Semi-Auto(nomous) Weapons

December 14, 2012

Maybe, just maybe, after the prayers* go out and we turn towards the inevitable discussion about what happened and what needs to be done, people will step outside of the usual, calcified scripts and realize that there are more possibilities than (racist/sexist) fear-mongering government gun control schemes and (racist/sexist) cock-swinging gun fantasies. That American-style gun culture is messed up is not a reason for more legislation and that our approach to social regulation is messed up is not a reason for American-style gun culture.

Yes, if we were to ever get to the kind of society I dream about, there would really be no place for de jure limitations on the possession of personal firearms; that would simply be the result of taking liberty and equality seriously. But at the same time, if we get there, we’re going to have taken “a good hard look at the social relations and lack of or failing social structures which would cause an individual(s) to resort to shooting up a school” and there would be no place for “systemic crushing alienation” either. (HT John Sabin Adkins @ Facebook)As Shawn P. Wilbur said in a Facebook post:
I’m pretty sure that no amount of modification of our gun policy (in any direction) is going to fix things as long as we live in a society where anger and despair are equally foreseeable responses to conditions that seem unlikely to ease. We probably won’t end the spectacular forms of senseless tragedy without ending the tragically systematic senselessness.
For those tempted to add that we cannot eliminate “psychopathy” (or murder or…), maybe not. What we can do, essentially, is confront the notion that we live in a society where acting autonomously, i.e. doing things because they are ends-in-themselves, is reduced to a minimum. What we seem to be getting as a result are people desperately finding ways to do just that, but these ends-in-themselves are violent, immoral and, if you must, psychopathic. But I’m not going to pretend that “psychopathy” (or whatever you choose to call it) is just some isolated thing that happens to some Other, nor am I going to be afraid to understand something because I might be viewed as excusing it.What kind of society do we want to live in? One that fashions us into semi-autonomous “weapons” of Hate, Alienation, and Destruction or one that fashions us into fully autonomous seekers of The Good, The True and The Beautiful?
* Repose in the eternal Fullness grant unto them, O Eternal One, and let the Light above the Æons shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Paine Remains

June 8, 2010

He had lived long, did some good and much harm.

- New York Citizen, obituary of Thomas Paine

It is without a doubt that I can say that Thomas Paine (through The Age of Reason) was the first real literary and philosophical influence to put me on the path to where I find myself now — i.e. an anarchist, though Paine was not but, at best, an early fellow traveler. That said, I have no great nostalgia for the American revolutionary period and there is much in Paine’s works to question and reject. But credit where credit is due.

He died on this day, 1809, without fanfare.

Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts. On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend. At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.

- Robert G. Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, written 1870, published New Dresden Edition, XI, 321, 1892. Accessed online at thomaspaine.org, February 17, 2007.

No one even knows what became of his remains. He was the Rodney Dangerfield of revolutionary politics. Me? Filled with gratitude.

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