Monday, July 23, 2012

War and Peace

I do everything I can to avoid video and audio news.

The level of fatuous idiocy on display is really depressing; it reminds me of one of the most culpable and easily-fixable factors in our national strain of Stupid.

Here, with the nation in the throes of fighting fucking land wars in fucking Asia and the economy and society of the Land of the Free sliding back into their Gilded Age forms (to the frenetic cheering of a good 30% of the idiot public who seem to have learned nothing from the high school history classes...), ridiculous freaks like the movie-theatre shootings in Colorado become the focus of a vasty deep of feckless punditry, typically revolving around what these talking-heads have decided are the Critical Issues of the Day: vaginas and what people do with them, heavily-armed lunatics, and "entertainment".

The Colorado shootings catch two of three; boxcar!
The frustrating thing is that this crap is capable of ensnaring the most intelligent amoung us. A friend of mine put up a long blog post about this shooting - she lives in Colorado, so she felt particularly tied to it - and in it called this "another shattering event".

And that made me reflect on these sorts of mass-killings and how they fit in the human scheme of "mass-killings" and, y'know what?

What it makes me think is that we really are a nation of trembling nellies living in an immense and placid domestic tranquility.

And that's a wonderful thing, and I wish we'd realize it and grow the fuck up.

Because for most of the past 10,000 or 20,000 years humanity was regularly wrung out by real, monstrous, inescapable, awful horrors.


Barbarian invasions.

Truly appalling wars - wars like the Thirty Years' War, that made central Germany an utter wasteland.

Pogroms. Famines.

And the daily toll of the microscopic pathogens that injured and killed us that we had absolutely no understanding of or control over; dysentery, tetanus, childbed fever, smallpox, typhus, syphilis...

We died or were maimed in droves; thousands, tens, hundred of thousands, and had little if any expectation of anything better.

And here we are, screaming and shouting, making great matter because a single nutter managed to kill a dozen or so innocents.
Not exactly St. Bartholomew's Day, is it?

So here we are, in the midst of one of the longest spells of unbroken peace in Europe and North America since the Long Peace of 1815-1914...and we seem to be all aquiver about these little killing sprees and yet utterly unwilling to actually, y'know, doing something about preventing them.

Because there's a very simple solution; make it insanely difficult for insanely murderous people to get their hands on insanely efficient killing hardware.

Restrict the sale of multiple-shot ordnance to zero. Return to the arms that the Founders wanted us to "keep and bear"; flintlock muskets and pistols.

Mind you, I don't think that this is desirable or even possible.

But it would solve the problem.

But we don't - at least probably a good 40 to 60 percent of us don't - want to do that.
So, at the very least, we could act like adults and accept these little embarrassments as casually as we do the other deaths we're willing to shrug off; the immense tolls from highway accidents, drownings, bad parenting, and wars of choice.

But that would be expecting We the People to act like sensible adults, and as far as I can see we prefer to act like whiny titty-babies and always have, reacting to grim Fate with a combination of outrage and self-pity.


And our little cat is dying of cancer.
What a fucking world we live in, neh?


EGrise said...

Sorry about your cat, chief. We lost one to cancer last year, and it really, really sucked. Best thoughts to you and yours.

FDChief said...

EG: Thank you.

This little possum has been with me through a divorce, remarriage, and kids, four jobs, you name it...kinda hard to face up to having to be the Chooser of the Cat Slain some time in the next month.

Well, damn.

Leon said...

I wouldn't include Europe in that century of peace as they had the little fracas of the Franco-Prussian War. Which laid some of the seeds that would germinate into the great war.

Also, sorry to hear about your cat. Cancer sucks.

FDChief said...

Leon: The odd thing is that there were tons of wars in Europe during that period (not counting the Balkans, even...); you had the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, 1870, the Crimea in 1854 included France and Britain, the Carlist Wars in Spain...

But the European publics in general seem to have seen the period as extraordinarily peaceful - which, IMO, says a lot about how lethal Europe was BEFORE 1815...

Lisa said...


Very sorry to hear the bad news of your beloved cat. There is nothing good to say about it I'm afraid, other than you can tell her what a good companion she was and how much she helped you.

Far as the shooting goes, these things are always so politicized. Really, it's the wages paid for living in such a violent, reprobate and relatively free society. Like you say, these are discrete happenings and take out relatively few people. The pace may quicken, but we will acclimate.

On the socio-physiological end, I have an idea that with our advanced medical care, we are no longer going through the genetic weeding out process, hence natural selection is slowing down. Hence all specimens -- no matter how misfit or defective -- will be swimming amongst the masses. How this will impact us remains to be seen.

To me, this is a negative impact we are having upon our society (not yet extended to the several billions without recourse to health care, of course.) Liberals cry "eugenics" as a battering ram, but ought we not identify those who are a few clicks off and do something, without it being seen as too un-p.c.?

It is a problem, because good liberals say "reprobate" and "violent" are repressed ways to designate the freedom we enjoy, while conservatives want everyone armed and hence they, too, do not want to risk the label "violence" as a pejorative. So we all keep our heads under the covers in the name of furthering our agendas.

There are usually indications which most people green light for fear of fingering someone who is just a bid "odd". The 2011 film "We Need To Talk About Kevin" (based on the book) begins the discussion.

basilbeast said...

I put my 2 bits in over at RAW and I have some spare change left.

Your comment about the past v. the present is OK if you contain it to just the civilized world. Outside, folk are violent, they obviously aren't as good or moral as we b/c they live in shit and can't seem to climb out of it, and they kill each other on the slightest whim and die like flies.

When shootings like Aurora pop up ( and btw some 15K of us die each year due to firearms ), it's rather embarrassing.

And gun sales go up.

It broke my heart to see Basil go blind and could barely walk. I hope his life with us was happy. Still miss the little guy.

It seems you feel the same.


FDChief said...

Lisa: I wonder. Reading novels from earlier times there certainly seem to be a fair number of those folks who were pretty "off". Combine poor medical care with bad nutrition, a more widespread acceptance (as basil points out) of casual violence including parent-on-kid violence, and a complete lack of understanding of mental health...

Instead, I guess my thoughts are:

1. These whackos have always been with us.

2. In the past they had a harder time killing just because it took more mechanical effort.

3. And before global 24/7/365 electronic media they were a purely local freak; a crazed axe-murderer in Baltimore in 1824 was a problem only to the citizens of Baltimore. Now he's national or even global news.

And, basil, I think the difference between the paved and unpaved portions of the world is more functional that philosophical. In the First World we have the luxury of things like paid, relatively honest police, mental health clinics, universal primary education...all the stuff that "socializes" us into nice conformity. We've worked our asses off to sand off the rough edges of Western society and eliminate stuff like "honor killings" and dueling.

The less-asphalted parts still come with those social corners attached. some ways those societies have an advantage on us. They are often socially "connected" in a way we're not. As Lisa points out, one thing about being in a less-rooted society where many of the people we meet are relative strangers it can be very difficult to call someone else out for their peculiarities.

In more traditional societies your family would have taken you in check; "Sorry, but Toshio has to go home now...", crazy aunties locked in attics...that sort of thing. I suspect that part of the problem is that it's harder to get a grip on these random nutters in a sprawling, disconnected sort of life like the one many of us live now...

Lisa said...

I believe we suffer a societal anomie, and we see it played it out in our delight in proxy violence (movies, games ... do people read anymore?)

Children are so indulged, everyone gets a gold star, what should be bizarre is celebrated (or tolerated) as simply, "Other". Everyone is mainlined, so as to give the semblance of homegeneity and regularity, only, it's just not so.

Oh, there are many rabbit holes we could look down: The receding archetype of traditional manhood, for one. I do think technology is speeding up the expectations, but we've only got these marginally 20th century brains, at best.

We're frontiersman, facing an ever-receding frontier.