On the plane back from Boston today I was reading some back copies of New Scientist. One article suggested that our capacity to create weapons was one of the reasons for the development of out intelligence. The argument was that a spear thrower could kill at a distance so our early hunter gather communities could not be dominated by large alpha males; in consequence we developed social inhibitions and control mechanisms such as politics.
There was a terrible irony to this given that my time in Boston Logan and JFK had been taken up by the continuous news feeds on the latest, and maybe the most tragic of massacres at a Connecticut School. Somehow the idea of weapons giving rise to civilisation leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Not only that, but the morbidity of the news services, one might even say prurient curiosity and intrusion. Continuous news has many advantages, but it does not encourage reflective thinking and it demands to be fed constantly with new angles and sensations.
The point of the New Scientist article was not the value of weapons, but the need for social institutions to contain them. I remember Hungerford and Dunblaine vividly and the response of the British Government to both of those events was containment. But its not just law, its the social mores that creates the conditions for this sort of aberration to occur. As the planet becomes more populated, as social pressures increase and resources become more scarce the need for natural constraints based on community interaction and dependency becomes more acute.
I can't imagine the horror of waiting outside a school praying that your child would run into your arms not be carried out in a body bag. The freedom to live is as important as the freedom to bear arms but its not that simple. Overcome the absurdities of the gun lobby and a step has been taken, but there are steps that follow and need to take place in parallel. A fragmented, atomistic, selfish society is a far more important evil to tackle.
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