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Mindless capitalism led to American gun culture

I had written this after the Virginia Tech shootout and I write again — capitalism is a great slave, but a pathetic master. This truth unfortunately gets lost in our chase for that elusive dream... especially in America, the land that has been marketed as the land of dreams — the Great American Dream. No doubt, the US, on its part, has been fairly successful in creating material comfort aplenty. It has upped the living standards of its average citizen to be among the highest in the world. Thus, the shop window of Americanism looks lucidly attractive; you’ve got all of them standing there — from Bill Gates to Michael Dell — in Tommy Hilfigers and Ralph Laurens! And that is what has made the rest of the world mindlessly chase Americanism.

What goes unseen is that America also happens to be the land that is right amongst the top in terms of the number of divorces per thousand, the number of single-parent families per thousand, the number of old people in old-age homes, the number of rape cases per million, the number of suicides, homicides, and of course, the number of college/school shootouts... After all, in a society where ‘what you are’ is equal to ‘what you have’ plus ‘what you consume’, the only way to achieve more is to have and consume more (That’s why we call the US a consumerist society, and its culture, consumerism). But in this race, you sacrifice those that have the maximum power to make you happy — family, emotions and love. And you don’t even realise when you’ve become a dry-eyed moron. And then, one day you are left alone... probably divorced, without children, and in an old-age home. And suddenly, you realise that there is emptiness all around... But by then, it’s really too late.

By then, you have made profits out of arms, and engineered wars to keep that industry alive. You’ve sold guns across counters at Wal-Mart and made more profits. You’ve lobbied that guns should be made accessible to the common man, and all for profits. You’ve created an end result of a society not based on love, bonding and emotions, but a society based on endless materialism. A country with so many single-parent families and divorces can neither bring up its children any better, nor influence the Wisconsin gurdwara massacre madcap Wade Michael Page with a 9/11 tattoo on his hand, or James Eagan Holmes — the retard behind the Dark Knight Rises massacre —any worse.

Yes, bad laws stemming out of the material system are also responsible. Among 50 states of US, around 44 states currently have provisions allowing civilians to own guns in accordance with the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Sweden is another nation with relaxed gun control laws, where a string of 19 unresolved shooting incidents has stirred concerns, especially among immigrants. But United Kingdom, with its Firearms Act, and various amendments, has succeeded in banning automatic and self-loading guns from public possession. In most countries like Australia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, China, firearms for personal protection are not allowed; in Brazil, one can’t carry guns outside one’s home. On the other hand, the series of recent shooting incidents in the US has driven pro-gun lobbyists to argue that concealed weapons must be allowed inside college campuses, with a lousy logic that people possessing guns are safer and are capable of self-defense. For records, more than 3 lakh Americans have been killed in gun battles over the last decade.

Even in India, it is estimated that around 4.5 crore guns exist, making the country the second nation (after US) in terms of private gun ownership. Firearms are becoming more of status symbols and symbols of power. As of now, there is no law governing ‘place of possession’ of guns. With materialism creeping into our lives, the Indian government should immediately introduce stricter laws — for a start, banning public possession of arms or possession of arms by intoxicated people — in order to address the gun culture.

Not only India, but UN along with other international forums should immediately declare possession of arms in their list of prohibited items. If the world unanimously declared drugs and related items illegal on a global scale, banning guns should be a cake-walk. What is lacking here is a holistic political will and also the mettle to challenge the pro-gun lobbyists, who, of course, are members of big arms-manufacturing groups. Today, the gun culture has spread its tentacles all across the world, with more than 700 million guns officially circulating around the world, resulting in millions of deaths over the years — a number that is at par with deaths due to terrorist attacks or the global drugs trade. After all, a gun was not just the reason why a few precious lives were lost at Wisconsin, but was also the reason why the world lost Abraham Lincoln, JF Kennedy and Gandhi.

— The writer is a management guru and Hony Director of IIPM Think Tank

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