The Polarizing Debate Around Gun Control

purelyspeculationNobody wants to get shot. That, at the least, is something I believe we can all agree on. Wanting other people to get shot might be a different story, but let’s take what we can get.

There is virtually no one out there eager to catch a bullet when walking down the street—or to see their loved ones do so.

If we can agree on something as simple as that, one might assume we could find some basic consensus on how to handle guns in contemporary society.

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Fortunately, we here at Brad OH Inc. are an ambitious and defiantly tenacious lot, and today, that’s just what we intend to do. So sit down, strap in, and fasten up your bullet proof vests, because today, we are getting to the heart of the debate over gun control!

The most basic breakdown of opinions here are the classic and time-tested notions of right, and left. The conservatives argue in favour of free access to guns—usually on account of the good ole’ second amendment. The liberals, meanwhile, tend to go the other way—as they so often do—pushing for tighter gun control. This, presumably, goes back to the notion of not wanting to get shot.

But beyond this, things begin to get a little bit murky. I believe however, that if we truly break this whole debacle down to its very essence, we might best steal a line from ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (Source) in saying that ‘what we’ve got here is, failure to communicate’.

I want to introduce a new theme here, because I think it affords us a very important tool with which to explore this debate. I want to talk about the concept of ‘Polarity Management’.

‘Polarity Management’ (Source) describes a process by which we can more effectively analyze all sides of a debate—ideally finding a bit of common ground. In essence, ‘Polarity Management’ is a means of viewing typically entrenched positions which usually go nowhere—such as this one. ‘Polarities’ refer to the opposite ends of a single, connected issue. The key here is that one affects the other directly—it is not simply one problem to solve, but an imperative interaction that must be understood. Polarities are related, and persist over time—thus they must be managed, not solved.

The problem is that we tend to treat these as ‘either/ or’ scenarios—closing off debate, and freezing out both understanding and context. But dynamic issues such as these seldom reflect one single value or quality—no simple right or wrong. They are the result of multiple, interrelated factors.

An easy example of this is rain and sunshine. You may prefer either one, but without the other, your preference becomes a dreadful imposition. Too much sun leads to droughts, and too much rain leads to flooding. You need a balance, and that is why in any issue regarding polarities, we need communication, and then compromise.

Once we’ve identified an issue as a polarity, we can proceed to explore the balance between each side—the positives brought by each end, and the negatives they bring as well. This allows us to better understand how the opposing views of the issue interact with one another, and ideally find the crucial balance necessary to manage them.

I admit already—taking this approach to gun control with any shred of optimism is a tall order, but what the hell…let’s give it a go. To strip it all down to parts, the debate around the issue of gun control essentially amounts to two wildly opposing views:

1) The right to bear arms is protected by the second amendment, and must not be infringed in any way.

2) Gun ownership presents a significant risk to the public good, and should be curtailed, if not eliminated.

Now certainly, there are few who would fully align themselves with either extreme viewpoint, yet those are the sides as purported, so let’s consider them in turn.

Much of the argument from the (typically) Conservative crowd favoring access to firearms makes an appeal to safety—believing that arming ourselves for self-defence is an inalienable right, and that we must have the ability to purchase and carry guns in order to protects ourselves from others which might do so surreptitiously. This certainly makes some sense. After all, there is plenty of merit to the old adage against bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Of course, the better solution is to avoid entering a gun fight, or being anywhere in its vicinity. This isn’t always easy, and may even be a tad unrealistic depending on where you happen to be located. Further, the argument is often made that ‘if we make guns illegal, then only criminals will have guns’. This is a self-serving tautology to be sure, but it does a fair job of illustrating the impotent terror which might come from being left defenseless in a world full of armed lunatics.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find the (typically) Liberal crowd, who heavily favor significant controls on gun ownership, including but not limited to restrictions, background checks, and waiting periods.

This side argues that due to the potential of guns to inflict serious injury and death, access to them must be well regulated in order to avoid such weapons falling into the hands of those who would use them either unjustly, or in ignorance.

Much of the force from the ‘Right to Bear Arms’ side tends to focus on an appeal to the second amendment (Link), which guarantees to citizens that: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The ‘right to bear arms’ was initially created as an assurance that the people of America were free and able to raise a standing militia to oppose the government should it become oppressive. This is understandably justified in light of the fact that it’s exactly how America became a nation in the American Revolution against the British. But taking up arms against the government now is—sadly perhaps—a foolish and ignoble idea. The Second Amendment notion of armed war against the government is not only invalid, it’s infantile. It’s also the legal equivalent of demanding the ‘Terrorism’ trump card.

Finally, it must be noted here that even within that sacred amendment, the qualifier ‘Well-regulated’ managed to make the cut. Never was there any suggestion of handing out missile-launchers to every civilian. Handguns for self-defence may be deemed reasonable, but if you are equipped to fight an army, you are more likely to start a war.

At this point, we can see some weakness in the notion of free access to guns for all. There are few who would support selling firearms to people on a terrorist watch list, or violent offenders—and those few should certainly be ashamed of their stupidity.

But accepting some control hardly means encouraging complete control, and it may certainly be argued that the more difficult it is for citizens to legally access firearms for self-defence, the more prone they are to victimization by those who will harbor no such qualms. Further, it is a defensible case to argue that unless a restriction is demonstrably proven to be in the best interests of the citizens, then a government has no right whatsoever to enforce it. While I expect the vast majority of people who would favor that position would have a hard time defending it if pressed, it’s something to consider.

So where does this leave us? We can see strengths and weaknesses on both sides: With no control, we are inundated with guns and seduced by their increasing fetishization. With complete gun control however, we are cast into perceived subservience, and potentially left helpless against criminals who continue to arm themselves.

So here we are. Gun deaths are increasing, distrust of police/ government is growing, and America continues to have a depressing hang-up about guns being inherent to their self-worth (Source). Further, we’ve now seen that the extreme polarity of either side could potentially prove disastrous. Because we can now better understand the best intentions (public safety) of both sides, as well as the inherent risks of each extreme (uncontrolled carnage), we may find that we are better equipped to find a position of compromise.

We need balance and informed decision making. Both opinions have valuable insights—but we must actively work towards a greater and more comprehensive understanding of the issue if we ever hope to manage it. People, left with no hope, will always find ways to be violent and get what they need. We must give them hope for an achievable way if we intend to avoid strife. In the end, it is education and empathy, not arms, which shall assure the future safety of our citizenry.

-Brad OH Inc.

There Are Clowns?

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoThere are Clowns,

Among the trees,

In fields and bushes,

Where nobody sees. 

There are Clowns,

Out for the young,

Bent on killing their songs,

Long before they are sung.  

There are Clowns,

Outside of the school,

Their hellish grins asking,

Just who is the fool?

But there are Clowns in police cars,

And Clowns in the courts,

Clowns on the TV,

Reading news reports.

There are Clowns on the left,

And Clowns on the right,

Clowns that will lie to you,

Or tell you to fight.

 There are Clowns in the papers,

And Clowns at the prow,

Of our ship as we ponder,

Where we’re to go now.

There are Clowns who will promise,

Everything is fine,

And Clowns who will tell you,

Not to waste your time.

Clowns that will claim,

It’s all under control,

But those Clowns are demure,

When it’s time to console.

There are Clowns on the streets,

Clowns under our beds,

Clowns running our countries,

Clowns filling our heads.

Yes there are Clowns,

In all sorts of places,

But the Clowns I fear most,

Do not paint their faces.

 

This poem was inspired by the recent ‘Time’ Article by Violent J, which you can read here (Link).

 

-Brad OH Inc.

Right, Left, and Everything in Between: What Will Become of America?

purelyspeculationThree days after the 2016 General Election in America, a pall of dread hangs over not just the nation, but the world. There is doubt, confusion, and no small amount of fear. The very thing which everyone said simply could not happen has now come to pass—Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States.

Not only fear, this also creates a lot of questions. How did this happen? Why did we doubt it could? What does this say about the American people? What does the future hold for the ‘Land of the Free’?

Coming to power astride a wave of grandiose lies and dangerous bombast, Trump has openly called for violence, insulted multiple races, defiled men, and debased women on his path to the most powerful office in the world. The ludicrous ideas he has espoused pale in their absurdity only in comparison to the ignorant and ever-shifting ideologies he has endorsed.

Now there are riots in the streets, which are unlikely to end any time soon. To be honest, I expect this would have been little different had Hillary Clinton won.

The madness and peculiarity of this shocking election cycle did not happen by random chance. It was a clear reflection of the state of the American political structure, and more importantly, the American people.

This race has seen the utter devastation of both traditional parties—party lines are in shambles and voters are in doubt. Amidst all of this, we must remember one very important fact.

Donald Trump was elected President.

One of the questions going through many minds is, how did this happen?

Well, words are always important, and the key word to the above phrase is ‘elected’. He won enough votes to take control of the Electoral College—quite handily at that. The fairness or effectiveness of the Electoral College is not the current purpose of this article mind you, and the fact simply remains that by the rules of the democracy, Trump had the voters he needed to win.

Who are these people?

Some of them—and possibly no small number—are just those who vote red no matter what. Both parties have always had plenty of those.

Others were likely the empowered bigots that inevitably sprout up under a vile demagogue like Trump, but I believe (and certainly pray) this number is far from being as high as many people believe.

A large portion of Trump voters, I expect, were simply just so reactionary and angry with the crooked system that they were willing to gamble. They were tired of false promises. They were tired of all the money going upward. They were tired of politicians being bought and paid for. They were tired of having no voice, and were long overdue to strike back at a political establishment which for far too long has functioned only for the moneyed interests which it serves.

As a Bernie guy, I get that.

The fact that enough people were willing to vote Trump rather than continue with the status quo is a damning condemnation on the current state of party politics. Yet, the oldest mistake in the history of democracy is to reject a failed system without due caution, and conjure into reality something even more fierce and immediate.

This election—all the way back to the primaries—was an aggressive rejection of crooked politics, corporate interference, economic mismanagement, and elitism. Yet the failure of the electorate to unite on the true issues, and the constant projection of aggression and fear onto one another has finally, in the end, led to the election of the Anti-Cause. Trump is the living embodiment of all the miserable vices which usurped the democratic process and threatened liberty to begin with.

There’s too much fear and anger. Any nerd can tell you what those lead to.

So here we are, and the question remains—what can we expect now?

One of the most common fears is the effect Trump’s antics will have on the populace, that he will inspire bigotry with confidence when it should rightly hide in shadows. Already, we’re seeing examples of this being reported, and there is sure to be more in the weeks to come.

But we must not yet take this to be the majority of his voters, or the true tone of the American people. If we listen to interviews, such hate is not the motivating factor for a great many—and we would do well not to ignore the expressed desires and intentions of the people. That, after all, is precisely what’s carried us to this precipice.

Nor indeed must any decent person trade hate for hate—to act violently or even unkindly towards these frustrated voters is to fall into the very pit of anger and hatred which most would claim to despise.

In this ailing democracy of ours, we can only hope for the best at this point. We must support what works, and vigorously fight what doesn’t. But above all and without fail, we must continue the fight against an entrenched establishment that has turned its back on the people it was created to represent in favour of its own interests. This may only happen if we step out of the cycle of blame and distrust. Talk to people on the other side of the spectrum—learn about their fears and their hopes. Share your own. Speak up against intolerance, but never slip into it yourself. Never forget how easy this is to do. Talk, share, and be honest. Set a model of decency in the truest sense—that is how you improve the world.

Finally, while so justified, while so understandable and well-earned, we must remember the very forces that brought us to this point. Avoid despair, avoid rage. Most importantly, fear not…

-Brad OH Inc.

Free J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth Mythology Lessons Now Available

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgHere at Brad OH Inc., there’s no doubt our readers look to us as a source of unceasing encouragement—a veritable role-model of decency and high-minded ideals. Now that’s no easy feat for a multi-national super-corporation like us, but we’ve always found that the best way to clean out the closet and embrace the public good is with a bit of good old fashioned public service!

Now, it’s about time for us to up our karma score, so to that end we are announcing a brand new public service available exclusively from Brad OH Inc.

As of today, and extending on into the great vastness of infinity, Brad OH Inc. is offering FREE sessions on the History/ Mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth to our readers and friends.

Have you always wondered just who that Sauron character was and where he came from?

What about the Balrog?

Where was Elrond’s wife?

Do you long to know more about the heartbreaking tale of Beren and Luthien, or the incredible duel between Fingolfin and Morgoth? Of course you do! Who doesn’t?

Well, now you don’t have to sit and idly wonder any longer. Just contact us through this site (or any other means you have—creep!) and let us know exactly what you need. Maps? History? Specific questions? Musical references? You name it—we here at Brad OH Inc. have got it in spades! We’re happy to share the knowledge we’ve acquired over long years of dedicated nerdiness, all while working to improve public perceptions around our compassionate little Corporation.

There’s a link below to click for contacts and inquiries, but please, form an orderly line—we’ll get to each and every question in the order they arrive (or by personal preference).

-Contact Us Here.

-Brad OH Inc.

A Ghost Poem

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

A Ghost Poem:

I’m haunted still by visions past,

By ghostly wails and die long cast.

Porcelain smiles and ochre eyes,

Find me much to my surprise.

Sleeping, thinking, lost in mind,

I’m stalked by those I’ve left behind.

A ghostly whisper comes to me,

As I search for serenity.

There is no rest, no sure reprieve,

From the specters I believe.

A curling grin, a twisted brow,

An implacable stretch from then to now.

I toss and turn upon my bed,

These memories searing through my head.

I rise aloft and cross the floor,

A grinning vision at the door.

A flickering vestige of all I had,

To have and lose and then grow mad.

But ever smiling, turns away,

A promise that nothing untrue may stay.

Alone I stand on the edge of dream,

The perfect start to Halloween.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Interrelated Failings of the Free Market and Free Speech

purelyspeculation‘Freedom’.

It has been the go-to battle-cry for every side in most any debate. It’s a trump card to call upon when logic fails—a tacit threat laid down gauntlet-like in order to challenge the values of an opponent when one cannot intelligently defend their own.

Right-wingers, left-wingers, libertarians, economists, racists and fanatics—all will appeal to the defense of their freedom when all else fails.

Fools, one and all.

We explored the topic of freedom recently in our article ‘Libertarians are Starry-Eyed Idealists’ (Link). At that time, we talked about the definition of freedom, and the counter-productive and false narrative of ‘unlimited freedom’. Today, we will explore our assumptions about the realities of freedom in two of the places it is most ubiquitously championed: the market, and the media.

‘The Free Market’. You can just feel your heart swell at the very mention of it. It’s like a unicorn in that way. That way—and that it’s entirely imaginary. The model of a free market describes a situation in which all can compete to buy and sell goods at the best possible prices. Products compete against each other as well—with the greatest value winning out in the hearts of consumers. It allows for flourishing competition, and inspires the best from all who participate.

It’s a wonderful dream, but little more at this point. The markets we have now are not free in any defensible sense—they are controlled by enormous corporations who funnel money upwards to their owners at the expense of affordability, quality, and consumer safety.

They are far too big to ‘compete’ against any tiny upstart with a head full of decency and common sense. They buy and sell market rights, strangle out competition, and throw down patents as defensive bolsters against growth and ease of access. There is no freedom or competition—only the surreptitious motives of greed and dominance. Prices for medications are needlessly inflated, housing markets are intentionally crashed, banks prey on the ill-informed, and corporations use their power to change laws in their favour and dodge enough taxes to wildly improve the state of the nation for all. The rich get richer, the poor stay in servitude.

So much for a free market then.

So how about the media? Surely this bastion of free knowledge, this fountain of informed citizenry has some tangible claim to freedom?

Sadly, not so.

As discussed in Sheldon Wolin’s (Link) impeccable book ‘Democracy Incorporated’, the media has followed a similar trend to the market.

In the past, ideas functioned much as they did in a truly ‘free’ marketplace. Many ideas were circulated, and the ‘best’ (as defined by open and informed discussion) became the most ubiquitous and popular. But in a world where media messages are controlled by the same mega-corporations which control our markets, the corporations are the ‘sellers’ of ideas, and we the consumers can only choose from the prescribed ideas they are willing to sell us—just like the current marketplace.

We see it everywhere—from the crooked nature of the 2 party political system, to the subversion of dissent via thousands of media companies being owned by only 6 corporations (Source). It is the death knell of free-thought. Ideas and options—from what laundry soap to buy to who to vote for in a general election—all fall within the pre-defined scope chosen by the corporations which have seized control of our marketplaces, our media, and our political system.

These multi-national corporations are the sole, uniquely ‘free’ participants in our society, and use this to put constraints on every system they see fit. Each of these effects the other—we are less informed (thus less able to vote), and more desperate (thus more eager to spend).

It all falls together quite nicely—it’s an effective market, even if it’s a far cry from free.

In book two of ‘The Analects’ (Link), Confucius speaks about rightful duty in governing people—stating that only a government which promotes and models good conduct and duty can ever expect to have loyal citizens. Surely, our current government can boast of having none of these.

We are left to fend for ourselves against powerful parties that would see us starve if it served to increase their bankrolls. Governments and corporations have merged—and the leadership of the people is no longer administered by informed citizens with nobles intentions, but rather by the whim of the rich and powerful—motivated only to increase those traits at all costs.

This must be remedied.

Freedom can only come when the people of the world take back the power which has been denied to them. To put in place good and honest leaders who seek the betterment of society as a whole is the only means of fighting back. We need not greed, but charity. Not a hunger for power, but a love of peace. Not clever deals, but honest intentions.

Then, and only then, can we hope to call ourselves free.

-Brad OH Inc.

Beers by the Bonfire

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampPerhaps it’s not quite as classy as Bourbons by the Fire (Link), but no one will catch the callback anyway. Besides, this isn’t the time for pomp and flair.

For the last year I’ve been in a sort of fugue state—drifting listlessly, waiting for my sense of purpose to descend upon me from on high. It hasn’t happened yet. But here I am. I’ve awoken to find the world a bit darker. The moment for high-minded philosophies is now past us.

To a man, we seem to focus on the lies of the next—we have no time for our own misunderstandings. It’s a bitter march, but we press onward—focussed only on the failings of the other.

Our options have dwindled, our reason hangs by a thread, and the only choice we have left to us is which of two futures we want the least.

These days, we have the greatest and easiest means of communication the world has ever known. We can pass information across the globe in the blink of an eye, and connect with like-minded strangers at the click of a button. Yet we squander this—debating the inane and pressing the irrelevant. The pawns squabble amongst themselves as the King stands exposed.

Piece by piece, we give away what we should hold the tightest. We do so willingly—with the unrestrained vigour of those possessed by a sense of righteousness, yet blinded by a cloud of distrust.

The fire crackles in front of me, as it always has. We’ve been sitting around such fires since before we were us, and likely debating these same sorry shortcomings. They’ve always been with us…the doubt and fear and self-loathing that drives a society to turn in upon itself for fear of what is beyond.

The beer is still cold, but it offers little comfort.

I think about what it might take, to turn this course around—what it might look like to see the world as hopeful and promising once again. The innocence of youth is unattainable now, and knowledge is easier gained than forgotten. I settle for another swig of beer.

I keep telling myself there is plenty of room on at the fire. If not, you can always build it bigger and back the chairs up. There is always plenty of beer. But the mood grows uneasy, and we’re all suspicious of each new guest.

I’d been told that the world was rich, and could provide for all through the bounty of human cooperation. It turned out no one really believed that. Worse, perhaps they do, but simply choose something else.

Greed—it is a sorry bonfire indeed when one man claims all the beer for himself. So what does it say about a world where we hoard our own and let the extra rot—we cling miser-like to our entitled notions, then act appalled with the bitterness of the hated ‘other’.

Surely the way is clear enough, and the rest is all just fanciful distraction. The answer has always been the same—we say it in songs and debates and prayers and art, we define ourselves by our commitment to it, yet live daily as if it were but a child’s dream—silly and irreverent.

The fire is warm enough for all, yet it leaves only ashes behind. If you stare into it long enough, you can lose sight of all the rest. The darkness beyond vanishes into black, and the world is nothing if not the fire before you; your current comfort—your own personal salvation.

Damn the rest.

Fuel, fire, and beer. Security, comfort, and distraction. They’re all you need.

I take another long swallow. Then another. The beer is getting warmer, and has grown flat. Still, it does its job—soothing my nerves and steadying my shaken will.

The fire spreads slowly out around its base—cleansing the old, consuming everything in its path.

It’s a twisted scene to be sure, and it is no difficult thing to become lost in the mire and confusion as lies spill from every side. It is a hard thing to act decisively when inundated with doubt, and we all sit around this fire, blinded by its light and shackled to its fleeting warmth.

Those we look to for safety have turned on us, and those from whom we would seek direction have failed. On every side, we are constrained by justifiable fear, and this alone is often sufficient to breed the inaction necessary for such a terrible course to hold true.

My beer is running low, and the fire dwindling to embers. The cold of night encroaches upon my refuge, and I let the can fall from my hand. There is no more comfort here.

Tonight, the retreat is over. Tomorrow the fire burns anew. Will it serve only to ward off the chill of the outside world, or will it rather set ablaze all which can no longer stand? Will it burn away the fear and doubts which hold us in thrall? Will it set to light upon the tinders of decency and virtue which still smoulder in the hearts and minds of all decent people?

Tomorrow alone will tell. I will be there, beer in hand. I will be ready.

-Brad OH Inc.