Sunday, December 06, 2015

Packing Heat - How Handguns and Air Conditioners Only Make it Hotter.

Another mass shooting? I'll just get a gun to protect myself.

It's rational to seek out ways to defend yourself when feeling a heated threat but sometimes such defensive reactions provide only short term psychological respite followed by greater threats. How you choose to cool off might be the thing that makes it worse for everyone in the long run, including you.

There is always a tension between what's good for one and what's good for the whole. Sometimes our instinctually driven responses to fear seem irresistible in the immediate frame but only make it worse in the long run. The reactionary forces within us refuse to look at the radical structural changes required and instead focus on short term offensive decisions to quickly turn the tables. 

Imagine this: It starts to get increasingly hot inside a room so people start getting personal air conditioners to cool themselves. The exhaust from the AC's greatly raises the temperature in the room which started heating in the first place because of all of the personal AC's in the room. Simple calculus and thermodynaics; If you open the fridge door to cool off, the room will become hotter, not cooler. More air conditioning introduces more net heat into the system, more guns create more net gun danger. If your reaction is to introduce more heat into the system in order to cool the system then it's doomed to ultimately fail.

This is a feedback loop and very similar to the structure of an arms race. Such arms races are disastrous for everyone involved, except those selling guns and air conditioners. 

The individual personal logic is not completely unsound. It might make you feel better in the short term to get your own AC to cool off or a handgun to temporarily cool your fears but perpetuating an environment in which there are more and more elements contributing to heated and heating levels guarantees that it will only get worse for everyone unless we decide to open the windows, throw out the AC's and maybe design buildings so that the air flows better and very few people feel the need to get their own saving device in the first place. 

The decision to pack heat to cool things off may or may not protect you (nearly all sober investigations show that it almost certainly won't and will more likely harm you or someone close to you). Your fear is real and your reactions are rational but we have to try to look past our personal bubble. If we continue to overreact to danger we will continue be in ever greater danger.

Much reactionist posturing is based on personal fear, the insidious perpetuation of fear by politicians and corporate media, and the resulting self-defeating over-reaction to that fear by the citizentry. 

Just because there are violent crazed outliers, hot sticky rooms or extremely rare adverse reactions to preventive medicine doesn't mean I should react in a way to make it worse for everyone, including myself in the long run simply because I feel a need to douse my immediate fear. Avoiding reflexive selfish action based on fear is that which allows us to work together to make it better for everyone. 

1 comment:

Dale MacLean said...

Great blog, Jake!
I think you touch on a basic weakness in the American psyche; the Randian promotion of the concept of the individual versus society. It also explains America's steadfast opposition of universal healthcare. Why help others when they should be helping themselves? This radical individualism quite naturally leads to a fear of "that which is other", at least amongst those less privileged in the areas of travel and education.
I don't think the availability of guns is the sole cause of America's gun issue. For the most part, it seems that it is a society afraid of itself, in which its citizens and the various communities within, are afraid of one another. It's gun culture, plus the culture of radical individualism, that has resulted in this "epidemic" of gun violence.