I’ve believed that most people don’t steal, they don’t kill, and they don’t rape and pillage because at their core they believe it’s wrong. But a couple of recent comments have caused me to ponder just how much of our world is held together by force. I don’t mean forces like gravity or the strong nuclear force, but rather the threat of punishment.
A commenter on the recent post contrasting the 2nd and 14th amendments opined, “the 2nd amendment is there to allow citizens to fight off an oppressive government, whether a foreign one or our own. But the most important reason for it ,is to preserve our God given right of self defense..Without the 2nd amendment…all the other ones can be taken away.” The underlying theme of his comment seems to be that governments only behave because of the constant palpable threat of insurrection by the people.
In a completely different vein, another person opined regarding atheism that he could never himself be an atheist because he felt there would then be no reason not to just get up every morning and do whatever he felt like. He feared that without the threat of God’s wrath, he’d become a complete hedonist.
In both these cases, the people are ordinary everyday folks. These are not borderline criminals or people you would otherwise fear. Yet they both seem to feel it is only the threat of punishment that keeps their world from falling into chaos.
This is causing me to seriously question whether these two guys are an anomaly or whether they actually represent a far greater portion of the population than I might have expected. If it is only by force that much of this world is held together, then maybe that explains some things. Perhaps this is the underlying motivation behind those who would seek to impose rigid rules with draconian punishments on the minutiae of our lives. Whether those rules are religious, political, or just organizational, they are the rope that binds their own worlds from bursting apart, and they wish to assure that no one else operates outside those constraints.
It’s understandable that if you feel that without being strapped to your seat you’d be running amok in the cabin that you would question the motives and actions of anyone not similarly bound. It’s not that I thought these people didn’t exist, but rather that they existed at the fringes of society, not in its mainstream. And I’m now coping with the dawning realization this may be a naive view.
The ease with which looting and rioting break out in otherwise civilized cities is perhaps further indication we are not as evolved as I might have hoped. Maybe we are really just very large children, constrained only by the watchful gaze of a parent figure. Yearning to be free of that yoke and run wild through the neighborhood.
If true, a sad reality indeed.