Not very much in reality is simple.
We like to make things simple, because it is what we started out as, and it is familiar, and feels safe.
It feels good when we can be the good guy and someone else is the bad guy – a very simple, two state reality.
But that rarely occurs in reality.
Reality is usually far more complex and messy.
This issue is also complex.
A few ideas have been gradually changed in our culture, to mean almost the exact opposite of what they once did.
The idea that “the meek shall inherit the earth” is one such.
In the Greek, the term translated to “meek” in English means something more like a fully armed, trained and competent citizen who keeps their weapons sheathed in all but the most extreme of situations.
So meek has in our language come to mean tamed and ineffectual, whereas in the original it meant exactly the opposite, it meant competent both in the control of self and in the use of tools and weapons.
The NRA seem to have grabbed on to half of that – the ability to carry weapons, without really taking ownership of the other half – the need to control self. Having one without the other is not at all stable.
Here in NZ we are a small nation, only half the population of Chicago, yet in 1990 we had Aramoana, where 13 people died at the end of David Gray’s rifle.
We have guns in this country – I have several.
Every 10 years I must renew my gun licence, and be interviewed, my guns and their lockup cabinet inspected, my wife interviewed without me being present.
There is a lot of truth in the notion that tools are neutral, it is what we do with them that counts.
There is a lot of truth in Krishnamurti’s quote “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
A society where the fundamental value measure is based in scarcity (where universal abundance has no value by definition) cannot be healthy.
A society where the fundamental understanding of evolution is based in competition, ignoring the overwhelming role of cooperation in complex entities like ourselves, cannot be healthy.
A society that puts liberal and conservative in perpetual opposition, rather than acknowledging the absolute requirement for both, for the essential roles they perform, cannot be healthy.
Our childish demands for simplicity where simplicity cannot possibly exist is not healthy.
Is it any wonder that many in our society are profoundly disturbed.
To me it is little short of miraculous that we have any sort of peace at all.
That simple fact speaks loudly to the fundamental cooperative nature of the vast bulk of humanity, and says little or nothing about our current laws and institutions.
Sure we must have respect for individual life and individual liberty, and both of those demand of us responsibility in social and ecological contexts.
Any system needs boundaries to maintain form. The more complex the system the more complex and context sensitive those boundaries need to be.
Asking for, or expecting, simplicity in such situations is not a mark of understanding of the factors involved.
If we wish to have people act responsibly and socially towards each other and the environment, then we need to have systems that act responsibly and socially towards individuals – every individual, without exception. Any and every exception is a source of risk, and not every exception turns homicidal, and some do.
We need people and systems that both care for individuals and respect the notion of individual liberty – and that is such a complex topic that it will be an eternal question, an eternal search for appropriate balance in the specific context of the moment, a balance between order and chaos, between conservative and liberal – a balance that we all have within us, in different measure in every context. We are all more liberal in some contexts, and more conservative in others.
The only thing I can say with very high confidence is that attempts to solve this very complex problem with simple ideas will only make it worse.
We need to all accept diversity, at the same time as we demand responsibility, starting with ourselves.
It seems clear to me that Jordan Peterson has this aspect of reality very well understood.