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Doubtful instruments
by Jan Sand
2006-10-01 11:24:51
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When God gave Adam a penis, Adam surely was delighted to have a built-in squirt gun and when Eve came along there must have been some consternation about her lack of directional control. Adam probably wondered as to whether that original rib was somewhat short of sufficient manufacturing material. No doubt, contemplation on the problem and experimental solutions got the two of them in trouble, a situation that has persisted to today when puberty poses similar conundrums to many maturing humans.

As people with inventive capabilities explore the properties of materials and geometry and dynamics, we have found, as with our original potentials that all sorts of innovative and dangerous and unexpected results appear.

ovi_gun03_400The gun is a prime apt example and through Freud, makes a nice segue into the issue. It is the progeny of the primitive blowgun and the Chinese invention of explosives. In turn, its expectorative descendants range from the huge cannons on a dreadnaught to the ubiquitous kid’s water gun, which is presumably totally innocent but could prove neatly dangerous when loaded with a corrosive fluid.

The original crude cannons gradually diminished in size and gained in capability to become the modern automatic instrument prized by many, especially in the USA, as the ultimate defence against an aggressive opponent. Visions of John Wayne, Tom Mix and the Lone Ranger dance in the heads of people obsessed with the dark visions presented incessantly in film and on TV.

However, a gun is a tool that requires expert training to ensure that the correct target is properly and effectively demolished. And the most dangerous aspect of possessing a gun is not weapons capability, but the psychological warping of sensibilities of the possessor to imply invulnerability. The most devastating gift that a gun bestows is the ease with which any idiot can deprive a living creature of its most precious gift of life with the most minor finger twitch.

The defining incident occurred a few years ago in New York City when three trained and experienced members of the police force put over forty bullets into an innocent man who was attempting to display his wallet. They were not punished, but in reality, stupidity and panic do not, perhaps, deserve punishment by humanity. That is the option of nature and habitual human indulgence in hysteria and idiocy is a guarantee that nature will take up that option.

Upping the potentials and the consequences to national levels has created the intercultural equivalent of the small death-dealing weapon, namely the atomic bomb. This weapon was used only twice over half a century ago to devastating consequences and that one double disaster has so far held the world in its horrifying grip so firmly that any inclination for a repeat performance has been squelched by the vision of its moral consequences and the frightening liberating effect it might have on other potential users.

ovi_gun02One could only wish that handguns were suppressed under similar restrictions. Possession of atomic weapons poses an irresolvable dilemma. It is undoubtedly effective as a threat. Nuclear empowered nations such as the USA, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan, etc., have effectively discouraged open aggression by the threat of the use of the weapons and the contrast between the USA’s tiptoeing cautiously around the possibly nuclear North Korea and its blustering threats against Iran who seems to be seeking the sanctuary of nuclear possession is dramatically illustrative. But if a nuclear power ever resorted to the actual use of the weapon it would probably initiate a chain reaction of aggression which is likely to destroy a good deal of life on the planet which would benefit no one. In the end, the weapon is useful only if not used which teeters on the brink of irrational insanity.

At intervals, various nations and subnational groups issue to themselves licenses to commit atrocities. Some of these licenses are generally accepted as legitimate and all the wars current and historical seem to mostly fall within that category. Religions are notorious in indulging in this but a good deal of Christianity has refrained from this lately with the exception of one group in Africa. The experiences in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Burma, Apartheid in South Africa, the USA south before 1960, Rwanda, China, and many ongoing mayhems are all examples.

Many local police actions and many of the prisons in the world feel free to issue themselves these licenses. In general, these licensed operations are forbidden to independent individuals who may be imbued with transient angers and overwhelming impulses for personal revenge.

We may be approaching the time when humanity has attained a level of civilization to cease issuing these licenses. We are not approaching fast enough, but we have a slight chance. I hope so.

  
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