Feb 21, 2013 - Issue 505

How Radical Are You?

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It is possible to be too radical! A person’s and/or a group’s sign of being too radical can best be delineated by their commitment to having and stockpiling guns and other weapons. Wherever a person or a group stands on a point of “political space” - right, left, up, down, transcendent (I don’t believe in linear left/right political geography) - when guns or other weapons which are instantly lethal to humans are accepted as part of the political tools that can be used offensively, that person or that group steps beyond the bounds of Mother Nature. Almost no other living animal species in nature, at any time, voluntarily decides to kill its own! That is when radicalism crosses into insanity.

Some female insects kill their conjugal partners - after mating. Some times in alpha male battles for herd supremacy one contesting male will die but that is not the purpose of the battle. And these are not paths to species extinction. Often herds split and one part expands into new territory where they may come into conflict with other herds; almost always the pre-existing group holds a territorial advantage that is evident in a more aggressive attitude that overcomes the intrusion of the new group. Mentally healthy animals do NOT attempt to kill members of their species even for the purpose of the exploitation of territory. As members “of the animal kingdom” that evolved on this planet, humans naturally fit into the same species-preserving social psychology. Imperialists’ cultural formations are unnatural aberrations that have corrupted the human psyche by defining “the other” as less than human; such abominable insanity cannot be justified in any way.

Thirty years ago I became acquainted with the scientific understanding of animal psychology when I read The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations (Robert Audrey). Subsequently the conclusions represented in this book have been further confirmed. The insanity of killing members of your own species for the sake of control of territory - however that “territory” is defined - can only be seen as a radical aberration; it occurs with humans through the ability of a powerful imagination to re-envision reality and define oneself and one’s family as all that is important to being human. This is willful ignorance. Prejudice, racism, and extreme xenophobia, both in individuals and in institutions, are the mechanisms through which such mistranslations of reality occur.

There are a number of unnatural, unhealthy circumstances that warp human thinking and that have caused lethal deviancy. Childhood abuse, trauma, and abandonment make up one set of such circumstances which can lead to sociopathic and psychopathic behaviors. Drugs, torture, and toxic chemical imbalance can also lead to aberrant behaviors that are dangerous to others. Most activists have come across these kinds of individuals who have mental sicknesses and who have been ignorantly and innocently accepted as legitimate political radicals. These folks need help rather than a following. However, what is too often overlooked or too often included in the sane behavior category by too many people are those who follow twisted cultures and beliefs that instigate or support the offensive killing of other human beings.

Most of the world has recognized that the implementation of the death penalty is a barbarous and insane individual and societal act. Yet death dealing weapons that are specifically designed for humans run rampant all over the world and are most concentrated in the U.S. For some, it is acceptable to kill poor people for stealing a piece of bread. However equally twisted and unacceptable are the systems and structures that deal death through starvation, malnutrition, isolation, and family disruption. These means of killing are slower but are just as lethal.

To believe that an individual or a small group of individuals holds the singular power and responsibility to best turn these circumstances around through the use of violence is itself a form of social disease: megalomania. This megalomania is a companion to the larger social disease of imperialism that is bringing about our extinction. One form of social disease feeds and stimulates the other; agents of one justify what is being done by pointing to the other’s acts.

The first step to healing is the recognition that we are all part of the human species and deserving of caring and inclusion. By acting together with the recognition that each of us is a precious part of the whole of us we can “side step” the harm of the few without killing them and work to correct the misdirection and misreading of reality that is in those few heads. We can avoid and break thorough those cultural cul-de-sacs that drive us toward species extinction. We can move more aggressively to eliminate imperialism and all of the circumstances that produce warped human beings. We can stop using and inventing weapons designed to kill humans. It is always better when it is the power “of the people” and the actions of the people that bring about the change because it is than all of us who will implement the change and maintain it. As John Donne said so long ago: no human being “is an island;” we are all “part of the maine.” No person becomes aberrant or insane alone; as inherent social animals social circumstances parallel our movements into craziness. It is these circumstances that are in the most need for change, for our species sake! It is time to start the ripples through our social networks that will sweep around the world, building the intellectual and moral strength that is unstoppable and powerful enough to change us all. That cannot be done with a gun.

Sparked by the existential shock of 20 human babies being blown away, most people in the U.S. now want to control weapons of war on our streets. Yes, let’s do this as best we can. However, although some may find this too much to imagine, it’s not just the elimination of combat weapons on our streets that should be our goal. That is not enough. If that were all we did, the warped minds that are pushing us to extinction would just come up with another device to do the same thing. We have so many: grenades, poison gas, weaponized drones, bombs, and super bombs. In fact the new devices are probably already “on the drawing boards.” It is the frame of mind that exists all over the political landscape that says guns can be an instrument of offensive political action and that there are humans whom it is OK to kill. It is that which we must eliminate. That is the radicalism that is too far.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Wilson Riles, is a former Oakland, CA City Council Member. Click here to contact Mr. Riles.