| Wednesday, January 11, 2006
|I went to Canada a few years ago. I got talking to someone in a bar and I told him that not even the police are allowed to carry guns as a matter of routine here in the UK. There are certain armed police and more and more in the last few years but run of the mill police still do not carry a gun. He completely refused to believe me and wouldn't hear another word about it.
For the record I think there are 3 countries in the world where the police do not carry guns - the UK, Norway and Iceland, but if anyone can correct me on this please do.
Not growing up in a 'gun culture' it is sometimes hard to understand how the rest of the world and in particular the US thinks about it. The NRA and other psychos tend to promote the idea of gun ownership as a way to protect yourself from criminals but I had read into it that part of the idea was gun ownership to protect yourself from a tyrannical government. I am not in favour of gun ownership but I just want to raise an uncomfortable point.
Orwell, in a piece called 'You and the Atom Bomb', which I have seen conservative sites use to try and justify gun ownership, talks about whether ownership of weapons is conducive to freedom or tyranny...
"ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon - so long as there is no answer to it - gives claws to the weak."
The suggestion is that the atom bomb, as a complex weapon has led us into a greater form of tyranny than ever before. He goes on...
"Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity...Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state. If, as seems to be the case, it is a rare and costly object as difficult to produce as a battleship, it is likelier to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a "peace that is no peace".
The usual Orwell prescience is observable at the end. Though Iraq and others may be considered 'large-scale' wars they are not on the scale of what the world had just been through when the article was written (1945). In the same article he predicts the Cold War...
"So we have before us the prospect of two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds, dividing the world between them...suppose - and really this the likeliest development - that the surviving great nations make a tacit agreement never to use the atomic bomb against one another? Suppose they only use it, or the threat of it, against people who are unable to retaliate? In that case we are back where we were before, the only difference being that power is concentrated in still fewer hands and that the outlook for subject peoples and oppressed classes is still more hopeless."
This is one of the few articles I don't really agree with Orwell on but you have to consider time of writing. The full effects of atomic power and weaponry were not yet known. I imagine he would have written something rather different were he around now. In fact, that's why I am writing this. As I said, I have seen people attempt to use this article as a justification for gun ownership but I want to point out that that argument is now redundant. If the state has the tank, the bomb, the nuclear bomb, chemical weapons, sound weapons and fuck knows what else, what point is there in owning a gun? If fighting won't work then other methods of resistance have to be employed.
|posted by michael the tubthumper @ 3:44 pm
There's quite a brouhaha going on in Ontario over hand guns...A young innocent white girl was shot and killed (as opposed to previous deaths which were black youths) while shopping with Mom; now the glad handing begins while they try to suggest a hand gun ban. I don't personally want a gun but those legal owners already comply with a great number of regulations. The gun violence results from societal problems and comes to a head with the use of firearms. Suggesting the ban is putting the cart before the horse and likely won't solve any problems.
we have hardly any guns here but there is still a problem with knives
I have seen that argument for guns as well. Like you said, when everyone has muskets, then guns are a defense against an oppresive government, but when the gov. has big guns, it doesn't make much difference.
I don't own a gun, but lots of people here do. I don't have a problem with it so much in rural areas but in cities I think at least all hand guns should be banned.
I think Nukes are really too big to be very effective tools of repression. However, fear of being nuked by other nations will cause people to put up with a lot of absurdities from their own governments.
As for hand guns, I say ban them, but then require all citizens to have a semi-automatic rifle at home whether they want one or not. A rifle, at least, is something you can't hide in your pants while walking down the street.
Michael nice post and it is in fact a tough question. Orwell fought in Spain, didn't he? So his attitude toward weapons must have been at least somewhat more pragmatic than those of us fortunate enough to not have to use them.
I am always opposed to all guns, but then, I am also always opposed to national governments and corporations which can and with big smiles do produce instruments of death and destruction.
A famous Einstein quote goes something like "I don't know what weapons World War Three will be fought with, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones."
The American freakout over terrorism is not anything new, it's just now been focused on terrorism. Americans have been iraationally frightened, something in our culture, since near the countries foundation.
And interestingly, alot of that fear has been historically focused on the US black population. Whether it's the presented black face of the "war on drugs" that was coming to get suburban kids, race riots, the evil "jazzmen" in the 20's or even slave revolts pre civil war.
The US has been gripped by fear for centuries.
I do think that part of the current gun craze comes out of the westerns that were made in the fifties and sixties when alot of these guys grew up. Cause if you look at people in the who were at adulthood at 1950, before the westerns became big, their attitudes towards guns is totally different.
Add the US to the list of countries where the police don't carry "guns." You see, we carry cannons (guns are for sissies.)
I don't own a gun, but I think everyone else should own one. Guns provide comfort and happiness. Especially when the barrel's hot. I think there's even a song about that.
keir - i love that einstein quote.
mike - as for US citizens being irrationally frightened...as i am sure u know, first hollywood taught US citizens to fear russians, now it is training them to fear arabs. there is a fantastic award-winning short about it here. its the one called planet of the arabs
No guns on our cops here in New Zealand mate
i wasn't completely sure of those countries. more power to NZ (my dad lives there too)
Gun rights inspire irrational emotions in the minds of the gun advocates in the US. I have this sneaking suspicion that no matter what their legal or philosophical justification, they just want guns because they love them.
Orwell's statement about what society would look like if the atom bomb were cheap sort reminds me of a fiction by Vernor Vinge. "The Peace War," which was a cold-war era novel to be sure.
In it, the cold war is ended by a group of scientists who learn to cast impenetrable, apparently eternal stasis "bobbles" around just about anything they can accurately locate.
The resulting civilization, in which the scientists outlaw any large government while remaining aloof and uninvolved, matches what you were saying would be a possible society should atom bombs be cheap and plentiful. Ultimately, the repression imposed by those scientists is painted as being just as bad as the world before it.
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Name: michael the tubthumper
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About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
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