“I maintain then that the common sociological method is quite useless: that of first dissecting abject poverty or cataloguing prostitution. We all dislike abject poverty; but it might be another business if we began to discuss independent and dignified poverty. We all disapprove of prostitution; but we do not all approve of purity. The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social ideal. We can all see the national madness but what is national sanity? I have called this book “What is Wrong with the World?” and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.” — G.K. Chesterton, What is Wrong with the World?
More than a hundred years ago Chesterton identified indeed what is wrong with the world, and continues to be wrong.
The problem is that even if we got so far as to have that discussion today, morality and rationality would be crushed by a reality show emotionalism. Narcissists parading as thought leaders would spin the narrative using cognitive bias and lethal marketing tricks. The fact is that humans have always been story-tellers not truth-seekers. We run on confirmation bias, not rationality. “Seek and ye shall find”: not the truth, but support for whatever position it is most convenient, personally consistent and thus emotionally comfortable.
And so to another mass shooting.
“Guns don’t kill, people do.”
Seriously?? I thought guns were made to kill people.
Suppose a criminal is cornered by the police. In that situation he has a knife in his pocket. What does he do? Probably surrender when surrounded by armed police.
In another situation he has an automatic weapon in his hand. Will that influence his decision? It almost certainly would. The notion that the availability of a gun doesn’t influence people’s decisions borders on the insane.
“Sugar doesn’t give people diabetes, people do.”
“Drugs don’t make people addicted, people do.”
“Money doesn’t run the country, politicians do.”
These tenets assume that people act completely on their own, independent and devoid of any influences like environment, availability and culture. But then why do the gun lobby, pharma and food industry spend billions of dollars a year to convince you to buy their products and support their positions? After all, if people are completely independent actors, the ad spending is surely a complete waste of money?
And politicians act totally independently, irrespective, for example, of any funds and favors they have been given by outside groups?
It might be convenient to say that people have responsibility for their actions, as indeed we do, but it is an example of simplistic, binary brain thinking to assume that means that there are no other significant influences on their behavior.
I am not against the second amendment. I have no political affiliation. For one thing, the notion of a two party system is a function of a limiting binary brain that can only see two simplistic and polarized sides of a complex, multi-faceted issue. Moreover, political identification means that every issue is seen through the lens of party politics.
As Chesterton says, what’s wrong is that we do not ask what is right.