29 July 2010

On one kind of American psyche

 Or--"Why I love my revolver more than my mobile phone."

I like Edwin Leap; I get his blog through RSS regularly, and if he is a little down-home Will Rogers-ish for a European taste, so be it. The list of awards to the right of the page testifies to how he is received in the US.

Every so often, though, a post from one of the US bloggers I casually follow acutely exposes a massive gulf between their mind-set and mine. (I am not so daft as to generalise this beyond the few people I follow, none of whom have been chosen for their extremism or freakery but simply for their interesting take on their world.) And this one is not merely any old gulf. It's a Grand Canyon (sorry about mixing geographical metaphors).

Actually, it is a classic statement and it is worth quoting at some length:
"The phone represents connection.  Especially a smart-phone, since it connects me not only to those I love, but in essence to the entire world in a way unfathomable a few short decades ago.  I can tap the World Wide Web from the comfort of my car or anywhere else, simply by pulling out my phone.  The phone represents the collective knowledge of humanity and our interdependency. [...] It allows me,  [...] to call others to my rescue, to ask others’ opinions, to check the collective opinion on millions of potential websites.

What about my little Smith and Wesson model 640?  Well, it isn’t about collective communication; though the sound of it being discharged will probably bring interested parties to investigate.  It has no communication device located anywhere on the frame.  It has three functions, as I see it.  It reassures me.  It may discourage those who would harm me or my family.  It is capable of causing harm.

Philosophically, it is light years from the phone.  Because it requires that I be master of my own fate.  It says, ‘no one will help you, but you, when the chips are down.’  The help summoned by a phone may not arrive for a very long time, as I live in ‘the sticks.’  The revolver says, ‘you must be accountable for this decision; you must carry and use me safely and you must use my capacity for injury with a profound awareness of morality, ethics and of the value of life.’   The revolver is about individuality.

Americans, Westerners in general, are slowly abdicating responsibility for self and embracing the collective.  The question is always, ‘who will help me?  Who will pay for me?  Who will give me? Who will come to me?  Who will allow me to do nothing while they do something?  Who can I blame?  Who will excuse me?’

This is a travesty.  This will be one of the deepest wounds to our nation, to our way of life.  Not the phone itself, which is merely a tool, but the abdication of accountability that communication can falsely represent.

If the law were just, I would gladly carry my revolver everywhere.  I like the phone, and I find it useful.  But I am old school.  I am old Southern.  I am descended from patriots.  I have been responsible for others and continue to be for myself.  I believe in the individual.

Furthermore, I am a physician in an emergency department.  I know what humans are capable of doing.  I love people.  Some of my favorite patients have been in handcuffs.  I joke with them, I like them.  But humans are dangerous.  If you doubt it, read the newspaper.

So in the end, based on my life, my experiences and my philosophy, I can only say that when I reach around my side, I love the feel of that handle far more than the feel of that phone.  And I love what it represents far more than any capacity for communication."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:41 am

    interesting view of the world but also a sad reflection of where humankind is heading. Pity - for such a supposedly intelligent species! What we all want is security - that doesn't necessarily come in the shape of a gun - that represents - BANG! I CAN KILL YOU. Let's hope that some of us can guide our children's children's children to set the path to a more harmonious world (one where the gun is irrelevant and we REALLY communicate with one another, properly).


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