Originally Published on the Sultan Knish blog
The gun control debate, like all debates with the left, is reducible to the question of whether we are individuals who make our own decisions or a great squishy social mass that helplessly responds to stimuli. Do people kill with guns or does the availability of guns kill people? Do bad eating habits kill people or does the availability of junk food kill people?
To the left these are distinctions without a difference. If a thing is available then it is the cause of the problem. The individual cannot be held accountable for shooting someone if there are guns for sale. Individuals have no role to play because they are not moral actors, only members of a mob responding to stimuli.
You wouldn't blame a dog for overeating; you blame the owners for overfeeding him. Nor do you blame a dog for biting a neighbor. You might punish him, but the punishment is training, not a recognition of authentic responsibility on the part of the canine. And the way that you think of a dog, is the way that the left thinks of you. When you misbehave, the left looks around for your owner.
The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem.
Individual behavior is a symptom of a social problem. Identify the social problem and you fix the behavior. The individual is nothing, the crowd is everything. Control the mass and you control the individual.
That is how the left approached this election. Instead of appealing to individual interests, they went after identity groups. They targeted low information voters and used behavioral science to find ways to manipulate people. The right treated voters like human beings. The left treated them like lab monkeys. And the lab monkey approach is triumphantly toted by progressives as proof that the left is more intelligent than the right. And what better proof of intelligence can there be than treating half the country like buttons of unthinking responses that you can push to get them to do what you want.
Would you let a lab monkey own a gun? Hell no. Would you let it choose what to eat? Only as an experiment. Would you let it vote for laws in a referendum? Not unless it's trained to push the right button. Would you let it drive a car? Nope. Maybe a bicycle. And if it has to travel a long way, you'll encourage it to use mass transit. Does a monkey have freedom of speech? Only until it annoys you.
You'll take away most of the monkey's bananas, which you're too lazy to go and find for yourself because you have more important things to do than fetch bananas. You train monkeys to fetch bananas for you. That is how the enlightened elites of the left see the workers whose taxes they harvest; as monkeys that they taught in their schools and created jobs for with their stimulus plans for. And the least that the monkeys could do is pay their taxes, because the monkeys didn’t build that. You did.
You do plan to take care of monkey's medical expenses, at least until they get too high, and spay and neuter it with free birth control. You will train it to be the smartest and most well-behaved monkey it can be. And when it gets too sick, you plan to have it mercifully put down so it doesn't hang around spreading diseases and depressing you with its misery.
And what's wrong with any of that? Human beings are just evolved monkeys. It's not as if you're being cruel to the monkey. You're engaged in what you might charitably think of as a symbiotic relationship with the monkey. If the monkey were smart, it might think of you as a parasite. But you have a whole lot of rounds of ammunition stockpiled in case of a Planet of the Apes scenario.
If you assume that there is as much of a substantive difference between the elite and the common man as there is between a man and a monkey, there is nothing particularly inappropriate about such behavior. We herd animals. Liberals herd people. The human being is the livestock of the liberal animal farm.
The Nazis believed that they were the master race because they were genetically superior. Liberals believe that they are the master race on account of their superior empathy and intelligence. There's an obvious paradox in believing that you have the right to enslave and kill people because you care more, but that didn't stop millions of people from joining in with revolutions that led to a century of bloodshed in the name of movements that cared more.
The defining American code is freedom. The defining liberal code is compassion. Conservatives have attempted to counter that by defining freedom as compassionate, as George W. Bush did. Liberals counter by attempting to define compassion as liberating, the way that FDR did by classing freedoms with entitlements in his Four Freedoms.
On one side stands the individual with his rights and responsibilities. On the other side is the remorseless state machinery of supreme compassion. And there is no bridging this gap.
Liberal compassion is not the compassion of equals. It is a revolutionary pity that uses empathy only as fuel for outrage. It is the sort of compassion practiced by people who like to be angry and who like to pretend that their anger makes them better people. It is the sort of compassion that eats like poison into the bones of a man or a society, even while swelling their egos with their own wonderfulness.
Compassion of this sort is outrage fuel. It is hatred toward people masquerading as love. And that hatred is a desire for power masquerading as outrage which in turn is dressed up as a deep love for others and empathy for all living creatures. Peel away the mask of compassion and all that is underneath is a terrible lust for power. And the only way to truly justify the kind of total power summoned by such lusts is by reducing the people you would rule over to the status of non-persons.
The clash that will define the future of America is this collision between the individual and the state, between disorganized freedom and organized compassion, between a self-directed experiment in self-government and an experiment conducted by trained experts on a lab monkey population. And the defining idea of this conflict is accountability.
To understand the left's position on nearly any issue, imagine a 20th Century American and then take away accountability. Assume that the individual is helpless and stupid, has little to no control over his own behavior and is only responding to stimuli and functions in a purely reactive capacity. Then use that data to come up with a response to anything from kids getting fat to a football player shooting his wife to terrorists firing rockets at Israel. The only possible answer to reactive behavior is to find the thing being reacted to and condemn it.
If you want to fake being a member of the left on any topic and in any setting, master this simple phrase. "But we have to look at the root causes to see who is really responsible." Congratulations, you can now get by anywhere from Caracas to Brussels to Berkeley.
The root cause is a perpetual search for an accountability vested in systems rather than people. That search always ends up with systems and ideologies, rather than mere people, because it justifies the destruction of those systems and ideologies. And destroying systems and ideologies allows them to be replaced by their progressive replacements.
The final failure of accountability for the left is a failure of moral organization, while for the right it is a failure of personal character. The right asks, "Why did you kill?" The left asks, "Who let him have a gun?", "Who didn't provide him with a job" and "Who neglected his self-esteem?"
Freedom goes hand in hand with personal moral organization of the individual by the individual. Organized compassion however requires the moral organization of the society as a whole. A shooting is not a failure of the character of one man alone, or even his family and social circle, it is the total failure of our entire society and perhaps even the world, for not leveraging a sufficient level of moral organization that would have made such a crime impossible. No man is an island. Every man is a traffic jam.
Social accountability on this scale requires the nullification of the personhood and accountability of the individual, just as the moral organization that it mandates requires removing the freedom of choice of the individual, to assure a truly moral society. When compassion and morality are collective, then everyone and no one is moral and compassionate at the same time. And that is the society of the welfare state where compassion is administered by a salaried bureaucracy.
Choice is what makes us moral creatures and collective compassion leaves us less than human. The collective society of mass movements and mass decisions leaves us little better than lab monkeys trying to compose Shakespeare without understanding language, meaning or ideas, or anything more than the rote feel of our fingers hitting the keyboard.
This is the society that the left is creating, a place filled with as many social problems as there are people, where everyone is a lab monkey except the experts running the experiments, and where no one has any rights because freedom is the enemy of a system whose moral code derives from creating a perfect society by replacing the individual with the mass. It is a society where there is no accountability, only constant compulsion. It is a society where you are a social problem and there are highly paid experts working day and night to figure out how to solve you.