A lot of people are upset at the mass shooting in Connecticut. Partly that’s because they empathise and approach events in a personal way. And it’s an important, first, human response. But it only scrapes the surface. If you approach it in a political or historical or sociological way, you actually end up saying things like: well, what do you expect? Newton is just just one symptom of a psychotic America
The fact is America is a very violent society. Like Britain. Already we lock up more per head than anyone else in Europe. America has a formidable full 1% of its population in the prison system – another world leader… Only a few years ago we were measured by the UN to be the worst place to bring up children, presumable beating America. These measures reflect the amount of stress in a society. One very important measure is how unfair a society is, how wealth is distributed. Under 13 years of Labour, Britain became more and more unfair year after year, the rich getting richer at a far more rapid rate than everyone else. Something far surpassed by America which is unmatched for taking wealth from around the planet to itself.
But can you imagine if we in Britain had the same prevalence of gun ownership here – and the right to bear arms? Despite our general drop in crime statistics in would be a recipe for sure disaster and we could expect our Newton’s and Columbine’s and Aurora’s to take place.
America, like us, suffers from a whole variety of negative social factors – inequality of ownership, inequality of access to healthcare, large and growing homelessness – and of course has social injustice at far higher levels than we do.
Those that have visited America may not see this and may argue what a wonderful, welcoming place it is – great if that’s your experience. But that’s NOT the point I’m making. That’s the sort of personal point of view that I began with. The OTHER things that happen in society, policies, politics, where the money goes, how power asserts and protects itself, sets the background for how healthy a society really is.
This includes levels of mental illness in society and has something to say about those who snap and go on a killing spree. There is no doubt gun control would reduce this, as it did in Australia. A very simple short-term solution.
But America, as a larger organism, is quite psychotic. Maybe Britain was like this in its Empire times – ruling half the globe, and built on the simple racist idea that the Englishman was superior to everyone else (no doubt a factor that made many of the wealthy rather sympathetic to Hitler).
The almost 50-50 polls, even after mass killings like this one, show that America isn’t ready for change either, even in this simple direction. Of course, the role the gun lobby and its resources play should not be neglected.
But, historically, this is a global issue too. The strength of the gun industry depends on gun ownership, just as the arms industry depends on America’s unparalleled violence across the world: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central America in the 1980s, the wrecking of other countries like Iran in 1953, bringing the Ba’ath party to power in Iraq in the 1960s, and on and on.
The fact that the American population seem to back most of this international violence chimes with their 50-50 vote to keep guns even after mass killings like Newton’s. Much of this is a tribute to its one party politics (with two faces) and a highly controlled media, very concentrated in terms of ownership and all saying the same sort of corporation-friendly things – while still coming across as very human.
Obama is as compromised too. Squeeze out the odd tear he may on national TV, but he has had no compunction about sending the 170 children his drones have killed to there fiery deaths. Collateral damage, distance, people of no account.
Over here the sheer amount of US media that many of us watch colours our take on its society, the fun of the sit-coms, the brilliance of Hollywood, the apparent concer of its leading politicians. But if someone had walked into a classroom, say in Burma, and gunned down 20 children, people might tut and say what a terrible shame, but they would tend to know less about it and write it off as a violent country. America gets a pass. It shouldn’t. It’s one of the most violent countries in the world. And we’re not far behind…
Any meaningful commitment to peace in society there should ban guns. Maybe then there would be the chance the people could actually reject America’s violence across the world.