Friday, 25 October 2013

It's not the guns, it's the culture

So two days ago two American policemen shot and killed a boy carrying a plastic toy gun. The policemen were probably all trigger happy because of the recent Nevada school shooting where a pupil went on a shooting spree, thinking that this boy was also on his way to do something similar.

There is something really out of whack in America. I mentioned at the beginning of the year about America's "gun-threat": the case of a kindergarten kid getting in trouble for blowing bubbles with a toy bubble "gun", a 6-year old boy getting suspended for making a "gun gesture" with his fingers, and a fifth grader getting in trouble for having a paper "gun".

Now I'm not trying to make light of the recent school shootings, but let's get it clear -- it is not because of guns. There are many countries in the world with lots of access to guns, yet kids don't go on shooting sprees.  Take South Africa for instance, where illegal guns are rampant, but I can't remember any case of a mass killing by a pupil. In fact, mass killings are quite uncommon in South Africa -- a country infamous for its high violent crime rate. Or think of Switzerland. Time Magazine reports:

Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita; between 2.3 million and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent-crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. By comparison, the U.S rate in the same year was about 5 firearm killings per 100,000 people, according to a 2011 U.N. report.

These killing sprees are therefore not a gun thing. It is, it would seem, a culture thing. Something else is at play in America. Possibly a culture of violence.

The philosopher John Kozy explains it as follows in his essay Violence: The American Way of Live:

The United States of America was conceived and nurtured by violence.
Americans not only engage in violence, they are entertained by it.
Killing takes place in America at an average of 87 times each day. Going to war in Afghanistan is less dangerous than living in Chicago.
The Romans went to the Coliseum to watch people being killed. In major cities, Americans just look out their windows. Baseball, once America’s national game, a benign, soporific sport, has been replaced by football which is so violent it destroys the brains of those who play it. Violent films, euphemized as action flicks, dominate our motion picture theatres and television sets. Our children play killing video games.
So do you really believe that gun control will miraculously make America into a tranquil nation? Do you really believe that outlawing products and practices will make Americans peace loving? A culture cannot be changed by laws, change requires a sustained effort over several generations. Are Americans  up to the task?

Sorry to give the spoiler to his essay, but Kozy doubts that Americans can change such a deeply ingrained culture. It just worries me, though, because the USA is a cultural trendsetter and their most prominent export is pop-culture.

And the increased police brutality is scaring me. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?!


Anonymous said...

Stem volkome saam. Goeie inskrywing!

Skryfblok said...

Dankie Boer. Ek praat toevallig vandag met iemand van Texas wat teen die besit van gewere is. Het nie gedink dat ek so 'n persoon sou ontmoet nie. Hulle is sekerlik hoendertandskaars!