Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Philosophy Weekend: What Militarism Does To Our Brains

By Levi Asher on Thursday, January 10, 2013 11:15 pm

If you care about gun violence in the United States of America, I think you need to also care about militarism in the USA. We're not going to solve the domestic problem until we solve the global one.

It can't be a coincidence that the most weaponed-up nation in the world also suffers regular epidemics of gun violence in schools, colleges, movie theaters, shopping malls, parking lots. We're talking about gun control and getting nowhere, and this is because we're not discussing the root cause. Domestic gun violence and militarism are co-dependents. They enable each other.

A militaristic sensibility permeates our culture, and this is enthusiastically supported by our federal government. How many people do you know who sincerely believe the United States of America is currently at risk of totalitarian invasion or violent civil war? And how many people do you know who are employed by the US military, or are directly or indirectly supported by it? Militarism permeates our lives, at many levels, in many ways.

Militarism permeates our brains. We soak in it. The current debate in the USA over gun control should be about how Americans co-exist in cities and towns and neighborhoods and communities. Gun control is, or should be, a domestic issue. It's really not about war.

And yet, the popular arguments against gun control often rely on military scenarios -- mainly, the "Red Dawn" scenario in which honest Romney-voting American citizens are forced to take their Bushmasters and Tec-9s to the streets to fend off swarms of would-be tyrants. It's all too easy to mock these apocalyptic scenarios ... but, unfortunately the hyper-charged ethnic, financial and economic tensions between the USA and various other nations around the world makes these scenarios appear all too normal.

Our foreign policy is awash in manic paranoia -- how can we expect our domestic society to not reflect the same manic paranoia, and amplify it?

The dimensions of this problem occurred to me when I read a letter written to California Senator and gun control advocate Dianne Feinstein by a retired US Marine named Joshua Boston:

Senator Dianne Feinstein,

I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government’s right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma’am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.

I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America. I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.
I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.

We, the people, deserve better than you.

Respectfully Submitted,
Joshua Boston
Cpl, United States Marine Corps
2004-2012

Unfortunately, the public dialogue over this letter hasn't resulted in any epiphanies. Wonkette treats Joshua Boston snidely in the article linked above -- but gun control advocates like me must realize that Joshua Boston is not the problem. It's the revolting level of militarization that dominates American society from the top down -- from the federal government down -- that makes letters like this one possible.

I'm glad the United States of America is currently talking about gun control, and I'm even glad that Corporal Joshua Boston is speaking up. I disagree with him, but every voice deserves to be heard. We all need to start drawing down, but let's face facts: it's not going to be Corporal Joshua Boston who puts his weapons down first. Not in this paranoid nation.

The draw-down is going to have to start from the top, and it needs to start now. We can take a good first step by asking why our defense department needs to spend $633 billion a year every year.


This article is part of the Philosophy Weekend series. The next post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Why World Peace Will Happen. The previous post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Military Spending in the USA is a Big, Big Problem.


30 Responses to "Philosophy Weekend: What Militarism Does To Our Brains"

Well said sir, well said.

Another angle of the same view is the militarism that exists, almost entirely under the radar, in our personal and public discourse.

Militarism pervades how we as Americans speak to a remarkable extent. A huge percentage of commonly used metaphors, analogies, and symbols are in some way violent or militaristic.

We all hear them pretty loud and clear when we talk about sports, but they pervade so much more of our discourse. Politics, relationships, personal philosophy, day-to-day annoyances - even self-improvement and self-help, ironically, are often infused with militaristic language.

I think this is one of those issues that we, as individuals, can affect BOTH by striving towards a top-down transformation (e.g., addressing our exorbitant military-industry) AND by manifesting personal, bottom-up transformation - by being mindful of how we speak.

Case in point: in this comment ABOUT being conscious to avoid militaristic language, I said in the very first substantive sentence "under the radar" - where does that phrase come from? What discursive history and structure does it call upon and evoke?

Militarism.

Right after I wrote "under the radar" there, I realized the irony of using such a phrase here, but decided to leave it.

Words are powerful and affect (and effect) the world we live in - so let's all endeavor to use them consciously... in this case - doing our best to individually and personally avoid militaristic and combative language :)

by TKG on

Feinstein is a piece of work who only got to her position due to gun violence In the first place.  She should have retired a long time ago. I remember when Biafra ran against her. It's strange how so many decades ago her hypocrisy and corruption were so clear to see but now people want to believe. Believe in magical things. 

I think it is intellectually dishonest how militarism has been redefined. 

On the prior PW thread you used the term militarism in the context of simply supporting a strong defense, ie not being for cutting it or not decimating it's budget.  

That is not militarism and I thought using such a negative term in that context was not cool -- kind of like you thought I was not cool in using the term specious. 

So I go and look up militarism and see that it has been redefined. Wikipedia cites Oxford dictionary and says this:

"the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests."

That's not militarism as I've known the term. That's simply supporting a strong defense. 

Militarism is a negative term associated with Nazis and totalitarian regimes, so where did the above come from?

I see I'm not crazy because the traditional  meanings are presented right after this Orwellian revisionist definition:

"aggressiveness that involves the threat of using military force"

"glorification of the ideals of a professional military class" 

"predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state"

- - -

This weird leftist mantra that magically connects existence of a large military to atrocities as these rampage killings seems ubiquitous. 

It's utterly irrational and is magical thinking. 

It's hard and horrible these murders that happen. I understand why people retreat to such thinking. It's comforting and eases the pain. 

by Cal on

Why ignore self-defense? It is the over-arching motivation of those who oppose stricter gun laws. Not paranoid fantasies but the reality of violence.

Why cherry-pick and focus on a minority of gun owners with extreme, perhaps paranoid, beliefs? It may be paranoid to fear "totalitarian invasion" (whatever that is) or violent civil war, but it is not paranoid to fear home invasion, armed robbery, rape, assault, or murder. People's fears of crime may be overblown or at least not aligned with statistics of crime occurring, but it is not unreasonable to "prepare for the worst."

Most of us who advocate against stronger gun laws are as much "average citizens" as you who want to restrict guns. Most of us are not as gun-control advocates attempt to depict. Just as the media like to go to a protest rally and interview the freakiest of the freaks, the cameras don't show you the man whose answer is, "I just want to be able to protect my family and don't want my options limited."

Why pretend the only reasonable people are the ones on the pro-control side? Why play this game? Do you really believe every gun owner has a brain soaked in militarism? Are liberal and Democratic gun owners as militaristic as those who politics you oppose?

It doesn't seem like you're even aware of the existence of gun owners who are not afraid of a "Red Dawn" scenario. I've known over 200 gun owners and I have never met anyone who really believes those things are LIKELY - but I have met people who want to be prepared for the unlikely. (I'm one of them. I have an earthquake kit. I keep gallons of water bottled - just in case. Dried food, canned goods. Check. Am I paranoid? I don't know. I live in an earthquake zone and I saw what happened in New Orleans.)

The sad thing here is: I don't disagree with you abut the militarism, but beyond your headline and a few passing mentions, you once again do not actually address the problem you claim to address. You begin with our minds "soaked" in militarism, then just say it's a bad idea for such people to have guns. It's clear you fear gun violence and want to ban as many guns as possible to alleviate your fears. It's also becoming clear that you aren't really thinking about the issue, the people who care about the issue, the current law, or the impact of changing the law.

The tragic thing here is: Any analysis WHY we're soaked in militarism is obviously not going to fall under your analysis - it would involve criticizing the current administration, after all, which has proven to be as violent and militaristic as the ones you tend to oppose. You supported Obama - you knew his warmongering record - you did not vote for him due to a brain soaked in militarism, did you? Yet your vote goes toward enabling militarism, and can be defended by the President as evidence of support for his plans.

This isn't the first time I've pointed out that you build a broad and flimsy argument around loosely defined terms, invented terms, and cherry-picked evidence.

It's also not the first time I say, If you really took an honest look at yourself and this issue, you'd actually be doing the contemporary moral philosophy for which you yearn.

But first, you'd have to admit you made a mistake in supporting Obama. I doubt you'll do that, even if he nukes Tehran.

Militarism: you were against it before you were for it.

by Levi Asher on

Thanks for the responses.

TKG, I wasn't aware of "militarism" referring only to Nazis, and that sounds like way too restrictive a definition. I think the word can be used widely according to its obvious connotation -- militarism can be either moderate or extreme, reasonable or unreasonable. The meaning is clear from the root of the word.

Cal, I don't think you're responding to what I wrote here. Maybe you're responding to past conversations we've had? I know that it is offensive to gun advocates to be characterized by their most extreme representatives, but I don't see how I did that here. This is not a blog post about gun control. This is a blog post about militarism. And I think I'm being pretty critical of the federal government here (did you read what I wrote?) so I'm pretty confused about what you're saying regarding Obama, etc. I voted for Obama, but I have been very outspoken here and elsewhere that I do not support his militaristic/pro-defense industry policies.

by mtmynd1 on

The U.S. superior military strength which came to it's dominance on the world stage was the country's success in defeating our enemies in WWII. With the economies of Europe and Japan destroyed and U.S. manufacturing a total success gained from retooling for the war effort, gave the U.S. pretty much a clear field in becoming not only a military power but a manufacturing power that sustained us throughout the remainder of the 20th Century.

The single most important manufacturing 'product' that has remained is our military might, i.e. militarism that has no equal in the world. It is vitally important, arguably more-so today than ever, that the government continue supporting this military industrial complex. The pitiful amount of any other manufacturing has left our shores due to the need for more financial security for our banking system and all the monies our corporate giants have invested in them.

How many films were made that reflected the superiority of the military during WWll, the Korean Conflict and the Viet Nam War (despite the downward spiral that war took us, some John Wayne-types of movies were produced that showed our superiority which was a bit of propaganda).

Our Militarism continued, albeit in much smaller steps than that of WWII, with our Reaganesque Invasion of Grenada, George H.W. Bush's Invasion of Panama and his 'great tribute to Mid East peace, the Gulf War (!).

As the 21st Century began, the government's need for showboating our militarism was the offensive "Shock and Awe" invasion into Baghdad, missiles and bombs raining down upon so many innocents the actual count will never be a feather in the Military Cap of U.S. history, And of course, we mustn't forget the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the wicked world of drones, silent killers from the skies whose masters are thousands of miles away in the safety of the United States... Militarism at it's most modern and arguably distasteful as the call to fire missiles at targets is done by, not trained Generals from our finest Military Colleges, but rather an anonymous individual parked behind a monitor in a dimly lit booth. Who gives the word to "Attack!" and who amongst us really cares at this point.

The Military is rapidly exhausting it's once highly esteemed credibility to that of the once highly respected hierarchy of our military branches revealing weaknesses of command and ability to 'get the job done at the least cost of lives and monies.'

With a new military might raises it's head in the Far East, China is expanding not only it's exports but it's muscle, slow and easy as the tide will carry it, but they have taken so many hints and stolen so many military secrets from the U.S., our military must have taken notice but are unable to do anything at this conjecture about the near future. We are too busy wasting our military on a third world Neverland with promises of 2014 abandoning the crippled and uneducated country to it's own devices. Will China move in with much needed aid...? Will our own militarism come into play with more monies being spent in defensive of this Middle Eastern Hillbilly lifestyle that has shown no responsibility to stand on its own shaky Democratic Legs, reliant on opium to cloud their misery?

Where are the grand and spectacular movies showing the U.S. Military's profound superiority in this new Century? Will our government continue propping it up, and along with it, the War Machine Builders, in hopes that "we remain the most powerful military might the world has ever seen..?"

Historically, every Nation has or will have, someday the title that the U.S. has held high throughout the latter part of the 20th Century. Militarism never seems to die but only change hands as the power shifts continue from palm to palm, country to country and treasury to treasury. It seems to be the hu'man way...

by Cal on

Your opening paragraphs make it clear this is connected to "gun control" and "gun violence," so it's not me who made that link.

How do you vote for someone and not support their policies? Would you not consider a vote for Romney a vote in support of his proposed policies? I understand your tortured rationale in making that choice. You voted for the good things Obama has done, or promised to do, or even had the barest potential of doing.

So I am challenging that decision as part of the militarism that permeates our culture. Essentially, Obama gives you health insurance reform and you allow him to war.

You want to write about how militarism permeates "our culture," but not your own decision-making process? Or that of a majority of Democratic voters, apparently, as few of you ever claim to want the war you voted for.

I thought this was a blog about philosophy, and this post an invitation to discuss the militarism that pervades our culture.

How is militarism not going to pervade is even those who oppose it continue to raise it to power and authority? Why would a militarism so empowered ever diminish or change?

Your idea of a good first step is to ask why the DoD "needs" to spend so much money?

They don't need to. There's no question they don't need to, unless your brain is soaked in militarism.

by slog on

I read the first paragraph of that and I wanted to say "Red Dawn" before you mentioned it...

I watched a terrible Aussie movie about some kids in the outback getting caught up in some invasion about unknown invaders from Asia and this teen age group of rebels fighting back.

It is weird...in America we are taught if the Russians jump from the skies grab your uncles .243 and treat them like air borne deer.

It might be the Dakotas...we love guns here...

In this Western Kiwi movie firearms are only used to a limited extent. They don't go to Uncle's Buck family firearms store (like the original Red Dawn) and stock up with large caliber hunting rifles and hollow points.

The cute Aussie girl in this movie has to kill the unknown Asian invaders with a makeshift Molotov/Riding lawn mower bomb.

The badly made Aussie movie got annoying after about the first scene. But strangely, unlike American movies, the heroes in their movies do not have access to firearms...

In American if you are going to get caught on an "abandoned" island and find your are not only one--someone will get shot.

It's perverse in our society...

I tried to explain to some folks at a gun show that it isn't the sport shooters that cause problems. It's fucking lunatics that get their hands on "assault weapons."

Any modern firearm is plenty good at killing humans. We aren't that big of targets...38 specials 22 LR 17hmr 20 gauge shotguns all can be used to kill people successfully. If you just treat people like zombies and shoot them in their heads 90% of the time it will fuck them up pretty bad.

Small caliber handguns are the most frequently used weapon in violent crime. A .380 Raven is nearly something to use once and throw away.

I hate to sound morally relative but inner city shooting over crack deals are a bit different from school shootings (theater shootings, Gabby shootings etc).

If you live in an inner city or frequently engage in illegal action getting shot is more or less of a lifestyle choice.

My father, who is a decorated former Officer in the U.S. army and a 'liberal' democrat. has gotten into his head that he should carry 22WMR revolver for self protection.

It isn't logical. Yes it is true that any gun can kill but if you are 3 feet from someone and the option is to shoot them a 22 or hit them in the head with a baseball bat the latter may be a better choice.

There is this addiction to firearms and the culture of violence in the United States.
Lifelong opponents of hand guns turning 55 and getting a concealed weapon.

What happened in Newtown was really scary. That young man was good with a rifle. For every Charlie Starkweather there is 15 Charlie Browns with hand guns.

The Colorado shooting was more typical. I've said this before. I am have a working knowledge of firearms. As a youth I fired 100's of rounds.

I walk into a theater with that kind of gear I'm guessing I could have killed all of them...

This is two pronged---lots of people get their hands on guns and most of those people have a limited ability to operate those firearms.

This is why we never read about people using lethal force legally. If someone breaks into your home and you shoot them---it is good with me. But you never hear that.

Controlling access to various firearms and mandating education to possess AR-15s (along with extensive background checks) are more likely to gain traction then outright bans on weapons.

Shooting AR-15s and AK-47s is fun (the irony---ask Kurt Cobain). But firearms aren't that simple to use.

This shit you see on T.V. about shooting .45s in each hand and hitting the intended target is most fallacy. There is people that can do that...but not without extensive training and practice.

Some of the shots James Bond takes a PPK are also very unlikely...It's a .380

It is this combination of a myth, easy access and ignorant people.

I watched the last James Bond movie this X-Mas. Usually the violence is comedic slapstick but this was more of violent graphic violence.

At one point James Bond is handed a side by side shotgun as the other character describes it as a rifle.

You want to glamorize gun violence and you don't know basic terminology about firearms.

I'm not sure if any of the frequent litkicks people frequently kill things...shooting a rabbit you make you feel bad the first time.

When I read some congressman's comments about wishing the principal had a M4 (nearly the same as the Bushmaster rifle used in the shootings) I think maybe he should be shoot.

Are we going to send the principals to boot camp? It would be difficult for most people, even if they knew how a gun worked, to train it on someone and shoot.

I read a letter to the editor of the local paper written by some ancient Korea/WW2 era vet. He said that firearms with greater killing capacity then a M11 Garand (.30 8 round semi auto) should be tightly regulated.

I agree completely. I don't think people need 9mm Plastic Glocks with 18 round capacity. But we've gone a bit too far for that now.

There's is as many guns as there is people in this country. And anyone of them can kill fairly easily. It's true if you were three feet from me and I could hit you with a bat or shoot you with a .22 I'd pick bat.

If I was 10 ten feet from you I'd use the gun... 22 frequently cause slow painful deaths from bleeding.

I'd just as not shoot anyone but I understand the need for self defense. Even in my neighborhood in Sioux Falls having a firearm may be justified (the better option is living in a safer area).

I think at this point calling for greater controls on firearms is a forgone issue. There is just so many guns out there.

I think spending more money on mental health would cut down on the random mass shootings.

I read about the South Dakota house introducing a bill enabling to carry firearms within their own chambers...I think that's nuts.

But I'm also a great believer in State's rights. If South Dakota wants universal concealed carry go for it. If Illinois wants a complete ban on handguns they should be able to do it (for the record I'm for the latter).

I don't think 'gun control' can really work. Buying back firearms in the inner city is a good idea. Trigger locks should be mandated. Mental health records should be checked before a firearm is sold.

But D.C. v. Heller makes my arguments mute. The USSC has ruled that you have an innate right to guns...stare decisis used to be guns had to do something vaguely with the militia. Scalia and crew, despite being 'framer's intent', managed to chew off part of the 2nd Amendment and make part of the Amendment law of the land.

Oh Fuck...I forgot all about that handgun I was buying on the net...

jm

by Levi Asher on

Cal, we've had this conversation about Barack Obama many times before. Yes, we disagree about him. I am willing to vote for him even though I disagree with his global policies, because I think he's a step in the right direction, and because I don't ever expect a US presidential candidate to have the superman powers to fix all our problems at once. But, really, I don't want to argue about Barack Obama today.

I want to argue about militarism. It's a different topic, and I think it's an extremely important topic that doesn't get discussed very often (unlike presidential politics, which gets discussed constantly).

by TKG on

"This is why we never read about people using lethal force legally. If someone breaks into your home and you shoot them---it is good with me. But you never hear that."

Actually that happens often.

I think NY Times or ABC don't run these news events. But local news does.

by Cal on

If you don't want to "argue" about why you chose to vote for a war criminal and militarist, though you oppose war and militarism, then you don't want to honestly talk about the effects of militarism on our brains.

If you did want to have such a discussion, you'd be eager to analyze what you mean by "a step in the right direction" when that step took you further into militarism. You'd be interested in understanding whether historically the same pattern is repeated: people who oppose war voting for war because it gets them something else. If you wanted such a discussion, we could probably all learn from it.

Too bad, too. Because around here, where there are probably a number of people who feel as you and voted as you voted, we could probably have a very revealing discussion.

Now you'll tell me, "Why don't you go have that discussion on your own blog, or your Facebook wall?"

Right?

by Levi Asher on

Cal, why don't you go have that discussion on your own blog, or your Facebook wall?

by Cal on

Notice also how you don't redirect others in their own perception that this is about "gun control."

It was nice trying to have serious discussions about philosophy with you. But honest philosophy, particularly the moral-ethical philosophy that seems to interest you, is impossible when the host and motivator of dialog isn't interested in dialog that challenges his preconceived notions. Imagine if Socrates had said, "We're going to talk about the good life, but I'm not going to talk about how I live or work that contradicts my expressed philosophy. We're only going to talk about the bad thinking of other people, and how their minds are soaked in militarism."

I wish you had simply been clear that you had no intent to actually inquire, but merely to point fingers at the problem and wonder how bad Republicans/conservatives/etc. could ever vote the way they do - it would have saved me some energy and spared me some disappointment.

Own and enjoy your echo chamber. You deserve it.

by slog on

The stats on gun use and self defense are a bit messy...sourcing will be difficult as it is a loaded subject.

This is induction but within 20 blocks of my apartment there has been at five deaths from blunt force trauma (baseball bats, rocks, sticks, etc...). In the same time period there has been once instance reported where a blunt object has been for self defense.

Having respect for firearms involves not getting into situations where you'd have to likely use them. Does that incident in Florida with the middle white guy shooting some black teens over rap music count for self defense?

I can understand shooting someone over rap music I hate that shit---but I cannot justify shootings in general.

Remember that case in NYC circa mid 80's when a white gentleman fired on a group of young blacks with .38 and killed a couple of them?

In turns out these kids did intend to rob this guy and leave him for dead...Having respect for firearms means you don't ride the subway late at night by yourself in a crime wave.

Unless you honestly think you are going to have to kill someone guns shouldn't be drawn...

800,000 to 2 millions crimes averted a year by firearms? That seems grandiose. I live in a fairly rough place but merely throwing a rock at some drunk idiot will likely work the same as a firearm.

I've handled them (guns) self I was very young. Shooting gives me a head ache---plinking with .22s is fun.

I do live in the inner city of the largest city in the Dakotas but I'm of mixed rural/urban background (many more cities then Sioux Falls).

Unless you have a clear need for a firearm I don't know why you need one.

More important keeping 12 gauge shotgun or .38 for self defense is a bit different then wholesale ownership of Glocks and AK47's.

Falling into the whole kritik that levi was offering---it is the GI Joe mindset of America.

I was thinking about how people I could kill with my pa's .22 WMR. From a distance (30-40) feet 1 or 2 bullets would cause enough damage to the subject that they would be unable to harm me.

I don't know whyI'd think like that. I can only justify because we are an old Irish military family. Like my father my grandfather both fought in wars for this country (or someone or something) and I grew up in an off and on rural background. Killing stuff is kind of normal to me.

As tradition when you are 3-5 years of age then hand you a knife and you take the head of a chicken.

The chicken will jump around helpless the child will jump around (hopefully with their head still attached) and the old folks will talk in German and laugh.

It is a way of life (family farming) that's fading.

Too many people on the side of non control have no idea wtf they are talking about.

Earlier some one mentioned the rate of firearm held by the Swiss population and their low rate of crime. They didn't bothering mentioning that these weapons do not have access to ammo, 20% of the Swiss national guard is front line both rounds and rifles. Most Swiss would have to be organized into units and supplied before they even access to bullets.

I'm tired of Paul Ryans (conservative idealogues) and I want Uncle Joe to get what he asks for because I don't think his actions are based on ideals but reality.

by mnaz on

--- "If you don't want to "argue" about why you chose to vote for a war criminal and militarist, though you oppose war and militarism, then you don't want to honestly talk about the effects of militarism on our brains."

this is such a blatant attempt at framing the discussion to suit one's own agenda and twisting the intent of the thread-starter that it's hard to believe no one's called you on this yet, Cal. seriously, what are you on about? it's not as if a vote for either of the 2 major party candidates would have suddenly reversed institutional corporate militarism in 2012. sheesh . . . did you see the neo-CON cabinet romney was assembling? get real.

at least obama has made a few token efforts here and there to curb some aspects of the overt total corporate takeover attempt (and gutting of the public sector) in progress for the last 2-3 decades now in d.c., something we would NOT have seen with romney.

i don't know of a way out of this "of-the-interests, for-the-interests" corporate stranglehold on our "democracy," other than to throw both major parties out of the executive and legislative branches, and how could that ever be accomplished?

by slog on

George effin Zimmerman...it is both a cultural archetype within our society and the ease of access to firearms. G.I. Joe isn't so good with a knife.

It is mindset in our culture that bleeds out and pervades our national psyche...we play with GI Joe's growing and every once in awhile some Boy Scoutt thinks he is GI Joe sometimes he kills people at Batman movies, sometimes people at schools, sometimes people driving by...but instead of a the good noble Joe they more likely be a mixture of Al-Qaeda and Cobra.

Then we are critical against what we perceive to be meaningless violence IE bombings in Iraq etc...except in America our violence is truly more random. Jared (the shooter not the Subway guy) wasn't chanting insha Allah. Who knows what goes on in their heads?

The real question is how easily people that obviously have mental illness can get high capacity pistols and rifles.

See this is how it ties back to Militarism. Because of the attitudes regarding violence and firearms in our country access is easy.

I'm not as liberal as Levi---I believe in a strong defense and the ability to project force if necessary. I just don't why we have so many ICBMS and SSBNs and so and so forth. w

Because of the industrial military complex. The military often does not pick its own spending or weapons systems.

The number of firearms civilians hold, the over budgeted military, all the school shootings all come back to what Levi was talking.

There is a correlation with our societies attitudes towards violence guns two ton trucks AR-15s etc etc and the reality of firearms in the United States.

Take my word for it troopers--get yourself an assault rifle and semi automatic pistol and you might be the next school shooter

by tolmsted on

Hi Levi -

Man, nothing like taking on an easy issue! :-)

I think I understand how you're trying to frame this discussion - we live in a culture that glorifies militarism (and I'm speaking of the concept of militarism seperate from firearms) & the lifestyle that goes along with it. Hence films like Red Dawn, James Bond, the Bourne Movies... I'd argue the huge interest in dystopian lit and zombies can be lumped into the militaristic culture (notice the focus is always on fighting an enemy rather than just survival. Of course, watching people farm probably wouldn't make that good of a storyline).

But I don't think this fascination is exclusive to our country. Israel, China, France, Spain, England, etc., etc. - every nation I can think of builds their historical timeline around wars that nation has fought. You, yourself, have attended civil war re-enactments. There is a romantic aspect that, even though we're aware of it being almost entirely projection, most of us are still drawn into. Militarism, warrior-culture, the concept of struggling against something or someone - I believe that's an ingrained part of the human dna. I don't think it's something you can move away from or towards. I think that conversation is much more philosophical and one that can't productively be had alongside a discussion of guns. To be honest, I'm not sure it's a conversation that can be productively held at all.

by mtmynd1 on

Re: Cal - "If you don't want to "argue" about why you chose to vote for a war criminal and militarist, though you oppose war and militarism, then you don't want to honestly talk about the effects of militarism on our brains."

Cal, seriously, that is all you see and have taken from Obama for the past 4 years - a war criminal and militarist? Seriously? Not a peep out of you regarding the man's health care bill or his two choices for SCOTUS... how about the DADT program being dismantled? Oh yeah, you've conveniently left out of your banter the fact of ending the war in Iraq. Some militarist! Of course, using your gauge for a militarist, eliminating Osama Bin Laden didn't make it on your list, either.

These are but a few of the President's accomplishments in those four remarkable years, but yet you choose to focus in on the war subject... perhaps the continuing efforts in Afghanistan...? or maybe the 'drone war'..? Sure, the phrase by General William Tecumseh Sherman, "War is Hell!" has been around far longer that Sherman in one language or another, affirming War is nothing new and neither is the opposition to any war. As a matter of fact, opposing war is one of the easiest arguments you'll ever find... and one you have used considerably of various posts here. Siddarhtha, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi or any Pope has stopped the hu'man from engaging in war.. and, Cal, neither will your rejections have any impact whatsoever... none, nada, zero. Sorry. Don't mean to bust your bubble, but face it. Whether our country is led by a (R) or a (D) or an (I) or whatever other Political Party may pop up in the future, war will still be with us in some form or another. To blame the leader of our country for sending troops to war is soooo easy to do, you should be ashamed for doing so. I reckon you'd be pissy towards any person you'd vote for if they went to war.

by Levi Asher on

To Tara (tolmsted) -- thanks for bringing that point up. It's an important one. Well, I certainly agree that militarism has deep roots in Europe and Asia and the Middle East as well as the USA. And I know that a natural inclination towards violence is a basic part of human nature.

But these facts don't discourage me as a pacifist -- they energize me. Sure, pacifism is a hard sell. Well, good, I love a challenge. Most of my greatest heroes -- Gandhi, John Lennon, Buddha, Jesus, Thoreau, Martin Luther King -- fought moral battles against very difficult odds. Even if the struggle for a peaceful world is ultimately a failed struggle, I think it's a worthwhile struggle. What else am I going to do with my life than fight for a difficult cause?

by slog on

All those countries spend less money on defense then the U.S.A. combined...nor do any of them have gun laws as liberal as our own.

The mentality is unique to the U.S.

by mnaz on

posted by tolmsted:
--- "Militarism, warrior-culture, the concept of struggling against something or someone - I believe that's an ingrained part of the human dna. I don't think it's something you can move away from or towards."

i disagree with this (variation on the old "nature vs. nurture" debate). to me there's a difference between a human capacity for violence and the built-up institution of war (which is remotely arranged by "powers that be"), even if the latter requires the former.

how did muhammad ali put it? .... "i ain't got nothing against those viet congs" (?)
something like that ....

by tolmsted on

slog - I believe that part of the reason those countries, particularly Europe, spend less money on defense is because that after WW2 they've been piggy-backing on the US defense program/spending. I believe estimates show the US paying between one-fifth to one-quarter of NATO's budget (which has something like 20 member states). Now that the EU has formed it's own military (of which the US is not a member) I'll be interested to see if the money those nations spend increases.

As for the glorification of a organized violence/military culture, etc. not being present in other countries - I respectfully disagree.

Levi - As a pacifist, I don't think these facts should discourage you (and I hope they don't). I don't entirely disagree with you. But when I see shows like Doomsday Preppers advertised I think to myself - how do you convince someone that paranoid that they are paranoid?

I'm wondering, what steps do you think we can take as individuals and/or a country to effect change in this aspect of our culture (that sentence just got really wordy because I wanted to avoid the word "combat")?

by tolmsted on

mnaz -

Perhaps you're right, though I wasn't consciously thinking in terms of nature vs. nurture. It seems that as long as there's been a historical record, war and violence has been represented in it. I'd even go so far as to say disproportionately represented. How do you erase/change that record and how it is perceived by the general population? It's a bit of a vicious cycle. As long as there are wars, young people will die fighting them. And the families left behind will want to believe that their loved ones died for a higher purpose. So they romanticize the war, the reason for their loss.

Interestingly, I'm reading a book right now on the beginning of WWI and what they call "The Great Game" in the Middle East. The overall impression when you focus on individual components (the trees in the forest) is that most military operations are, behind the scenes, as romantic and sexy as a three stooges film. Perhaps if there was more time and energy spent representing that aspect of war people's opinions would change.

by Levi Asher on

Hi Tara -- you ask what steps we can take. Well, first, I am a natural optimist, and I think most of us already *are* taking steps towards a happier and more peaceful world in many ways. We need to live peacefully, and make decisions with consideration towards others. If we each take care of our own actions, this is what is needed. I am confident that a transformation towards coexistence will gradually occur on this planet, and I believe I will live to see it. And I'm getting older, so it better hurry up ...

by Wojciech on

Ah, Levi, you and your optimism. This place is fucked!

about war, the effects (or is it affects? i don't fuckin' know man i'm drunk) of militarism on the brain, et al, i don't have any answers, humans scare the shit outta me!

by SooZen on

Frankly, right now I am tired of arguing with anyone about whatever it is I feel passionate about. It is not their passion. Truth. And since I see the world in global view, that we are all one, that whatever one does makes a difference to the whole and the greatest threat facing mankind has nothing whatsoever to do with finances, politics, god(s), power games, militarism and guns, who is boffin who, stuff like that...

I do feel passionately that our greatest threat is our egocentric attitude about nature and the universe and unbridled population and using all the resources on this our planet, our home, our only home at this point, until we are choking and living in our own shit without any other creatures or the wild vegetation to share it with because we think it is ours to use and abuse as "we" want or it doesn't fit into "our" having fun. No one wants to talk about it. It seems. They just want to do what they do without making any personal sacrifices or thought to the health of our long term survival as a species, not to mention any other species that we like to admire or hate. It is not sexy, it does not get much media and I am guessing that it won't matter until the water is gone, the sandbox is soiled, the elephants, rhinos, tigers, wolves, bears, whales, etc. are extinct and then, maybe, just maybe, we will have an Epiphany..."Hey, we are screwed and we screwed ourselves...!" Maybe...

I have a hope, a wish, and a positivity for I don't want to contribute to the darkness, I want to be a small light and light other candles in this darkness I perceive because we are all connected, physics shows us this if you are looking for facts. My small light may make a totality of light, enlightenment. Peace, love and understanding are not just words...they are actions. So I will not argue, I will Do and Be...do, be, do, be, dooo... ( Levi, I doubt I will live to see a cosmic consciousness in this lifetime but I see glimmers of hope in this darkness we like to loll about in...)

by slog on

guns, bombs, missiles...Today I read an column decrying the U.S. Navy for not having a new SSBN to deploy like the Russian Navy.

Since no one is really planning to start a three pronged nuclear war anymore and the fact many of the remaining SSBN's are being converted into other roles (and also the rise of long range nuclear capable cruise weapons like the Tomahawk) system I was confused.

Why would anyone be concerned over the Russians deploying on obsolete weapon systems sooner than we do?

Ever see Strangelove? Those of you that argue that the industrial military psychological complex better start digging deep mine shafts.

by mnaz on

excellent post SooZen. sustainability and stewardship of our home/mother is the key thing (if it's not too late), and there are many levels and layers of inter-connectivity. which is why our egocentric religions of "dominion over nature" as well as excessive corporate greed and/or militarism (which has its own religious aspects) need to be moderated and/or marginalized--- anything that degrades our environment and diverts our energy from working together to solve global problems. that is probably an over-simplified view, but basically valid i think.

i agree with your p.o.v. here, though i still feel that finances, politics, god(s), power games and militarism all tie into and influence the total picture of how humans interact with earth.

by AllOthersBringData on

I'm always frustrated to the point of teeth grinding that all arguments / debates about things like gun control seem to be driven by misleading statistics with insane sample bias and generally no null hypothesis or a completely invalid null hypothesis and a level of cognitive bias that is borders on delusion.

Wikipedia is not a valid information source. It cannot be used in any professional or academic papers or studies.

The government has essentially passed laws that prohibit money being spent to report on valid statistical studies, so ridiculous memes like the following get shared:

"more people in the US are killed by knives and rocks than by rifles" - possibly true but the deaths by handguns dwarfs all those deaths.

consider the following 2 arguments...

"If abortion is made illegal, they will still happen, but in back alleys"
"If guns are illegal, only criminals will have guns"

The logic is (1) the same and (2) circular and invalid. If you make X illegal, people who do X will be criminals....well, yes, because you've decided it's a crime.

Few people who screech 2nd amendment have a basic knowledge of constitutional law. The fact that it is called an amendment is an acknowledgement of the fact that the constitution is changing and being re-evaluated.

On the other hand, demilitarizing our country is too simple an argument as well. There is no one single cause for violence of all kinds.

But one thing is a simple fact. Where there are less guns, there are less deaths by guns.

by Matt on

I find your argument to be interesting and probably somewhat true. My problem however, is the way you make it and lack of substantiation. The way you frame it, it sounds more like a personal rant than an article about the actual psychology behind it. I feel like the title of the article implies that there would be more facts/supporting evidence than there is.

by Levi Asher on

That's a fair criticism, Matt. Well, in my defense, please remember that I am a blogger, and I write short pieces meant to be read in five minutes. That's what this format is good for -- and I think it suits my style as a writer, because I like to throw ideas out rather than research them exhaustively. My greatest hope is that I would present an idea in a quick blog post that somebody else would follow up on by publishing some research or writing more about it.

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