domain of discourse (of fear)

I’ve obviously changed a lot since moving to NZ.  I hate how tooting-my-own-horn this sounds, but I like the changes.  Both my theological and political views have been sharpened.

I used to be a cookie-cutter, conservative, two-issue-voter (you know which ones), republican-Christian.  Now I’m a liberal-conservative (in a centred,  rather than fence-sitting way), wide-screen voter (because all issues are ‘moral’, not just two), moderate Christian.

What was involved in the change?  Well, I think I had to breathe different cultural air than I was breathing back in the buckle of the Bible-belt.  Only people without lungs are truly affected by trying to breathe underwater.  You only react to daylight when you suddenly step outside with eyes that have adjusted to the pitch black room you’ve been in.  You can see a lot better where you’ve been when you’re no longer there, but are somewhere along the trail looking back.

I think I was so regularly exposed to certain domains of discourse that I didn’t learn to critique the view I held.  This air I was breathing was hot with fear.   My wife and I tasted the tang of this fear when we visited the US a few years back and ‘ObamaCare’ was being discussed… no… damned… on Christian radio.  Now, I’m under no illusion that Obama or ObamaCare are without fault, but the simplistic and fear-inducing way in which both were demonised was just crazy to hear with fresh ears – having stepped outside the darkroom for a while, the pitch black was startling.  I’m opposed to abortion (save to save the mother, which isn’t really abortion), and wouldn’t like my tax  dollars funding one, but that seemed to be the crack in the system they were clinging to.   That, and the general paranoia about government getting too involved in our lives.  As many other countries can attest to (not least here in NZ), public healthcare can work quite well, and until the age to come, no system will ever be ethically and fiscally perfect.

And ‘government control’ also comes into the current gun control discussion.  It’s another discourse of fear.  I’m amazed at the paranoia of the countless imaginary people who these people have to defend themselves against.

I went for a photo shoot last night alone, and walked down some very dark and a bit spooky pathways.  For whatever reasons, I carry some of my childhood fear of the dark.  I imagine that someone could be laying in wait, under my car, ready to chop my legs off as I approach… etc.  You get the drift.  I caught myself planning out my response to this imaginary attacker.  “Take a camera stand to the face buddy!”  Now, I know that this precise form of attack has actually happened to some unfortunate souls.  But I want to make a point.

There will always be someone who is either more prepared or more equipped or has bigger or more guns or body armour than you.  If you spend your life in fear, ever-preparing yourself for what someone might do to you, then there’s a word for that: paranoia.

Now, some people in some places and times have more reason to be prepared for self-defense than others.  And that is one reason why I’m not for a total ban on all guns for all people.  But whilst a hand gun is a simple, relatively safe way for most to protect themselves, and whilst you can surprise an approaching attacker by pulling out a concealed weapon on them, you only have the element of surprise if you see them first!  Bottom line: as we develop our technology (including guns), the power will always be found in the hand of both criminals and non-criminals, and it often comes down to the element of surprise.  Which is why the whole thing is not about guns, but about paranoia, constant suspicion and fear.

rights and responsibilities

Three recent events, a complaint about a sermon, a movie about Margaret Thatcher and a FB conversation about gun laws, have me reflecting on the tendencies of ‘left-wingers’ and ‘right-wingers’.  Both left and right folk will express concern for both ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’, but at different times.

On the topic of social welfare:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the poor/unemployed
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the poor/unemployed

On the topic of gun laws:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of gun owners
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of gun ownership/use

On the topic of war:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of all humans to have peace
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of defending peace

On the topic of abortion:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the woman
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the man and woman

On the topic of ‘the environment’:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of individuals and businesses
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of individuals and businesses

In all of these scenarios, I am interested in embracing the tension between BOTH rights AND responsibilities.  I’m interested in BOTH short-term practicalities, AND long-term wisdom.

I’m interested in social policy that is both generous and sustainable – that avoids the extremes of too much or too little assistance, which (ironically) both end up cementing the poor in their poverty.

I’m interested in gun laws that are both practical and wise – that avoid the foolish extremes of taking guns away or assuming that no regulation is needed at all – both of which will end up causing harm.

I’m interested in a military policy that is both prepared to use force, and seeks to be accountable to human rights – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic and passive pacifism on one hand, and a short-sighted/arrogant agression on the other.

I’m interested in an abortion policy that is committed to the quality and quantity of life for both the pre-born human and the mother (and father, family…) – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic, legislate-heaven-to-earth, fantasy on one hand, and a careless, inhumane, abortion-as-contraception nightmare on the other.

I’m interested in environmental policy that uses both legislation and education to motivate people and businesses to care for creation – avoiding the extremes of avoidance and assumptions that all is OK on one hand, and aggressive, undemocratic pushing through of eco-laws on the other.

good guns

A quick gun-related post after some recent events in NZ & thinking about it. When you encounter an action or idea that you find utterly insane or impossible to understand, it’s always good (pun intended) to look for some good reason behind it, which may have been distorted.  In the case of “gun rights” it’s not too hard to see some good things about having and using guns.

  • Guns are probably best considered as a kind of power-increasing tool, and power in and of itself is good.
  • To the extent that killing an animal (hopefully for food) is acceptable, a gun just makes this easier to do.
  • To the extent that killing a human (hopefully as a last resort and only self defense) is acceptable, a gun just makes this easier to do.
  • The case of gun shooting as a hobby or interest (i.e. gun collectors having meetings to share and shoot their guns, etc.) seems a perfectly acceptable activity.

Of course a similar list could be made of ‘bad’ things. As for what kind of laws to have to help gun users do more of the ‘good’ and less of the ‘bad’, I have only a few ideas, which I won’t bother mentioning here.  Ultimately, laws don’t change people.  To close, here are some positive & negative memories associated with guns.

  • I owned a black-powder rifle for around a year.  My brother, his friend Ralph and I went a time or two to a firing range and shot them.  It was fun.  Learning how to pack the powder, etc.  Boys and their toys.
  • I have a brother-in-law who hunts often, but only for food I believe.  I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and the animals die with more respect than they would on some cattle farms.
  • My Dad had a 44 magnum (still has?).  I remember him target shooting ‘out back’.  The sound was incredible.  There was ever so slight a delay from firing to impact – on the 50-gallon drum lid propped up against a tree.  As a small boy, I was in awe.  My Dad was Clint Eastwood.
  • My Dad used to go deer hunting, until those he hunted with kept going way over their legal limit for the season.  I still remember walking past the massive pile of deer guts. I’m proud of my Dad for not taking part in that.
  • I also remember (after shooting and hitting a squirrel several times – to no discernible effect! – with a BB gun) finally killing my first bird – a robin I believe.  It fluttered from the power line it had been perched on to the ground.  I walked up to it, and saw it twitching in pain.  The thought was so strong it seemed nearly audible – “Well what did you do that for?”  I put it out of its misery, and I don’t believe I’ve ever shot another animal again.