Cultural Criticality

The sudden and widespread exposure of sexual misconduct across widely disparate fields feels like a cultural tipping point has been passed. This seemed to start with the Harvey Weinstein expose and then like a row of tumbling dominions it spread, but that dominion simile is not quite correct. No, this is more like a nuclear chain reaction. To my mind that picture is also a much better analogy for grasping what is going on and what could happen in other areas of the social sphere.

Imagine you have a large number of 1-gram blocks of Plutonium. In this thought experiment you take the blocks and assemble them into a cube. One by one you pick up a cube and add it to the others, and wow nothing is happening. They just sit there. You can do this thousands of times and nothing will happen, but somewhere around 11,000 times you will add one cube and the mass with become critical. At that point you are dead. The chain reaction takes off and the cubes that had presented no serious danger before are now all presenting a lethal threat. The last block you added? There was nothing special about that one. It was exactly the same but adding it to the pile did not provoke the same non-reaction.

Why the Weinstein expose and not the Cosby one? We can never know, here the analogy is not a perfect fir, but it still serves. It feels like we have hit a critical reaction and going back to the way it was before is looking less and less likely. (Not a bad thing in my opinion.)

I think we are still facing a similar situation with mass shootings. Newtown and a cowardly murderer targeting children did not change things, but we were and are still below criticality. It is not the individual event and its character that will matter but with some future some ineffable sense will change and sudden it won’t be the same game anymore. If there happens to be a Democratic controlled Senate at that time it would not surprise me to hear that they are suspending the filibuster for legislation in order to pass something. (And if they do pass something Trump would sign it. It costs him nothing and he can bask in the warm glow of praise. All that matters to him, that and money.)

This is the danger that I see pro-second amendment factions are ignoring. By taking no actions, by offering nothing at all, and there are things that they could offer that are not gun control and bans, they are removing none of the block from this growing pile.

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5 thoughts on “Cultural Criticality”

  1. “This is the danger that I see pro-second amendment factions are ignoring. By taking no actions, by offering nothing at all, and there are things that they could offer that are not gun control and bans, they are removing none of the block from this growing pile.”

    Too many false presumptions.

    From my close observation of and participation in the decades long contest over Gun-Control, it is hugely apparent that there is NO connection between high profile gun crime events, any proposed gun-control legislation or any passed legislation. It is all GIGO, all tribalism.

    No matter what gun-control legislation is passed there will continue to be mass shootings, since there is no cause and effect relationship. And no matter what mass shooting occurs, proposed gun-control solutions (often) have no rational connection to that shooting nor any ability to prevent the next shooting. And most importantly, no matter what gesture of gun-control compromise is proposed or passed, it never dulls the other sides appetite for ever stricter gun-control laws.

    The gun-control movement in America is just the latest manifestation of the worst aspects of American Puritanism. The American Gun-Control Movement is a contemporary version of the Anti-Saloon League and Alcohol Prohibition, and just as destructive to social order. And nothing less than de jure prohibition, or a practical equivalent will satisfy the prohibitionists.

    An example of de jure practical gun prohibition is New York City, where only 1% of the population legally possess their own firearm within NYC. It isn’t technically a ban on all guns, but it’s close enough.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/nyregion/20guns.html

    “The Rich, The Famous, The Armed”

    Which also brings home the entire Social Class conflict inherent in the tribal debate over American Gun Control.

    Gun-Control was never really about crime-control. Gun-Control is about political power. Gun-Control is the campaign by the rich and the powerful to disarm the poor and the powerless. Because under any legal regime of gun-control, if they want them the rich and the powerful will always have legal weapons (or legally armed servitors).

    1. I never said that any legislation would be effective. This is a problem of culture not laws. I never said that any legislation passed would be directly relevant to the incident that triggers criticality.
      I believe that the American political body has a critical mass of such events that it can absorb without chaotically (As in chaos theory) flipping into a new state. You seem to believe that there is no such limit and what has transpired in the past (mass shootings no change in the cultural zeitgeist) will hold indecently into the future. To me this is the same as the man adding 1 gram cube of Plutonium to the pile and because nothing has changed for the last 10,000 times assuming nothing will change for the next 10,000 blocks.

      1. “This is the danger that I see pro-second amendment factions are ignoring. By taking no actions, by offering nothing at all, and there are things that they could offer that are not gun control and bans, they are removing none of the block from this growing pile.”

        Would you care to clarify? Be more specific? What do you suggest the ‘pro-second amendment factions’ do?

        1. For example nearly all of the mass shooters have been men with a history of violence and anger management issues with an overwhelming percentage being domestic abusers. The GOP could address the issues of critically underfunded and under resourced mental health in this country.(this is not the same as blaming the events on the mentally ill which is a dodge.) Better outreach and better intervention in the case of people with anger management issues, particularly when domestic abuse, may help the situation and would be far more substantial measures than repeated the mantra ‘Thoughts and Prayers.’

          1. So spending and legislation? And even if those measures are taken, mass shootings won’t stop. At best some might be prevented.

            Just as several school shootings have been prevented since Columbine, by better awareness of the threat and timelier intervention by authorities. But school shootings still occur.

            I’ve heard the notion of a “national tipping point” repeated often by Gun-Control advocates since 2012. And yes I think a tipping point has been going on, but not the one that they hoped for. Instead they are getting Gun-Culture 2.0.

            Would offering gun-control compromises or non-gun-control actions make any difference to this tribal dueling?

            Pro-second amendment factions have offered compromises. They have been since the 1930’s, and continue to do so today. They just did so again with HR-38 which passed the House of Representatives.

            Not that the disinterested Public has much awareness of that truth, since one of the most important forces pushing Gun-Control is the News Media. But the News Media today doesn’t wield the power they did a quarter century ago.

            I used to be very pessimistic about guns in 1994. But 2017 is a very different place, and I am very optimistic.

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