I woke up this morning to the news about the shooting in Las Vegas. More than 50 people dead and over 200 injured. I wrote that sentence and then sat here staring into space for lack of any words to possibly follow it up with.
I watched the clips of the concert from when the shooting started. I listened to Up First and they played audio of it. The rapidity with which those shots were fired is breathtaking. Aside from the horrific images that it invokes, I keep thinking, why do these weapons even exist? Not just why would a civilian have access to them, but why do they even exist in the first place? I don’t see justification for it.
I think a lot about the very beginnings of civilization. I imagine two small tribes living across a river and a few miles up and downstream from each other. One of these tribes finds their crops or their animals dying and they need help or they face starvation. I imagine a gathering of some kind, maybe the elders, to discuss what’s to be done. Someone mentions the tribe across the river. Their crops are healthy. And a decision has to be made. Do they approach the other tribe peacefully and ask for help? Maybe offering some kind of trade or help in return? Or do they ambush them and take what they need forcefully?
I know that animals are naturally afraid of the other. I know that it’s in our makeup to not be too trusting. In order to survive, it’s in our best interest to be suspicious. But humans are supposed to be intelligent. We are supposed to be able to use reason and logic to supplement our instincts.
When I think about these hypothetical early tribes, they always decide on violence. There is a small contingency advocating for a peaceful solution, but their voices are drowned out by those using fear as their main argument. “We don’t know these people. They could kill us all the moment they see us coming.” And so, they go down river and ambush this unsuspecting tribe and they feel righteous and justified because it was all done in the name of survival.
I know that if this kind of thing happened, it happened the world over. Wherever there were tribes of people, these kinds of decisions had to be made. But I think of these two imaginary tribes and the moment of decision as a turning point in humanity. We could have chosen something better. We could have taken a risk and made the decision that ultimately benefited the species not just the tribe.
And I know this sounds naïve. Clearly we, as a species, have proven that we are not that intelligent. Even if that mythical tribe had decided on a peaceful resolution, another tribe further down river would have made the opposite decision. I think it’s in our nature to destroy each other.
We are ridiculous. We are stupid and scared and we don’t learn from our mistakes. We have let those in charge, since the dawn of civilization, cultivate fear and mistrust for their own gain.
When food storage was invented the people in charge quickly realized they could use it as a method to gain more power and, even better, to pit people against each other. Before we figured out how to store grain, we had to eat what we harvested before it went to waste. And if there was extra it went to those who were in need. But then we knew how to store the extra and suddenly there was something that needed to be inventoried and guarded and doled out. And it no longer belonged to the people, it belonged to those who were keeping the inventory and paying the guards and doling it out. And there were taxes placed on it. And there were punishments for trying to take what wasn’t yours. After all, you can’t just let anyone come and take what they want or there will be chaos. The food and people were controlled for the good of the people.
I realize this seems way off point. Someone let loose a barrage of bullets into a crowd and I’m talking about grain storage.
My point is, we made this world. We had a blank slate and could have made anything we wanted. We could have designed a hedonistic, orgiastic, peaceful utopia. But, instead, we used fear, suspicion, and mistrust to guide us and we created a world in which someone can send their loved one off to enjoy a concert and never see them again because a weapon exists that can fire off dozens of rounds per minute.
Yes, yes, I KNOW this sounds naïve. And insane. I’m arguing that grain silos led to last night’s massacre. And even in a hedonistic, orgiastic utopia someone could send a loved one off to a concert and never see them again. But it’s hard to imagine that, short of a natural disaster, hundreds of people could send loved ones off to a concert and never see them again.
I could spin off into another theory about how natural disasters would have resulted in the use of assault rifles eventually, but I realize I’ve already given you a lot to swallow.
That’s all I can say.