Huddling: Are Americans Going Gun Crazy? (Perceptual Warfare 7)


24% of the American population say it’s OK to use violence in the pursuit of one’s goals.”
—Morris Berman, A Question of Values

It’s becoming normal for parents to fear their children. In fact, there is an ever-growing fear of any kind of difference in the US and in the whole Western world. I will go out on a limb now and suggest that this fear of difference is directly related to the homogenization of culture. For thousands of years, human beings have defined themselves according to their tribe and in contrast to other tribes. Our sense of identity is inextricably tied to our environment, and if that environment, and the values being propagated by it, are becoming more and more uniform and unvaried, the distinctions between individuals become increasingly blurry and undefined. Socially and technologically, we may be on the verge of becoming a collective organism, but psychologically we still have one foot in the jungle. At an individual level what people are experiencing, I think, is an ever-more uncertain sense of self and reality and increased feelings of insecurity and anxiety. One way to reduce this anxiety is to identify more fiercely with one’s culture, country, race or religion — in other words, with external values. And when people look more and more outside of themselves for validation, they also look for an “other” as a contrast to those values. Opposing an other who doesn’t share the collective values is a way to prove one’s allegiance to those values, as well as reassure oneself that they are still valid as values (they are even worth fighting for).

This kind of psychological reaction might be called “huddling.” Huddling — the desire of individuals to retreat into a group — stems from an unconscious belief that there is safety in numbers. Actually, the reverse may be the case: the larger the group, the less cohesive it is, the greater the chances of violence become. If you don’t believe me , just look at how US citizens stockpiled weapons after the Sandy Hook incident:

“One local proprietor told Huffington Post customers were particularly interested in combat-style assault rifles like the one used by shooter Adam Lanza to commit mass murder. Though it’s not unusual to see a spike in the sale of weapons after such incidents, at least one shop owner said the volume of prospective customers this time around was ‘unprecedented.’ ‘We already have tons of customers because of Christmas, hunting season is peaking right now, and not to mention, the election,’ said Larry Hyatt, owner of the largest independently owned gun store in America. ‘But this tragedy is pushing sales through the roof. It’s like putting gasoline on a fire.’”[i]

There has been speculation among alternate researchers (“conspiracy theorists,” to the skeptics) that events like Sandy Hook are being engineered in order to implement new restrictions on gun ownership (President Obama gave a speech about it after the incident). Yet so far, as described above, the most obvious result has been the reverse. Along with the growing fear of random acts of violence, rumors of pending gun control laws have apparently been a primary incentive for US citizens to start stockpiling weapons. A week or so after Sandy Hook, there was an apparently unrelated event in which a recently released convict, William Spengler, allegedly set fire to his house and shot several police and firemen when they showed up. One headline for the incident emphasized the fact that Spengler used the same kind of rifle as Adam Lanza. I wonder how exactly this detail was headline news? There are two possible reasons (not mutually exclusive) I can think of for placing the rifle brand front and center. Firstly, to justify restrictions on selling it; secondly, because it’s likely to boost sales!

I don’t want to get pulled into specific arguments about gun control, government conspiracies, and the like. I only cite this recent string of events to illustrate a larger phenomenon which I think is behind it. That phenomenon is the cohesion and stability of a social group — in this case, American citizens in the US — the ways in which its stability is undermined, and the ways that a group (and the individuals in it) attempts to regain its stability. One factor that may not be being considered in all of this is that the US citizenship and the government which ostensibly serves it and provides the structures, laws, and values meant to keep the group stable, may not actually be pursuing the same interests. Stated baldly like this, it seems pretty hard to argue with; yet as soon as specifics are cited along these lines, people immediately start talking about conspiracy theories and the discussion tends to get derailed. So I prefer to tread carefully with the language I use. The primary point I am making is that American society is divided against itself, and that this division — partly or even largely as a result of misguided attempts to heal it — is only getting wider and more fraught. The reason for this has to do with a failure to recognize the true nature of the split, namely, that it is not outside of the group but inside, and inside the members of the group itself.

Belonging to a group identity is fine for bees, migrating birds, and termites. It seemed to work okay for primitive man too, and it still serves its purpose for children learning how to function in the world. But adult humans are meant to individuate, to become self-sufficient, autonomous beings, and not merely the products of their culture and the guardians of it. There is a much larger context to our experience than society, after all. The US is a culture of individuality that at the same time prohibits individuation. Individuation is the psychological journey of self-awareness that leads to autonomy and to an authentic, inner-oriented sense of self. To be an individual in the US means to be an American, which means to conform to a set of cultural beliefs. As Morris Berman pointed out in his essay “Locating the Enemy: Myth Vs. Reality in U.S. Foreign Policy” (A Question of Values), Americanism is an ideology. Central to this ideology is the fact that it is un-American not to value the individual (i.e., Americanism) as the highest good. Individualism, for the American, is not merely a privilege but an obligation. This is why America’s special brand of “freedom” has become a justification for the brutal oppression of everything that is “un-American.” (According to Morris Berman, “24% of American population say it’s OK to use violence in the pursuit of one’s goals.”)

(Cont tomorrow)

[i] Also this, from the comment section of Morris Berman’s “Dark Ages America”: “There has been some comment in the press coverage that Nancy Lanza was a ‘gun nut’ as the colloquialism goes. But there hasn’t been much notice that the whole community is heavily armed. She was not that unusual for the context she lived in. Newtown, CT. is a wealthy community full of ‘preppers’ stockpiling weapons to protect their wealth from the hordes of looters they expect when society collapses. Investigative reporters have found that police have been receiving many complaints about automatic gunfire and explosions in the semi-rural areas around that town. That would be ‘preppers’ rehearsing for the big drama they expect. Nancy Lanza was probably friends with many of the people causing those complaints. Not hard to see where Adam Lanza got the idea that weapons and violence are the way to deal with problems… Listen to the story here: Brian Lehrer / ‘WNYC: Black Guns After the Sandy Hook Shooting.’

9 thoughts on “Huddling: Are Americans Going Gun Crazy? (Perceptual Warfare 7)

  1. Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
    Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
    Everybody knows that the war is over
    Everybody knows the good guys lost
    Everybody knows the fight was fixed
    The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
    Thats how it goes
    Everybody knows

    Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
    Everybody knows that the captain lied
    Everybody got this broken feeling
    Like their father or their dog just died
    Everybody talking to their pockets
    Everybody wants a box of chocolates
    And a long stem rose
    Everybody knows

  2. “they also look for an “other” as a contrast to those values. Opposing an other who doesn’t share the collective values is a way to prove one’s allegiance to those values, as well as reassure oneself that they are still valid as values (they are even worth fighting for).”

    This would explain why the news and Jerry Springer are so popular… And why Alex Jones makes more money than you probably do, unfortunately.

    I used to project my shadow a lot more when I was first hit with conspiracies, blaming other people. But that’s become pointless now. Since the bigger group is a reflection of the individual the only way to make any difference is to change and improve yourself.

  3. Why is it when you change a paradigm (for instance you become familiar with conspiracy you start looking at public joe like mindless zombies, or you become a vegetarian you scorn at meat eaters, etc the list goes on) its always a systematic of pointing the blame or projecting your hate at some target, other than yourself?

    This tell me that the whole collective can be constantly deceived no matter what ever agendas is thrown out there, and we’re running in circles over and over again. Until we look inwards and acknowledge our shadow that’s where process will only start.

    Where did we adopt this complex or is it innate, and does true honesty have to be acquired?

  4. Pingback: The Evolution of the Other & the Hidden Nature of Democracy (Perceptual Warfare 8) | Auticulture

  5. Answers? I don’t know whatever you gather from what I’m about to share.

    From my own experience and observances of others in contact with those reality tunnels, its an ego-boost (leverage, delusional power trip), a place to fit in, or a search for an identity (after your old model has been crushed).

    A week ago or so I watched Roger Scruton’s Beauty & Consolation, he said, “All unhappiness & alienation comes from the attempt to be an individual among everything else.” That statement stood out to me, but having some American sensibilities there is also a truth is creating and exploring for yourself.

    I remembering being ambushed by conspiracies and they demonized particularly everything, I had to unlearned a lot stuff because that’s just another severe form of braining-washing. To look back at the stuff I believed in when I went deep into those trenches is pathetic; and from this day on there are still people making a living from it which is disgusting. From there I took up new-age, positive thinking, getting into health, fitness practices then walked into another disenchantment.

    Then we have the synchronicity community, which I thought is amazing the way synchronicity can be a compass, or as some say a comic wink. Though, I never experienced that “magic”, so every time I kept up with the blogs and podcasts it was still a outside looking in sort of thing with the hope of one day coming into a life altering epiphany. Is it possible the happiness of that community is fed by the security of being part of an insiders phenomenon?

    I sifted though tons of reading material from what derives from those atl. communities, maybe the benefits I reaped were the critical thinking skills I picked up after opening door after door and being revealed to disillusionment, though it has left me with a confused yearning to fill a void.

    That’s an extremely brief “process” from oblivion to self-honesty.

  6. Could sure use an edit button after butchering that quote.
    “All our unhappiness & alienation comes from the attempt to be an individual above everything else.”

  7. Pseudo got me thinking… An overly abused uniting factor is a common enemy as it is easier to relate via vice than virtue and the lowest common denominator often rules the herd. It’s easier to slide down than stand up straight. Conspiracy buffs pride themselves on their ‘honesty’ in seeing their worlds objectively, but is it really honesty or are they overemphasizing a certain thing and ignoring something they don’t want to face, the ‘next step’, maybe. A destruction of the outer world around someone indicates a coming destruction of the inner world. It becomes more personal and we tend to cling to our ego and it’s projections the more we realize our sense of self is as fragile as the outer world we used to believe so strongly in. We can choose to be ‘honest’ and ignorant at the same time by sticking to our habitual, conditioned beliefs, maybe changing the surface of things a little, while at the same time shunning the inevitable dissolution of personality.

    Something higher, like the ‘star’s transmissions’ maybe, is trying to get through to us and to hear it we just have to turn off the outside noise and try to listen. If God is the ‘creator’ and all of our creations begin in the mind/psyche/soul, then God indeed is inside the soul and there is our guide with all our personal answers that will lead us to balance and confidence in our roles.

  8. Pseudo – your journey from conspiracy to new age positivism to synchromysticsm that has wound up here and at the bedrock of self-honesty is good to hear. It’s the people I am hoping to attract to this space, the open-minded skeptics and (relatively) no-BS seekers. Keep commenting. I won’t always have the time to respond but I’m always reading.

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