Like many people, I find the fact that so many children have died from gun violence in America a frightening testament to the double standards we keep hearing about from America. The only problem is that it’s not just America, is it? Granted, gun violence is a particularly American problem, but double standards are everywhere. I have yet to find anyone, myself included, who is not prone to double standards. Our problem starts to get very serious when we try to deny the fact and even justify our decisions with a moral argument.
On Twitter, I saw someone holding up a poster that said, “Let’s think about the sacrifice our children are making to ensure we can own guns.” That’s sarcastic and I’m sure it was meant to be, but isn’t that a mentality that seems to emanate from the American media? I can’t watch any more American crime stories because they are so repetitive, but also because they exemplify idiotic deception and callous disregard for the loss of human life. Just count the number of dead bodies that pile up in average crime stories, not to mention “action” movies where so many bullets are fired that it’s a miracle anyone is still alive at the end of the movie.
I remember not too long ago, people were protesting that old western movies were still being shown. There were several reasons for this; one was the portrayal of Native Americans; another was the theme of white supremacy and the underrepresentation of the contribution of the black population to the rise of America. In comparison, the number of Asians or Semitic people regularly killed in action films is far higher, but this does not elicit protest. These films normalize the use of weapons, some even glorify it. Hardly a wonder then, that particularly in America, people flock to guns shows.
In other countries, people had to give up their guns because a police force was set up that had the sole right to bear arms. This had an immediate effect, and the number of homicides dropped drastically. To this day, the countries that have implemented this policy have far fewer deaths by firearms compared to America, where the right to bear arms is enforced almost religiously and the gun industry financially support politicians at will to keep the situation from changing. The curious aspect of this is the fact that evangelical Christians belong to the groups of people who are almost 100% in favour of the right to carry firearms.
The problem with just looking at it and getting upset about it is that we ourselves have a double standard that probably doesn’t have the kind of impact that firearms have on society but undermines the free society that we all cherish. In the name of freedom, we allow things that hurt people; in the name of inclusivity, we ignore the dangers that exclusivity sometimes protects us from; in the name of free speech, lies, slander, deception, and fraud are allowed in through the back door. This undermines the trust we need to maintain a society in which freedom is guaranteed.
There is, for example, the protection of minorities, which is undoubtedly important. However, when those minorities include the few people who harm others, and their protection actually puts them in places where they can do harm, there is always a victim. An example is a prison service that now has to accept that a male prisoner who “identifies” as a woman (whatever that means), despite having no discernible differences from a man, can be moved to a women’s prison. Women do get raped and/or pregnant in prison because of this, but that is somehow considered collateral damage. Some say that they are “just criminals,” whether male or female, which is a callous assertion that just illustrates the insensitivity of the situation.
Since the proliferation of social media, which allows anonymity, we have become even more of a verbally abusive society. Anyone can have an “opinion” that is limited only by laws that prohibit incitement to violence. Certain words or phrases are banned on platforms, but a quick look at Twitter or Facebook shows how people get around that. I am myself sometimes appalled by the behaviour of public figures and could easily lapse into the use of profanities, but I try to limit the use of such expressions, whether on social media or in conversation, although I am not free of it. Some people just take advantage of the opportunities they are given and attack anyone they can find. The problem is not just the bullying and mental health issues some people suffer because of it, but the fact that it has become normal. We’ve become so used to the fact that populist politicians can claim anything these days, and claim things that are clearly untrue, and we accept it as “banter.” People who have a real problem are told to “man up” and “move on.” It is ignored until someone actually dies, and then everyone is surprised.
Social media has also become the platform for radicalising young people, and so we come around to the issues I spoke about at the beginning of this piece. It doesn’t matter what the group is, whether it is political or religious, whether in the name of activism or protest, whatever the cause, people have become radicalised on social media. It doesn’t have to be a mass murder in a school, or a beating up on the street, it could be ‘cancel culture,’ whereby people are denounced to their employers, or their publishers, for saying something that isn’t regarded as politically correct. This has a taste of a time when people were denounced for being “agitators”, just because they were Jews, or in the communist regimes for being counterrevolutionaries, because someone wanted their jobs. Really, anyone who has a problem with someone else can make their lives uncomfortable by denouncing them as an undesirable for some reason. Too many people have already become victims of this behaviour – especially amongst academics.
This has something of mob behaviour, when employers, publishers or even friends and acquaintances withdraw from someone because they are accused of something that is not even criminal in itself, but because it is deemed unacceptable. People have been hanged by mobs because no one had the courage to stand up to it, for fear of joining the victims hanging from the tree. Is this the way we are going, back to times we thought were behind us? Is this the society for which people in Ukraine are fighting and dying? Is this the society that can make the moral claim against other countries?