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Power Struggle

2018-11-04

Last week’s post sparked a number of great conversations! So, I thought I’d take some time to expand my thoughts on this topic a little further.

First, I fully support gun ownership. Sure, I think there should be some regulations in place, but nothing absurd. At some point, I should spell out my thoughts on this a bit more precisely. But, not right now.

As a few people pointed out, guns actually do provide power. In particular, they provide a means to terminate physical threats. And, in some cases, this is a necessity. For instance, if a predator is attacking a rancher’s livestock, then the rancher needs some means to terminate the threat quickly. End of story.

But, the problem we’re facing is not a physical threat that can be terminated so easily. If it was, then we could also end crime forever by just shooting every single criminal!

No, what we are observing is a much deeper and messier problem. These individual incidents are desperate attempts for people to assert their power over their reality. And, this leads us to the crux of the issue:

Our society is facing an overwhelming sense of powerlessness.

We hear about tragedies like the one that occurred at Tree of Life Synagogue, and we yearn to prevent them. Some feel like we can achieve this by banning guns; others feel like we can achieve this by arming people and becoming “more powerful” than the threat. In either case, people want to feel like they have the “power” to solve this problem.

More broadly, people just want to feel like they are powerful again.

When I wrote my previous post, I was not trying to suggest that we should scorn people who are promoting “gun ownership” as a solution. On the contrary, I was trying to suggest that we should feel pity for them. Like the rest of us, they’re hopelessly clinging to an idea that makes them feel powerful. But, what we’re facing is not a physical threat. It’s a societal one.

Unfortunately, our society is pushing many ideas that are meant to make us feel powerful. “Gun ownership” and “gun regulation” are two such ideas. But, so are bigotry, supremacy, and so on. These latter ideas also drive people to commit atrocities, which then amplify our society’s sense of powerlessness. This then causes people to cling more desperately to these ideas, and we all spiral down the drain together.

If we want to untangle this mess, then we need to stop peddling ideas that make people feel powerful. Instead, we should focus on actually empowering people to reclaim control of their lives. Here are some goals that would help us achieve this:

  • Decouple healthcare from employment. Many people are stuck working dead-end jobs because they cannot risk losing their healthcare.
  • Mitigate existing student loan debt. Many people are finding it too risky to pursue better job opportunities because they are already being crushed by debt.
  • Emphasize skills rather than accreditations. For many technology-related jobs, a college degree is frankly unnecessary. Employers need to stop demanding formal accreditations as a prerequisite to employment.
  • Identify emerging industries and embrace them. We are currently wasting our time and energy trying to bring back traditional jobs that are long gone.
  • Etc.

Establishing changes such as these will empower many people to regain control of their lives. Likewise, ideas that only make people feel powerful will become far less alluring. Bigotry, supremacy, and other hateful practices will decline, which will ultimately reduce the occurrence of these violent tragedies.