In his book Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari mentions Russia’s greatest short story writers Anton Chekhov having once said that a gun appearing in the first act of a play will inevitably be fired in the third.
Yuval says that since 1945, humans have learned to resist the urge to use weapons of war. Hopefully meaning we have become more mature as humans.
However, we could perhaps attribute it to collective wisdom that often stops an irrational leader from realizing their violent fantasies.
The same however, does not hold true for individuals owning firearms in the US. For a population of around 318.9 million, a tiny % of them own over half the guns!
I belong to the Bunt community, and in my mother tongue, Tulu, there is an old, relevant, and amusing saying. It translates to, “the out of work (or idle) carpenter chiseled the bottom of the baby lying nearby.” It is very similar to Abraham Maslow’s quote, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
When you own a weapon, the mere fact of possessing one, makes using it one of many possible outcomes in any tough situation. This, as opposed to those without weapons who would look to resolving a problem in a more mature, and civilized manner. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.
In a minor fender-bender recently, while no one was hurt, one party decided to claim third party motor damages. Being clueless about the claims process, they quickly landed up in a dead-end. Further angered by this, they engaged a “criminal lawyer” to pursue it. The lawyer, also clueless about the process, did not refer the client to someone more relevant. Nor did he take efforts to find out and advise the client on the right process. Instead, he sent the other party a letter threatening ‘civil and criminal action’. True to Maslow’s views, he did the only thing he knew, despite its lack of relevance to the problem.
And yet, in the recently finished US presidential campaign, one of the selling points of a candidate was that the civilian rights to own firearms would not be infringed upon. And that candidate won!
On the upside, defense weapons are becoming more advanced. This is rapidly moving humans away from the core and gore of war, hopefully making it increasingly distant and impersonal. Combined with collective wisdom, this hopefully helps people take less impulsive decisions about it. Unlike in the past, where a ruler could simply order his battle commander to march troops to whichever country or state he fancied. Hopefully future country border tensions would be limited to: “your country broke 5 of our surveillance drones, we broke 5 of yours. We’re even. Now back-off and stay there!”
The domestic front for some countries seems a little more complicated. Especially in the absence of governmental intentions to do away with the access to firearms. It will just take more effort and educating, to prevent the dangers that owning of firearms presents. Let’s hope some technological advancements on that front too, helps eliminate the desire to own firearms soon.
And in the meantime, could psychologist Robert Plutchik’s good old wheel of emotions be of some help? Maybe to help us be more aware of the different degrees of our emotions? This, in turn, could help us be more civil, rational, and accomodating in our outlook and disposition. We just need to strive to have positive emotions that are closer to the center (unless you have a heart condition, then don’t overdo it). And restrict negative emotions to degrees closer to the outer perimeter. Can’t be too tough, can it?
Give it a shot (no pun intended). And hope you have a terrific 2017!