What Guns Do To Our State Of Mind

BY Herschel Smith
2 months, 3 weeks ago

Pacific Standard:

“Whoever touches that gun, he’ll die at some point … because it acts on you,” explained a 37-year-old man who lives in the poor neighborhood of Bel Air in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I have worked as an anthropologist since 2008. Kal* was talking about a specific Smith & Wesson .38 special caliber revolver, long the standard issue gun of American police and United States-trained security forces in Haiti. After being purchased for $75 from a former army soldier, this gun passed through the hands of three men: a young father, Frantz; Papapa, a young man; and Henri, another new father.

[ … ]

When I asked Belairians why these deaths occurred, they often surmised that the gunmen fell victim to maji, or “magic.” In Haiti, magic refers to an unethical use of spiritual power, distinct from ceremonial forms of Vodou, which call on ancestors to heal and protect the family. (Vodou is the preferred spelling, rather than Voodoo, which some practitioners view as derogatory.) This form of magic entails engaging with secret powers that allow a person to advance at the expense of another. To many, the men died because the occult forces they had been using for unethical gain had ultimately turned against them—opening them up to conflict and failing to protect them.

Yet when neighbors relayed how the deaths happened, they offered explanations involving a different kind of occult transformation: the supernatural potency of the .38 to change people into unethical agents. With each subsequent death, lore intensified around the gun, with people surmising that “touching” this gun could portend death. “Ever since they touched the gun, those poor young boys were not the same,” said one community member. Residents spoke about the gun as if it were an amulet that could change otherwise good people and what they did in the world.

It would be shortsighted to dismiss these claims as the misguided logic of a “superstitious people.” That racially inflected trope, long used to marginalize and demonize Haitians, among others, blinds observers to the way in which guns do exhibit a power akin to magic: the power to create a change in someone’s state of mind.

Taking seriously the supernatural effects of guns has broad relevance for understanding and addressing gun violence globally. In the U.S., gun advocates tend to view the gun as a value-neutral tool. As they say: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” On the other side are gun control advocates who argue that guns do indeed kill people: Without their lethal power easily at hand, as in other countries, far fewer deaths occur. But the anthropological lesson from Haiti is that the truth is more complex. It isn’t just the technological lethality of guns that makes them dangerous: They also exert a power on human agency. They change us. It is both the technology and the symbolism of a gun that can encourage someone to shoot.

The author, Chelsey Kivland, is as superstitious as the Haitians.  An inanimate object, note well, has power over human agency, the power to make a human engage in acts of evil, superseding whatever that person would or would not have done otherwise.  Forget that effects of bombs and the availability of fertilizer at Lowe’s and Tractor Supply, it’s the object itself that literally exercises power over human volition.

This is the new temperance movement.  My former professor, C. Gregg Singer, taught extensively on social Darwinism, the temperance movement, Hegelian philosophy in America, and the liberal progressive roots of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

At the time it was alcohol, and to them it was the “moral ruin which it works in the soul, that gives it the denomination of giant wickedness.”  It isn’t that mankind is wicked to begin with due to the federal headship in Adam, it was an external object, and thus smarter men and women can seek the perfection of mankind by eliminating those elements which encourage evil.

It is superstition in the Haitians that underlies this notion, it was superstition in the temperance movement that does the same, and it’s no less ignorant superstition in Ms. Kivland which causes her to see the world and man this way.


Comments

  1. On April 22, 2019 at 1:04 am, Miles said:

    This is the medieval superstition of the “Deodand” ( a thing,an inanimate object has some kind of spiritual and moral agency) that still influences some of the more stupid people in the world.
    She – an assistant professor and “political and urban anthropologist” (again what an indictment of the current state of “higher” education) – may be ‘educated’ but she’s not intelligent. How can she be if she’s still this wound up in superstitious belief?

  2. On April 22, 2019 at 8:38 am, Ned said:

    This is a good example of the definition of an “expert” – someone from out of town.

    Reminds me of a book that was given to me by a commie inlaw: “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. The most vapid bullshit I ever tried to read.

  3. On April 22, 2019 at 11:49 am, J J said:

    Ignorance and superstition is why Haiti will still be Haiti regardless of how many billions of dollars is poured down the drain in supporting it.

    Unfortunately, ignorance is spreading like wildfire throughout the world, often afflicting those of intelligence far beyond the low IQ peoples of various 3rd world countries.

  4. On April 22, 2019 at 12:25 pm, Fred said:

    “It would be shortsighted to dismiss these claims as the misguided logic of a “superstitious people.” That racially inflected trope, long used to marginalize and demonize Haitians, among others, blinds observers to the way in which guns do exhibit a power akin to magic: the power to create a change in someone’s state of mind.”

    What is this? Seriously? What, even, IS this? Is this some kind of screenplay for a comedy skit?

    When you embrace satan don’t be surprised when his devils show up. There is a reason Haiti is called Haiti.

  5. On April 22, 2019 at 3:35 pm, Talktome said:

    Fred said it – when you embrace satan, don’t be surprised when his devils show up. Evil deeds and actions beget evil results. Of course, our benevolent communists in the form of sjw’s, politicians and general safety nazis and “charities” always seem to think the “other” has evil intent, since their feels are at the forefront and their feels are positive for everyone if only everyone would stfu and get onboard!

  6. On April 23, 2019 at 2:16 pm, Julian Harper said:

    Of interest – to those unfamiliar with geography of the area – the island of Hispaniola is divided into two countries – Haiti and Dominican Republic. Haiti is, and has for the longest time, filled with the practice of witchcraft, ‘voodoo’, worship of ancestors and strange gods, summoning of demons and related things – and it is a nation riddled with disease, violence, poverty and general misery. On the other end of the same island ( and no, it won’t tip over) is Dominican Republic – where 95 per cent of the people identify themselves as Christians, and the standard of living is far higher than that of Haiti. There are strained relations between the two, because of a large amount of Haitian immigration, legal and not, into Dominican Republic, and the police say that there are increases in violent crime in the areas where the Haitians have moved.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published April 21st, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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