Choosing our own ground to defend hunting & firearms
by Stephen Heyer

Isn't it time we stopped letting our enemies set the agenda and choose the grounds for battle?

After all, the gun and hunting prohibitionists include the media and the governing and intellectual elites, so are far too powerful and devious to resist with mere facts and truth. As well, we need to adopt the techniques developed and proven by this century's successful dissident and protest movements.

Two of these techniques are especially powerful, yet we make little use of them. The first is to develop a simple, coherent and attractive story that bundles your claims in populist form so that they can be marketed as being both Truth and essential to the welfare of society. The second of course is to seize control of the terms of debate and this is what I will mostly be discussing.

For example, our opponents are allowed to claim all sorts of imagined social and ethical advantages for banning guns, hunting and much of our culture while manoeuvring us into only being allowed to argue our case on grounds of strict utility. In other words, we have allowed ourselves to be restricted to the single argument that a law will cause no reduction at all in the rate of death by firearm.

Even then we are denied a fair hearing and the argument that it is pointless to stop death by one means if it then simply occurs by another is dismissed as irrelevant.

Yet there is so much more that should be considered. For a beginning, I suggest we force recognition of three facts.

1. Restrictive and discriminative laws have harmful side effects.

They harm both society and individuals and they are harming us. As there are many of us a lot of harm is being caused.

That restrictive and discriminative laws are harmful and wrong is now so well acknowledged that it needs no further argument. Only the most willful and selective blindness allows our persecutors to pretend that somehow this doesn't count in our case.

2. Firearms and hunting are an ancient part of the Western European Dreaming and indeed of many cultures.

Weapons, hunting and the like are, after all, deep and ancient parts of human nature, though of course how this is expressed, in fact, if it is expressed, varies widely between individuals, the sexes and ethnic groups. Firearms and hunting with firearms in particular are an especially characteristic and ancient part of the Western European Dreaming and part of that group's multicultural rights.

Hunting is one of the primary ways we have always bound ourselves to nature, both a practical resource gathering activity and a sacrament that allows humans to enter into the great web of life. Likewise, being able to trust ordinary citizens with weapons is a good marker of a healthy and fairy free society. This is also of necessity generally a society in which the rulers have agreed to forgo the grosser excesses of power.

It is useful to remember that over much of the world, especially Europe and those areas that came under European control, wildlife survived largely because influential classes and individuals liked to hunt. And yes, they also liked having the non-game species and non-timber trees around as well, but they were able to justify setting aside and managing large, near natural areas because of the hunting and timber they provided.

Doubt this, then check areas of the world where the influential classes weren't so universally keen on hunting, shooting and fishing. Horizon to horizon peasants, or sterile, commercial farms on the good lands and the marginal lands that should more properly have been left to forestry and hunting flogged back to bare rocky hillside or desert.

The mistake even hunters and shooters make is to think of what they are doing as a sport; it isn't, it's more of the nature of a cultural tradition or a religious sacrament. In fact, I've always thought that describing hunting as a sport was rather inappropriate, demeaning of nature and the animals we take. Target shooting maybe, hunting no.

So when you see a bunch of guys heading out to the range or a duck hunt, some with sons (and yes, even daughters) in tow, just think of a bunch of blokes in funny leather shorts off to folk dancing, or a crowd of Catholics off to Sunday Mass and you'll get the right idea.

We too have rights to our own culture and we too are part of the Multicultural. To seek to destroy our culture is no different from attempting to destroy any other minority culture. Worse in fact for ours is no mere cultural tradition or minor religion, ours is more ancient than humanity itself, was one of the very forces that molded us into what we are.

3. We have been hurt and our health, wellbeing and connections with society damaged by being attacked and having hatred incited against us.

When we are persecuted, lied about and attacked in terms that would be unacceptable if we were a more fashionable minority group it does real damage, both to us and to society. When a hostile, unified government and media ignores our views and needs and worse, whips up public hysteria against us, they subject us to real discrimination and cause us the kind of harm that other persecuted minorities suffer.

We too are victims.

Notice how even partial public acceptance of these points would totally change the terms of argument. The whole debate would be moved to ground much more favorable to us.

In fact, while they were still in the process of gaining power sections of the current elites spent a great deal of time and effort conditioning the public to accept arguments couched in just these terms. It would be a shame not to put all their hard work to good use.

Ok, so it hurts to have to use the tactics of enemies we despise, but in a world run by media barons and their sycophants, failed suburban lawyers and money market spivs become politicians, it's a case of adapt or die. Besides, all three points are only too true.

We should be grateful, I suppose, that we have an excellent, recent example of the harm that discriminative and unfair attacks do to us and to society, all without achieving any countervailing good. I am referring of course to the whole process that flowed from Port Arthur.

When the Australian political and media elites took the once in a decade opportunity of the massacre at Port Arthur in April 1996 to force through their wish list of anti-gun laws, the justification was that the good would far outweigh the harm. In other words, the new laws would prevent so many deaths, injuries and crimes that their inevitable social and financial costs would be fully justified.

Of course, the argument was never presented outside academic circles in quite this form, as it would have raised difficult questions about the nature and extent of these social costs and the number of deaths that were realistically likely to be prevented. Instead, the public was subjected to saturation propaganda that gave the impression that there would be no social costs and that most deaths and crimes that were in any way associated with firearms would be totally prevented.

The propaganda went on to make claims that all sorts of social benefits would result from restrictions on firearms and hunting. Benefits that historical and international experience showed to be mere fantasy.

I believe that our most urgent task is to force public recognition of the full extent of the new law's social costs in the light of actual experience. That way, some idea can be gained of how much good this law and others like it would have to do before they could even reach the break-even point.

Ok, so just what are these social costs? Remembering that this analysis is specific to this law and this country, at this time, the following costs are pretty obvious.

1. Misery and insecurity caused to innocent people: The new laws, and worse, media and government efforts to whip up public emotion and hatred caused a very large number (probably a million of more) people to feel attacked, unwanted and unjustly persecuted.

Worse, these people, as a group, tended to be unusually law abiding pillars-of-the-community types, just the types that nations need to form a stable, loyal backbone. Just the types that four decades of amateur social engineering and violent economic, social, cultural and ethnic change has made less common.

2. Alienation: A percentage of these people went on to became alienated. Going by people who became alienated over Australia's Vietnam commitment, once this happens people remain alienated for forty years or more. This alienation causes hidden social damage for decades into the future.

3. Increased death rate: When you make people unhappy and insecure you increase their rate of death from all causes. You also increase the death rate among innocent bystanders due to factors such as the original group's increased accident rate. When the group is large the number of deaths and injuries you have caused can be substantial.

4. Setting dangerous political precedents: The technique of government and media manipulation of public opinion against minority groups has now been "normalized" in Australia, as demonstrated by the rapidity, skill and ruthlessness with which it was later used against One Nation. Any sensible person must realize what a disaster this is.

5. Public alienation from the political system: Hundreds of thousands of disgruntled citizens bad-mouthing the system at every opportunity, in every pub and workplace, plus some suspicion by the general public that they were manipulated by the elites (even if they agree with banning guns) has eroded already weak public commitment to the political system.

6. Intolerance of cultural activities: Firearms and hunting with firearms is an ancient and integral part of some cultures. It is part of those groups' multicultural rights and attacking that aspect of their culture is just as bad as attacking, say, their language, religion, or other customs.

7. Direct loss of freedom: The fact that freedoms many people grew up with have been eroded or removed must be a source of regret.

8. Indirect loss of freedom: Changes to the laws that will be "found" to be necessary for "effective enforcement" of the new gun law will probably cause a more general and serious loss of traditional freedoms than gun law itself. This is part of a long and dangerous process where the progressive loss of ancient freedoms and rights has been justified at every stage as necessary to fight the "evil of the month", starting with drugs and flowing through domestic violence, child abuse, pedophilia, pornography and now guns.

Totalitarianism by stealth, while all the time claiming to be the champion of freedom is quite an ancient tactic for gaining class or personal power. Nevertheless, it is one that has lost none of its effectiveness.

9. Economic cost: The immediate cost, about 500 million dollars, and the fact that this vast sum could have been put to much better use, is in retrospect the least of the new law's costs. Of course, there is also the small matter of the considerable ongoing costs involved in setting up and operating whole new systems of registration and record keeping, and the diversion of public resources this entails.

And now a personal note. I have two physically disabled friends and I can see several quite simple technologies that, if developed, would greatly increase their quality of life. Interestingly, this even meets economic rationalist criteria as it would reduce these peoples' cost to society and be the foundation of an export industry.

Give me 500 million dollars and I WILL transform the lives of thousands of people, I WILL do great good, I WILL change the world for the better, guaranteed. In the long run I'll probably even turn a profit. Now wouldn't that have been a better use than flushing it down the toilet of a gun confiscation program that did no good and only caused good people pain?

Get the idea? Once these costs are recognized it becomes obvious that the new law would have to do a lot of good just to offset the harm it caused.

This is the message we have to push, again and again and again. Howard's law and process of lies persecution and incitement to hatred used to ensure its passage caused immense and long-term harm to a large number of people and to society itself. It would have to save a great many lives to balance that harm before it could even start to achieve net good.

Not that there is any sign this is likely to happen any time soon. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the period 1996 - 1997 show that far from there being a major improvement, serious crime increased considerably. To make matters worse, recent figures for suicide are just as unpromising. The law's failure is profound.

And remember, this was at a time during and immediately after the removal of over 640,000 of what were supposed to be the most dangerous types of weapons from the community and before there had been significant time for restocking or adaptations such as the development of black markets. Surely, if there was ever going to be a noticeable benefit it should have shown up then.

So there it is, that is the message we must push again and again, at every opportunity. Our survival depends on public acceptance of these facts.

Even more, it depends on public acceptance that we too are a minority group with every right to expect tolerance of and even special consideration and protection for our beliefs and culture, that we too have multicultural rights.

No one will give us this acceptance, we have to fight for it as other groups have. After all, some very unlikely groups have moved themselves all the way from being almost universally detested to positions of special protection and privilege.

We are starting from nowhere nearly as far behind, our numbers are greater, properly marketed we have a more romantic and virtuous image and we have the weight of tradition behind us. Oh yes! And for what it's worth these days - Truth. Surely we can do at least as well.

Finally, many readers will be uncomfortable with my use of multiculturalism as a defense, in fact the main defense, of their and my culture. I suppose, therefore, I had better explain what I mean by multiculturalism and my views on it.

First, there are both benign and malignant forms. In its benign form it is only a modern term for freedom of religion, political belief and cultural practice, freedoms Australians have always believed in. Of course, by that definition Australia has been a multicultural nation for a long time.

In that form, I support it as moral and necessary within a given community or nation.

It is also, now, unavoidable in one form or another for Australia so we have to make sure we get the form we want. What follows is a brief exploration of the form I support and of what I mean when I use the word multiculturalism. My preferred form is, I suspect, the only form that will allow us to survive as a humane, free and coherent community.

The first thing to understand is that a person can belong to a culture without it consuming his or her whole life. For example, people will often be part of one culture centered on their religion, another on their political beliefs, another on their ethnic origins, another on some other important part of their life such as hunting, or art, or even their sexual preference. In short, a well-rounded individual will usually belong to several cultures.

The important thing is to assemble this diversity into a larger community that is effective, free and humane. Luckily, history has given us some useful rules of thumb.

In brief, for multiculturalism to work a community must make every effort to accommodate existing cultures, but this must always be a two way street. While majority cultures must make provision for minority cultures, the minority cultures must also make an effort to fit in and be good and loyal members of the community.

A community may, however, prefer not to import additional cultures, especially those that may be difficult to accommodate within the existing community. It may particularly wish to avoid importing cultures it suspects would be excessively disruptive. It has every right to do so.

A very much more difficult problem arises in the case of already existing local cultures, or those that are in the process of arising locally, that the existing mainstream cultures regard (sometimes correctly) as harmful. I have yet to find a good or even workable solution to either the ethical or practical dimensions of that problem. All I can suggest is that in the end tolerance seems the least harmful over the long term.

Remember, in the long term, in a free and open society, the stupidities of one generation tend to be corrected by the next, or the one after that. As an immediate example, anyone who has been keeping their finger on the nation's intellectual pulse must have noticed that much of the trash politics, philosophy, ethics and economics that flowed out of the sixties and seventies is now being questioned by a new generation of young writers, thinkers and leaders.

This has not escaped the notice of the aging left-liberal elite who are desperately trying to stamp their names onto history and lock the new generation into the future they decided it should have. A prime example is of course the Republic. Here, they are trying to rush things through instead of waiting a little while until the generation who will live most of their lives in the twenty first century can choose the details and form of government they wish to live under for themselves.

Another important rule is that it is both polite and wise for a cultural group that is particularly successful not to seize too much power or too much of the community's wealth or impose its views on others. Likewise, it should not flaunt its wealth or power and has a positive social and moral duty to help those less fortunate in a constructive way, as do individuals.

In short, the secret of a successful multicultural community is tolerance, good will and commitment to the larger community and the nation. It is also necessary that all agree on a base set of core ethical beliefs, if only tolerance, good will and commitment. It is also very helpful if the cultural mix is neither excessively complex, nor stiflingly simple.

What is currently giving multiculturalism a bad name is the way certain groups now in the ascendancy are using it not to promote freedom and diversity and strengthen the community, but to gain power and privilege for themselves, suppress other groups and weaken the community. This is the malignant form.

If multiculturalism dies and tolerance dies with it, it is they who will bear the sin and a very great sin it will be.

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Reproduction is permitted for non-commercial purposes provided the material is complete and unaltered.
Copyright 1999 Stephen Heyer