest are a result of acquiring guns through loopholes, straw buyers, and other means of manipulating the lack of regulation. Tougher regulation and monitoring will result in fewer sales to criminals.

6) Being stupid about guns will cause gun violence.

Why do people go on killing sprees?

Because they think they are entitled to kill.

We have a culture obsessed with violence. We have TV shows, movies, video games, internet sitesetc, that use guns and violence to as the solutions to the problems, the way to win and collect points, or the way to get attention. An yet we act surprised when someone then goes out and uses violence for attention or as a way to deal with their problems.  What has resulted is a real problem in this when it comes to mass murder. In 2012 alone, there were 16 mass shootings. When one of these occurs, we shout out the same stupid slogans, but ultimately change nothing. But let’s talk about the messages sent. When you make an argument based on gun entitlement and using violence as a solution to problems, expect people to get shot. Guns may not be the problem, but the argument you are making for your guns is.  And because contradiction is not argument, merely calling for tighter laws does not present any sort of solution, addressing the root causes of our need to be violent will.

So let’s stop being stupid about guns. They are lethal weapons that need to be respected, and as such, used responsibly. They are not solutions to arguments, nor are they the answer to crime. At the same time, they are not the causes of crime. We don’t need AK 47’s, but we also don’t need absolute bans. What we need is to get smart and address the causes of the violence instead.

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