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—the Great American Dream. No doubt, the US, on its part, has been fairly successful in creating material comfort aplenty and upping living standards. 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 among the top in terms of the number of divorces per thousand, single-parent families per thousand, old people in old-age homes, rape cases per million, suicides, homicides, and of course, 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 family, emotions and love. And you don’t even realise when you’ve become a dry-eyed moron (the US also happens to be the land that has the maximum number of dry-eyed people). And then, one day you are left alone... probably divorced, without children, and in an old-age home. 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 Walmart 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. Such a nation 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 are also responsible. Among 50 states of US, around 44 currently allow civilians to own guns in line with US Constitution’s Second Amendment, which is the right of US citizens to possess firearms. Sweden is another nation with relaxed gun control laws and a string of 19 unresolved shooting incidents. But UK, 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.
Even in India, it is estimated that around 45,000,000 (45 million) 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 than being tools of self-defence. With materialism creeping into our lives too, 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, 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 worldwide, resulting in millions of deaths over the years—a number at par with deaths due to terrorist attacks or 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, J F Kennedy and Gandhi.
Chaudhuri is a management guru and honorary director at IIPM think tank