No Power Comes For Free

To The Reader’s Forum:

The other day a Facebook connection of mine posted a meme with a happy beagle, tongue out, ears flopping, running ecstatically towards the camera. The caption read something like “me on my way to pick up a new gun”.

This got me thinking: While I, myself am the owner of a hunting rifle the picking up of a new gun would hardly elicit this sort of response from me. With some effort I am however able to recall two recent events that made me giddy at this level. They were the purchase of a rather large telescope mirror and a visit to the book Mecka of Powell’s house of books in Portland.

While the three products: a gun, a telescope mirror and books may seem worlds apart in character I believe they all promised the same thing, leading to the same giddiness in my friend and I. The promise is power. In the case of the telescope mirror by raising me in the pecking order among science aficionados and in the case of the books by increasing my understanding of the world. These are real powers that can be wielded to my benefit.

Unless my friend intends to go out on the street robbing people, the properties of the power promised by the gun are vastly different though. They are purely illusory. If you ask the owner he or she might claim that the gun, on an increasing scale of delusion, provides the following powers: those of self-defense, self-reliance or protection against tyranny. However, what it really does is make the owner feel more substantial by filling out his underwear a bit. In reality nothing has changed and his level of power relative to the rest of us is constant.

The acquisition of a big gun gives a powerless individual the chance to feel a bit better about himself. It is therefore not a coincidence that NRA members are over-represented within the supporters of Trump. Making second class citizens of immigrants and LGBT people and classifying third world countries as shit-holes elevates his supporters over these lower strata, and thereby empowers them relative to these unfortunates.

Who can blame the President though? Delivering such fictitious power is of course much easier than changing the real power structures of society. Putting the responsibility of systems gone awry on a despotic ruler appears to be fashionable. However, once the poverty and subsequent ignorance of the masses reaches a certain threshold the only ruler that can be supported by a democratic system is one with a simplified agenda handing out free power candy. The responsibility is therefore only partly the ruler’s, while the bulk rests with the electorate.

Therefore, to conclude, the only way for our country to sort out either the gun issue or our mockery of government is for the people in general to realize that no power comes for free. Once this realization has been made we will also realize that neither guns nor overly simplified political solutions are solutions to our powerlessness.

Karl Holmgren