Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dangerous Men

     The older I get, the more acutely sensitive I become to the meanings of words. In that light, Consider the following passage from AllahPundit at HotAir:

     The actual thought process here, I think, goes something like this: Cartoonish right-wing populism is the worst thing they can imagine in their own personal Overton window of American politics, therefore any cartoonish right-wing populist proposal must necessarily be enabling ISIS, the world’s worst, most dangerous group of people. It may not actually be true, and it might make no sense when you think about it for five minutes, but this is Larger Truth material if ever there was any.

     AllahPundit’s intended point is well taken, and his essay should be read in full. However, what I flashed on was his nomination of ISIS as “the world’s most dangerous group of people.” It prompted my inner lexicographer to set to work.

     Danger, as we use the term colloquially, isn’t the same as the military’s conception of threat. In the military lexicon, “threat” is solely about capabilities; it omits intention as something that could change in a moment. “Danger” partakes of other considerations. For Smith to regard Jones as dangerous, all the following must be approximately true:

  1. Jones possesses the ability to inflict harm;
  2. Jones is unopposed or inadequately opposed;
  3. Jones is near enough to Smith to do him harm;
  4. Jones is targeting Smith, his property, or his loved ones, perhaps explicitly;
  5. Jones is difficult to spot as he advances, or is moving too quickly for Smith to defend against him.

     These conditions aren’t “perfectly conjunctive;” i.e., one or more of them could be untrue, or only weakly true, yet Smith could still rationally evaluate Jones as a danger to him, especially if his horizon of evaluation is distant in space, time, or both. The point is that Smith’s own perspective is at least as important as Jones’s armament.

     Consider Farmer Davis in rural Nebraska. Would he have a good reason to regard ISIS as “the world’s most dangerous group of people” to him? I would argue against it. From Davis’s perspective, while he might concede condition 1, the others are either false outright or so weakly true that they become irrelevant.

     Now consider Schoolteacher White, a resident of Paris. In his evaluation of ISIS as a possible danger to him, conditions 2 through 5 are much more strongly true than they were for Davis. He has much stronger incentives to prepare a defense, or to advocate for his government to act in his defense, especially given recent history.

     In analyzing the political will of various groups of people to “do something” about ISIS and the danger it represents, it’s the considerations above that we must address. The matter of targeting is particularly important, as groups known to employ terrorists and terrorist tactics have obvious incentives to target concentrated groups of people rather than thinly spread populations or isolated individuals.

     There are other dangers in the world than men who wield guns and bombs. Some of them travel under a veneer of benevolence, as Ronald Reagan pointed out when he said that “The nine most frightening words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Consider the ways in which government actions claimed to be beneficent in intention can increase the dangers to you:

  • By weakening your ability to look after yourself or your loved ones;
  • By weakening your defenses against predators;
  • By overloading the regional defenses that help to protect you;
  • By causing predators to take a particular interest in you or your region;
  • By actively transporting predators into your vicinity.

     I could make an airtight case that all five of those endangerments are effects of recent government policies in these United States. The irony becomes unbearable when one notes that resistance to those policies can get you the attention of government agents with guns – the unfriendly attention.

     (Perhaps we should add a sixth, particularly sinister endangerment: the creation of predators in our own households by the “public schools” and their systematic social-fascist indoctrination of American children. But I’ve been trying to quote Orwell a little less frequently, so I’ll let it pass for now.)

     Unlike ISIS, the government is uncomfortably near us all. No matter where you live in these United States, within a few miles there are men with badges and guns, some of whom will seize on any pretext to shoot you as an “imminent threat” -- to them.

     If I have a central point today, it’s that many a “protection” bestowed upon us by the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent State is actually an endangerment. But they do love to “protect” us. They must; they use the word so frequently. But really, what “protection” inheres in a deliberate policy of forbidding us the use of American natural resources, as is the case when Congress “protects” a huge swath of oil and gas-bearing land? What “protection” can we find in not being permitted to choose our own medical insurance, or in not being permitted access to certain drugs or therapies until the FDA has “approved” them? What “protection” is there in not being permitted handguns, semiautomatic rifles, or high-capacity clips and magazines?

     Who such edicts actually benefit is worth just as much thought as the nature of the “protection” itself.

     “There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men,” wrote Robert A. Heinlein in Starship Troopers. And it just might be that the most dangerous men of all to Americans are the “public servants” who undermine our individual rights and well-being from well-upholstered, air-conditioned offices, whose minions arrive unannounced, wreathed in brilliant smiles, proclaiming that “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”


Phelan Kell said...

Reagan's scariest nine words always makes me think of the meme, 'They are here to protect and serve the shit out of you.' It won't let me attach a picture so it is up to folks to use the search engine of their choice to see what I mean.

Reg T said...

I read a brief article today about a man whose cat ran out of his house and was temporarily lost. A neighbor saw it and, thinking it might be injured (it was scared and hissed when he approached), called the police. An officer responded, and being told it might be injured, decided to shoot it, without even getting close enough to see if it was indeed hurt. He shot and killed it. The owner, devastated, took it to his vet who determined the only thing wrong with it was the bullet hole through its neck.

As a former peace officer, I'll reiterate - don't call the cops. These days, too many of them seem to want to shoot something, use the tools and "toys" (Tasers, etc.) they carry and hardly _ever_ get to play with, and they know they will _always_ get away with killing a pet, and sometimes a person. We had a few like that even back in my day. We called them "felony cops", because they would respond to every felony they could get to, on the chance they might be able to actually shoot something. Or someone.