Check Your (Stability) Privilege

An argument against gun control:
The American left supports gun bans, magazine bans, and the abolition of the 2nd Amendment wholly as a function of what I’m calling “Stability Privilege.” Almost no one out there on the left can remember a time when America was not economically and politically stable, relatively speaking. It’s been half a century since a president was assassinated, and even then, the transition of power was seamless. It’s been a little less time since a president was forced out of office. Again he left quietly, not a shot fired...

They don’t believe they can be rounded up and shot, because “that could never happen here.” They don’t believe someone would break down their door for the food in their pantry, and slaughter them if they resist. They don’t believe they could be rounded up and raped by the truckload for worshipping God differently than their next-door neighbor. They don’t really believe that any of these things are happening anywhere. If they do on any level, they seem to think they can hashtag it out of existence. They believe all of this because of their stability privilege, because they’ve never seen it with their own eyeballs, and so they think “It can’t happen here.” All they’ve seen themselves is firearms misused near them, and so that is the one thing they can wrap their heads around. They don’t see the use, the purpose, the importance of the 2nd Amendment and modern arms....

Try to remember that Sarajevo once hosted an Olympics. Remember that Beirut used to be called “The Paris of the Middle East.” Remember that women used to wear lipstick and miniskirts in Tehran. Most of all...remember that it CAN happen anywhere. It can happen here. The bubble can break. The bubble WILL break.
It's an interesting theory, but I'm not at all sure it's correct. The reaction to Donald Trump becoming President Elect has not convinced me that people on the left believe that stability and nonviolence are dependable features of American life.

Take these recent nominations for cabinet positions. Some of them have come from the right, like Jeff Sessions. Others have been lifelong Democrats, like Mike Flynn. Harold Ford is supposedly going to head up the infrastructure plan, and he was a Clinton supporter. Mitt Romney is supposedly in the pole position in the race for Secretary of State, and he's a centrist Republican who strongly criticized Trump. Jim Mattis is apolitical. To me, this looks like the choices of a guy who is largely non-ideological, rewarding some allies but also making outreach efforts to potential supporters he didn't win over during the campaign. But to my left-leaning friends, the right-winger appointments prove Trump's pending evils; and the centrist and Democrat choices are traitors, to be forever despised for not standing strong against the man. [UPDATE: Apparently NPR agrees with me, more or less.]

I think they really believe not that they're safe, but that many of their fellow citizens -- and especially the sort who buy guns or vote for Trump -- are barely restrained Nazis who dream every night of murdering gays and lesbians and people of color. The fact that we actually live in the safest place and time in human history, in a political system that if anything is too stable* for its own good, doesn't seem to be a conviction.

So the longing to disarm the citizenry makes sense, not because they don't see any good to guns, but because they're terrified of us.

* Is it possible for a political system to be too stable? I don't think Aristotle would say so, but it strikes me that stability is not an unalloyed good. Instability is dangerous, but it also enables adaptation. The United States might be better off if it changed some aspects of its political system to reflect the fact that we no longer have regional diversity, as was well served by the state system, but rather a rural versus urban split. It's easy to see from the county-level election maps that there aren't really red states and blue states, but blue urban cores inside a massive red country. Does it really make sense to have Atlanta in the same "state" as the rest of Georgia, or Charlotte in the same state as the mountains of Western North Carolina? The system of states is stable, but insofar as this creates new tensions and clashes, it may be "too stable."


Christopher B said...

I think they really believe not that they're safe, but that many of their fellow citizens -- and especially the sort who buy guns or vote for Trump -- are barely restrained Nazis who dream every night of murdering gays and lesbians and people of color.

I've seen comments on Facebook and some first hand that bear this out. My take on this is that, post Obama, they really thought they would be in control of the people authorized to carry (LEO, military) as well as the legal system (judges) so they wouldn't have to do the dirty work personally.

jaed said...

I also agree that's an accurate take.

I made a gun-control advocate's head spin by commenting that the rush to ban guns in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre struck me as unthinkably immoral. When he asked why, in seemingly sincere puzzlement, I told him it was taking people who were already in danger and making them even more vulnerable by depriving them of the ability to protect themselves. I don't think it had occurred to him that gay men might be able or willing to do that, or that gun rights also apply to "the good guys". He genuinely seemed to think the only people who might want guns were aggressors.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ jaed - they often believe that owning a gun will slowly make you into an aggressor. Projection, perhaps.

I'm not so interested in the stopping-the-government-oppression aspect, though I suppose it bears keeping track of. I am against gun control because it doesn't reduce crime. Why inconveniencing people with expensive solutions that will also be dangerous for some of them seems like a good idea is beyond me.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

As for too much stability, it is one of the themes of Antifragile. Taleb's thought is that tactics which postpone collapse only make it worse in the end. Small frequent disruptions are more manageable and lead to improvements.

Ymar Sakar said...

Guns are demonic swords to the Left. Using one makes you turn to evil. It's a cult and religious dogma, not just something people fell into believing.

Similar to CO2 to the global warming cultists.

Religious have all kinds of doctrines and dogmas. The Jews even have these weird dieting laws.

As for stability, Grim, I think you already know that the pendulum swings in both directions. What goes up, will come down.

Unless we ascend off the physical plane entirely as spiritual entities, human civilization doesn't just continually go forwards. Stability, in the Christian model, produces weakness. Instability creates aggression and war, which causes the weakness of the spirit. Perhaps the same weakness but expressed differently.

As for the Left, the cannonfodder online don't think of much of anything. They aren't the generals or strategists in charge of this battlefront or this war.