an uncomfortable opinion
I am a moderate man, a man of the left. I am a family man, father to 4 children, born in 4 corners of the world. I am a believer in larger social causes, sceptical of western capitalistic ideologies of individualism. I support socialized medicine, and advocate bicycle paths. I am a Canadian, living in the Netherlands. So I am surprised to discover that everyone needs guns.
Justin Bieber needs a gun. Carly Rae Jepsen needs a gun. Pamela Anderson needs a gun. Shania Twain needs a gun. Celine Dione needs a gun. Leonard Cohen needs a gun. Keanu Reeves needs a gun. Nelly Furtado needs a gun. Jim Carrey needs a gun. Avril Lavigne needs a gun. Margaret Atwood needs a gun.
Not just Canadians. We all need guns. Right-thinking community-minded freedom-loving atheists like myself especially need guns. We should resist any attempt at gun control, gun registration, ammunition monitoring, and anything else that sniffs of restrictions on our natural rights to defend ourselves. We need guns to protect ourselves from conservative religious nut jobs. The NRA doesn’t explain this well.
This is a new opinion for me, two days old as I write. It came upon me suddenly, as I listened to reports of PRISM, the US governments collation and monitoring of our personal network data. Working in the software industry, I am aware of how much detailed personal information can be extracted from such a database. Living in Europe I am often reminded of how badly governments have behaved. Yesterday, in fact, we had to detour around a cordoned-off area of the beach where an unexploded grenade had been found. It is easy for me to imagine a bad government – in Turkey, say, or Italy – using social network data to snuff out sparks of dissent: actual, potential, or perceived.
"According to the documents revealed by Ed Snowden, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has access on a massive scale to individual chat logs, stored data, voice traffic, file transfers and social networking data of individuals.
The US government confirmed it did request millions of phone records from US company Verizon, which included call duration, location and the phone numbers of both parties on individual call.
According to the documents, Prism also enabled "backdoor" access to the servers of nine major technology companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.
These servers would process and store a vast amount of information, including private posts on social media, web chats and internet searches."
In 2001, the Bush Administration amended the American Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to permit warrantless wiretapping. Lawmakers who knew of the program were gagged from publicly discussing the top secret program.
These laws give the US government the ability to identify virtually anyone on the basis of their expressed personal beliefs and opinions. The scope of surveillance extends to other western capitalist democracies. (Of course, citizens of overtly authoritarian regimes already expect surveillance.) Whether exploited or not, these laws provide unprecedented capability for oppression.
The Obama administration recently reauthorized these powers after "extensive debate," a fact all the more worrying because I am disposed to like Mr Obama. I imagine he made the inevitable political choice: If he chose to end the surveillance program he would be held responsible for the next terrorist act against the United States. Reauthorization, however, merely maintains the status quo. I like Obama, but I'm scared of many of the other conservative US politicians. I'm scared of what might happen if the more extreme conservative US politicians were to gain control of the levers of power. In time, inevitably, they will.
I don't like the tradeoffs of my new position against gun control: the increased risk of gun violence on the streets, in homes, and at schools. However, history shows the alternative possibility of ruthless repressive authoritarian regimes is a reality.
I am uncomfortable with my new position against gun control, but it came to me quickly, and so may change just as swiftly. Please dissuade me.
If you prefer less introspective fare, my other blog is for the more practical and professionally-minded reader