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JW
10-28-2002, 02:43 PM
Hi, did anyone see the new(ish) Michael Moore movie "Bowling for Columbine?"
Stop me if someone already started this thread...

The movie is sort of an investigational documentary into the excessively violent nature of the USA, as compared to the rest of the world.
It actually focuses on guns, but the main idea is:
In many countries, pop culture (music/movies) is very similar, weapon availability is similar, and there are many levels of unemployment, like Canada having around 2X the rate of USA.
But: why are US citizens shooting each other like crazy?? The movie cites death-by-firearm rates as around 100-500 deaths/year in most countries but over 11,000 yearly in the US.

The movie is VERY provocative and displays what a grim place this county is in a lot of ways, and is pretty well done.
I'll try not to spoil the movie, but what do you all think is the reason for the drastically different numbers of shooting deaths, especially child shootings (Columbine, etc), in the USA?
--JW

Deb Fisher
10-28-2002, 04:50 PM
Hey Jonathan, how's SF treating you?

Yeah, I saw Bowling For Columbine - and yes it is very relevant and provocative (even if MMore is a sucker for easy targets and corn sometimes - Leaving the picture on Charelton Heston's driveway??? How hamfisted can you get!)

I think he got it right; I think the difference is fear. I'll not say anything else... I've already given away the emotional, gutwrenching climax, but I will say that I left that movie wishing I were Canadian.

Our culture is unbelievably perverse.

Kevin Wilbanks
10-28-2002, 08:29 PM
I used to like Moore, but his work has become (and mostly always was) so strident, shallow, and propagandistic that I am no longer a fan. He's basically like a Rush Limbaugh of the left with a clever imagination and filmmaking skills. I haven't seen this new one, but I would be surprised if he offers any real penertrating insights.

I think if you want to look into the violent nature of the US, you would have to look deep into American history and the events and attitudes that shaped a people that started as a few meager colonies and grew into a world-dominating empire in just a few hundred years. That requires a lot of ambition and turmoil - a lot of broken eggs.

As far as individual gun ownership and attitudes about self-defense, you have to think about the fact that just a few generations ago, using a gun against other people was a necessary part of life in most of lower 48 landmass. My great grandfather on my mother's side made his living by scouting for the Army and the Rangers in Texas - helping to kill indians so my ancestors could live safely on their homesteads. It was just an historical eyeblink ago that most of my ancestors were using guns to kill indians in order to take their land, and defend themselves against all kinds of killers, robbers, and theives in places where there wasn't much in the way of law enforcement.

I think that many of the indian tribes in the plains and the southwest were so wily, clever, and fierce as warriors that successfully subjugating/exterminating them caused a profound transformation in the consciousness and worldview of the conquerors (us). Not only are there the realities of these kind of dynamics, but then there's the way they get folded into the national mythology/entertainment and how that has played out.

I could go on and on, and I'm not even the shadow of a half-assed historian (the books are too boring). Anyway, I think it's an interesting question for an open-ended investigation. Unfortunately, Moore specializes in simple-mindedness and cheap shots.

Genex
10-29-2002, 05:19 AM
Seriously, i think the constitution should be changed to say no one can bare arms, because as it stands the american public cannot be trusted with firearms i mean when your whold justice system is based on a set of roolz that say that any headjob can own a gun your bound to end up with a few dead, but in the states its like oh hey that was my last cookie (bang) hey man you shot my bro (bang) oops gang war...

Or theres the classic "angel" scenario those that think they are the angel of death because they got fired/were attacked by too many dogs/got bad grades/girlfriend ran off with another girl...

this sniper business is exactly the reason the constitution should be changed, i mean WHY would he have a reason to go round and cap a load of ppl he doesnt know (does he work for the post office?) what are his motives? it makes no sense.

Here in england guns were banned to all but the strictest ppl you can now legaly only own things like shotguns or rifles (hunting types) but you must have an active reason for owning one (farmer, dear farmer, private estate, part of a gun club) you must have it all locked and secure and you need permits up to your ass just to swing it about in the middle of the country with just sheep for 10 miles. Pistols are illigal thanks to a psycho that decided to walk into a primary school and waste a class full of kids (angel job)

tis nutz.

end the madness!

pete

paw
10-29-2002, 06:39 AM
I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, so I can't comment on the movie yet. Moore definately has an agenda, and I tend to agree with a number of his views. (I also think he's very witty and a fine film maker)

However, the FBI just released the crime statistics for 2001. While violent crime is up 2.5 percent, there were several years of decline prior to 2000. Unless, I misread the report, there were 8,719 murders with firearms (out of a total 15,980). Seems to me the 11,000 figure is incorrect? There are also statistics Moore isn't going to bring up, like how many times a firearm is used by a law abiding citizen to prevent a violent crime (I've seen numbers ranging from 800,000 to 2.5 million).

Let me share two stories and save further comments until I've seen the film. Story number one: At a mall in the nice part of town, a woman collapsed upon entering the mall. Immediately (and I do mean immediately...people called 911 as soon as she fell) no less than 3 folks called 911 on their cell phones. It was 5 minutes until the EMTs arrived (and I thought that was a very good response time). However, 5 minutes is a very long time if someone's trying to hurt you. (You can enter a judo shiai to get an idea)

Story number two: A 31 year old man was beaten to death by a group of boys raging in age from 17 to 10. The man fled from the group and entered a home, but the group dragged him out of the home. No firearms involved. No weapons other than what the group grabbed while chasing the man.

Kevin Wilbanks
10-29-2002, 08:45 AM
Pete,

All I can say is that I'm glad you aren't a US voter. An analogy with England isn't valid, largely for the historical reasons I brought up in my prior post. America already is, and always has been inundated with firearms.

Framing it as a question of whether or not the Government should "let people have them" is ridiculous. The only way the Government could exert this much control over the populace and it's posessions would be a totalitarian state on the order of Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany. It would mean declaring martial law, searching everyone's homes, road block check points, etc... The prevention of this sort of thing is the real reason the constitution gives us the right to be armed in the first place.

The vast majority of the population CAN be trusted with firearms - the overwhelming majority of owners use them safely and never hurt anyone or do anything illegal with them. If Paul's stats are anywhere near correct, then they are used at least a couple of orders of magnitude more times to prevent crimes than they are to commit murders.

Deb Fisher
10-29-2002, 04:04 PM
Geez Kevin, why not just spend the six bucks and see a matinee? What could it hurt?

I know he's got a real penchant for over-simplification, but you're really giving up on MMore - seeing what you expect to see, when really the most interesting part of the movie is that it is not categorically anti-gun.

There's actually a whole argument about how many guns the people in Canada have (tons!!) and how many gun murders there are (very, very, very few compared to us).

I found the movie compelling because he really convinced me that it's not the guns, it's us, and that's a fairly nuanced argument to make. His argument actually sounds similar to your complex thoughts on this matter.

Kevin Leavitt
10-29-2002, 09:55 PM
Well the gun debate issue is a very interesting one indeed.

I am not sure controlling guns would do any good to reduce killings on a grand scale. Sure it would have some effect since it would be harder to commit a murder and it would have to be on a more interpersonal level. But in the big picture...think murder rate would still be high.

I knew as soon as the sniper situation developed that the gun control debate would pop up again.

I think the by trying to control guns you are attacking the symptom and not the root of the problem. Yes, if you take away the tool, it would make it less convienent, but a new tool will be substituted.

The problem in the U.S. in cultural and social in nature. Not an easy problem to solve.

Look at these points. Guns are illegal to own in most big cities such as New York and Wash DC. Still have violent crime with guns.

Marijuana and drugs are illegal in U.S.....still have huge drug businesses.

Prohibition made alcohol illegal look how well that worked!

I think the public has become desensitized to violence and we over the years have de-humanized people. We are largely a transactional based society. I spend the large part of my day interacting with people to perform transactions and make money to feed my family...very few real interpersonal/core value based relationships.

We cut each other off in traffic, we worry about someone cutting in line in front of us in the store, we go home and watch people killed in one hour tv shows, get up and go at it again.

Read the Book "On Killing". It convinced me of what we need to do in order to improve things.

These snipers didn't see there victims as people, mothers, fathers, sisters, friends etc...he saw them as objects...non-humans, targets.

Our society created them, we need to take responsibility for them.

Then there's the death penality. So, not that it was enough for these guys to comit the unspeakable acts, but now we must act revenge on them to satisfy our own need for blood and sentence them to death....I too struggle with my anger (I was within a half a mile when one person was killed)...but I really don't know what killing them will do to make things any better for me....but it does serve to desensitize us towards killing as humans!

Brian H
10-30-2002, 04:19 PM
The United States has over 80,000,000 gun owners. Compared to that, the number of Murderers is rather small (especially when many of the murders represent multiple killings by one suspect) Doctors in the United States kill more of their patients through negligent acts than all firearm deaths.

The 11,000 figure often quoted by Mr. Moore is not murders, but "all firearm deaths" which includes suicides. To me this is somewhat dishonest, in that taking away guns only prevents people from committing suicide with guns, but does nothing to prevent suicides. Japan has stringent gun laws, but one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Japan also had a mass school murder recently where the suspect used nothing but a knife. Gun control did not save those kids.

Removing every gun from the world would do nothing to brighten evil mens hearts, but would remove a valuable defensive tool from the hands of good people.

England banned most guns, only to have a massive increase in crime (it does not help that they have also basically negated the whole principle of self-defense as a matter of law).

Areas of the US that have “lax” gun laws have lower murder and crime rates than places with strict gun control. Why, criminals are cowards and fear the thought of armed victims.

The state of Vermont basically has no gun laws. If it is legal for you own a gun (not a felon, wife beater, drunk, junky, or psycho) you may carry it concealed without a permit just in case a felon, wife beater, drunk, junky, or psycho should come along and wish to do you great bodily harm (don’t believe me : www.packing.org ). High crime, murder, wild west style road rage gun fights? NO, the opposite is true!

Murder is about the evil in men's hearts, not the tools they use.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=4179

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=3934

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=3893

JW
10-31-2002, 01:21 AM
Areas of the US that have “lax” gun laws have lower murder and crime rates than places with strict gun control. Why, criminals are cowards and fear the thought of armed victims.

The state of Vermont basically has no gun laws. If it is legal for you own a gun (not a felon, wife beater, drunk, junky, or psycho) you may carry it concealed without a permit just in case a felon, wife beater, drunk, junky, or psycho should come along and wish to do you great bodily harm (don’t believe me : www.packing.org ). High crime, murder, wild west style road rage gun fights? NO, the opposite is true!
Yeah, this type of thing says the same idea as the movie.

In short: although US has a rep for having lots of guns, the number of guns doesn't really correlate strongly with number of deaths; there must be something else at the heart of it.

So actually, when I started this thread I was kind of on the same quest as M Moore--since it isn't high gun availability that is responsible for a hugely disproportionate number of firearm murders (8000/yr is still over 10X other countries), what is it?

Oh and Moore presents some (if slightly incomplete and biased) data that argues against the "history of violence" argument for why we have all these deaths. Like the idea that lots of countries are born out of war, and that Canada has the same history of wild frontiers and indian murders.

I don't know.... Moore has some good points but I am not sure I ENTIRELY agree with him.. I am in between him and some of the posts here. I just think it is a very interesting question and there are probably a lot more answers out there than the 2 or 3 ideas expressed in the thread so far and the ideas in the movie.

I would probably agree more with what has been said if it weren't for such a HUGE difference in number of deaths here and elsewhere.

Then again, the statistic about "successful gun self-defense" is interesting, and I don't really know good numbers comparing gun ownership here and in Canada.. so maybe it really is just that we have more guns, and the murder rate of gun usage here is actually very small (relatively speaking).

Great posts..

--JW

opherdonchin
10-31-2002, 09:54 PM
The thing that I don't understand about arguments against gun control is that they often equate measures that seem very reasonable to me -- like a waiting period for buying a gun, or ballistic testing on all new guns, or registration of all guns -- with the truly draconic idea of simply refusing to allow people to own guns. I'm strongly in favor of any law-abiding citizen who wants to own a gun being allowed to own one. On the other hand, I'm also strongly in favor of regulating gun ownership at least as heavily as car ownership is regulated.

Abasan
11-01-2002, 01:29 AM
Actually, i don't think guns are the problem. Unless I misread it somewhere, I believe that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per person on average in the world, something like 2.5 per person. You don't hear about a crazy swiss shooting classrooms of kids so sniping them after work.

Mayhaps, it all boils down to family values. I believe the traditional moral values are deteriorating in the modern world where both parents end up working and not spending enough time with the kids to bring them up properly. And instead, leaving it to surrogate parents and not properly empowering them to do the job.

I would love to have guns here, but now I'm not so sure. Its too easy to reach for it in moments of heated tension. When you have some sort of 'power' over others, you may put yourself in unnecessary risk which would then justify your use of that 'power'.

PeterR
11-01-2002, 02:20 AM
Actually, i don't think guns are the problem. Unless I misread it somewhere, I believe that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per person on average in the world, something like 2.5 per person. You don't hear about a crazy swiss shooting classrooms of kids so sniping them after work.
But if I remember correctly most of those guns are registered, even the ammo is controlled. Not only that but the owners are trained how to use the weapons within the context of national defense. So what we have is REGISTERED, RESPONSIBLE gun ownership. Hmmm, on to something here.

Brian H
11-01-2002, 09:38 AM
Peter,

State funded, mandatary ownership of fully automatic rifles and training to boot!!

Great idea!! To join : www.nra.org :)

Waiting periods, as a "safety measure," is basically a "feel good" fallacy. They directly effect one group only: Law abiding first time gun owners.

Obviously, anyone who already owns a gun is not prevented from using a gun, because they already have one. And criminals, by definition, don't obey the law anyway and will get their weapons from illegal/unregulated sources (The UK is an example of a nation that banned most guns only to have gun crimes increase).

My opinion is that much of the violence (particularly spree killings) in the US is as a result of the increasing trend for people not to take responsibility for their own actions/life. If nothing is "your fault" then it is not such a great leap to take from others by violence or to show up at work and shoot your co-workers because "they made you fail."

I suppose that Japan would be the opposite extreme, where most blame is inner directed, resulting in high suicide rates.

Somewhere in the middle is where personal failure or achievement does not cost a life (yours or someone else's)

Non-violence is about respect for life, not the use of weapons.

Deb Fisher
11-01-2002, 12:52 PM
Brian wrote:

"Non-violence is about respect for life, not the use of weapons."

Yes, this is the issue. This is what I think Moore is getting at. I think Jonathan's goal in this thread is to pose the question:

What makes Americans so uniquely bad at respecting eachothers' lives?

I think there are clues all over our daily lives. In Southern California, anyway, there is an amazing tendency for people to forget that they have a sphere of influence, that they affect others. I have never had so many doors not held open for me by the person in front of me, never been walked into as much (usually by someone on a cell phone), never asked so many people to stop having conversations in movie theatres as I have since I moved here. I think this has to do with car-culture, with enclosing ones' body in a wheeled pod and conducting almost all business from the security of this very obvious physical boundary.

I think this creates obliviousness - a lack of understanding that what happens within this pod can affect the space outside the pod - and also isolation and fear. People who live in cities, who have to jostle and be jostled daily, who have to be a real part of the world seem less afraid to play, to have conversations with strangers, to be a part of what is going on around them. I believe they are also more polite, more understanding of their sphere of influence.

Bowling For Columbine posed gun violence as a primarily suburban phenomenon. The suburbs are spatially all about this sense of creating distinct physical boundaries - single family homes, walled yards, driving instead of walking etc etc. I think Moore would argue that it's city planning based on fear - fear of crime, the "Inner City Youth" (read black male), etc.

It's a problem with an interesting spatial dimension (which should be interesting to aikidoka). Fear creates isolation, which breeds systems of isolation, which in turn begins a process of collective forgetting. We forget that we impact one another, we forget that we need and respect eachother. There are many books about the community-less nature of the suburb. Paradoxically, insulated clusters of nuclear families who don't have any need to interact will not protect or love or respect one another in the same way the communities living in urban environments that are more spatially complex, more "dangerous", with more distressing variables *will* respect and care for eachother.

Of course, this is a simplification of an argument that does not include, for instance, a major factor like poverty - but there is still a lot to be said for the idea that the very spatial systems we create to foster a sense of safety and protection are in fact cleaving us from one another.

I think also that this is interesting in an aikido context because aikido is all about learning to distrust our more instinctive notions of self-protection and fear. Inviting and entering an attack, connecting/communicating with an attacker, receiving an attack fully before responding with technique, not just learning to respect uke, but learning to respect the fact that the attack or situation needs to happen - this is wisdom that runs counter to the wall-building, insular, dare I say *preemptive* logic of the suburb, a logic that seems (according to Moore, and I agree) to be creating more violence than it prevents.

JW
11-01-2002, 01:45 PM
I love this!
I think this has to do with car-culture, with enclosing ones' body in a wheeled pod and conducting almost all business from the security of this very obvious physical boundary.

...

a primarily suburban phenomenon. The suburbs are spatially all about this sense of creating distinct physical boundaries - single family homes, walled yards, driving instead of walking etc etc. I think Moore
OK this is cool. Moore suggested suburbs=life-in-fear, but now I realize how much this could be something really at the root of things:

What does the US have that other countries don't have? Heavy car usage! Everybody else has trains and busses every 5 minutes or whatever, and here is the US, a nation whose infrastructure has been built in this modern age of personal car usage and suburban sprawl(unlike the old cities in other countries)!

So if it isn't guns or anything obvious like that, this could be a big part of it.

Cheers Deb..

Your comments about how on-the-mat aikido relates to this thread is really really great. Uh, I mean, that's what I was getting at all along. ;)

Wow, this brings to me a lot of big new ways to think about aikido.

It is always good to think about aikido from a modern point of view, to keep it real and honest.

I will definitly look at the way I view safety, fear, self-protection, and love for others in a new light the next time I go to the dojo. Thanks..

And Brian, you are right about the "not my fault" connection. I can't remember if that was mentioned in the movie. The amount and frivolity of lawsuits these days I mean.

Is that a word, frivolity? Anyway.

But I wonder to what degree most people agree with the not-my-fault philosophy, I mean we all frown upon it, right?

I have a feeling that whatever it is that is making the US such a violent place is not something weird and isolated in some individuals, but rather something that is in all of us, creating a collective cultural environment that nurtures violence.

--JW

Brian H
11-01-2002, 02:29 PM
I don't know if "suburbs" are the proverbial root cause of anything. I have an active social life with several of my neighbors. We spend time sitting out watching the kids play, chatting and generally socializing. No invitation are issued and anybody would be welcome to join in. The demographics are diverse and age ranges from 2 years old to early 90s. Even the dogs and the occasional wild animal (baby racoons are cute) join in.

This sound like suburbatopia, but less than half of the people on my little street join in.

The walls we build are some what more personal. When I need some "personal space," I often go to very public, if not crowded places. You can be very alone in a packed movie theater or museum. Just saying "Living in XXXXX is better for your soul" is not the right answer.

People just need to be more polite and open in general.

Deb Fisher
11-01-2002, 03:56 PM
Brian wrote:

"Just saying "Living in XXXXX is better for your soul" is not the right answer."

You're right - this is not exactly what I meant.

Brian wrote:

"This sound like suburbatopia, but less than half of the people on my little street join in. "

This is what I am talking about. Of course humans are complex and adaptable and very very social, and therefore can and do create meaningful communities in many conditions - but you admit yourself that less than half of your population indulges in community building. The space is defined: razing the vast plain of strip malls and housing developments that have replaced traditional, eastern seabord-style city planning is not an option - it would be unbelievably expensive, it would displace too many people.

How, then, do we deal with a space that was born out of fear and racism, and that continues to feed that fear by isolating its residents from one another?

How do we get to the place where people are polite and open in general?

I think we agree - I wonder specifically how you deal with the suburbs, because obviously you're dealing with something right.