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Archive for August 15th, 2012

Violently Digressive

Posted by Dirck on 15 August, 2012

I’ve had a couple of articles pass under my nose lately, which are combining to press me from my usual topic.  The most recently read, as part of a sad effort to catch up on various blogs I make a pretense of following, is a consideration of modern perceptions of violence.  The fellow writing it is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a student of violence; he’s recently gotten a scholarship to do some post-grad work in martial culture of late medieval and/or early modern Europe.  I’ll give a scandalously brief synopsis that really only hints at the meat of the entry (by which I mean, go and look at it): the current media dialogue on modern violence is a self-defeating hooting, since it’s a nuanced topic which the mass media is unwilling to handle with necessary depth or subtly.  As a sidebar, this hooting mainly serves to exaggerate the sense of threat, since people seem absolutely rigid with terror while crime rates have been dropping fairly predictably since the 1970s.

The other item that gets me onto this track is a recent little fountain of foolishness in the neighbouring/distant  city of Calgary.  I urge you to go and have a look at both the letter to the editor of a local paper which got the ball rolling, and an article responding to it.  I will also digest these two documents; the letter relates the trauma of a cop from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who found himself in a land which would not allow him to carry a firearm and approached by menacing park-lurkers, while the general response as exemplified by the editorial is to point a derisive finger at the gun-mad American who sees a threat in any gesture and can only think to respond with gun-play.

I’ll admit that I found the letter a little silly, since it could be distilled as “I got scared because some guy talked to me briefly,” and that it suggested that this was tantamount to a “life-or-death encounter” which the Canadian government is subjecting all its citizens to with its mad stance on gun control.  Later revelations that the motive of the assailant was probably to give a free ticket to a big local event doesn’t help one get into a state of sympathy.  However… there is this matter of perception.  This poor fellow has been working in a field which tends to dispose one to see villainy, he was in a country which is just different enough from his own to be really upsetting (this is why a very slight angle on a camera makes for an effective nightmare in a film), and someone he had no expectation of hearing a word out of was pestering him.  One begins to understand how he got himself worked up, especially since there is the fact that, just occasionally, strangers do mean harm.

The problem with this whole affair is that it’s actually kind of hard to make out what actually happened.  Like those trying to comprehend the facts in Rashomon, we’re limited to biased recounting.  Someone flogging tickets as an advertising ploy may be overly aggressive, not unlike the waiters at The Keg, and one can certainly sympathize with the urge to shoot.  Like the popular media in my friend’s entry, I can at this point only really shrug for want of any concrete suggestions to address the issue.  Some people will always see a smile as a sneer, some will forever expect the joy-buzzer in a hand shake.  The hell of it is, sometimes they’re right.  Not often, but with the sort of frequency that acts to reinforce.

I’ll admit that I’m occasionally affected by the insistence of the popular media that THEY’RE ALL OUT TO GET ME, particularly when I’m going about with my son in tow.  I don’t think that having a CZ75 down the back of my waistband would cure the problem, since the problem is entirely in my own head; they’d still be out to get me, and I’d have the constant worry added of whether it was now time to draw.  The Aurora shooting referred to by Kalamazoo Kop would not have been prevented by an extremely high ratio of armed civilians, since in the darkness of the theatre there would be little to tell good guy from bad; one guy letting off a gun in a theatre full of kids is bad enough, how so ten of whom nine are in a confused panic?  I may be a little paranoid about the folks I pass on the street, but I would be that much moreso if I knew that it was likely they had a gun. I suspect that part of that cop’s problem wasn’t that he wasn’t packing, but that he is convinced with some basis that everyone else is.  I might have been merely annoyed with the same park-lurking fellows rather than scared of them, because my expectation of how much violence they could bring to bear is different from that of an American police officer.  That’s one of the benefits of gun control, balancing out my inability to respond à la mode de Charles Bronson if it turns out I’m wrong.

That’s my perception of the matter, anyway.

Today’s pen: Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink: Pelikan blue-black

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