Monday 8 September 2008

Violence and Weaponry

You voted by three to one that you didn't think hardcore sex acts should be considered mainstream in Art and Media.

What a lot of prudes you are! :)

Only joking, I love you all really.

On to this week's topic...

Like it or not, much of human culture is founded on the threat of violence as an ultimate resort.

And here, at the turn of the twentieth century, we see that fact confronting us in some rather unusual ways.

I guess the first is in looking at life today in the UK and comparing it to life in other European countries.

The UK is always held up as being a pacific country. Famously, the bobby on the beat has generally been unarmed, unlike his continental counterparts.
And this is a very hard country to legally own a firearm of any kind. We must have some of the harshest legislation concerning firearms in the world.

But that, of course doesn't mean this isn't a violent country. It is. Whether the guns are legal or not, people still get shot. Almost every week. And now the guns are harder to get at, we are becoming more aware of knifecrime. And now they've clamped down on that.
What are they clamp down on next? Glass bottles? Razor blades?

The UK is a violent country where a significant number of people have a way of life that makes them feel they need to be armed, one way or another.

And we seem to have woken up that fact. It's our culture. If guns were as easily available here as they are in the US, we'd have High School massacres too. And drive by shootings on the same scale. We get them anyway, but thankfully, only a handful a year by comparison.

Other European countries can afford to be more lax with their laws on weapons. We can't. Because if UK citizens carried guns, they'd be shooting eachother over who used the pump first at petrol stations. They'd be shooting eachother, rather than glassing eachother in pubs.

We probably WOULD have proportionally more shootings than the US.
In UK society, the threat of violence always lurks under the surface. It is in our culture.

Now I have a confession to make. You think carrying knives in school is a recent thing. It isn't. When I was at school, I carried one. Nothing fancy, and just within the boundaries that it could be passed off as having a legitimate purpose. It was a Swiss army knife attached to my key ring.

But I carried it with me all through High School. And on a couple of occasions, I opened it up, not to sharpen pencils with. To get people to back off. British schools are violent places. Our school had eighteen hundred pupils and was right by a canal. People were always being thrown in that canal.

And can you imagine doing prefect duty in a school that size? You have the power to impose lines. Lines. Whoopee doo!
How do you enforce that? You've got some little cross between Damian and Chucky breaking and entering the block with four entrances that two of you have to keep people out of during lunch hour. You can ask him his name and tutor group, he's going to tell you 'Wayne Kerr'.

It's not going to work.
The only way to impose the rules the School has asked you to impose is by giving him a good kicking.

I flung one of the little bastards so hard against the lockers once his jumper ripped. He said he was going to make a formal complaint. I said 'What you going to say, he ripped my jumper trying to evict me after I climbed through a second storey window?'

No, it's not that much fun, really. You don't get much reward except a different tie to everyone else and the right to use the front entrance along with staff. And I quit eventually.

But should we be surprised we have the police forces we do in the UK?

When school teachers abrogate playground discipline to enjoy an easy hour in the staffroom whilst senior pupils are left to enforce discipline, literally, by force, out in the rest of the premises.

When I had the back field duty, I caught them shagging, shooting up, the lot.

This was mid-nineties. It can't have got any better.

And we graduate in to our adult life in the UK, basically seeing all social situations as things that could become violent, potentially.

I think there is a powerful reason for this. Much the same one is why the US is so violent.
The tolerance the culture at large has to violence.
Because you can pretend that UK culture has a zero tolerance approach to violence, but get real, use your head, how can it do?

Tot up how many days since 1945 that British troops haven't been engaged in conflict somewhere. The UK armed forces are always crying out for recruits. They can't get enough. and they literally recruit in playgrounds. I can remember when their tanks were to be seen outside the second year block selling the joys of the military life.

Because the armed forces need to be stocked. Not stocked with semi-fit volunteers ready to raise a gun in defence of the mother country on the off chance they get invaded, as is the case in all but a small handful of the nations of the western world.

But ready to go decimating the cities of the Middle East, or rifling through the homes of Irish Catholics as and when required.

The UK has one of the toughest fighting forces in the world, poorly funded as it is, and in days when no one much wants to go and die for King and Country, it helps to have a sizable portion of the male population grow up thinking 'Yeah, a life of violence and killing, that sounds fun.'

So we glorify it all. We pretend not to, but we do. We love our war films, we love all that.

And hey, I admit that, because I admit I've grown up in it and love a film with a high bodycount myself. I love paintballing. This is a culture where testosterone can be tolerated. And in most of us, that's OK. But in the UK, those whose testosterone puts them into the psychopathic character have a role, and need to be encouraged in their growth, because the culture ultimately depends on them.

Because the UK is one of the few countries in the World which actually has an ARMED forces.
As in, an army that as a final resort, can be used to enforce the will of it, and the other members of that special little club.

Or perhaps, let's just call it the club of two. Big brother and little brother. Big U and little U.

Still, you say.
The UK is still much less violent than the US.

No. I think we have two problems they DON'T have in the US. Two problems that come from the way the problem is handled in the UK.

First, you've created a violent culture, so people are going to behave violently. And you forget, as a last resort, nature armed everybody with fists.

OK, getting punched isn't fatal.

But people probably behave towards eachother in a far more threatening way and with far less politeness in the UK than in most places. They behave nicely on the continent because they're not violent cultures. And they behave politely in the US because getting shot IS fatal. Here, we're used to acting within a violent undercurrent. We face eachother off, we invite people 'Outside, in the carpark NOW!'

Because our culture encourages us to see violence as a justifiable way of solving problems, but doesn't actually arm us enough to make it just that little bit too real.

But there's also the other more sinister aspect.

The US Second Amendment guarantees the citizen the right to bear arms. And we in the UK see that as being an appalling twisting of the logic of freedom.

We're fools.
Because that amendment was only inserted in the US consitution when someone looked back at the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and realised that actually, that was something the US needed.

It's in the English Bill of Rights.
In a typical disciminatory way, of course. It guarantess all PROTESTANTS the right to bear arms as an ultimte defence against the government to establish tyranny.

In other words, if they're armed, the citizen should be too. Otherwise, iof they get above themselves and start trying to take away our liberties, we can't get rid of them.

And this is what we forget. WE CAN'T.

We, the people of the UK, even we were in a majority, could not overthrow our government.

But why would we want to, you say. This is a democracy.

Is it now? Is it now?

I'm not saying we WANT to, not yet, maybe. But COULD we? And that's what we need to ask.

If they declared a state of emergency tomorrow, could we stop them?

This is the problem.

While they have weapons, we're stupid not to. This is the sad fact. It's a violent culture the UK and if we were all armed, we'd be mowing eachother down in the streets. That's how much rage and frustration lurks beneath the surface in this culture on the verge of the collapse.

But they, our masters, forment this social collapse as they make us more and more powerless as they build up the muscles of the forces of the state.

The real solution to the violence that is endemic across all cultures in the world, even in European ones, but most notably in those where the use of armed troops to enforce foreign policy decisions is accepted as normal, is not to disarm the civilian more and arm the state further at his expense.

The violence remains as an undercurrent, the culture that creates those violent sentiments still exists, just armed with empty Budweiser bottles, not guns.

And the power of the state to enforce whatever it chooses remains the greater.
And the wars fought not in our name blaze across the globe.

It ends when THEY are disarmed.

It ends when the UN passes a resolution calling for Universal Global Disarmament.

It ends when the nations of the world agree to abolish ALL armies aside from a UN peace keeping force whose sole function is to ensure things stay that way.

Violence breeds violence.

Armed governments and disarmed populations lead to tyranny.

Armed governments and armed populations are a little better, but still don't create societies of the type we truly want.

We need disarmed governments and disarmed people.

Or so I believe.

But it's up to you.

The poll is in the sidebar.

Have your say!


Anonymous said...

Over in Australia I have read a few articles about knifings in the UK and how worried young people are.

We have a lot of violence in our communities as well, more in the cities of course, but also everywhere. I know that there is a lot of racial tension and that knives are used a lot here too.
But still - it's not an America and we do not have their homicide rates. Our gun licenses are quite strict because of a clamp down after the Port Arthur Massacres where a freak got hold of a bunch of weapons and gunned down 35 innocent people. I can't see gun licenses ever being lax again in my country and I'm really glad about that.

Anonymous said...

They do say "An armed society is a polite society"...

*Runs round the corner an waits for the verbal explosion*

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am new commenting here. My better half is from the UK (now residing in Canada) and has commented in the past with respect to how little hand to hand violence is prevelent in North America as a whole. Of course there are beatings etc., but stabbings over there just seem to be a little more brutal (or at least they are reported as such). Reading your post has shed some light and given some additional food for thought on the whole subject. BTW I have added you just because I tend to read your blog frequently. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

4 murderers (separate incidents) from my school in the time I was there. Left 1982.

This is nothing new, just more widespread.

I am worried that we pay scum to breed.

Anonymous said...

I dont know if its the fact that I live in Sweden or the fact that I tend to live in my own lil' bubble, but I haven't experienced that kinda violence in my surrounding.

Ok no wait, the city where i grew up was kinda infamous for burning down a mosque, having a cat nailed up at the cemetrary, having Nazi manifestation & parade in the city....

... but i didnt know anyone carrying a knife. Selective memory

Anonymous said...

Violence is just a physical manifestation of anger and frustration. How you use it depends on your resources at the time. If you have a gun at hand you are likely to use it. If all you have is a broken bottle, then again you will likely use it. If all you have is your fists.....

Arming the state will not fix that kind of violence.

Anonymous said...

There are two types of people.

The ones that value everyone so will never resort to violence.

Or the ones that seek power/control which means that if needed violent action will be taken to achieve the aims!

Obviously there are lots of subtle permutations that lead to these two end results!

Anonymous said...

I think there are probably very few people who are really unable to control their violent impulses.

That they don't says more about their unwillingness to do so and maybe something that 'enables' them in this in the sense that addicts are 'enabled'.

Also maybe that they have less incentive to control it some countries than others.

Anonymous said...

Kate- Most High Schools now have metal detectors on the way in. Several make pupils wear ID badges and some have security guards, especially in inner cities.

Moggs- Well, as I said in the post, it's a complex issue.
Because there's a very good argument for saying that a slight THREAT of possible violence erupting, does make people NICER.

I sometimes think the blogosphere PROVES that...
Case in point. I'm always hearing just how bitchy places like Accountants firms are. People backsrab in a way they wouldn't sales.

Largely, I THINK, because in most sales companies have little less decorum and if you backstab, you might get threatened with violence, in the middle of the office or not.
So people actually behave better.

Aunt Reeny- I get that impression. street fights don't seen a regular feature of North american life, whereas here no one really bats an eyelid. Even in pubs, someone swinging a punch at someone doesn't mean anyone will turn a blind eye unless beer starts to get spilt. It depends on the pub. But I've seen people deliver blows in pubs and the staff have just watched to see if it goes too far.

What staff DO watch for, is people suddenly moving from draught beer to bottled beer. That suggests trouble might be brewing...

E-K- No, I think it is just more trumpeted. As I say, I'm not sure how much things have changed since I left school.

Except that in my day, we mainly got stoned behind the maths block. Now I think they mostly shoot up.

Crashie- I'm thinking as Sweden gets closer integrated into the EU, these things will affect it too. Though maybe more in the cities than farther out.

France of course, is a violnt, civil torn country, actually much nastier than here, because its built on divided communities and tensions that I don't think we have here. I always get the idea that France is only inches away from total collapse into civil war- but it seems to have been in that boat for about two hundred years.

I think the real diffrence betwen the UK and the rest of Europe is in the way ordinary citizens behave. Even me, I've not been in a fight for over ten years, but I'm always ready to fight if I have too, and often find myself in situations where the THREAT of violence appwars and it becomes a face off.

Colin- I agree. But that seems to be the solution we are adopting here.

I don't know if you've seen our police of late? They may not (All of them YET) carry guns, but they all have full body armour, two foot truncheons, CS sprays, what once would be seen as riot gear.

CherryPie- Yes, but it's still not that simple.

I don't approve of violence in THEORY.
But I'd fight to defend myself.

Nor do I categorically condemn all 'terorist' groups either. in some cases, I do think the end being fought for justifies the means. THE ANC, the PLO are too such examples.

I also have some sympathy for the Provisional IRA's campaign, though I wouldn't give it the 100% exoneration I do to the IRA campaign of 1920-22.

But in these cases I would say that the violence of these groups was in itself a response to violence- or the denial of the popular will by THREAT of violence. Therefore, defensive.

Moggs- I think it's just it's acceptable here.

We're used to facing eachother off and if you're not careful and you don't 'manage' the situation, then people put themselves in a situation they have to fight.

Over things like spilled pints.

It's just what we're used to.

And sadly, if you don't look like you're the sort of person who WILL fight if pushed, you WILL get walked all over. Fact.

That's the UK.

Anonymous said...

I was just taking it down to the root level!

I don't approve of violence in THEORY.
But I'd fight to defend myself.

Just to challenge your thoughts again, sometimes you can fight back without resorting to violence or threats. If that way is possible, everyone learns something and moves forward.

Obviously this wouldn't be appropriate in a life/death situation! That is fight or flee scenario.

Anonymous said...

You know the meaning behind the phrase, 'an armed society is a polite society', That's because when it's guns you use rather than fists, you're fairly aware that the effects of your own violence can be a tad more serious if you shot someone than if you punched someone.

So most normal people are reluctant to resort to violence unless they absolutely have don't, in fact, find legal gun owners shooting each other over trivial matters.

You do get criminals shooting each other over trivial matters - because as they lead a criminal lifestyle, where they learn to go for their guns whenever someone rips them off over a drug deal etc, that leads to their learning to go for their guns in all situations where things don't go their way, like someone cutting in front of them in traffic.

What you seem to be arguing FOR is a social atmosphere where the casually violent can be casually violent without any inhibitions, because they think violence won't really hurt anyone so they don't have to care about what happens to the people they hurt. You seem to be decrying our (UK) violent impetuence, while also arguing in favour of it being perpetuated, arguing in favour of the factors that enable casual I-don't-have-to-worry-about-the-consequences violence being perpetuated.

There's also a serious ethical flaw in your stance, because it rests on the supposition that responsible people should be penalized not because of their own actions, but because of the actions of irresponsible people. I don't think you could justify this morally, please note a utilitarian argument that 'if we allowed responsible people guns, irresponsible people would get them and kill people' is not justifable. Targetting responsible people instead of those irresponsible people who kill wantonly is unjust.

Also, given your misgivings about whether either the state of the people should have exclusive access to weapons, wouldn't the best idea be, 'armed people, disarmed government'?

Anonymous said...

CheryPie- Well, I think human cultutre is kind of getting there. Part of that has ben the relative success of passive resistance movements- the authrities are less ken nowadays to lose their moral highground by doing a Tianamen Suquare.

But twas not ever thus.

In every General Election from the 1870s onwards, a majority of the Irish people voted in favour of an Iriah Parliament. even when such a proposal got through the House of Commons, the Lords rejected it on the grounds that ENGLISH voters were opposed. Every Liberal government that got in, propsed the Bill, the Lords rejected it. It was only after the Liberals castrated the Lords finally in 1911 that such a bill could move forward. And when it became law, it was suspended because the First World War had broken out.

In 1918, Sinn Fein won 73 out of 106 Irish seats and Unilaterally declared Ireland to be a Republic. They had democracy on their side. But no legal case. The British Government sent in troops.

In that case- as with South Africa, yes, a violent answer was the only solution possible.

Happy Rampager- Also the fact that behavaing impolitely could lead to guns being drawn.

Which perhaps is what I what I was arguing, because you seem to have misinterpreted my position somewhat, in a way.

You do get people FIGHTING over trivia. People and up in A& E over disputs at taxi ranks and they like. People in the UK will punch and eachother and bottle eachother for matters which really are petty.

I don't condone any form of violence- I'm not sure where you got that from. I merely observed that it seems to be a regrettable fact that sometimes it really DOES sem to be the only language that seems to have effect.

A case in point is how people behave here on the internet.

We had a visitor once who used to turn up simply to be offensive. Quite why he read this blog, I have no idea.
He was read, couldn't comment without using the F word, abused other commentors, really the man was an ignorant tosser of the highest order.

And you see others around who can't observe simple rules of debate. They feel sitting behind a terminal knowing they really are kind of invulnerable gives them free rein to be a twat.

And like it or not, it's because a simple rule that in real life, if you behave in such a manner with total disregard to the sensitivities of others, you might find the debate moves beyind words.

I'll be honest, there was one occasion when this idiot in question was very insulting to one of my co-authors and had it been a real life situation, I'd have banged him out. Simple as.

I was that livid.

The guy in question is actually a chartered accountant who has another life and in depth analses by him of the budget can be seen at the website of his firm.

But on the internet, he's the scum of the earth.

Because he can get away with it.

No, I don't agree with any form of violence. But by the same token, what do you do about the proportion of the population who only act like human beingsd because they don't want other human beings to hurt them- thee's no other way they can grasp 'Do as you would be done by'?

I don't see any reason whjy ANYONE needs a gun.
What use does a gun have aside from killing?

You can say guns don't kill, people do. But what ELSE do you do with a gun?

Create pretty patterns in the wall?

Anonymous said...

You do get people FIGHTING over trivia. People and up in A& E over disputs at taxi ranks and they like. People in the UK will punch and eachother and bottle eachother for matters which really are petty.

Yep, because as I said before, they don't really have to consider the consequences of their actions, do they? Either because their intended victims (how often do those who start the trouble start on someone they think might have an equal chance of beating them?) have no means of getting them to desist, or because they think it's safe to attack people because all they're doing is punching or bottling them which they think people would probably survive.

But by the same token, what do you do about the proportion of the population who only act like human beingsd because they don't want other human beings to hurt them- thee's no other way they can grasp 'Do as you would be done by'?

Not much you can do, apart from making sure that everyone else is able to stop them from attacking others. Which leads me to...

I don't see any reason whjy ANYONE needs a gun.
What use does a gun have aside from killing?

You can say guns don't kill, people do. But what ELSE do you do with a gun?

You don't see any reason why people would need a gun. Hows about -

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- Investigators tell News 12 an 18-year-old with a butcher knife was trying to get into a house on the 14 hundred block of Wrightsboro Road.

Deputies say the homeowner shot the intruder in the left leg with a 12gauge shotgun.

The teen is recovering at MCG. At this time no charges have been filed.

Does someone breaking into your home with a knife not constitute 'need' under the circumstances? Do you understand why someone would need a gun to keep someone like that from hurting or killing them? If not, why not?