Without a Shot

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two news stories demonstrate that philosophical ideas are far more potent than they look to many people.

First, we see well-armed people in South Africa being terrorized by baboons, a relatively modern problem in a place those beasts inhabited first:

Before laws afforded baboons a protected status a decade ago, troublesome animals were regularly killed or maimed by home owners and farmers. Now around 20 full-time "baboon monitors" are employed to protect them and guide them away from residential areas. It has proved mission impossible. Last week, a 12 year old boy was left traumatised after confronting a troop who had broken into his family home.
Amazingly -- and to the point -- the baboons have their champions even after this:
In a concession to despairing residents, wildlife authorities have begun collaring baboons identified as "troublesome" and imposed a strict "three strikes" policy whereby animals which repeatedly break into homes are humanely destroyed.


[This dangerous animal's] death last month was greeted with outrage and jubilation in equal measure and dominated the letters pages of the local newspapers for weeks. [bold added]
One wonders, particularly after hearing an animal researcher quoted in the piece as saying that human beings have been "tak[ing] up more and more of their [the baboons' (!) --ed] land," whether anything would change if the animals simply started killing people in their own homes before "striking out."

A nation's laws outline the circumstances under which a government will use force against human beings. Here, the law is being used to threaten people who might want to perform an ordinary chore for the purpose of remaining alive: defend themselves from animals (which cannot, by their very nature, be expected to obey any law). When human beings are regarded as not having the basic right to reside on their own planet, laws will cease fulfilling their role in protecting those inalienable rights. South Africa's government is on the side of the baboons, due to the moral premise that nature has intrinsic value. Until enough people know why that premise is wrong and reject it, South Africa will have such laws on its books because too many of its citizens will support such laws.

In the United States, we also face having our weapons taken away from us for precisely the same reason. Fortunately, we have time to stop this from happening -- or only a temporary reprieve, if we don't challenge it on a moral level:
In a swift and unexpected decision, the Environmental Protection Agency today rejected a petition from environmental groups to ban the use of lead in bullets and shotgun shells, claiming it doesn't have jurisdiction to weigh on the controversial Second Amendment issue. The decision came just hours after the Drudge Report posted stories from Washington Whispers and the Weekly Standard about how gun groups were fighting the lead bullet ban. [minor format edits]
For now, we can still legally purchase ammunition with lead, although anglers may still soon become unable to use lead sinkers. (Who honestly believes this issue won't come back, like a monster from a bad horror movie?) But the EPA is still in place, as is the common notion that animals have rights, and that the government's job is to protect nature from man, rather than individual men from other men.

Unless the latter changes, the former won't, and until both disappear, a government gun remains pointed in our general direction. For actions that harm no one remain unjustly condemned, and, therefore, against the spirit of a kind of law whose purpose is anything but helping us live in a society with other human beings.

I can almost hear certain kinds of conservatives shouting, partially incredulous, and partially in denial, something to the effect of, "Americans will never let anyone take their guns!" Well, I bet that even a generation or two ago, the idea of South Africans meekly allowing baboons into their homes and fields would have met ridicule. And yet, because people have been persuaded over a generation or two that nature is good regardless of context, this is the case today.

The swiftness of this horrifying change is hardly cause for despair. To the contrary, it shows how -- and how quickly -- those of us who want to continue living as human beings can turn things around.

-- CAV

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