But as horrific and tragic as those effects are, they are but the effects of causes, not the causes themselves, and endlessly dwelling on such effects as the shooters name, ethnicity, religion, angry words, weapon used, favorite politicians, selfies, tweets, apparel...etc., helps no one to better understand the very real causes that lead human beings to deliberately choose to slaughter their fellows. If you want to have a meaningful discussion of those causes which can be identified, then actual causes are what you've got to consider, and sorry, but with apologies to all, bundling a slew of effects together under the labels of 'mental health', 'hatred' & 'racism', won't lead to more meaningful discussions or results, but will only serve as yet another opportunity to trumpet a grisly scorecard in driving an agenda forward.
An Uncomfortable Truth: Those who choose to slaughter their fellows don't do so just because they're 'really angry!' - that may be the excuse given, but more fundamental causes were there well before anger surged them into murderous effects - they do so because they, like the gun-grabbers who shriek about confiscating their fellows means of defending their lives, share a belief in using power to force their will upon the lives of their fellows. Both shooter and shrieker alike have an entrenched disregard for the need of each person to be able to use their best judgment in order to live a life worth living, and both share an ignorance, if not an outright contempt for, the role that plays in being able to be respectful of both their own, and other people's lives.
Is that putting it a bit too uncomfortably? I'll grant you that it's more comfortable chattering on about meaningless effects than it is to consider meaningful causes, but as it's true, I humbly suggest that there's more to be gained by taking a deeper look into those uncomfortable causes, than we'll ever get by chattering on about the same old meaningless effects as if they were meaningful causes. There's a pyramid of deeper causes & ideas (or lack of them) leading up to both the Shooters' & Shreikers' actions, and that entire structure is shared by a great many people throughout our society today, and that should be far more alarming to us than even these horrific slaughters, as they are isolated incidents inflicted upon us by a handful who's character flaws have taken such causes to their most extreme consequences. Imagine what potential horrors might be unleashed as more of their character traits are no longer seen as being flawed... but easily become praised as '“beautiful, painful, and devastating” martyrs for 'the cause'. See the early 20th Century for further reference.
Do you want to tell me that I should be criticizing racism and 'white supremacy' instead? Oh please do, and while you're at it, I'll direct your attention to what it is that racism is itself ultimately a result of: an explicit denial of full humanity 'to some', in exchange for the power to grant unequal powers to a favored few - in ignorance of the fact that to deny our inalienable rights to some, is to deny them to all (themselves included). First and foremost the racist shares in the underlying causal ideas which transform humanity into something less than fully human within their own minds, and the fact that
they consciously express those ideas through race, is an effect of outward appearances, not the cause of what leads them to justify slighting, abusing or even ending the lives of their fellow man.
If we're willing to look at actual causes, one of the deeper causes (not the deepest, by any means, but deeper) which is shared by shooter and shrieker alike, is, as just mentioned, a disregard for the fundamental individual rights of every human being. Terrifyingly, the idea that force is a justifiable response to a disagreement is widespread in our society today, and whether it's expressed as a desire to punch either nazis' or snowflakes', there's a popular eagerness today to force others to be silent, to conform, to back down, to comply with your judgment - and with such a callous disregard towards the thought of liberty flickering in their fellows' breast, is it sane to expect such beliefs to not lead to tragically violent results?
Is it so hard to imagine that such convictions in a person of flawed temperament, will manifest in their feeling justified in disregarding and putting an end to those rights and lives he doesn't value to begin with, when he's chosen a 'reason' or some manifesto of the 'greater good!' which he does value, over them? Understandably we call such behavior crazy. Yet when millions of people feel justified in disregarding the rights and lives of their fellows, forcibly limiting their choices and even imprisoning them for them, in the name of what is popularly seen as being for the 'greater good!' - what are we to call that ... politics?!
If you see no similarities between these two, then you are paying far too much attention to effects, and not nearly enough to causes. Are you so certain of the sound temperament of our times(!) that the calculations of Grant's 'awful arithmetic' need not concern you about who's wearing who down? Tens of millions of people have, over the course of the last century, as a result of their rights being diminished and disregarded, had their lives snuffed out in the name of various manifestos of the 'the greater good!', from Revolutionary France, to the USSR, to Nazi Germany, Communist China, Cambodia, Cuba, and it is on the brink of happening today in Venezuela... and we take no notice? We see no lessons to be learned? The deadly progress of those shared causes are staring out at us from the history and daily news all around us - mute signs that part of the peril of treating effects as causes, is that we don't become aware of the real causes in time to prevent their horrific effects - that's a problem.
Another problem is arguing over the same old political idiocies of guns, crime, party rhetoric, ... video games(!) (one friend even went so far as to blame the 'two party system'(!) - talk about treating effects as causes!), as if those were significant causes of these tragedies, rather than one of many effects which result from common causes. To hear a gunshot that ends a life, and immediately turn & point to a smoking gun as being the most significant cause in the ending of that life, ignoring the hands that aimed and pulled the trigger and the ideas which a person justified that action with, as if those were of no relevance, is... delusional, and oh so easy, and no doubt keeps the more meaningful (shared) causes safely out of sight and out of mind.
|One application of Aristotle's 'Four Causes'|
If, on the other hand, if we take a stab at applying a once common terminology of Four Causes that's now all but forgotten, one that's entirely lost on those willing to consider 'tweets' as cause enough for any event, we can at least begin to put some depth into our understanding of the issue, and grasp what needs to be dealt with in order to put an end to the effects that are being caused all around us. If you want to say that Racism is the most pressing issue facing us, then that puts it in the place of a Material Cause (“that out of which” something is done), which is made visible in the racist's vitriolic words or violent deeds. The next deeper cause, the Formal Cause ('The Form or Shape of' what is brought about), is what shapes that Material Cause into expressing itself in words of malice and acts of violence. What shapes a racist's ability to see other human beings as being less than human, is, as has been the case since before and after SCOTUS Cheif Justice Roger B. Taney denied Dred Scott the right of self defense and liberty, is the denial of those 'inalienable' Individual Rights that are fundamental to all human beings, and are dispensed with on account of meaningless particulars of appearance & circumstance - AKA: mere effects - that are conveniently shared by those it benefits them most to despise.
While to be a racist is to treat humanity as less than human, deriving power from denying individual rights to all, racism is just one Material Cause of many, which the underlying Formal Cause can be expressed through. To accept the outward appearances as being a a significant cause that distinguishes racists from others who justify forcing their will upon their fellows (tyrants, criminals, communists, etc), is as foolish as thinking that a red Ferrari, is substantially different from a black Ferrari. It's important to note here that the same form can produce similar shapes with differing appearances, through different materials. Just as a pie tin can form pies into delicious sweetness, or into hardening mud, the same Formal Cause in the denial of a person's Individual Rights, can just as easily find material expression in racial prejudice, or in justifying tyrannically depriving a person of their property based upon particulars of economic class (and/or race), or in or in denying an entire people their right to keep and bear arms in defense of their lives and property, or in denying and depriving some individuals of their very lives because their inalienable right to their lives was denied to them by their murderer - countless material causes can be shaped by a single formal cause. In each of these cases, though materially very different in appearance, the deeper causes which they were formed from, share at least one formal cause: the denial of individual rights to some (all), and in doing so they put themselves into the power of others who have been privileged by those in power with more power than they do (at the moment), condemning themselves to being able to see nothing but power and privilege, and threats, in everyone they meet - AKA: the perpetual war of all against all.
That's just touching on the top half of the pyramid, and the same issue of many effects coming from one cause, applies to the cause which precedes the Formal Cause as well, going just one level deeper into those of the Efficient Cause ('the primary source of change, the art or advice'), and repeating in the same fashion with the foundation under them all, with the Final cause (“the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”). Some might not want to look at such matters in such a way, but my reply is that if we're not considering these issues to that depth, then we're not having a meaningful discussion of 'the causes' of these tragedies, which leaves us with little to no hope of ending our suicidal slaughter.
If you're confused about this talk of deeper causes (Final-> Efficient-> Formal-> Material ), having been accustomed to thinking of a one dimensional process of 'cause & effect', almost as if people were pinballs, well that too is a meaningful part of the deeper causes of these tragic events, and very much worth being discussed - if we're willing to approach them in the same manner.
In fact, if we could just have those conversations, we'd be far closer to ridding ourselves of these horrifically murderous events, than we could hope to get with yet another post from me (or anyone else) on the particular individual rights that are (and very much need to be) defended by the 2nd Amendment. To have conversations about meaningful causes, would have us actually dealing with causes, rather than effects... and, probably reluctantly, becoming aware of what nearly all modern 'philosophers' despise most:, the hierarchical form and structure of Causes, the old One in the Many. Part of the reason they dislike it so, is that the recognition of hierarchy and the integration of causes and effects, is that it makes it difficult to call for others to 'do something!', without understanding what that 'thing' to be done is, or what will result from it, and who will be affected by it (a politician's nightmare - clue!).
Another Uncomfortable Truth: the 2nd amendment (or the 1st, or any of the others for that matter), can only shield our rights from governmental abuses of them - it can't shield our individual rights from the willfully ignorant abuses from those of our fellows (whether on the level of the neighbor calling you out as a hater for abusing their pronouns, on up the scale to that of Google, Twitter & the New York Times) who give little or no consideration to violating your individual rights for the 'greater good!' The truth is that protecting ourselves from ourselves, is the job of something greater than our laws (a Culture for instance, to be gone into in the next post), and we've all but abandoned that in our society today, which we get around by concentrating upon effects and false arguments - the Bill of Rights isn't there to protect us from crime, and the 2nd Amendment is not about guns - while displaying a disturbingly mystical belief in the power of the written laws of lawmakers to conjure (AKA: 'do something!') a means of somehow preventing those who have no regard for either individual rights, lives, or laws, from breaking laws in order to violate the individual rights of others.
And just as effects aren't causes, neither are things. Not laws, not policies, not arms (no matter whether they are guns, swords, knives, arrows, clubs, or that first murder weapon of choice, rocks) - they too are effects, not causes. If you intend to ignore the real causes, while focusing on having govt take action towards 'fixing' things by treating still more effects as if they were actual causes, then the actual causes will remain right where they are in our lives, unscathed, and having been freshly wound up, they may be depended upon to deliver up even worse effects into all of our lives, while we're all so busy looking the other way. If you're not familiar with the nature of such weak and ill considered 'solutions' as background checks, gun registration, gun confiscation (whether enmasse via Democrats, or piecemeal through the GOP's new affinity for 'Red Flag' laws, I'll post several links to previous posts on them below, but at this moment, those arguments too are but effects, rather than the causes, which are what most need to be examined.
So please, just say no to the lists of effects masquerading as causes: no to the promptings of the news cycle, no to entertainment, no to politics, no to laws, as being causes - they all come at the end, not the beginning, and are painfully inadequate to be dealt with as causes. Treating effects as causes - treating what is unreal as real - can only lead to ever worsening effects.
And as you just say no to treating effects as causes, try saying yes to engaging with the structure of ideas that you guide your life with (AKA: philosophy ), as that's something we need to talk more about, as more interest in that, or in the lack of awareness that most people have that they even have one, that's where the most fundamental causes of our thoughts and actions begin to take shape, and those very real causes can be discussed, and can be openly and reasonably argued through. It is after all the beliefs, ideas and thoughts of a person, which they hold and put into action in their lives, which they use in choosing either to help or to slaughter their fellow man (or at least that part of those causes beyond the act of choice itself which has no cause but the choice itself). If we can stop chasing after all of the sparkly and attention getting effects that are being thrown up in our faces like verbal anti-missile chaff, we might manage to face up to the actual causes that we need to confront, which... I suspect, is at least part of the reason why we avoid facing up to those causes and their presence in our own heads.
And for gawd's sake, please don't be damn fool enough to worry most about the absolute despotism of the State! That too is but an effect. Treat the cause - You & me. Fix those two bickering fools, and you'll fix the rest, state & all - ignore them, and the effects will become magnified beyond all comprehension - see the 20th Century for a hint of what is more than willing to come upon us. Surely there'll come a point where we'll have to bite the bullet and realize that there are no ideas being debated in the 'issues' we've been occupying ourselves in arguing over; only various marketing strategies for the promotion of absolute despotism over ourselves.
At the very least we should face up to the fact that that's what we should be talking about, thinking about, and honestly debating amongst ourselves, if we are ever to have a hope of beginning to resolve them. We sure as hell aren't going to get anywhere by continuing to treat effects as causes, except deeper into an ever deepening pool of ever darker effects.
Not bothering to do the math, we seem more than willing to go after the 'crazies' who've killed countable numbers of us, no matter how drastically those solutions may violate every one's individual rights for the 'greater good!'... while steadfastly ignoring the historical truth that a far more uncountable tens of millions of lives around the world have been lost through entire peoples feeling justified in dismissing and destroying the individual rights and the lives of their 'lesser fellows' for the 'greater good!', taking entire societies over the abyss into genocide - and yet here we are, seriously considering new means of concentrating power into the hands of a few, to violate the individual rights of all, for the 'greater good!'.
Whatever it is we are we to call that, it's got to include a willful blindness to the nature of Causes, and a disregard for the effects that will follow from them. In what way is that either sanity or common sense? If you're not willing to ask that question, then I question how willing you are to have a real discussion about actual causes.
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