God and Guns 4


The Burning Block Vol II No. 8

The dark inversion of the liberal naivety that banning guns will make us safer is this: guns cannot ultimately protect us. 

Do they prevent crimes from being worse than they already are? Certainly, they do to a degree. However, while it is true that it is people who kill people and not guns disembodied from time and space, guns do not unkill people, nor do we have any kind of counter-tool which undoes the damage. There is also an important dimension of relativity ignored in the 'Guns don't kill people; people kill people' addage: potentially, people with guns can kill lots of people, and wouldn't have been able to had the gun not been there.

Unfortunately, however, people will always kill people. The tools matter little in the end. If there were no AK-47's, smallpox is quite effective, and less noisy to boot. If the NRA would have made this their slogan, 'People will always kill people,' they certainly would have stirred up more hate for themselves from their enemies, but they would have completed the thought only implied in their own famous slogan; ultimately inaugurating them to the realm of dark fatalists in possession of a truth few would dare discuss.

That truth is that violence is part of life. 

Death is necessary so that life may continue. All around us, everything dies, all the time. That which lives feeds on that which is dead. The whole universe is not only an in-out breath, it is a meal, a passing of waste, and waste as fertilizer to breed more life.

Civilization is an unprecedented event in the history of organic phenomena. Civilization marks the ritualization of violence for the sake of non-violence. Civilization is the wager to trade a violent life of pure survival at the cost of one's unadulterated agency for a life in which there is order and less violence.

As Rene Girard showed throughout his work, civilization itself is founded on the myth of a scapegoat in whom scandal is projected so that the scapegoat's elimination will mark the event of ubiquitous social peace. This very peace is revealed as a possibility only at the expense of the scapegoat. The community, social life as such, does not exist but by the suggestion that there is an outside of the 'we' to which we refer when we speak about the community. It is in this outside that the order understood within the community takes on a singular character, and everything outside is closer to the world of unadulterated violence; to the world as it was before the wager of civilization. The outside is always kept at bay by being pushed out through a collective act of violence.

Another theme which repeats in Girard's work is the idea that, ultimately, the violence which society enacts in order to sustain peace is its own form of barbarity which reverberates throughout civilization mimetically. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, something else  unprecedented happens; this barbarity on which civilization rests is revealed as a force ultimately destructive to civilization itself. Christ is made a scapegoat even though he is blameless, thus revealing that the mechanism by which this ritual violence on which civilization rests is illegitimate, as it is only a mimetic reenactment of an ancient relationship with violence which has been reconfigured for the sake of entertaining one's desires whilst projecting onto the scapegoat a reason for this desire's failure to satiate. The death of the scapegoat signifies an entire drama of human fear and desire which does not name itself outright, but whose true mechanics (unconscious intentions) announce themselves in the form of emergent behaviors inherent to one's relationship with civilization. 

Liberalism and the values of the Enlightenment inhereted only part of the truths revealed in this Judeo-Christian sequence. However, it inhereted the part which, if left incomplete, leads only to more destruction. Rather than recognizing the other as the scapegoat who has been accused on false premises and canceling this antagonism, liberalism has rather appropriated the role of the scapegoat, thus 'othering' itself, as it were, and projecting the antagonism onto an abstract enemy on the outside. Rather than work toward the safety and love of the other, it simply uses this same formula to work toward the safety and love of the self-as-other. 

This ultimately leads to the net result of solipsism and atomization. One sees this play out, not only in economics, but in democracy, a political model which has not only become analogous with the west, but has become the only mechanism by which the west is willing to deal with other geopolitical blocs. Once this solipsistic definition of freedom sets in, it consumes and destroys everything within reach, as the whole system relies on people treating reality as something to be consumed, rather than something to have a relationship with.

This is not a bipartisan configuration. This problem constitutes much of the metaphysics lying behind both Left and Right, and yet, both Left and Right have their own varying features which would seem to combat this, if in a confused form. Socialism, of both the Left and the Right, as well as metaphysics concerning heirarchy on the Right or the commune on the Left, as well as environmentalism and endorsements for scientific research all examplify just how different political movements have tried to integrate man back into reality, as peice of a whole. However, they treat nature as a unitary phenomenon in contradistinction to the world in which we live, and thus, it is no better than Eden; a utopia from which we've been expelled into a fallen world, our re-entry postponed so long as we fail to properly align ideology with life.

The age of secular religion (political ideology) is in deep crisis. The modern belief system of post enlightenment values has tried to posit man as an emanation of its principles, rather than one among many other animals. This error quite inverts the truth by assuming that what man comes from is essentially good and therefore what comes from him is good, rather than the reality that what man comes from is, like everything else in nature, a series of leftover survival mechanisms, archaic cave terrors and uncontrollable drives, and that these must be better understood and accepted if they are to be surpassed as ends in themselves or put to any higher use. If man is the subject of history, then the terminal moment of any thing or entity which might be posited as higher than him would by definition be considered a necessary sacrifice in the name of this project.

The politicized version of this is Progress. Rather than trying to achieve something, it is supposed to be good enough to progress the mechanism which is already in place, without stopping to question exactly what it is which is progressing. If man is good enough, and Progress is the ideology of man, then Progress cannot have any goal save the destruction of everything in service to that which falls within the rubric of its own self-evident truths.

There is an important difference between the understanding of time which sees progression as an indefinite sequence worth sustaining at all costs, and the understanding of time which sees progression as one possibility in the lifecycle of the eidos. There is no progress without the idea of a limit or an end. Those who understand this think of time in terms of purpose rather than dogma, as the problem of what to do with time will ultimately be determined by one's attitude toward the limits of one's knowledge. Embracing the limits of one's knowledge means that destiny itself can be partially anticipated, but ultimately met half way. Here, we have some notion of what could be considered 'faith.' It does not line up with Mark Twain's vulgar simplification that faith is 'Believing something you know ain't so,' or anything the so easily dismissed by the snarky new atheists of the 2010's. It is, rather, the trust that patterns are not completely discordant, but that they constitute the movement of something like music. One understands what a song is trying to convey before it is over. One has a relationship with it as it moves which is completed and made fuller at its climax. Where materialism tries to put nature into an ideological box and explain it through dialectic tools, faith understands that there is a larger pattern to everything one can't immediately see, and that observable phenomena is merely a series of emergent properties manifesting within the domain of this larger order of things. Faith is like a cognitive technology - a sustained attitude of complicity with what is not yet known but may be comprehended in greater degrees as time moves forward. The more one lives in faith, in other words, the more of the grand design one sees, until a complete integration with reality, from which we previously isolated ourselves in our self-deluded egoic desires, is possible.


At the absolute least, guns, like any weapons, are something of an equalizing tool. Each new weapon which is introduced into the game of mimetic rivalry is likely to get copied by the enemy at some point. The first monkey to use a bone as a weapon in 2001 Space Odyssey leads the way so that his entire monkey tribe can catch on and defeat the other monkey tribe. You know where I'm going with this ... Fast forward and you have mutually assured destruction, in which all the world powers are vying to keep the one's they trust the least in check with the threat of a button which will cause a chain reaction of aggression and revenge which could destroy the entire planet. Guns allow us to keep each other in check in this way too.

Weapons represent modern sovereignty. We've come full circle, back to nature, where it isn't simply that might is right, but rather, that survival means being able to constantly catch up with and match the adversary in his every move.

The right to defend oneself with weapons, though one would want this at the very least, turns out to be a meager value when one takes into consideration the fact that what is being performed with weapons is mere survival and nothing more; not survival in service to a better life, not defense from a known enemy, but simply survival from one another. 

We are already in a war of all against all when having weapons can be considered an absolute value. And yet, this is a war we have inherited, whose seeds were planted at the dawn of civilization.