Despicable me! Despicable we!

Intelek Int'l By Intelek Int'l, 28th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Politics

Balancing the knowns and unknowns of America's gun culture.

What we know and what we don't

"When tackling a problem-solving challenge faced with two variables – one known, the other unknown – the optimum strategy is to make the known the primary target because we could never arrive at an optimal solution to a problem when we set aside the known while reaching for the unknown.”

The wise advice of John Thomas Didymus a Lagos, Nigeria-based “World-citizen and avid news writer” who offers this counsel in an article responding to the recent shooting at Columbia Mall, in Maryland, United States.

Highlighting a Donad Rumsfeld recalling “knowns and unknowns” balancing decision-making logic much like that which governs my own decisions, Didymus attempts to expose the despicable, hypocritical irrationality of Glenn Beck and other American “gun rights” ideologues who would solely blame the human shooters for their country’s mass shootings and other gun crimes while understating or totally discounting the role played by the easy availability of guns there.

Didymus’ basic proposition is that this latest, seemingly senseless shooting, which claimed the life of 19 year old shooter Darion Marcus Aguilar and two other young adults “challenges the widely accepted pro-gun argument that to stop mass shootings the focus should be on the mental health system rather than on gun control”.

Didymus notes that Aguilar had no criminal record and no known mental health issues and that friends and relatives considered him a healthy, normal "nice kid."

I think he presents a very useful, compelling argument. And as I have hinted above, I also think that the basic "risk management" principle and/or strategy he advocates has very wide application. I have been using a similar decision and value-judgement making strategy in a wide array of contexts for several years now.

I did a similar weighing of knowns and unknowns when I faced an apparent threat of imminent death, on a storm-tossed boat, amid churning waves off the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent some years ago.

As recorded in my book "The Bible: beauty and terror reconciled", this incident occurred when I had been in a state of profound religious disillusionment and confusion for some time and the seemingly crystal clear thinking of my former fundamentalist, Pentecostal Christian faith, had given way to an emotional and intellectual haze.

Faced with the prospect of death, I felt I had to decide what I believed, as far as life after death, heaven and hell and similar matters were concerned.

I chose to be honest with myself and admit that I could no longer affirm those things by faith, as I had previously done. I therefore relegated them to the realm of the "unknown" and chose to focus on what I could do to save myself and others if the boat we were in overturned.

Put differently, I focused on what I knew: that I did not want to die.

I decided this was the best way to arrive at an "optimal solution" for the predicament my friends and I were in.

There is nothing like the prospect of death to sharpen our focus, of course.

At east, one might think so. I think it rather mind-boggling that faced with the lethal consequences of America’s deplorable gun culture Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and other gun rights apologists seem more interested in perversely pushing their constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms than balancing that right with their responsibility to America’s children and other innocent, vulnerable persons.

I find their bias toward the powerful despicable.

As I am sure do most decent right-thinking Americans.

As I am sure, moreover, do those who have a balanced appreciation of Judeo-Christian America’s other “constitution”, the Bible.

These Americans – and I number my friend John Kenyon, founder of the Institute for Global Church Studies among them – understand and value the Christian virtue of humility, by which we identify with the poor, whether the need is material, emotional, a question of where one was born (immigration) or otherwise intangible.

Like Christian apologist C.S. Lewis (whose “Mere Christianity” I have finally gotten around to reading in a sustained manner, having attempted intermittently before) they also deplore the pride that makes some Americans, British people and Barbadians think that they are exceptional.

And let me state here the profound unease I feel when I hear President Barack Obama and other Americans talking about “American exceptionalism”.

Should crimes by American soldiers be exempt from International Criminal Court prosecution because Americans do not only sacrifice blood and treasure in their own national interests but in the interests of others – like the people of Syria?

I don’t think so.

Just as I do not think whatever blood or treasure Barbadian political, religious, media, business, academic and other leaders (like Errol Barrow, Richie Haynes, Erskine Sandiford, Owen Arthur, Hilary Beckles, Harold Hoyte, Vic Fernandes, Holmes Williams, Granvile Williams) have expended or will expend in Barbadians’ interests entitles them to make merchandise of or abuse and exploit any Barbadian.

And those who know of the human rights abuse action I am pursuing with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights against the Barbados government will know the significance of this comparison with President Obama’s rationalization.

I can appreciate President Obama’s realpolitik reasoning on the ICC foreign policy and related question. But I note that he typically espouses an arguably more enlightened, empathic approach when addressing domestic issues – such as gun control.

And from my point of view, such empathic thinking is rooted in a humility born and borne recognition that we are all capable of the despicable and is the essence of a political pragmatism that the academic Samuel P Huntington, his former “disciple” (pre-reformed) journalist Fareed Zakaria, the cynical capitalist Surinder Kandola and the impenitent Bashar al-Assad may ever know.

Such balancing of the known and unknown of human being and behaviour, transcends media-based and similar, often reality distorting attributions of ordinariness and extraordinariness (stardom), guilt and innocence and wealth and poverty and is apiece with the focus on “small beginnings” that helps “big idea” believers, visionaries and idealists like me keep our feet on the ground.

It helps us dreamers stay grounded, even as we strive continually to be the best we can become.

Conversely, the wilful setting aside of known facts (like the lethalness of guns and the likelihood of them being misused when they are too easily available) and the choice to focus instead on more shadowy matters like people’s mental health seems to me to be a deliberate locking of oneself in an ivory tower.

I think some Capitalist, Communist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other ideologues do just that knowingly, at some level.

I believe people more bent on winning arguments than advancing truth use these ivory towers as both refuges and battling positions.

I believe that people like Beck on the right and others like another Allvoices writer, Herbert J Dyer, on the left, consciously entrench themselves in such ivory tower reasoning and arguments and from there take ideological sniper shots at those they disagree with – like the American Dyer, who has a penchant for targeting his President.

Persons on the left and the right should note the fate in 2012 of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose sniping at one segment of the American electorate when he was courting the favour of another backfired.

Like the fictional Gru, the megalomaniac villain in animated film, Despicable Me, people are complex.

Not all wealthy fat cats are indifferent to the plight of the poor.

Not all poor people have little or no interest in being “Royal”, as the Grammy-winning hit song by Ella Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, suggests.

And some members of Barbados’ politically potent Motley family may consider themselves the holders of certain “royal prerogatives” even while they champion republican sentiments.

Cory Brown, a proprietor of United Gun Shop in Maryland knows the folly of judging by appearances more assuredly now than he perhaps ever did before – if we can take him at his word, as reported by the Washington Post today (these days I’m inclined to adopt Christian journalist Malcolm Muggeridge’s scepticism about media reports).

Seven Tuesdays ago, on December 10th, Brown sold the well-mannered, non-aggressive, seemingly well-adjusted Aguilar the gun and ammunition that he used in the Maryland Mall attack.



Barack Obama, Despicable Me, Glenn Beck, Marcus Aguilar, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin

Meet the author

author avatar Intelek Int'l
"I think therefore I jam"
I'm a holistic communication and education specialist, trading as Intelek International (
I write about spirituality, science, philosophy, politics, love.

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