Monday, March 30, 2009

School Shootings Are Good

Well, not really. Who likes to get shot? But it did get you reading.

Thomas Jefferson had to say this on that issue:

And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.

True, Jefferson wasn't exactly talking about school shootings, but about Shays' Rebellion. But what is a school shooting if not a miniature rebellion?

School shootings are not caused by guns or video games. The fact that guns don't kill people is proven by the string of school shootings (and fittingly, stabbings) in Krautistan, the country with the most fascist gun laws outside Limeystan. Violent video games can't be the culprit, either, because there have always been violent media, like Bond movies or, before that, movies and books whitewashing violence, like Gone with the Wind.

But precisely books like Gone with the Wind are the answer to what teaches violence to kids. Culture and media always taught violence to kids. The difference is in the kind of violence that kids were taught and that people got as a result.

Back then, times were even more collectivist than today. Accordingly, kids were encouraged to engage in collective violence instead of individual violence. Instead of first person shooters, there were books and movies glorifying slavery, war, and genocide. Accordingly, that was what people got back then instead of individuals going postal.

People and particularly kids were taught that murder is good, and is only good, if the murderers are regimented into gangs called nation states and armies, ruled by big bad evil guys called heads of state and henchmen called generals. Accordingly, they had more world wars and fewer school shootings.

Read Tom Sawyer for a taste of the abject respect kids had for authority figures like judges and generals. (To their credit, they liked pirates, too.) For a real-life example, look at the history of Krautistan, particularly the time between circa 1866 and 1945.

Krautistan, 1914:

"Thank you, Officer Pig, for arresting me and locking me into this here cattle car. I'll be glad to ride to the Western Front and murder as many frogs as I can before they murder me."

Krautistan, 1941:

"Thank you, Officer Pig, for arresting me and locking me into this here cattle car. I'll be glad to ride to Auschwitz and take a shower."

You say that couldn't happen in America?

America, 1863:

"Thank you, Officer Pig, for arresting me and locking me into this here cattle car. I'll be glad to ride to Gettysburg and murder as many Yankees as I can so your slavocrat bosses can keep their slaves."

Teaching kids to obey authority is just plain wrong and will always result in disaster. There can never be such a thing as "rightful authority." Authority is by its nature wrongful.

Authorities consist of men, and laws are written by men. There is no process for reliably selecting rulers wise enough to rule — and give orders to be blindly followed by — other men.

In the olden days, the people played genetic roulette and bred incestuous aristocrats to rule them. The result was degenerate subhuman mass murderers like George III and Wilhelm II.

Then the people tried voting for the village idiot preferred by the majority. The result was even worse: demagogic subhuman mass murderers like Hitler. (Full disclosure: Hitler didn't get a majority, only a plurality, but by the rules of the democratic process, that was enough for him to take over.)

A system that might work better is plutocracy, which would allow the most productive, and thus generally the most reasonable, to rule. However, even that would be far from foolproof. Think worthless heirs. Think rich fundie businessmen that are good enough at compartmentalizing to use reason in business and faith in their politics and private affairs.

The only path to tomorrow is liberty: Every individual must think for him or herself, and act accordingly.

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add "within the limits of the law," because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

— Thomas Jefferson

Either people obey all the time, or they rebel at least sometimes. If you teach kids to obey the authorities, they will obey when ordered to collaborate in wars and genocides. If you teach kids to think for themselves, they will rebel against what they think is an outrage, a judgment you may disagree with.

Whether these rebellions are justified depends on the degree to which the rebels are rational. But no matter how rational men are, they can never be perfect, and thus there will always be misunderstandings, and thus rebellions, wars, and other instances of use of force that are questionable or just plain wrong. There will always be students and other people who believe that their situation is so intolerable as to warrant running amok.

Nowadays people don't want the horrors of authoritarian rule they have seen, but neither do they want the freedom, the "anarchy," that is the only alternative. The result is a strange middle of the road mixture of exhortations to question authority and exhortations to obey authorities.

Nowadays, we expect soldiers to refuse orders to murder frogs or Jews. But it obviously makes no sense to ask teenagers, if drafted, to question orders to murder people in a war, but to otherwise obey authorities. Today's semi-fascist mindset becomes obviously preposterous when one realizes that teenagers who, if drafted, have to make decisions about others' lives and deaths need to put authorities above their own minds on comparatively minor issues like drug use or school attendance.

You can't ride in the middle of the road forever. Sooner or later, you're bound to hit a gatepost inscribed "Arbeit macht frei." After every act of anarchic rebellion, the shocked survivors call for more fascist gun control and censorship laws that pave the road right back to the concentration camps.

You can either teach kids to obey authority, or you can teach them to think for themselves. If you teach kids to think for themselves, inevitably every now and then one of them will come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that it's time to hoist the black flag and begin to slit throats.

School shootings are the price of liberty. Oh, you don't want liberty at that price?

Well, there's another saying sometimes attributed to Jefferson: "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."

"Give me liberty, or give me death" is no empty rhetoric. It's a physical choice like "give me oxygen, or give me death." If you decline liberty, you automatically choose death for yourself and everyone around you.

If people never rebel, they always obey. It's either the occasional school shooting or Auschwitz. Make your choice.

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