After some reflection, it occurred to me that there might be some “holes” in Mark Ames’ arguments that needed to be addressed. He seems to be making the argument that it is in the best interests of the ruling elite to have the serfs arguing amongst themselves while the elites run off with all of the loot. I can’t really argue with that – it sure seems to me to be the truth! But how do we square those who profess a belief in egalitarianism and social justice and also belong to the NRA – like my friend who refuses to look at this issue? What kind of coping mechanism exists in these kinds of people so that they can hold two opposing beliefs at the same time? I was most curious …
So off I went, looking for more information. I found a most interesting academic paper that is written for well-educated but not academic readers. That is, people who don’t work in academia – there isn’t as much professional jargon in the article and statistical research terms are explained in a perfunctory manner.
The paper, More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions, states that “individuals’ positions on gun control derive from their cultural world views: individuals of an egalitarian or solidaristic orientation tend to support gun control, those of a hierarchical or individualist orientation oppose it.” They go on to say that no amount of data compiled to support or oppose gun control will resolve the debate until the issue of cultural world views are addressed because it is an individual’s cultural world view that determines her/his position on gun control.
So, where does that leave me? I do appreciate Mark Ames’ essay and I think he definitely has a point. It is entirely possible (and I think true) that the ruling elite has poured money and effort into opposing any kind of gun control in this country because the end result is to, as Ames’ writes in his last paragraph:
“It takes years to cultivate a political mindset that voluntarily neutralizes itself by convincing itself that its contribution to world revolution comes down to purchasing a few guns at K-Mart, then blogging about it. That’s what reactionary plutocrats like the Koch brothers understood about the deeper politics of gun fanaticism, and why their outfits like the Cato Institute have been at the forefront of overturning gun regulations and promoting ‘Stand Your Ground’ vigilantism as a substitute for political engagement: That by poisoning the political climate, it poisons the minds, which circulates back to the external environment, and back into the minds, until you lock the culture into a pattern in which you [the elite – ed.] always get more and they [the serfs – ed.] always get fleeced, which makes them [the serfs – ed.] more fanatical and you [the elite – ed.] more powerful [an illusion – ed.]…”
The bottom line, for me, is that as long as we don’t understand where the opposition to gun control is coming from, we won’t make any headway in the debate. As long as hierarchists and individualists control the debate (and the elite is full of these kinds of people, with lots of money to further their goals), we will be stuck where we are.
What I find most curious, though, is how those who profess to be egalitarians committed to social justice can oppose gun control. That is a difficult issue to deal with. The only conclusion that I can come up with is that these people must be authoritarians at some level because authoritarians are very good at holding two opposing beliefs in their minds at the same time. This is because authoritarians accept what authorities that they trust believe. It does not matter if one authority conflicts with another – the only thing that matters to an authoritarian is that the belief they hold is endorsed by an accepted authority. Authoritarians don’t have the ability to step back and look at the absurdity of believing two opposing beliefs at the same time.
The authors of the paper conclude that the liberal agenda of the last 70 years, which sought to enact laws at a federal level to bring about positive social change, needs to be changed in some way so that “the conflicting cultural views at stake in the gun control debate” are addressed before any evidence to buttress one or another position is adopted. Failure to do so will always result in returning to the same acrimonious and contemptuous “debates” that have occurred for the last 50 years. The authors say that “[a]nthropologists, sociologists, and comparative law scholars have in fact cataloged many examples of communities successfully negotiating culture-infused controversies” but then list only three, which seems to me to be a rather small set of examples. They do go on to write, though, that they “don’t mean to understate the difficulty of adapting this strategy of pluralistic expressive deliberations to the gun control issue.” Yes. Indeed. ‘Nuff said, I suppose.