My dear friends on the other sideDecember 15, 2012
My dear friends on the other side of the ocean!
I feel with you and moan with you about the 20 dead children in Sandy Hook Elementary school. This is a terrible tragedy!
I have to admit I’m a bit numbed by the constant reports about killed children. I’m running out of tears.
Three days ago a car packed with explosives blew up near a school in a residential part of Qatana, Syria. 16 people were killed, including seven children and three women, nearly two dozen people were wounded.
34 Palestinian children died in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
I’m a bit numbed and mentally exhausted but I’m still able to connect the dots.
There are a lot of guns and explosives around, these tools of destruction don’t come from nowhere! Who produces and distributes the guns and other military equipment, where are the paymasters of the violent psychopaths who pull the triggers and detonate the bombs?
I live in the small European country where one of the most popular pistols is made. http://www.glock.com/
I’m not proud about it and I hate the idea that my name could be associated with weapons production just for the reason that I have the same nationality as Gaston Glock. I’m not proud that in a tiny segment of the market the company Glock outperformed Smith & Wesson.
My dear friends on the other side of the ocean, you don’t have to worry about being outperformed, because, apart from the tiny company Glock, well established US corporations dominate arms manufacturing and arms trade. The USA is undoubtedly the biggest muscle and the unchallenged master of weapons manufacturing and it leads the competition by a wide margin.
In 2011, the USA exported weapons worth 66.3 billion US$, which is 78 percent of the global arms market.
Manufacturing military equipment is the most profitable business and the weapons industry is the politically best connected lobbying group. In the USA this special interest group is called “the Military Industrial Complex.”
A significant part of the weapons companies output is meant for the domestic market. The USA has the biggest military budget (711 billion US$, which is 41 percent of global military expenditures) and the Pentagon is with a workforce of 3.2 million the biggest global employer. The USA maintains between 600 and 800 military basis abroad.
The USA has 11 nuclear powered aircraft carriers and 71 nuclear powered submarines (more than all other navies together). The USAF and the Navy operate 5,000 aircraft, 2,200 cruise missiles, 700 drones, 500 LGM-30G Minuteman missiles with nuclear warheads plus 288 Trident-2 D5 missiles (on submarines) with nuclear warheads.
How could it be different? Weapons, especially guns and shooting, are a part of US American identity and US citizens have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms (Second Amendment). In 2008 and 2010, the US Supreme Court clarified that this right is unconnected to the service in a militia and indeed constitutes an individual’s right to possess a firearm.
My dear friends across the ocean, the cherished individual freedoms that are part of US identity come at a price.
The freedom from accountability for environmental damages comes at a price.
The freedom to acquire as much wealth as possible comes at a price.
The freedom from environmental, financial, social regulations and restrictions comes at a price.
The freedom to possess weapons comes at a price.
The USA has the highest gun ownership rate in the world (an average of 88 firearms per 100 people), US Americans possess between 240 and 260 million guns, that are roughly 40 percent of all globally civilian-owned guns.
As I wrote before, manufacturing military equipment is the most profitable business and the weapons industry is the politically best connected lobbying group. The freedom to make any kind of products which can be sold profitably comes at a price.
The freedom to produce and distribute arms comes at a price, but the price is not paid evenly!
The guns, which are constantly made in big numbers are put to use in the strategic moves of the worlds big players, who are trying to destabilize countries and who are fanning the flames of war by pouring out their cornucopia of weapons onto even the meanest and heinous thugs, thereby causing indescribable pain and suffering all around the world (Syria, Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan, to name just a few of the most recent imperial projects).
The occasional shooting sprees by deranged individuals in the USA are only faint reflections (one could also call it “straying beams”) of the shooting sprees that gunmen all over the world commit with US produced and US delivered weapons and there are for sure at least 20 children dying every day in the worlds conflict zones outside the USA.
Newtown (Sandy Hook Elementary) is not Aleppo, Blacksburg (Virginia Tech) is not Homs — far from! This is not even collateral damage, this is a negligible (from a financial point of view) side effect of an enormous profitable business from which all US citizens (more or less) benefit. Weapons manufacturing is the one industrial branch where the USA is second to none and where US America can easily outperform any competition. Without weapons manufacturing the USA would have gone bust long time ago.
I moan about the 20 dead children in Sandy Hook Elementary school as I moan about all the other slain children of the world. This is a terrible worldwide tragedy!
Nina Westbury wrote a blog post which is also a comment here and I answer it in the form of an update, because visitors may not necessarily look at the comment section.
We probably (unfortunately) will have enough occasions in future to use our combined thoughts and the resulting formulations in the framework of a comprehensive discussion.
Specialization, competition, individualism, exemptionalism, consumerism, materialism. The chapter titles alone don’t help much, I mention them as quasi contents and I will draw and publish the diagram of a possible structure of the issues.
A few additional points:
There are many disturbed, traumatized, psychopathic people. I wouldn’t even dare to claim, that their number is higher as in earlier generations — this world never was a nice place.
In former times people were able to heal their mental wounds, their mental sicknesses by reconnecting with nature, by retreating to a quiet place and meditating, by focussing on meaningful tasks that brought them respect and admiration, by integration in the community and help from their relatives and friends.
Today the mentally sick get drug therapy or they are ignored and pushed aside.
Most of us live in an unnatural world, surrounded by technical gadgets. Most of us live in a noisy environment and our senses are overloaded by bright colors, flashing lights, pop music beats, traffic noise, industrial noise, chemical scents. We sit for hours in front of the computer, not moving much.
We are not designed for that!
Jenniver Browdy de Hernandez posted two pieces who also contribute essential thoughts to the discussion:
New emerging details from the shooting confirm the view of my fellow bloggers and me.
Adam Lanza, the perpetrator, lived with his mother, Nancy Lanza. He was maybe troubled by the family divorce in 2008. He had dropped out of school, he had no friends, he kept to himself and was very quiet. One family friend described him as a gamer who “rarely spoke.”
His mother was a gun enthusiast who often took her son to one of the nearby shooting ranges and who loved to talk about her gun collection. She became his first victim.
Now we know how to raise a mass murderer.
All of Lanza’s adult victims are women. This confirms a familiar pattern of mass shootings. The perpetrators are all male (did we ever hear about gunwomen?), the victims are mostly female.
It is the same all over the world.
Despite a string of mass shootings the trend to ease legislative gun restrictions in the USA is unbroken. On December 14, one day before the most recent massacer, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill that allows people to carry concealed weapons in schools and Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that allows guns in cars at the statehouse garage. A few days before a federal appeals court struck down a ban to carry concealed weapons in Illinois and Florida officials announced that they would soon issue their millionth concealed weapon and firearm license — or, as a state news release put it, the program would be “One Million Strong.”
Jenniver Browdy de Hernandez refers in one of her blog post to 300 million firearms in the USA, while I put the number at 240 to 260 million. Both numbers are estimations and based on data from 2010. 300 million is a number that is based on reports from weapons manufacturers.
US citizens not only enjoy the freedom to possess weapons, they are also in most states free from registering them.
I used the more conservative estimation to avoid criticism of gun right advocates.
Gun sales in the USA were constantly rising since ten years but the sales have accelerated now and especially assault weapons like AK-47 are flying off the shelves with people often standing in line to get one as producers have difficulties to meet the growing demand. There are some 12 to 14 million guns sold annually, so the actual number of firearms could be even higher than 300 millions. But nobody knows for sure how many guns US inhabitants have at their disposal.
BTW: Wal-Mart is the biggest US seller of firearms and ammunition.