The Primacy Of The Gun

Men with guns in Chad

I have observed during my travels that in times of war and chaos, all life is negotiated around weapons.  Societies are reordered into sharply defined new hierarchies: into those who have weapons and those who have not.  A man with a gun can walk to the front of the bread or gasoline line.  With his militia friends he can take over a gas station if he likes and reorganize the distribution of fuel while skimming money off the top.  With a rifle you can order a woman to have sex.  Weapons redistribute wealth through “taxes”, protection rackets and direct theft.  Scores can be settled, under the cover of generalized violence.

A gun can be a lever in the political system as well.  An armed group can take over a hospital ward, and later a whole hospital, thus grabbing control of a key part of social provision for a political party.  Having a gun confers small benefits too.  In traffic jams the way through is cleared by those who have weapons.  A new topography is imposed upon the land by armed checkpoints and men with guns, which ways are open, which ways closed.  Weapons censor, blocking out argument, debate, verbal exchange.  Those with guns can speak.  They have opinions and deliver orders and instructions.  Those without are required to be silent.

5 thoughts on “The Primacy Of The Gun

  1. Justin, Your insight is remarkable; possibly the product of experience and observation. (Hey, looking down the barrel of the gun can get your attention, quickly.) You can survive by having a better gun or – if you’re lucky – by being smarter than the guy with the gun. The latter probably doesn’t work in real time. gh

    • Haha, looking down the wrong end of a gun does indeed capture and focus one’s attention, George. And, at least in my case, provokes a consideration of the circumstances of those with guns and those without in an anarchic environment.

      I agree that in the long term that the smarter guy will almost always win. However, as you pointed out, the smarter individual does not always have the luxury of time (and thus preparation and planning) on their side. Unfortunately, in the short term the most savage of the two seems to come out on top.

  2. “Weapons censor, blocking out argument, debate, verbal exchange.”

    While such a statement causes a visceral reaction within me, I do appreciate this very astute observation. I am not a “gun person” but have recently learned about ballistics and the resultant damage to tissue. I find it to be a grisly topic for sure but one that is scientifically satisfying simply because so much is known. I am sure you are well aware of all the advances in medicine especially in trauma and surgery that stem from the inflictions of war…

    My point is that while I find guns make me uneasy, I take comfort in the fact that we have learned much about how the keep people alive with gun shot wounds that in the past would have been deadly.

    That sentence is really making me think about my philosophy on power/control…

    Thank you for the provocation.

    • Always happy to be able to provoke…

      It is a sad commentary on humanity, but one does not need to be a gun person to appreciate the fact that society can break down very quickly. New Orleans after Katrina? In these anarchic situations, it is those with a gun that prevail and dominate – not the wealthiest or most educated, but the most savage… The owner of the gun can avoid being victimized and can victimize others. I’m not suggesting that everyone rush to purchase a gun, but to ignore this reality and to not at least be mentally prepared to confront such a reality, should it arise, is, I believe, perilous.

  3. Another prime example of something most Americans will never think about. While we debate Gun ownership to responsible civilians on our own land, populations are being controlled by the ones with the “Guns”. Fear is driving multiple governments to success by simply empowering and enslaving mindless country-men with such a powerful tool.

    Howver, Your statement “The owner of the gun can avoid being victimized…” reminds me why Americans want to arm themselves in the first place.

    During Katrina, 3 families (All with children) could not get out in time and decided to bunker down in one house with the supplies they had. These supplies also happened to include shotguns, rifles and pistols. While nearly every home around them was looted, robbed and vandalized,(and people raped and murdered) they were able to protect themselves and their property by keeping armed night watch. They never had to once shoot anyone as the warning shot usually got the attention of whomever was attempting to enter the property.

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