Saturday, April 5, 2014

Concerto For Cold Dead Hands, Second Movement: Sociological Factors

Not enough firearms enthusiasts have thought broadly enough about the genesis of our political problem. In particular, few commentators have addressed why so many self-nominated conservatives are opposed to full, Constitutional respect for the right to keep and bear arms.

There are more such "conservatives" than you might be aware, Gentle Reader. Folks who'll stand with us on Constitutionally limited government, taxes, immigration, life issues, foreign affairs, and a whole lot more...but let the commoners have unfettered access to guns? Unthinkable!

In part, the existence of such persons, hostile to firearms rights though good on nearly everything else, follows from the cultural influences I delineated in the previous essay. But that's not the whole of the explanation, especially in the case of intelligent persons generally well aligned with conservative or libertarian thinking on nearly every other subject.

Allow me to quote from an essay I posted last summer:

Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, in their masterpiece The Bell Curve, noted that the ongoing striation of the American populace into classes separated from one another by differences in intellect presaged the emergence of a "Latin American kind of conservatism." Their symbol for this was the hacienda on the hill, surrounded by parapets manned by armed guards. Those walls and guards exist to protect a class order in which the aristocrats enjoy an elevated lifestyle and access to power, from disturbances from los peones below....

Among the privileges medieval aristocrats enjoyed were that of bearing arms, and of employing others to bear arms at their command and on their behalf. Commoners were forbidden to possess a weapon, or to wield a common tool as a weapon, except when pressed into the service of the nobility. That the aspiring aristocrats of our time should seek to re-establish that privilege is entirely consistent with the sociodynamics of our increasingly fractious and violent age.

That essay concerned itself with the emergence of a "New Class" (Irving Kristol) whose members regard themselves as superior -- in intellect, morality, and legal stature -- to the rest of us. According to their presumption of superiority, not only are they entitled to rule us; they also possess rights that the rest of us do not enjoy. One of those rights pertains to firearms.

What I under-emphasized in that essay is that the "New Class" is not made up solely of political liberals. It contains a hefty dollop of self-described conservatives as well: persons who, though the bulk of their politics is compatible with Constitutional / pro-freedom conservatism, disdain to consider us groundlings as their equals before the law, especially as regards the right to keep and bear arms. Though out of prudence I must refrain from naming names, a number of commentators at Establishment organs nominally affiliated with conservative thought are among them.

It would be a mistake to assume, when you spot an obvious "VIP" accompanied by visibly armed bodyguards, that the "VIP" is a left-liberal...or that he would accord you all the rights he arrogates unto himself.

Social striations in these United States don't always spring from differences in wealth, though that frequently enters into it. Often it's a matter of affiliational circles: occupational, avocational, artistic, religious, charitable, and other social associations that gather persons like-minded about some common involvement into cohesive groups. Such groups exclude, de facto at least, those of us who don't share their common attachment. In consequence, whatever notions the most powerful personalities in such a group assert will come to dominate the group overall. (Anyone who's ever been a member of a "writer's group" will know exactly what I mean. I pray the great majority of my Gentle Readers have never known that particular agony and never will.)

No, not all people are sheep, but not all people are leaders, or independent-minded, either. The great preponderance of Mankind prefers to be led...and usually is.

There appears to be a powerful link between membership in a quasi-exclusive group and an attitude of general superiority to (and separation from) non-members. This is sometimes called "othering:" an evolution, sometimes subconscious, which gradually demotes non-members to a lesser status -- an alien status. Once an individual is seen as "other," regarding him as a potential threat to one's own status and perquisites seems to follow.

Aspiring group leaders often use "othering" to raise themselves to leadership of the group. Emphasizing a distinction between "us" and "them" that casts "us" in a favorable light is a time-tested tactic for acquiring acolytes and followers.

When whole masses of persons are "othered," the sense of threat can become a major component of one's mindset. Consider, as a very relevant case, the "othering" of wholly private citizens by government officials and employees. Many of those persons are objectively inferior: stupid, ignorant, amoral, arrogant, unmannerly, and generally unfit for human society. However, they get to work in the "halls of power," and we don't. Their contemptuous attitude toward us follows naturally.

The sense of threat logically implies a need to defuse the threat. Denying the threatening ones the tools with which they might move against their superiors is a matter of course.

"Establishment Republicans" have deservedly acquired a poor reputation in recent years. Many of those so labeled claim to be conservatives. Yet a high percentage of them, possibly a majority, are hostile to any expansion of the private ownership of firearms. They might never say so where "others" can hear, but to expect them to league with gun-rights activists is unwise. The odds are heavily against ever seeing any of them at a Second Amendment rally. Gun rights, they tell themselves, are a "fringe issue," publicly embracing which could cost them votes. Mustn't scare the "independents," don't y'know.

The sociological divide cuts across nominal political and ideological borders as well as those of wealth and power.

The simple chain of inference:

  1. Every individual has an unalienable right to his life and his honestly acquired property;
  2. Therefore, he has a right to defend those rights against infringement;
  3. Therefore, he has a right to acquire the tools with which to defend them;
  4. Therefore, no diminution of his right to weaponry suitable to those purposes can possibly be legitimate.

...cuts no ice with one on the far side of the sociological divide. He's not concerned with anyone's rights but his own -- and those rights, as he sees them, include an absolute right to be "safe" from you, no matter who you might be or what that might imply for legal differences between you and him.

More anon.


Sergio said...

Thank you for the continued analysis.

I was startled to find, while in a small group discussion at church, that I was the only Second Amendment advocate (who would speak up) out of a group of a dozen people.

The issue of guns can be very intimidating to many people who otherwise share a view of limited-government, as you suggest.

Judging by the language that one lady used to attack the right to keep and bear arms, the MSM playbook message has been effective in finding signal propagation, even amongst traditionalists.

bubba said...

Perhaps the gun haters have never encountered people who will never surrender their rights, their property or their lives. Never. Not. One. More. Inch. Ever