“Collaborators in Creation” is an article on Aeon, an online thought venue. One of the focus areas is the influence of social media in shaping our physical and social worlds. The physical world is the environment, the stuff that is not human. The social world is the personal, the human, the relationship inter-actions. The power of social media to shape both worlds is immense! The question is how we make it work for the betterment of the common good, and specifically for gun violence prevention.
According to the authors, the influence of Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th and 16th Centuries was startling! “His printing press catalyses the Protestant Reformation, the invention of science, the Enlightenment, the creation of mass culture and the development of democratic politics.” I recall reading that during Luther’s time, nearly 2,000 written pieces were circulated, fueling the Reformation. A survey published at the end of the last millennium, rated the influence of the printing press and Martin Luther in the top four of influencers. As with the authors of the article, I would concur with their conclusion that “One of the strengths of open, democratic societies is that they enable and encourage the exploration of new ideas….It is no accident that the explosion of innovation in physical technologies over the past two centuries emerge largely in open, free market societies.”
I would include the development and marketing of guns as indicative of the broadening of a particular physical technology. Open any gun catalogue, study the menue of arms for sale on Armslist, visit any gun show and we will find a smorgasbord of weapon delights!
In this physical technological gun reality, I would also concur with the authors’ conclusion that “…the social technologies have not kept up…. [leading to] strains on society, and the space for anger, populism and authoritarian solutions [to] increase.” American gun violence is a result of this trend of social technology not keeping up with the physical technology of gun production and use. Look at the data on the websites of protectmn.org, thetrace.org, giffords.org, engageelca.org to better understand our tragic gun reality. To quote former Mayor Bloomburg of New York, “In God we trust. In all else we trust the data!”
The authors conclude “When enabled by social media, our innate capacity for moral outrage leads to dysfunctional polarization.” Heads up: NRA vs. non-gun owners and parents of slaughtered children and family members. Furthermore, “With face to face experience removed, feeling the pain of the accused no longer checks the aggression of our outrage…. [leading to] cancerous actors or ideas to gain control and drive [us] to some disastrous end.” Alert: A mass shooting occurs almost every day in the USA. In short, we lose empathy. Social media has the power to impersonalize relationships, leading us to objectify each other rather than nurture our humanity. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter, blur our capacity for empathy and too often serve as substitutes for understanding our “social technology” of human relationship. They do not eliminate, they only blur.
The authors point to solutions. 1) Breaking up platform monopolies; 2) Regulating the media companies; 3) Creating individual property rights. The implications for gun violence prevention would be: 1) Increased common sense, responsible gun regulation, such as those of Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut and other states in the top tier of gun safety, as well as considering the gun laws of Australia and New Zealand; 2) Regulating gun manufacturers by making them accountable for unethical marketing, liable for suits, and mandating gun safety technology such as finger-print identification mechanisms; 3) Insisting on non-gun owner right of safety as ennunciated in the Declaration of Independence of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for ALL people; 4) Demanding that the state and national governments adhere to the Preamble of our Constitution, that it is their duty to “insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare”. In too many state legislatures and in the stack of unread bills in our U.S. Senate, there is little to no action on gun violence bills.
Anti-abortion activists like to use the Deuteronomy text, “Choose life” to justify their actions. I would suggest the same text be used to address GVP. “Choose life” is consistent with the Ten Commandments which is a foundationally nonviolent recipe for life. “Choose life” is consistent with the ethics of Jesus and the Spirit of Christ as defined by Paul in Galatians. “Choose life” is a call for a social technology and social media based upon love, recognizing the grace within limits and regulations, affirming our common oneness created in the Image of God, calling for a collaboration for the sake of gun safety and the preciousness of life.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)