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Monday, 2 October 2017

Vegas And The Downside Of Political Activation

Overnight, I watched an appalling, horrifying thing unfold in one of my favourite cities, Las Vegas. There's no real need to rehash the details here, as what little that is known, heavily salted with speculation and deplorable sensationalism, is already ubiquitous. What's also unfortunately ubiquitous is the immediate politicisation of the event.

I suppose this isn't any individual's fault. Mass shootings in the US are all too frequent, and the basically pre-programmed response of influencers and opinion makers is to turn them into a discussion on gun control. I use the term 'pre-programmed' advisedly in that it's a bone deep reflex, rationalised on the grounds that the cause trumps considerations of decency, appropriateness, and restraint - the argument is that gun control is the root of the problem, and that the imperative to advocate is necessarily greater than any other.

This may or may not be the case. I personally agree with the limitation of access to firearms, but that's neither here nor there in this discussion. Because what I'm mostly aware of is the life changing horror of being involved in a shooting in any way. The gut wrenching terror of knowing friends or loved ones might have been senselessly taken in an incident one can neither parse, influence, or affect. The sight, real or imagined (both equally abhorrent) of faces known and cared for, down in the dust and bloodied with random or targeted violence. The human aspect, basically. The one which, in most cases, has been dealt with in curt expressions of vague sympathy before the immediate commencement of political drumming.

I know the tributes and vigils are coming. In the next few days, there will be moments of silence, candlelit gatherings, and declarations of solidarity in the face of pain. But what I wonder is if it's worth thinking about the fact that these have become emphatically secondary responses. That the order of reaction is now outrage, political advocacy and argument, and then grief. I wonder if it's worth thinking about what that says about the nature of our humanity in this new historical epoch of the information age.

Because I think that if we do think about it, we'll see that it doesn't say anything very good about us at all.

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