May 04, 2010

Armed societies are governed by fear: of government on the one hand, and of people on the other. All people are seen as fundamentally self-serving, each man out for himself without regard for anyone else; the actions of individuals or institutions not personally known or vouched for are additionally seen as arbitrary. That fear goes even deeper: since fear of consequences is perceived as the only thing holding society in check. If they could only get away with it (so goes the reasoning): why, a person or government might do ... anything.

In such a society, the police are simultaneously charged with the constant hassle of the (potentially) non law-abiding while leaving completely alone the (clearly) law-abiding. Every individual with something to lose sees the distinction clearly -- they are just looking for opportunities to get away with things, but can't you tell that I am obviously a law-abiding citizen? -- and expects the police to do the same. Any failure to do the second makes the police an instrument of government which has been corrupted by power, and thus to be stymied at every turn. Any failure to do the first makes them useless.

The end result is that the police, the very people who are normally entrusted by society to be a more-or-less neutral instrument of law enforcement, are simultaneously made powerless and seen as powerless.

When the police can no longer be trusted, the individual who has anything to lose must take the responsibility for their own protection upon themself. In such a society, the logic drives each such individual to go armed: for nothing less will suffice to stand between them and chaos.

(And yet in each person's mind, they themself have no part in having built that chaos on a foundation of mistrust born of fear.)

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