Friday, 18 January 2013

The Hidden People


There is a large and growing rift in the world that has fractured modern society right through to its core, one which has pervaded every level of politics, economy and social infrastructure, and has divided civilization itself. I am speaking of a widening crevasse between the likable and the unlikable, the preferred, and the distasteful, those things we enjoy thinking about, and those we prefer to put out of our minds. 

So difficult do we find it to bring our thoughts from less pleasant things down to the level of pondering on those topics which droop the contented smiles on our faces. We tend to ignore that which bothers us to consider. When we dislike something, we set it aside, we bury it, we hide it. It is innate to us that we must separate things into their own categories, and while that may bring us a moment of comfort at the time, it leads to destructive consequences in the long run. What am I speaking of? The class system.

I haven’t said much about myself so far in this blog, and I thought maybe it’s time to tell you my story. At least part of it. This a topic that has affected me directly in multiple different ways, and which will hopefully serve as a cautionary tale as well as a poignant forewarning of what may be to come. It is a topic that may never have affected you, and I certainly hope that it never does. Why then would you want to hear about it? Because it might affect you, it might, and as such it is better to be prepared and have some clue what to expect should you ever fall folly to the same circumstances. This is my story, and that of many more people just like me, just like you, who happened to be in the wrong circumstances at a very bad time.

In the December of 2007 the industrial world suffered a devastating injury in the form of the recession. Too many people with too much money and not enough brains had stacked all of our money on the wrong horse and we all paid the price. Although the recession officially ended in 2009, don’t be fooled into thinking that we are in any way out of the woods. Truth be told, those in power knew this was coming long before it happened. That’s conjecture of course, but I have observed from my vantage point at the bottom rung of society just how carefully my government was beginning to tighten the belt in all the most subtle areas. Then, when it all hit the fan, they were ready.

Mountains of legislation designed to wring every last pound out of the lower classes came streaming at us in a single continuous landfall, nobody could complain because, hey, it was the recession! It served as a perfect excuse, a convenient vehicle for the government to put into action plans which they had been salivating over for several years. Our entire world had entered a state of emergency, and under those circumstances, anything goes. It was under that flag that they came for us, marching to the sound of falling pennies. That was when the lower classes became fodder for a war between the wealthy and the poor, and anyone in between found the whole ordeal simply too depressing to take a glance down into the gutters and wonder whether or not we deserved it.

When I was a child I was diagnosed with a cognitive disability which, while I won’t care to go into great detail, makes it extremely difficult for me to handle certain responsibilities. I’ve had to deal with the prejudice of people who think they know better my whole life. I’m not talking about the kind of prejudice that a disfigured person might spy in the glaring eyes of their peers, quite the opposite. The prejudice that those like myself endure is a well-meaning one, it is the prejudice of positive discrimination.

 “Oh well you come across as very intelligent, so you’re obviously a lot more capable than you believe you are”  - I have been told, on many, many occasions. It’s an ordeal to bite my tongue hard enough to prevent myself from explaining every single time that “disabled” doesn’t somehow equate to “stupid”, and that to make that assumption, however good your intentions may be, is both incredibly offensive, as well as infuriatingly dismissive of people like me, who do look and come across as perfectly normal, yet have problems that still exist and are still palpable in the way they affect us without it being necessary for us to wear them on our sleeves in the form of speech impediments or a limited vocabulary.

I digress, however. The point is, it’s always been an issue, having to deal with people who try to encourage you while unknowingly dismissing the problems you have like they aren’t real, or another special brand of prejudice that particularly gets my goat, people who have “friends” with similar problems or who “once knew a guy” – this gets especially tedious, as you need to stop and explain that not every single person with a disability (or even the same disability) will have the same limitations. Of course the real problem is, no one wants to write someone else off as worthless, so they try to find ways to shrug your problems away and act as though they aren’t there. This brings them comfort, but in the end it’s just another manifestation of that “not wanting to look at the bad things” attitude, and once all their shining encouragement is gone, you’re still left alone with a body or mind that won’t do what you want it to.

I was on “incapacity for work” benefit for a couple of years after leaving college. It’s not a pleasant or popular thing to admit to, but I am here to be honest, not to make excuses. I was on this benefit because I believed then as I still do now that I am unsuited for a working environment, the problems I have make all but the most niche of professions completely implausible for me. I won’t sit here writing pages of justifications for this, I know it to be true even if the readers decide otherwise – but to be fair I will address the elephant in the room. Yes, I would love to be a professional writer. Unfortunately this isn’t something you can do at the snap of a finger. I was working towards that goal while I was on my benefits, and I would have ceased accepting that money the moment I could establish myself as a writer with a dependable income.

Anyway, I was on this benefit because I have a verified, diagnosed disability that affects me in a very real, very tangible way. It’s not a fortune to live on, and I would frequently complain that I couldn’t make ends meet, as well as spend much of my free time brainstorming with friends and family about what type of work I might be able to do, simply because I was desperate to get out of the hole I was in (both literally and figuratively, as I lived then as I still do in a broken down hovel rented from the council). It is not a luxurious way to live, and I at no time felt as though I was getting a “free ride” from higher society. I considered life to be hell, I considered myself to be a prisoner of my own limitations. I was, for all intents and purposes, utterly trapped. Fortunately, however, a day would soon come that would free me from that trap.

It wasn’t long after the recession, my father had just been fired from his job of over 15 years due to his company dissolving, my mother was unemployed, my entire family were in a financial nightmare. I received a letter. Apparently it was a “routine check-up” to verify my eligibility for my benefit. I went along, at considerable expense to my family as I have no means of transport, and was made to wait in a room for 40 minutes to be seen. Eventually my name was called out, I got up, and what followed has been burned into my memory ever since:

A doctor with a very bored expression and slovenly slurred speech invited me to take a seat. He then asked me about 5 questions, ensuring that I am vocally and mentally capable of explaining my name and where I am and other such rudimentary things. He then asked me to stand up and take different positions such as touching my nose. I explained as I did my bizarre yogic poses that my disability is neurological in nature, not with my ability to move my body. Handing me his computer keyboard to ascertain whether or not I am capable of holding something, he explained that it’s routine, he has to check these things anyway.

I would love to inform you how the rest of my interview went – but there wasn’t any. That was it. I was sent on my way, and told to await the letter they would send me. The interview took less than 4 minutes by my reckoning. Confused and bemused, I returned home. A few days later I got a letter in the post... “we regret to inform you blah blah blah”, according to that letter, the “expert” with whom I had taken part in my “35 minute thorough assessment” had concluded that I was fit to work. Despite the fact that I am registered and diagnosed with a permanent disability, they had concluded that due to the fact that I can wave my arms around, that no longer applies. This was followed by an appeal I made which ultimately led to a tribunal in which a medical “expert” spend the entire interview arguing with me about the difference between psychology and neurology – wrongly, before ultimately denying my appeal on a whim.

Again, I would like to stress that there are many people who have disabilities which are not immediately apparent. It’s easy to say “well if you can pick something up then you can get a job where you pick things up”, but it’s not a question of the mechanics. Take depression for example, this is a very common disability, and yes that’s what it is, it’s not just “feeling a bit down”, people who use the word that way are doing so incorrectly. Depression has multiple degrees of severity, and the more extreme cases are incredibly hard to deal with as well as nearly impossible to understand from an outside point of view. A person suffering this affliction could, as easily as I did, hold out his hands and lift a keyboard. To think that this is the true measure of a person’s fitness for work is an extremely narrow and foolish attitude to take.

So, I went from receiving £250 a fortnight to make ends meet, a sum that I found completely impossible to survive on, to suddenly having to live on less than £100 from jobseekers allowance, a figure that not only isn’t enough to feed yourself on, but doesn’t even cover the most necessary bills that a person needs to pay (water, electricity, gas) to say nothing of phoneline and internet, necessities when it comes to looking for work.  I had been penalised for being unable to work, by being told to go find work – in an economy where not only are there no jobs, but everyone who has one is in severe danger of losing it.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here and imply I am some government-hating conspiracy nut. Truth be told, Jobseekers allowance, the UK benefit given to people in my situation as a directed inventive to find a job, is a very useful and necessary tool. However, it is horribly mismanaged, and just like with the belt-tightening that had trimmed me out of the disability benefits, no one who is in a fortunate position wants to hear about the hardships of those living under the heel of the government in this way. It was nothing more than greed that led to me losing a benefit that I was completely entitled to, I was short-changed by the system in order to save the government a few meagre pounds. But you know what? I accepted it. I dealt with it. I moved on.

The problem is, where do you move on to, in an economy that has all but sunk? I accepted the hand I was dealt because I had no choice in the matter. While I still felt I wasn’t suitable for work I had to deal with the fact that it was either that or end up homeless. Of course, the truly insidious part of all of this is how jobcentre employees and the like will twist that begrudging acceptance to imply that this means you are and always were fit to work after all, thus cementing your position. As if the only way to stick to my principles and truly protest what has been done to me is to voluntarily starve to death? I didn’t have a choice but to begin seeking work, regardless of whether or not I felt I should have to. The price I had to pay for doing that was making a public admission to my government that I can and am willing to work now, an admission I am not allowed to take back.

I have been on jobseekers for about 3 years now. Every few months they get stricter. Raising the number of jobs I am required to apply for per week higher and higher, to the point where I’ve run out of jobs that are actually there to apply for, and started chasing up companies directly asking them to MAKE a position for me, simply so I can meet my quota. They do absolutely nothing outside of a routine database search to find me a job, and that’s only during the ten minutes I spend with them, and it is a search I could just as easily do on Google. 

They have these machines which supposedly help you find work and then print off the details when you find something. I live in Northern England, and when I do a “local“ search on these machines I get results in Glasgow, Ireland, London, and one time, FRANCE. Why is this the case? Because if the machines were to actually display all the local jobs they would have nothing to show me, because there are no jobs.

So to summarize, my job centre is essentially useless. The staff fling filthy attitudes at you, when they can be bothered dealing with you at all, they are unwilling to answer straight forward questions, and one time I even saw one of them deliberately start a fight with one of his clients. They expend no effort whatsoever towards helping you actually find work, yet they demand that you prove to them every appointment that you’re still looking. They hold the paltry amount of money I get over me in order to force me to go to mandatory training classes which are held like group therapy sessions for the mentally incompetent. Do you know what I see in these places I am forced to attend? I see dozens of seats filled by people with disabilities.

One lady I met there told me her story of how she has a cripplingly painful illness, yet she used to volunteer in her free time to work for a charity shop that helps other people like herself. The government found out about her one hour a week of sitting in a chair tolerating unbearable pain in order to operate a till on a voluntary basis, and decided that this means she is fit to work. Her disability benefits were cancelled, she was kicked out and told to fend for herself, and ever since then she is forced to hobble onto a bus twice a week and 
attend these  condescending classes that teach her how to spell her name properly on a CV.

Another person I met there was, sadly, simply not savvy enough to understand what was happening when the government hoodwinked her. She was frail, elderly, easily overwhelmed. They basically talked her into trying out a “new benefit”, which turned out to be jobseekers. She didn’t know what she was doing, she trusted the kind voice that told her she should do this, and let them handle all the paperwork. Before she knew what had happened her life was turned upside down. By signing on for jobseekers she had publicly admitted she was fit to work, and as such there was no going back. She was stuck in the same system, despite the fact that she needed crutches to walk.

Another fellow I met at my latest series of classes had an eerily familiar story to tell. “I suffered from serious depression”, he told me, “I was suicidal for years” he continued, before lamenting the day that left him stranded on jobseekers, dealing with the same impossible situation as myself: “They made me see a guy who just handed me a bloody keyboard, and he decided I’m fit to work, now here I am”. Now bear in mind, there aren’t a whole lot of people in these classes, it’s not like I interviewed thousands, I just happened to strike up a conversation with one or two people here and there, and shockingly, they were nearly all disabled, and at least one of them had an identical story to myself.

The more I looked into it the more it became clear, my government had quietly initiated a massive campaign against the lower classes to squeeze every single penny out of them. Any kind of entitled system had been systematically assassinated, and no one else realized it because they were too busy dealing with their own financial backlash from the recession, an event which also gave the government the perfect excuse to enact this obviously long-prepared plan. It felt like I was in the middle of an extermination, and everywhere I looked around me was another broken soul with a similar story. The government targeted us because we were easy targets, and now, we’re trapped, there is no way out. It wouldn’t be so bad if we were actually able to get out of the sand pit we were kicked into, but unfortunately we’re only given just enough rope to hang ourselves with, and never quite enough to pull ourselves out by.

Recently it became clear to me that their procedures for dealing with people like me had entered a new phase, I could tell right off the bat that things were going to get much worse. It took the form of a new “stage” of my jobseekers agreement referred to as “flexible new deal”. FND has gained a degree of notoriety since it was implemented – it’s first manifestation, simply called “new deal”, actually made the unemployment problem worse, and it was supposedly based on a right wing American system with similar goals. Like the American system, the unemployed in the UK are being increasingly treated as a problem, rather a symptom. Instead of actually helping us back into work, the government is starting to lean on us harder and harder in the hopes that we will simply go away. They report on figures of people who sign off from jobseekers, but not on whether or not they do so because they find work. Why? Because more often than not, they haven’t. The government chases us right onto the streets and we end up homeless.

When I signed up for FND, under the assurance that it was mandatory,  I was sent by my job centre to go on a “work training course”, which is essentially another term for “we hired these guys to deal with you people because we can’t be bothered”. What have they taught me since going there? Nothing. I haven’t learned anything from any of these courses except the same patronizing “how to make a resume” lesson over and over again. Making a resume isn’t my problem, my problem is the fact that there aren’t any jobs to send them to, ANYWHERE, and that’s not even counting the fact that, rightly, I shouldn’t even be forced to get one. Unknown to me at the time however, by signing up to FND (something which some online sources seem to suggest was NOT actually mandatory after all) I submitted myself to the authority of people who believe themselves to be above the law.

So here’s the latest middle finger the government gave me. My “work training” course is now pressuring me to do what they call “job placements”. The idea is as follows: You work part time in a job, which they set up for you. If you do well, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to keep it when the placement is over, so they say. This is a BRILLIANT idea, that’s not sarcasm, I mean it. I LOVE this idea, it’s a great way to get people with confidence issues to test the waters and get extra work experience under their belt. Here’s the problem though – execution.

This work placement is MANDATORY, it is UNPAID, and it is virtually FULL TIME. And if I don’t go? They cancel my jobseekers money.

So, why do I have a problem with this? Well, several reasons. Firstly, if I’m doing this work placement, what I’m NOT doing is seeking work. That’s the POINT of jobseekers, they give me an allowance so I stay alive while I continue to look for work. Looking for work has become my full time job now. I have to send out dozens if not hundreds of applications a week, chase people up via phone and email, I have to be ready to attend an interview at the drop of a hat, and I have to be constantly searching every database, every listing, even the news for signs of companies that may be looking to hire. If doing all this is a full time job for me and I’m STILL getting nowhere, imagine how much harder it’s going to be for me to actually get a job if I can only do this at weekends?

Secondly, there is absolutely no guarantee that I will be able to keep the job I work at during my placement. They say that this happens quite often, but let’s look at this logically. Thinking as a corporation whose primary goal is to save and make money, even factoring in a day or two of training, would you rather 

A: employ people at full wage, or
B: employ a limitless number of one-offs who will work completely for free and will do their very best in the hopes of pleasing you enough to keep the job they need so badly? 

When you look at it like that, it starts to seem much clearer why myself and those like me are finding it so hard to find a job. Yes, the economy is screwed, but at the same time any businesses that DO need a labour force are getting an unlimited supply of FREE workers from these “work training” companies employed by the government!

And that leads me to the third reason I have a major problem with this – and it’s a biggie. According to the terms and conditions of the jobseekers agreement that I signed when I began receiving my current allowance (although I can’t currently find any online documents to prove whether or not this still applies) – it is against the law for them to attempt to make me work in order to earn my jobseekers allowance. Now, you might be wondering why that is. And if so, that’s the point. This situation is carefully constructed to make ordinary people miss the obvious. It seems like this work placement program makes sense, when framed as a voluntary thing, then when it’s mandatory... well, ok, I guess it’s still fair enough, I mean you are getting free money right?

Wrong. I am getting what the state decides (wrongly) is the minimum I need in order to stay alive, because it is my government’s responsibility to ensure that I don’t starve to death as a result of not being able to find a job straight away. The way in which I “earn” the money I get is written in the title of my benefit, jobseekers allowance. It is an allowance I receive in return for me looking for work, and being able to prove that I am doing so. None of this is free, I get barely enough to survive, and I only get it on the grounds that I honestly am trying to find a job. This is the ONLY requirement for relieving that benefit, and it’s the only requirement there should be. Do you know why?

Because if the government makes me work at a full time job in exchange for only £100 a fortnight (though granted the amount has gone up a little since) that means I am working for a SLAVE WAGE. Now there is some debate as to whether or not this directly violates the HRA (Human Rights Act *1) which forbids slave labour, and some people like to dismissively point out that things like rent and council tax are covered for you when you are on these benefits, so it actually works out closer to minimum wage. But it’s not just the amount of money that makes this slavery, it’s the fact that it’s forced upon us. 

We can’t choose where and how any of that money is allocated, and we are held over the barrel of our own looming starvation in order to make us work for no extra money than we have already EARNED by looking for work. It is, by every definition, a slave wage, and there’s a good reason why it’s forbidden in the terms of the jobseekers agreement.

This fact doesn’t occur to people because of the elaborate, roundabout way we get sandwiched into this situation. It starts out seeming reasonable, oh a work placement? Like a trial period? Good idea! But then it takes on a darker tone when you find out you’re being forced to do it. Then it occurs to you that it’s pointless, why give me a trial? If the job is available, why not just give me the job itself? It’s helpful if I’m nervous about work? Good point... but what if I don’t HAVE confidence problems, what if I’ll take anything I can get? How am I benefitting from being made to work full time for zero pay, time that could better be spend doing the very thing I am supposed to be doing? Worse yet, almost no one seems to actually walk away from a work placement keeping their job, despite what the people in charge insist.

The UK government has very discretely and very clever stepped over the line between government aid and slavery. Why? Because when you are out of work, it’s like you have no rights. You BECOME a willing slave. Suddenly you realise that you’re dying. If you don’t have money, you don’t eat. You don’t get heating in the winter. You realise that you have no choice but to do anything you are told to do simply because if you don’t, you’re literally screwed. 

And let’s not forget what I said earlier – this work placement thing is AGAINST the rules stipulated in the jobseekers agreement. This is ILLEGAL. Yet does anyone care? No. Why? Because no one wants to look down into the slums, it depresses them. Personally, I worry about the kids, the disabled and the elderly who are forced into this slave labour without the wherewithal to survive such an ordeal. This system is indiscriminative when it comes to getting people to do whatever it needs done for free.

What does my job centre say about this? Well, because they’re not the ones asking us to do these work placements, but rather the “work training companies” they are forwarding us to, it’s not TECHNICALLY them breaking their own rules. You see, the jobcentre can tell us that we HAVE to go to a work training company, because that proves we are willing to do whatever it takes to get a job. We are contractually obligated to go. Then the work training company can FORCE us to go on a work placement because if we don’t, we’re not fulfilling our “training” as promised, so we’re still contractually obligated. As long as the job centre employs a third party to make us do the things they are not legally allowed to make us do because it is technically SLAVERY, they are free and clear.

However even with that aside, it is still technically against the law for any company to employ a “worker” without paying them, so how does flexible new deal get around this? They classify us as “volunteers”, and as a result, the law doesn’t apply. Is that what our rights are being reduced to? Legal jargon and wordplay? We’re being “forced” to “volunteer” ourselves for potentially back-breaking work (because it’s mainly the heavy jobs that companies are seeking free labour for) and this is seen as perfectly alright in the eyes of the law? Laws exist for a reason, and when the reason makes no sense, the law should be changed. I will not support something ONLY because it is “legal”, and neither should you. That leads to idolatry as we worship our own ignorance and follow the doctrine that is laid out for us those with the power to make anyone do whatever they want and call it “legal”.

Forced volunteer work? Does this really make sense to any reasonable people? I certainly hope that anyone reading this is of a high enough calibre to recognize the terrible injustice being done to the lower classes, and what a dangerous path this is potentially leading us down.

So why am I telling you all this? Because it is all part in parcel of the greater economic climate of the modern world. Like rats running from a fire, you can gain perspective on what’s wrong with the attitude of those with power and money by seeing the decisions they are making at the smallest level, how it effects those at the lower rungs of the social pecking order. I saw the recession coming long before it hit, as did many others like me, because I recognized the signs, how they were clamping down on us, burying all the little nuggets they could steal away from us like squirrels preparing for hibernation. 

Truth be told, we will only be a minority for so long, if things keep going the way they are, soon everyone will end up in the same situation. Unemployment is growing, anyone who isn’t already well off is finding themselves on a very slippery, very steep slope, and they’re losing more ground each day. They already came for me, now I’m here to warn you that they’re coming for you too. I’ve seen first-hand how cold and amoral a thankless system can be when left to its own devices – don’t expect it to show you mercy just because you’re currently in a more fortunate position.

The most frustrating thing about this is that no one seems to know this is going on. And who can blame them? Who’s going to tell them? Who else, but someone who sleeps in the slums would be willing to wade through all this double speak and red tape in order to figure something this convoluted out? Who up there would be willing to listen to the plight of millions of disabled people kicked out onto the street without their crutches and told to go get a job in a climate where there simply are no jobs going? Who in the upper or middle classes would depress themselves by reading impotently about the impossible situation millions of people like me have found themselves in thanks to the incompetence and cold indifference of those in power?

I’ve seen the same attitude directed to Americans in my situation. I have followed the food stamp debates, I’ve seen the snobbish, callous attitudes of other people looking down on those unfortunate souls and calling them parasites and lazy stoners. These people are so disconnected from reality that they simply don’t grasp what it is like to live like this even at the most fundamental level. They think we’re getting a free ride? To where, hell? Sure, there are the occasional people who abuse these systems to get EXTRA money. But a person without a job cannot afford to be  stoner, they are not living the life of luxury by living off of food stamps, that’s ludicrous. The only people who think this are the ones who never have the courage to look into the dirty face of our level of society, and the nightmare of living there. It is much easier to spare oneself the sense of obligation by refusing to admit that the travesties are taking place.

If anyone reading this is in a comfortable, even if imperfect situation, be grateful. Count your lucky blessings that you didn’t happen to be standing on one of the millions of pavement slabs that dropped straight into the rancid rivers of redundancy and debt when the economy hit the fan. Because that’s all it is that spared you from our fate. The luck of the draw. You could just as easily have been where we are now, and there would be people standing over you, watching you try to claw your way out of the filth, and calling you a parasite for it.

When you have no money, you can’t afford good clothes to look presentable in a job interview. When you have no money, employers can pick from millions more just like you to find the person with the best qualifications who will work for the absolute least, they can pick and choose as they please because they can, because there are so many to choose from. When you have no money, you don’t have an opportunity to get a foothold back into the civilized world. Just one chance is all you really need, but it’s not possible, you’re only given enough to stay alive, not to get your head above water.

We are the hidden people. You don’t see us, though you could have easily become one of us, and one day you might very well join us. We’re trapped in a limbo of never being able to get out of the hole we’re in, yet not quite getting buried either. We’re unseen, disrespected, and treated like fodder for cheap manual labour and examples of depravity by our government. Sometimes we reach out, hoping someone will give us a second chance, but the only hand we get is the steely grip of a slavering corporation seeking to find some way to convert our misery into dollar signs. 

The facts of our situation are simple. There are more people out of work than there are available jobs, several orders of magnitude more. Therefore it is physically impossible for us all to find work. Yet still modern society, particularly the higher classes perceive us as lazy or incompetent, ignoring these inconvenient facts and the strife beneath them in lieu of a more comforting belief in their own fiscal security.
However, they are not secure, none of us are. We have been out of sight and mind for far too long, but now with the looming threat of a global depression we are becoming greater and greater in number and determination. In time we will be hidden no longer, but by then it will be too late. By the time anyone takes notice, things like democracy and civil liberties will have been swept aside under the spilling tsunami of international debt and mass unemployment. We are not a disease, we are a symptom. You can look at the struggles of the lower classes and see a perfectly framed snapshot of the economically incompetent mentality of those who tug away at society’s strings for their own amusement, and when you do, you will see a harbinger of things to come.

If someone reaches out to you, begging you for a help out of the gutters - what will you do? Take their hand? Or look away because it’s too depressing? Leaving them to get exploited by a government that simply doesn’t care. All I ask is that you remember one thing – it could have been you. And if it had been, do you know what your friends and neighbours would have said, if they were to see you begging for a job, any job, begging the government not to take away what little entitlements you have left, begging not to be forced into slave labour, do you know what they would call you?



Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Otherkin and Transgenderism

A while ago, a friend of mine vlogged about misanthropy, identifying humanity as something so depraved and decadent that it can only do harm, while also admitting that he was part of the problem. However, he acknowledged only that he was part of the same race that causes the problem, not that he was in any way responsible for it. But at the same time, he was seized with a terrible guilt and impotence at how powerless he was to escape it.

In his mind, he was cursed with a self-hatred, in the sense that he despises his own race and feels trapped by it. I should clarify, this person identifies as an Otherkin. This is still quite a taboo and misunderstood topic that people love to jump all over, and I've been saddened in recent weeks to see people who I admire make arguments that seem to tear down other people for identifying as such, however I have a good few friends who identify as Otherkin, and more than a few Transgender friends as well, and in my mind they are very much in the same situation.

You can debate about how a person can know they are a different species in their head, what that means, whether it can be regarded as psychologically valid, how it works or whatever... but those same debates have been happening for decades about transgender people. Thus I've been particularly surprised to see certain popular members of the Youtube transgender community expressing their disapproval at being equated by their critics to furies and Otherkin (which are not the same thing by the way) as though this were a truly offensive reduction.

I find this sad. If a person feels trapped in their own body, that's valid. It doesn't NEED to be valid to anyone but them, and as long as they feel those emotions truly, it IS valid. For someone who knows exactly what that feels like, and who likely has to cope with a great deal of prejudice directed at them for it on a daily basis, I would expect a higher level of understanding about how painful this can be.

With that same sentiment in mind, hearing my Otherkin friend lament his distaste for his own humanity and how terrible his born species is compared to what he aspires to be, I was reminded of another, far more touchy conversation I once had with a transgender friend a long time ago. This friend of mine had said to me that she will never be a "real" woman, she will always have to carry the title of trans and would never quite be genuine. There was such a defeatist tone to what she was saying, or perhaps a fear of hope. I found this level of self-contempt to be appaling and distressing.

I explained to her that being born without breasts and the right plumbing does not make her any less a woman than a natural born woman who loses those body parts in a terrible accident. I explained that there is nothing inherently fake about her just because she was, for all intents and purposes, born with a genetic condition that gave her the wrong body, which in my opinion is the better way of looking at it. Unfortunately, she wouldn't listen to me. Maybe her opinion is more valid than mine, I can't know without being trasngendered myself. But I can imagine that living with the title of "fake" hanging over your head your whole life must be extremely depressing, and I simply don't agree that it belongs there.

So when I saw this Otherkin friend of mine, hating his humanity just as my other friend had resigned herself to being a less valid version of what she wanted to be based on how she was born, I felt compelled to say something about it. I'm sure I would have his permission in sharing what I said to him with you, as it gave me a much needed opportunity to get some thoughts off my chest that had been bouncing around in my head for a long time. This is what I said, and I'm not just speaking to him... but to all people:

Humanity has a very precious, special gift, one that comes with a tremendous burden. You might call it a blessing with a curse. We're self aware, introspective. We're capable of intelligent reasoning, curiosity, deduction - the ability to look at this world and want to know more about it.

And when you give something the ability to question, the first thing it will question is itself.

Think about that, just allow yourself to simmer over the incredible, monumental consequences of this simple gift. We're given the hands which can create or destroy as a god, and tongues to convey our thoughts, and yet seemingly there is no purpose for either. so we use our hands to dig our way to the truth, our tongues to forever question why - and never do we get an answer.

The consequence of having this born enlightenment is that we are capable of questioning the negative as well as the positive, and it is an unfortunate fact of nature that pain leaves scars while pleasure is fleeting. We're forever locked in this mentality of fixating on what has happened to us and why, and all that ever sticks with us is the bad.

This traps us in a downward spiral of depression and yes, selfishness too. We're forced to be introspective, selfish by default but this is not a bad thing. In nature morality doesn't even exist, and the only loyalty is that which continues your own species, so selfishness is not in and of itself a purely bad thing. It just means that your self is your primary concern, and when you are locked in your own thoughts as we are, this is inevitable.

The problem is it brings out the worst in us because deep down we're not all that much more evolved than lesser animals. It is, as I have said many times in the past, as though we happened across the tools of god, and had no understanding of how to use them.

The same primitive, primal, feral nature which so many bleeding heart spiritualists revere in the comparative harmony of animals, is what drives humanity to such madness. We have these natural, predatory beasts forever raging against the cages of our minds. Our sense of social warmth and conscience which so many people seem to believe does not exist is what forces us to bottle this up to hide it from everyone else.

So take a guess as to what happens when you try to throw the beast in a cage? I think you know all too well, we’ve all been there. Now intensify that by thousands of years of intensive oppression with no outlet, and apply it to the sheer scale of a global conscience and you have some idea of the effects it must have on society. This insidious bestial nature begins to seep through the cracks in civilized culture with venomous results, festering in the heart of every good deed.

We seek outlets such as religion, politics, business, even sport as a means to allow those predators some exercise without feeling ashamed, applying ourselves ignorantly to doctrinal obsessions that allow us to justify the rage we try so hard to unnaturally burry. It is, in fact, our eternal struggle to be good that forces us to burry this dark side and forces it to worm its way back out through our actions.

To put it another way, negativity feeds negativity. The self-loathing and insecurity which we are all plagued with, you included, me included, is the result of this feral fury turned inwards, the septic animal organ imploded and rotting our souls to the core because we try so hard to rise above it. And with every blow our egos take as a result, we fall down another level.

Every bruise stays with us forever, every kiss forgotten the moment it leaves our lips. The animal within only knows how to howl in pain because it has been cursed with this self-awareness and then given no direction, forcing it to wonder alone in the cold with its first emotion being the agony of birth into a dangerous and scary world of sheer powerlessness - a true original sin that taints the rest of its life.

The scars lead to resentment, the resentment causes habit, the habit governs what is perceived as truth. This downward spiral continues faster and faster, the negativity we feel doubling back on itself eternally - an ironic double helix of resentment both inward and outward that permeates the very fabric of this species and corrupts it from within.

But... just as sure as there is this self-perpetuating negativity everywhere, so too is there proof of the good in humanity.

After all, is it not true that nearly 7 billion people walk the earth this very moment? That's 7 billion individual lives, many if not most of whom may be suffering, yes, but seven BILLION nonetheless. And how did they get here? A union of love. Albeit sometimes rape, and often frivolous, nevertheless is there any better way to enter this world than through love?

Seven billion people, and how did they get here? How are they still here? Because someone cared for them.

Unlike the admirable power of the deer which walks mere moments after birth, or the resilient crocodile, unlike the cannibalistic mammals that practise sibling rivalry, the wily fish spawn that flee for their lives moments after birth or the determined terrapin that battles heroically to reach the water - unlike all of them, human babies are born helpless, powerless.

We fall out of our mothers as little more than soft balls of noisy meat on a string with absolutely no way to protect ourselves, no way to feed ourselves, very little in the way of survival instincts and zero physical strength. And yet... seven billion people, seven BILLION are alive today, right now, because someone cared for them. Someone protected them.

Seven billion testaments to the virtues of humanity, the good inside all of us. for while we may not be the best mothers and fathers, while we may fail as parents, sometimes horribly, sometimes in less obvious ways, while we are all imperfect guides and mentors we do, as a general rule, at least *try*. For at one time or another, all seven billion of us had to have been cared for by at least one other person.

Then, consider how people pull together during times of crisis. The earthquake in Haiti, the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, the ongoing cleanup after the Tsunami, hell even the war in Iraq, while initiated dishonestly and carried out abominably, was only green lit because people had the best of intentions at heart. Thousands of people are out there elbow deep in filth and broken glass trying to help other people for no other reason than they choose to be.

Think of all the doctors and nurses, the carers and teachers, counsellors, therapists, police, firemen and social workers - the people who could have chosen any job but they all chose to do one that involves taking on other people burdens, putting up with the stress that other people deal with while the rest of us can barely handle our own. These are the people I have the most respect for, and they are the crucial backbone of any society without which it would fall apart.

There is proof everywhere you look of the ongoing good in humanity, you just have to see it with fresh eyes. To shrug off the habits of focussing on the lingering pains in order to gain new appreciation for the things you take for granted every day. Consider how far we've come from just a couple of centuries ago.

We remember every bruise, and forget every kiss, but each play an important factor in building up who we are as individuals. And if you are someone who can see the flaws in how we do things, then humanity needs YOU to help us fix them. Because it is only when those who can, do, that anything gets done. Every individual has that power.

Remember, negativity feeds negativity. Nothing constructive ever came from just hating the way things are, by simply resenting humanity you are only contributing to the choking climate that keeps them mentally subdued and fixated on failure. You're not superior, nor are you inferior, because what you see is the same as what we all see, and it's not going to change until we all start doing something about it.

We are above the animals, insomuch as we have the potential to take life a step further and make this world shine. Nature gave us that gift, the gift to understand what we do wrong, to question, and ultimately, to do. So my advice to you is, don't just hate the madness you see, to do so is to waste that beautiful gift and to squander it in the same way as those you hate. Use your power, be selfish, save your own race.

Bringing this back to the original topic for a moment, I would like to add that while making peace with the being you were born as is very important, there is no reason to abandon the being you feel you are inside. I think this sense of isolation from one's true self is something we can all relate to in one sense or another. We all want to be something... rich, heroic, popular... loved. We don't always get that chance. It is important we can still look in the mirror and love the person we see... but never stop chasing your dreams either.

Dreams like that are what add new flavours to the mix of life, creating new experiences and points of view, an entire new substance in the make-up of the human experience that will bring more enjoyment of life to the next generation. There is no need to shy away from something just because it is different... if we haven't learned that by now, we never will. Don't be afraid of your dreams, no matter how strange. They are what keeps the world turning.

All the best, my friends.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

HappyCabbie is confused about gun control

Alternate title - "Gun Control Versus Self Control".

Note: This is a response to a single person, yes, but they do address (sometimes in a blundering manner to be fair, I do not consider him representative of all gun lovers) many of the standard arguments made both for and against gun control, and I will be including my own thoughts as well, so just regard it as a general reaction to your basic anti-gun control.... person.

HappyCabbie, a popular and accomplished Youtuber, has been causing ripples lately with his recent announcement that he wants to get a gun. Naturally this drew the ever-burning flames of the gun control debate to his back door. He was under no obligation to provide a venue for this debate, but was kind enough to do so anyway, going as far as to actively engage and invite debate on this topic, write multiple blog posts about it, and seemingly came prepared with a stack of reference material to bring up during the arguments.

The problem is... he seems to be easily confused about the arguments that people are making with respect to gun control. It's strange that he finds it confusing, because people seem to be expressing their arguments in quite a simple, syllogistic manner, and yet somehow he perpetually finds himself confused to the extent of somehow managing to misrepresent what they mean to be something else. It's strange how this disease of serial misunderstanding only happens to to befall people who tend to err on the side of fundamentalism.

He and I went a few rounds on this topic, we both obviously feel strongly, and share different views for different reasons. I'll be summarizing our debate here, as well as addressing the points he had on his blog, his other comments, and his latest video on the topic, all of which seem to be a long series of intentional misunderstandings on his part as he perpetually refuses to understand what's being said to him, while constantly offering the same two or three points disguised by the window dressing of his supposed research to look like he has really put a lot more time into this than he really has.

For example,

He endlessly beats on the dead horse of this 2% argument, which if you're curious, is his claim that when guns are used in self defence, innocent people only get killed 2% of the time. I'm not sure where he gets this number, having read everything he has written about it on his blog I still have yet to see a source for this claim. But what truly amazes me is that he really thinks this is an argument. I mean... are you kidding me? TWO PERCENT?

How jaded does a person have to get where it seems totally acceptable that 2% of all instances in which someone like you does exactly what you are intending to do leads to a completely innocent bystander getting SHOT TO DEATH. The reason no one is arguing with this point, Cabbie, is not because it is just so good that there isn't a defence, it's because this is an argument AGAINST you and you're just too horrifically disfigured at the fundamental moral level to even see it.

If I could give you a machine that might save your life if it is ever in danger, but carries with it a 2% chance of at least one person you love getting brutally killed, would you press it? Even if there WEREN'T alternatives, I'd be shocked if you said you would, but when you factor in the fact that there ARE alternatives, that pulling a gun more often than not only escalates things, that your own logic cuts both ways as I said earlier... all of that combined, and you're still willing to risk such a HIGH chance of killing a bystander?

My god man. 2% isn't small, we're talking about people defending themselves from GUN CRIME (which is already extremely common in the US) using guns, which is what you are advocating should happen MORE often, and in exchange we sacrifice innocent people at least 2% of the time? It's true that crime is down by a lot compared to even just a few years ago, but it's still extremely common. If you understand that it is a basic syllogistic principle that more guns equates to more innocent deaths, what kind of twisted logic tells you that this is the thing to do?

I mean seriously, what the hell is wrong with you? That's 2% of everyone who gets a gun pointed at them in America killing a bystander! And yet Cabbie touts this statistic, which he got from who knows where, with the vigour of a child parading around a lollipop his mother bought him in front of a jealous schoolyard. Forgive me if I don't see the point, Cabbie, I suppose I was cursed with a higher respect for human life than you. I can only apologise.

Hell, I know people who live in the kinds of neighbourhoods where they see guns waving around all the time. If such a person sees a gun raised at them just, say, 25 times in their life, which is totally feasible, that means there is a 50% chance that any of my friends who live in these rough neighbourhoods would have GUNNED DOWN AN INNOCENT PERSON, if they had treated all of those situations the way YOU say they should.

You're willing to take a 2% chance (PER OCCASION) of cutting down the life of an innocent human being (probably unnecessarily, as pulling out your gun is likely to be what escalates the threats to actual shooting) just to make yourself feel safer... and you wonder why people like me advocate for gun control? My god man, you need to realign your priorities because you have completely lost all sense of perspective by this point.

Of course, this is all facile, because the fundamental point he keeps harping on about is that taking out your gun when being threatened automatically diffuses the situation (sounds like it, doesn't it? Nothing makes me relax like someone pointing a gun at me with a terrified look in their eyes). Basically, he's saying that it's the threat of the gun that protects him, to which I ask... then why keep it loaded?

It'll be a cold day in hell before I get an answer to that one.

Its strange how he always seems to trail off on a different tangent when this is raised. He's not willing to admit that his entire case is built on shaky ground, and his obligatory attempts at appearing like he has really reasoned his position against the facts is merely a case of him pulling together nougats of data that support the conclusion he already reached (while not addressing the opposing factors) and trying to justify his beliefs. But if he had really come at this from a position of rationality he would have stopped before even getting this far.

He can come up with as many intellectually dishonest reasons to dismiss my concerns about guns as he wants, but the more he does so the more he digs his own grave. After all, the only reason he even wants a gun is because he FEARS those same factors when picturing them in someone else's hands. It's nuclear deterrence all over again, with the same flawed logic. If you don't think owning a gun escalates the danger of you getting shot... why does THEM owning a gun make you feel unsafe? If you think of a gun purely as a means of defence, why do you fear people pulling it out as an offence? If you're going to say to me that more guns is a solution to the problem of guns, then it is inherent in your claim that GUNS ARE A PROBLEM.

Now as to where he gets these statistics? Well he seems to justify his claim that owning a gun can protect you by citing this eighteen-year old study (comprised of data beginning as early as1976, no less... so at least we know it's up to date. Eyeroll. The study does claim that about 76% of the occasions where a gun was used defensively, they only needed to show the gun:

Well... that's like saying 50% of the time the gun was black. What does that tell us? What is this a relativism to? This is a study of guns that were USED defensively, so it seems a little odd to use it to demonstrate the fact that guns are sometimes used defensively. Would a survey of cancer sufferers who all went into remission prove that cancer isn't fatal? What is he trying to demonstrate here? Without a sufficient context these are meaningless facts.

How many times did pulling a gun escalate to shooting relative to people who didn't have a gun? How many times did pulling a gun after the shooting had begun actually keep someone safe versus an unarmed person seeking cover rather than fighting. Note, many people, even those on the hard right, are considerably less than impressed with this study, but I'll get back to that a little later on. We're still left with the problem of just what this is demonstrating. Does HappyCabbie think that I think that no one ever actually uses a gun defensively, and therefore I require proof that it has, in fact happened?

It's a survey that is already focussing on the niche that he is a part of (and seemingly with the conclusions it wanted to draw already decided), completely isolated from any other factors... which are the factors that people like me are arguing in favour of. You can't use it to demonstrate anything because there are so many other variables that aren't even addressed that all you're doing is snipping out the single element you care about and ignoring anything else. This is useless as data sourcing goes.

Of course, ironically even the study itself admits this, clearly stating right before the data tables:

"This is also too serious a matter to base conclusions on silly statistics comparing the number of lives taken with guns with the number of criminals killed by victims. [100] Killing a criminal is not a benefit to the victim, but rather a nightmare to be suffered for years afterward. Saving a life through DGU would be a benefit, but this almost never involves killing the criminal; probably fewer than 3,000 criminals are lawfully killed by gun- wielding victims each year, [101] representing only about 1/1000 of the number of DGUs, and less than 1% of the number of purportedly life-saving DGUs. Therefore, the number of justifiable homicides cannot serve as even a rough index of life-saving gun uses. Since this comparison does not involve any measured benefit, it can shed no light on the benefits and costs of keeping guns in the home for protection. [102] [Page 182]"

Effectively recusing itself of being any use in this exact debate. But that doesn't stop Cabbie. Why actually read your source when you can just fish out the numbers you want? And that's not even getting started on whether it was even necessary in these circumstances for the people in question to bring their own weapons into it in the first place. The survey itself states that about 54% of these incidents were robbery or theft related, and being that about 73% of them happen in or around the defender's home I think it's safe to conclude we're not talking about random mass-shootings or psychos on the street here.

Now for starters, that eliminates a lot of the problems I have right there. I have no problem with people having a gun in their own home (some gun control advocates disagree with this... truthfully however, not nearly as many as the anti-control lunatics want you to believe). Your home is your fortress, it is where you are supposed to feel 100% safe. A legal, but more importantly JUSTIFIED killing of an intruder with a simple weapon (you don't need a fricken sniper rifle to take down a burglar) is fine in my book. But I wouldn't want people bringing those guns outside any more than I would be comfortable seeing people running around with baseball bats and samurai swords. When you bring a weapon out doors, it's because you're expecting a fight. Or looking to start one.

But secondly, are we left with any usable data about how NECESSARY it was for the person to bring their gun out? According to the survey, the people who brought out their guns were only convinced it would have saved their or other people's lives 15.7% of the time. Also according to the survey, this led to shots being fired about 23.9% of the time, and the wounding or death of the assailant about 8.3% of the time.

Another way of looking at that, is people with guns are nearly 65% MORE likely to pull out their gun before even they are convinced it's totally necessary and begin shooting (or instigate shooting), and this will lead to the death of someone in close to ten percent of all cases, including those 65% of unnecessary cases. Conspicuously the survey also doesn't mention what the ramifications were for the defender, whether they were wounded, survived, if innocent bystanders were caught in the crossfire.

So as for your eighteen year old survey, Cabbie? Colour me unimpressed. Even in the context of this study which was clearly focussing only on the group that people like me are trying to put INTO context we still see a huge problem. Once you filter out the reasonable uses of guns such as defence against intruders, all you are left with is proof that more guns leads to more gun violence. Yes, you did prove that just having a gun can be a defence... but this was compared against OTHER uses of guns, all of which more extreme. It was not compared to people NOT using guns, and therefore your entire case is, unsurprisingly, bunk.

On responding to hails for proof that owning a gun makes you MORE likely to thwart a crime, HappyCabbie's trend of failing to read his own source material continues when he cites what is obviously a study created by people who were pre-decided on this issue (as evidenced by the large "TOUGH VICTIMS" motif on the first page), which can be found here. I generally am wary of "studies" made by people who are clearly not objective, but always willing to look before I judge. Sadly, I didn't get past the summary page before noticing this:

"This paper uses a collection of news reports
of self-defense with guns over an eight-year period
to survey the circumstances and outcomes
of defensive gun uses in America."

So in truth, this is in no way an actual study. It refers to some studies, very briefly, but essentially it's a series of newspaper clippings bound together by a couple enthusiastic gun advocates. And that's fine... it also clearly states that there is no such thing as a clear reference material for people who thwarted crimes with guns versus people who don't, which is why the authors feel that this study is necessary. I respect that. Every study or survey has to begin somewhere, and for all I know this could lead to a data collection that might some day utterly prove me wrong.

But understand, this is not an empirical statistical survey, this is people selectively choosing stories and press releases that suit their own agenda. Did they neglect stories that fail to show guns saving the day? We can only trust that they didn't, and besides, it clearly states that it is a survey of people who DO use guns, so we have the same biassed criteria problem as the last "source" Cabbie cited, though to be fair he only referenced this one in making a general argument about how often this kind of thing happens. There is also the question of what is more likely to be covered by the media... gun-toting hero survives vicious assault, or yet another person dies in a mugging.

But let's see what it has to say... well to be fair it's fairly even-handed in its composition, making the obligatory concessions to whether or not people identify as having been victims of crimes, the flux in their recall of these events and how that skews statistical data and so on, but for the most part it is exactly what the study claims to be. A collection of news clippings presenting only one side of this argument. It does so very well, certainly, but I'm not willing to trade off 3-4 times more gun-related death just to put these few people up on a pedestal.

(I'll get back to that statistic a little later, that's my pièce de résistance, you might say, and it's kind of a zinger, so stick around.)

And here I find at long last the source of this mysterious 1.5 million figure that Happy has been harping on about through our entire debate. You'll hear more about that later, but for now, all I need to point out is that yet again he didn't take the time to actually read what the report was saying. The argument HappyCabbie was making is that 1.5 million people defend themselves using guns per year. Again, this does NOT justify his claim that doing so is empirically necessary OR that doing so presents a higher chance of survival than simply evading, but either way... he completely ignored what the article was saying about that statistic.

Allow me to fill in the gaps:

"Another prominent study was the federal
government’s National Crime Victimization
Survey (NCVS), which also asked if victims of
crimes had used a gun in self-defense. That
study found that there were about 108,000 defensive gun uses per year"

So far the article is presenting us with a study that has a far more reasonable figure. This is more in line with what I would expect, but it really doesn't matter either way to me, because the substance of my argument has always been that what REALLY matters is whether or not these gun uses (that the survey takers are *calling* defensive) actually did any GOOD. Nevertheless, this particular study is a far cry from the 1.5 million number that Cabbie has been throwing left right and centre. It continues:

"The National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms
(NSPOF) was performed in 1994. It was conducted
partly because of widespread skepticism
about the number of defensive gun
uses reported in the Kleck and Gertz study.

Note - the Kleck and Gertz study mentioned here is the same study that HappyCabbie previously cited, the one that talks about how many times a gun is used defensively. So in effect, HappyCabby has cited one highly criticized study, and then immediately cited another which was launched specifically to CHALLENGE the conclusions of the first - and he uses both of these as data sources to support the same claims. This is what happens when you only pretend to do your research and then expect your audience to be so brain-dead as to take your every word on faith. The article goes on:

"Still, the NSPOF study found approximately
1.5 million defensive gun uses

And this is the study that HC has latched onto with such fervour. Why is this article presenting us with two conflicting data points, one reporting the still large, but reasonable sounding figure of 108,000, and another touting a somewhat stunningly ridiculous figure of 1.5 million? Because, rather surprisingly, it's attempting to present a balanced picture of this statistical analysis, by citing one source which is credible, and an opposing source that is discredited. Observe, here is what the article has to say about this 1.5 million result:

"The academic researchers who conducted
the NSPOF survey, Philip Cook and Jens
Ludwig, noted that the numbers were so
high as to be implausible

Credit where it's due, the project leaders of this 1994 study were willing to hold their hands up and admit that the conclusion their study led to was kind of ludicrous. You see, multiple studies are done on this kind of thing for a reason. Statistical anomalies like false positives, concept drifting, data spikes and unforeseen variables all pollute the data gathering process. This is the reason the FDA doesn't do just one clinical trial when testing a new medicine, why we don't measure climate change by just sticking our heads out the window (regardless of what the deniers seem to think). Sometimes these fluctuations just happen, and the analysts have to be honest with themselves about it. Thankfully, they are:

"That number also appears completely
out of line with other, more reliable
statistics on the number of gunshot cases

Indeed there have been many studies on this topic over the years, from violence models looking at different nations, to the psychological effect of simply holding a gun. HappyCabbie entered into this topic with his mind already made up about the conclusions he wanted to reach, and has intentionally ignored the scores of statistical analysis and basic common sense that blow his every point out of the water. I don't pursue this matter with him because I think he's foolish... I do it because I know he's NOT. He's better than this, he KNOWS better than this, and I will not stop holding him to that standard.

"For those reasons, Cook and Ludwig arrived
at the conclusion that Americans were exaggerating
or falsifying defensive gun uses in
the surveys. 

The high-end figures on defensive gun
uses may well suffer from exaggeration or
outright lies

So how did HC read this article and somehow come to the conclusion that it was championing this 1.5 million figure, when it in fact was admonishing it? Because he didn't read it. He was too lazy to. I noticed that in the sidebar of the article, in large, conspicuous bold text, is the tag line: "The National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms found approximately 1.5 million defensive gun uses per year." It was just doing that eye-catching summary thing that newspapers do to keep you interested. Obviously this line caught his eye, and rather than actually investigating, Cabby just latched onto it because it seemed to confirm the conclusion he WANTED to be true.

HappyCabbie only skimmed through this article, greedily gobbling up the bits of it that superficially seemed to agree with his bias, whereas I, someone who suffers an extremely limited attention span and difficulty concentrating, was able to struggle through reading it properly. Why? Because this is an important decision, and before one makes up one's mind, it is good form to actually do the research, and pay attention to it. Cabbie hasn't done this, and yet feels qualified to justify purchasing a gun based on this half-assed effort. I can only hope he actually handles the device with greater diligence.

Now look... obviously 1.5 million defensive gun uses per year is an absurd number, anyone with the gift of common sense would have realised this immediately (and the incredible size of the figure is exactly why Cabbie has been throwing it around like a huge cock) but I really don't care about that. We have to remember that cultures differ greatly, and there is a very different climate in the US than, say, here in the UK. The rate at which crimes are actually reported, the veracity of those reports, and the diligence given to following up on the truth of those statements are all subject to vastly different cultural paradigms.

I freely admit that it could be the case that guns are used defensively far MORE in America than the (legitimate) study suggests, in fact, I would go so far as to say it is likely. But at the same time, how do we find out whether or not this actually improves survival rates? More importantly, how likely do I find it that someone who pulls a gun in the middle of a fight is going to admit that it was not absolutely necessary? In my country, very unlikely. In the US? A hell of a lot less likely. This kind of thing has to be factored in as well. It's not simply a case of who has the biggest number, it's a case of whose argument makes logical sense, and Cabbie saying that bringing more guns into a gunfight lowers the danger is simply not logically sound.

TJ made a video addressing this recently and actually brought up a fairly good point. He said that if a guy is going to shoot 16 people, and you have a gun and can stop him, that is by every measure a good thing. I agree with this, and I will concede that this shakes my case a little (far more than anything Cabbie has blundered out). However this is a very ad hoc point of view to take. We know, after the shooting, that 16 people died, so we know that, had someone stopped him at four, twelve lives would have been saved.

But at the time, you don't know what's going to happen. I guess if he's got you all lined up and it's clear what he's doing, then you can figure out it's fairly safe to act, but if he's just there to shoot up the walls and give people a fright, initiating a full on gun battle with him is only going to put other people in unnecessary serious harm. Do I think that someone who has cut down several lives and obviously means to continue should NOT be stopped with opposing gunfire? No. I agree with TJ, that is a fair response.

That's why I advocate for properly trained police officers with a well-funded office that can maximize response time. Police are supposed to be our guardians, it is their job to be capable of handling these kinds of situations for the exact reason that we shouldn't have to. Otherwise, what is the point in them? Why not be an Anarchy or put vigilantes in control? Because even if we did, they would inevitably organize into a new police force, and we'd be right back where we are now, with people who are properly trained trying to do a job without people who don't know what they are doing making it harder for them. I DO believe the people should be armed, I just don't think THEY should be the ones pulling the trigger. The police are supposed to be our shields and our weapons, and if they are inadequate, that is a problem to be addressed with THEM.

This segues neatly into another simple fact that seems to perpetually confuse Happy - this business about cops having special training. He seems to believe that people making gun control arguments somehow think that cops are fine to have guns, but citizens are not. He mentioned this to me at least twice during our debate, like it should mean something, and yet here's the confusing thing - I never said that cops SHOULD have guns. After all, I've been comparing the UK to the US to demonstrate my arguments, and British cops don't. I'm no more comfortable with beat cops whose job it is to tackle petty crime running around with cannons in their holsters than I am other citizens.

Who should carry a gun, in my opinion? As I said, a highly trained specialist, who is capable of wielding it with a degree of safety that no ordinary citizen could manage without years of equally specialized training.Why? Because it's a goddamn button that makes people DIE when you press it. It astonishes me how complacent the world, especially Americans have gotten to just how extraordinarily dangerous and insidious such a device really is. How exposed to guns do you have to be before you become so numbed to the incredible danger they possess? Would he apply this same jaded standard to anything else?

Yes, maybe it is brave to fight back against an assailant, but it is also stupid. It puts your life and the lives of everyone around you in danger, and the absolute best case scenario from the hero's point of view is they kill someone who was probably trying to steal money so he could eat that night because the government screwed him over anyway. Bravery is only virtuous when applied the right way, when not, it is called recklessness, and is not something I hold in high regard.

Could a highly trained specialist with a gun have prevented a lot of death at Sandy Hook? Yes. But I do not think it would be a citizen (at least not if they were trained to my standards) and even if they were - how often are we likely to encounter situations like that to justify EVERYONE having guns? Comparing that to the inherent dangers to yourself, your family, your fellow man, and the society that is buckling under the weight of all of these guns flooding the streets already - it's not worth it.

Ironically Cabbie speaks about mass shootings as being so little of a problem that it's almost non-existent, stating that you're more likely to get struck by lightning, and yet he also made it quite clear that these mass shootings were the reason he felt unsafe enough to want a gun in the first place. Where else is he expecting to see a gun pointed at him? A mugging? That being the case, I'm still waiting for him to provide clear data showing that people who pull a gun are MORE likely not to get killed in such a situation than people who don't. Something he has consistently failed to demonstrate.

This is the only data he has been asked for, and all he has ever done is dance around it.

On responding to examples other people have offered with the intention of demonstrating how absurd his logic is (E.G, should we allow people to use grenades as well as guns? Or nukes?) he systematically cherry-picks for his response only those weapons that would be impossible to use without killing a far higher percentage of bystanders (as well as making nonsensical arguments about it being not cost effective - yeah, because THAT'S why citizens should not use nuclear bombs, right?)

But the fact is, if we were talking about cyanide, heat-seeking rockets or genetically targeted bioweapons that all have very low chance of hurting bystanders, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. The only reason we are is because people have gotten numb to the incredible power of simple guns. So don't give me this crap about guns being accurate in the right hands, what we're talking about his is state-sanctioned killing. That's more power than any single person should have.

I agree that a gun can have good accuracy in the right hands, but when you let everyone in a nation have one, that is not going to be the case 99% of the time, is it? Not to mention, what gun control advocates like myself are really most concerned with is the idea of people owning extremely destructive guns. We're talking about machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns. You don't need a high round capacity to scare a mugger (or shoot deer for that matter) or enough fire-power to blow the door off a car. So what if SOME guns are more accurate than others? The bastardized version of the second amendment that you march to doesn't just allow those guns, it allows them all. And that needs to be fixed.

Actually, in his latest video, he flat-out states that automatic weapons are not available in the US. Of course it's not entirely uncommon for Americans to not know anything about their own country (and that's not necessarily a criticism, I follow US politics far more closely than my own country's politics for example, mainly because the US effects the world far more than my country, as such I am woefully ignorant about my own country's political climate) but suffice to say, he is wrong. Automatic weapons are perfectly legal and available to buy (except in a handful of states). He may be referring to the Assault weapons ban, which was actually a cosmetic thing, the government tried to ban weapons that LOOK like military grade weapons but were actually semi-auto. Either way, that ban was repealed, so there is no excuse. Happy is simply wrong.

He also talks quite frequently about drugs. I really don't understand why he insists on connecting guns to drugs. I share his views on drug control. It's insane that the prisons are filled to the brim with people who have done nothing worse than purchase some dried leaves that are infinitely less harmful than tobacco. Here's the problem though... he doesn't really make a cogent argument LINKING drugs with guns, he just makes an argument against drug prohibition.

I agree with him. What does this have to do with guns? You got me. He just insists that it's relevant. I mean... I'm not exaggerating here. He just keeps on announcing that the two are linked, then bashes on how drugs are regarded. Is it a general prohibition argument? Is he trying to suggest only drug dealers use guns? I honestly don't know, because the entire substance of his argument is literally just him pointing at it and saying "look how bad that is!".

He seems to also think that a large reason people object to guns is to prevent suicide. This is incredibly foolish, as most people who oppose guns are liberal leaning, and most liberal people are totally fine with suicide. Guns probably make it more convenient and tempting, but if there are two reasons I would be fine with someone having a gun in their home, one would be in case of revolution, the other would be as a means for suicide.

Hell, I would have nothing against a booth or room somewhere that came with a gun chained to the wall like pens at banks so nobody could steal it - existing for the sole purpose of letting people end their own lives with ease. The decision to do so is sad, and should not be encouraged, but nobody outside of the chirping strawmen living inside your brain thinks that guns are somehow to blame for suicide, Cabbie.

His argument against people who make the domestic abuse case (which I do not) is also slightly confusing. He seems to be suggesting that many domestic abuse shootings are actually the woman shooting to protect themselves. But... this would be self-defence, would it not? Ergo... not a crime. Since I'm arguing that the very presence of all these guns is detrimental to society (because of how easily they fall into the hands of criminals) and that they are frequently used to escalate situations to the point of gunfire when it wasn't necessary, why is he attacking NON-crime uses of guns? What next, point out that gun ranges exist?

We're not talking about someone bringing a gun intentionally into a dangerous situation with the intention of using it, we're talking about someone being attacked in their own home, so what on earth does that have to do with the excessive gun violence *I'm* talking about? I mean, are you kidding me with this logic? Guess what Cabbie, I also have a problem with people speeding... that doesn't mean I want to ban the Grand Prix. We're talking about CRIME here, you are not so foolish as to be confused by such basic situational context, so don't be so deliberately deceptive as to try to smuggle cases of spousal self-defence into this. As far as I'm concerned this is purely an attempt to ferry support from feminists and safe gun-use advocates.

This is only part of a trend for HappyCabbie, though. He seems to think that making arguments that are only peripherally connected to this issue which are themselves perfectly valid can be a substitute for a cogent argument in favour of guns. Like the "people with mental health problems" argument he keeps making. Stating the obvious is not going to make your actual position look more tenable. Cabbie, you're never going to find a single sane person who doesn't agree with you that people with mental health problems should receive better care and not be allowed to own weapons. This doesn't somehow magically make your overall position correct.

I could make an argument that gouging your own eyes out with a gun is bad, does that make me correct on gun control? I know you don't see it that way, but that's how ridiculous and asinine your arguments are. Just because you say something that is correct, doesn't mean you're not incorrect about the important issue. It's not a dichotomy, it's not "either guns are dangerous or mentally ill people shouldn't be allowed to own them", and no one, not even you, believes otherwise. So please, just stop.

You're not going to distract people with irrelevant arguments, false dilemmas and incoherent rambling set to a friendly tone of voice. You're not going to confuse people who take this issue seriously with loose-weave appeals to authority (by someone who later changed her mind and now opposes guns, ironically), and you're not going to bury the legitimate arguments levied against you by shouting over them with the same tired points that have already been addressed again and again. I've been dealing with these sorts of tactics my whole life, and I'm not about to get quelled by them now.

Besides, it would be a very negative statement about your audience if you were to write them off as being so mentally feeble as to buy into your case based on such paltry reasoning in the first place. I think more of them than that, I would hope that you do too.

Now as I said, HappyCabbie and I had this debate on his Youtube video comments section, and it was a hilarious clusterfuck. Initially I was shocked by how insincere and dishonest be was being, how he was deliberately misusing statistics to create conclusions they did not lead to, but that was to be the tip of the iceberg. Finally, after trudging through a great deal of his muddy water, I did demonstrate that gun crime is 3 to 4 times lower in the UK, and was in the middle of explaining that you're not actually any safer in the US when he chimed in with something like "that's because the shootings take place in areas where people are not armed to defend themselves". ...I mean, seriously? Think about what he just said.

It's not at all disingenuous to reply with that, right? Wasn't the exact reason for my citing that statistic to demonstrate the fact that we DON'T have guns here, and yet somehow that DOESN'T happen? His reply is equivalent to a religious bigot responding to the total debunking of his doctrine with "yeah well the bible is true because it says so". You can't argue a point that was disproved in the very same sentence you are arguing with! Not without actually contributing something to counter that argument.

If I'm showing you statistical proof that areas without guns (such as the UK) do NOT suffer higher gun crime, you do not then get to turn around and say "that's because the areas that DO have gun crime don't have guns to fight back with!". No - that is the opposite of logic. That's... not even in the same dictionary as logic. To respond that way, you could only possibly be trying to either look like a jackass, or you're simply hoping that the onlooker will be too lazy to look beyond your reply, and will simply assume you made a valid point. Is he really this emotionally invested in what his audience thinks of him?

HappyCabbie, like many fundamentalists, seems to believe that playacting like he is completely incompetent and incapable of keeping up with a very simple, straightforward conversation is somehow tantamount to making a very clever argument. I've never understood this mentality. Why continuously pretend you don't understand or have a hole in your brain where short-term memory should be just to defend your case? If you have to act like a moron to justify your beliefs, what does that say about your beliefs?

The real problem here is that HappyCabbie uses juvenile, often intentionally warped logic to make simplistic, child-like arguments in support of his position that he knows deep down are not reasonable. He doesn't really take the time to rationally think about what he's saying, and the one time I managed to get through to him, he banned me from his channel. I've shown him that there is less death in places without guns, and yet he still responds to the problem of gun violence with (and I'm not even exaggerating here, he really said this) "the problem is there aren't enough guns". Yeah, and the problem with Oncology is that there isn't enough cancer.

He and I argued for a good long time, covering a multitude of topics. I had made the same argument over and over, with him refusing to address it over and over, instead deflecting to completely unrelated topics that I had expressed no views on such as police and domestic abuse. I had been trying to get him to admit that even if the violent crime rate is higher in the UK, trading that for higher death rates was unacceptable, as well as trying to get him to explain where he gets this mysterious 2% statistic from, and his claim that owning a gun makes you more likely to thwart a crime than not owning one. I had made these points over and over again and he just kept ducking them. He was finding it hard by this point to keep up his reasonable-person-talking-to-an-irrational-loony façade due to the fact that he had no answers to my calmly worded questions.

It was at this point that HC took to entering my profile and fumbling through my recent comments, evidently looking for some kind of dirt on me. Quite frankly, I find this somewhere between amusing and deplorable. Now anyone on Youtube probably knows that you have to go through a process to actually enable your recent comments to BE visible on your channel page, it isn't there by default as I recall (maybe it's changed no but that was the case at one point). There is a good reason I allow my comments to be visible there - I have nothing to hide. I'm no stranger to fundamentalists resorting to this kind of thing when their arguments run out of fuel (or ignorance) to sustain them.

HC immediately must have realised this, because quite predictably, there was nothing in my comments history that speaks about me in a remotely negative way. I'm not some buck-toothed troll, I challenge people in serious debates with substantive arguments. This is why he had to deliberately lie about what he saw there. Of course, a rational person would realise that there was nothing to use against me and just give up, but having gone to the trouble of rifling through my comments and failing to find anything more than a tongue-in-cheek remark about Gandhi (which he also tried to use against me despite its obvious humour) he decided to justify his investment by simply making up what was being said.

In a separate comment thread, I had responded to some girl posting there with the comment: "Only an American could be this woefully ignorant". He quoted that, trying I guess to make it look like I was being racist or generalising an entire culture. If you want to interpret it like that, that's fine. I'm not going to sit here and spoonfeed what I was trying to say to you because I trust that anyone who reads this blog is equipped with a functioning brain and can figure it out. I don't need to try to influence people. What I will do is point out that QUOTED in my comment, was the remark I was responding to. Which was something to the effect of: "The government is trying to take our guns". Does that change how you interpret my statement? I leave that for you to decide.

Here's where I draw the line, though. Cabbie - realising this was harmless, but already being committed to the idea of trying to show me up based on my previous comments, actually went to the video where that comment was made, dug through it, took out a SEPARATE comment that this girl had made elsewhere, NOT in a discussion with me, and inserted that quote into my comment, to make it look like what I was really responding to was her claiming "there are other ways to hurt people besides guns".

In other words, he deliberately changed what I had written in order to misrepresent what I was trying to say. And why bother? If what I was saying is really so objectively wrong, why would you feel the need to purposefully exclude the quote I was replying to and suggest I was instead responding to a completely different argument that I hadn't even seen? Observe the drastic difference between these two examples:

"There are other ways to hurt people besides guns".
"Only an American could be this woefully ignorant"
= irrational, incomprehensible response that makes no sense and seems unnecessarily mean.

"The government is trying to take our guns"
"Only an American could be this woefully ignorant"
= ? I leave this for you to judge.

At the end of the day, he didn't do this by accident. He went out of his way to break open and reforge my comment into a deliberately different shape for the sole purpose of misrepresenting what I had said, and in response to what - and when I pointed this out, he raged at me, accusing me of lying, and warning me never to do so again. Very few things can get my blood boiling in a debate, I handle myself with a cool-head and rational poise at all times. Hypocrisy, however, especially when so deliberate... is something I do not suffer well.

Now, appearances to the contrary, I'm not using this blog post merely as a means to "have my say" in the absence of his co-operation (which I'll get to in a bit). A lot more was said between us that I haven't gone to the trouble of documenting because that's not what I'm trying to do. I mean I don't exactly have an audience anyway, so there's no benefit on my end. The only reason I'm sharing some of his correspondence with me is because I believe it speaks to the problem of gun control/ownership and the corruptive effect it can have on a person's character.

HappyCabbie is someone I don't always agree with, but on the rare occasions we have crossed swords I've found him to be reasonable, patient, even rational. And I've gone up against the best of them. I don't make videos but I've been an incredibly active Youtuber for about 6 years now, I've gone rounds with AronRa, ZJ, Proportionalresponse, Coughlan and many more. Generally speaking, they disappoint. One rule I've learned is never to meet your heroes, their rationality is easier to admire when it is packaged inside a shiny, well edited Youtube video, but generally fails to hold up in actual debate. Initially, I thought HC was the exception to this.

Some time ago I corrected his use of the term "false-flagging", prompting a short debate between us, that led to him actually launching a survey on his other channel to find out what the people think. The results were distinctly in my favour, and of course he never followed up on that to do an "I was wrong" video or anything of the sort, but that's fine. He's not obligated to enjoy being wrong, and it wouldn't make him necessarily a more decent person to announce it to the world - so long as he doesn't continue being wrong once he has been sufficiently corrected. And that's what he avoided doing. Maximum respect to him for that. This shows him to be a person of honesty and decorum.

But now see what happens when you introduce something that makes the debate personal... because that's what is happening here. We're talking about what guns lead to, and as a gun owner... that really means we're talking about what HE might do with one. That's why every argument on my side of the fence is automatically received as a personal attack on his. This is what leans him towards fundamentalism, and this is what erodes rationality. He's very good at playing the role, BEHAVING as though still rational, but so am I. Yet I have never had to lie, misrepresent data, intentionally ignore (over and over again) salient points and generally be deceptive in order to defend my case.

And if anyone wants to doubt me on this - go ahead and check my comments. They are all there, for everyone to see, including this entire exchange with HappyCabbie on his gun announcement video, assuming he hasn't deleted them.

Unfortunately that wasn't the only blatant lie he told about me during our exchange. The second lie he told is that I was refusing to look at the statistics while arguing against them. He knew this was a lie because I had told him at least five separate times that I was looking at the figures as we spoke, and even corrected him on one of them that he was misquoting.  There is no getting around that. I couldn't possibly have done that unless I was looking at them, so he had to have known.

The problem stemmed from the fact that I hadn't gotten around to reading his blog, which makes mine look like a footnote. I should add, this was on Christmas day, that either of us even had the time to sit at a computer arguing was testament to our lame social lives as it is, but the point is, the only relevant part of his blog were the sources for his data, and I already had them. I had neither the time nor the inclination to absorb that entire wall of text just to get what I already had.

After visiting my family for some turkey goodness, I returned to our debate, and briefly asked him to justify one of the claims he had made. He had quoted some 1.5 million statistic, which I presume is the same one he used the first source I debunked in this blog post to justify. This was literally 20 seconds after sitting back at my computer after returning home. He flipped his lid about the fact that I had not read his blog in that time, claiming that I was refusing to look at the sources while arguing them... which is odd, because I was *asking* for the sources. I wasn't even arguing against them - I don't do that until I have the source material.

It seems to me that yelling at someone for refusing to look at something they are asking to see is kind of ridiculous. It would have been a simple matter to just send me the link, rather than force me to fish it out of his rambling blogpost (which for someone with my attention span difficulties is a bit of a trial). In addition to that, it's not like he even offered me the opportunity to just do so. I would have happily scanned through it to find the source if he was adamant about not giving it directly to me, though confused about why that is, I simply didn't anticipate that happening. One would generally think that if the argument can be so easily defended with a quick link that one's opponent would have no problem simply doing so.

Nevertheless, he banned me. His conceited justification was tantamount to "go sit in the corner and think about what you've done", while continuing to argue with me, doubling down on the lies he had told about me despite the fact that I had already cleared that up with him (which rules out any benefit of the doubt in my opinion, he didn't misunderstand, he knowingly lied and then continued the lie after it had been explained to him) having his last say while safely protected by the ban he had placed on my ability to defend myself. So after that he was hoping I would read his blog post during my "down time" and be all humbled when I get back to him.

Clearly, since I have made this post of my own, I have read it in order to address the many errors he made there as well as those he made with me and his subsequent video, but I ask you - why should I respect the words of someone who flat out admits by their own actions that they don't respect mine? Not only that... someone who flagrantly disrespects mine in such a visceral, offensive manner? What sort of person invites debate, mutually pursues it for a long time, then puts their hand over your mouth while still wailing on you and expects YOU to be apologetic for not respecting THEIR words?

I've never had to resort to censorship to make my own case, and I never will. He lost every remaining scrap of respect I still had for him the moment he did that. It wasn't just THAT he did it, it was the reason why. I had finally cornered him, after shooting down every possible evasion attempt and poorly constructed counterargument he had flung about, and pinned him to the uncomfortable position of having to acknowledge one single point. He had no answer for it. His every argument had been defeated save one, the 1.5 million one, which I now know to be bunk anyway, and he latched onto that as his get out of jail free card, twisting my request for a source into a refusal to look at sources.

After he banned me I sent him one private message detailing my summary of our exchange, which basically was a quick overview of all the points I have explained in this blog post and more besides. I ended it by inviting him to respond, promising that he could have the last word, and that I would only reply if I was directly invited to. That way he wouldn't need to fall back on this petty banning nonsense again. He responded, a message that I will not post here without his permission, but essentially he ducked all of my points in a very predictable and blasé manner.

I did write to him again, asking if I was invited to respond (since I had promised not to unless invited, and I keep to my word), but he shot me a somewhat quaky reply pretending to think I was asking about video responses, using the typing equivalent of mumbling under his breath. I clarified what I was asking and got no further response. So I guess that's that.

So what was that critical point that I finally got him on? Simple. Here are the sources we were using for our debate:


 Per capita homicide rates
 US 4.8 - 14,748  
 UK 1.2 - 722
Violent crime in the UK
Violent crime in the US (originally I actually had a full table, but I can't seem to relocate it, this is all I can find now, but it doesn't matter since I wasn't making any claims about the US statistics, only verifying the ones he was making).

Quote from source:

This is presumably the statistic he was looking at as we were speaking, or some equivalent of it on his own sources. I think there's also a graph somewhere that shows a different data set that peaks at just over 1,500. When I had corrected Cabbie earlier in the debate, he had been rounding up from this all the way to 2,000, this is how I knew he was wrong. As you can see, the total violence is actually 1,200. Notice how robbery and different kinds of assault are listed as sub-categories, but homicide is not listed among them? This will become very important in just a moment.

His entire case during our debate had hinged on one crucial element... the fact that violent crime is a lot higher in the UK than the US, which he reasoned to be proof that guns prevent crime. It's true that the statistics show violent crime to be roughly 3-4 times higher in the UK (it varies from source to source), while homicide is about the same rate higher in the US. (EDIT: Note, if you are going to observe the original conversation we had, you'll see I accidentally keep referring to this as "5 times" higher, this is an error on my part, the actual figure is between 3 to 4.) I made the obvious case that trading violence for death is not a very sound bargain, but he wasn't having it. An identical case to his own is somehow magically unacceptable when it's in opposition to his viewpoint. But there is a far more critical oversight that I believe may be going on here...

Back when I was dealing with the earlier statistics at the start of this blog, and I mentioned things like... the rate at which people pull their guns, the rate at which this led to the wounding or death of the attacker, and so on... it is important to understand that these are subsets of the same thing. I cannot, for example, add the 8% chance of wounding the attacker to the 27% chance of shooting your gun, to then claim that 35% of the time, a gun goes off. Because the 8% is a subset of the 27%, the overall statistic regards the gun being pulled, the smaller statistic regards one consequence of this.

However... I don't actually think... (and I could be wrong about this, I welcome any source that can prove as such) that the same applies to this violent crime statistic. Look at how it is structured. Two separate resources, one for homicide, the other for violent crime. One is not depicted as a subset of the other, but rather an entire separate study, a different category alogether. Think about that.

There is 3-4 times more violent crime in the UK... and 3-4 times more homicide in the US. Don't both of those numbers seem a little on the tall side? And oddly proportionate to one another? I live in the UK, and it is a thuggish place, but by no means does it seem that excessively violent to me, whereas the friends I have in the US make no bones about just how unruly and violent it is over there. That was when it twigged. The statistic changes category depending on the nature of the incident.

In other words... a violent crime is not listed as a violent crime if it ends in death, it's listed as a HOMICIDE, which is an entirely separate statistical category. When someone dies during a violent crime, it becomes a homicide, meaning there is not actually any less violent crime in the US after all. In other words, he presented a false dichotomy without realising it. It's not a case of violent crime OR homicide, the homicides WERE violent crimes before they escalated to killing, which is the only reason it LOOKS like the violent crime rate is lower in the US. His entire case was built on a faulty premise.

This is a rather thundering final nail to the coffin, and as I said even I'm not entirely sure about it. This is definitely how the data presents itself, but it could be that there is an overlap and it's just not clearly presented. Until I see evidence that this is the case, I'm going to follow what the data actually says. Which is that you are JUST as likely to be the victim of a violent crime in the US as you are in the UK, the only difference is, it is a lot more likely to end in serious injury or death.

So instead of being an argument in his favour, it's actually a pretty damning argument AGAINST him. When I pointed this out... Cabbie had nothing to say.

He had tried lying, he had tried unfair debate tactics, trivialization, misuse of statistics and general disinformation, but there was no getting around this point because it was literally the one that unravelled the foundations of his entire case. His response? Censorship. I think that says a lot more about him than it does me. And at the end of the day, even if I am wrong, arguing that you would trade 3 times more death in exchange for 3 times less violence is both insane and repugnant.

On top of that, this survey also states quite clearly that over 40% of all violent crime in the UK ends without injury. So in effect, even if the statistic doesn't change based on the nature of the crime, he's still willing to trade 3 times more death for... what, let's say 2 times more violence that is actually dangerous, to be fair? And even then, applying his logic, how large a percentage of these violent incidents that WOULD HAVE ended without injury would instead turn into a blood bath if people responded to it the way he wants them to? He never had a leg to stand on in that debate, and when pressured, he slammed the door in my face.

Quite frankly - he can go to hell. I only lend my time to people who can debate with decency.

At the end of the day there is only one reason Cabbie, or anyone for that matter, wants a gun, and that's because they want to feel powerful. They are scared, they don't want to feel vulnerable, and a gun soothes their frayed nerves with a massive infusion of confidence and security. It's the seductive allure of knowing you can move mountains, the temptation of absolute power, and that's why it cannot be defended rationally. In fact people will even deny this simple fact because they know it's a source of irrationality and they think it's automatically bad. It isn't bad. There's nothing wrong with wanting to feel powerful, and I'll freely admit, as a swordsman, holding a weapon DOES grant you that incredible rush. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

It's a documented fact that just owning a weapon makes you more prone to aggression and instils you with a greater confidence to fight. It's called the weapons effect. But you don't need a study to show you this, you can test it yourself by carrying even something as harmless as a butter knife in your pocket. You'll automatically feel more powerful, safer, because you know you're not COMPLETELY naked in terms of defence, that if something were to happen, there is a lifeline you can hold onto.

I remember trying to explain this to xxxThePeachxxx in a blogtv event, though unfortunately my internet connection was glitching and I couldn't respond to her properly. She took this documented psychological phenomenon I was trying to explain, and reduced it to the furthest absurd, claiming that by extension my philosophy should lead to the banning of knives and anything with sharp edges, etc. I couldn't reply properly to explain to her that she was taking it too far, that I don't even want to ban guns, I just want sane limits applied to them, but she was already up on her soap box parading the straw-me around in front of her audience.

At this point another prominent Youtuber (who later apologized for his behaviour, thus I won't mention his name out of courtesy) piled on, taking me on in the comments with arguments like "guns aren't infused with a magic purpose that makes them weapons"... an utterly asinine argument. I didn't bother explaining this at the time as he wanted to continue based on that presupposition, but to be honest... yes they are. Of course they are. In the same way that a pen is infused with the purpose of writing.

Just because something can be used for something else doesn't mean they don't have a definable function. Function is more than just an imbued meaning, it's a structural fact, a point of engineering intention and effectiveness. Guns are weapons, they are designed to kill things, and while they can be used for shooting cans off a wall that does NOT change the fact that they are efficient AT killing, make the process of killing easier, more tempting and more likely an outcome than the misuse of a bloody pen. Of course before I could get past asking him if he was joking when he openly mocked me - I was banned.

And this is what I'm talking about. These are all people I have HUGE respect for. People who identify as rationalists and critical thinkers, people who know how to debate well and know when they are being deliberately disingenuous. It goes to show that when you involve something like this, it's so easy to lose objectivity. Another hero of mine, Christopher Hitchens, once said that to get good people to do bad things, you need religion. I would amend that to ideology... or perhaps more generally - agenda.

From the moment HappyCabbie decided to get a gun he had acquiesced to his fear and compromised his rationality in doing so. That's fine though, we can't all be expected to be totally rational all the time. But I'm not the one making a big deal out of it - he is. He chose to pursue these debates, then to handle them like an angry child. As soon as he was ruled by an agenda, he could forgive telling lies and silencing dissent. As long as people take something personally, no amount of rationality can get through to them. We all have a big, ugly fundie hiding somewhere in our psyche, and the right topic can bring it out of us with a radiating wroth given the chance.

It's because these people are raised with a dogma no different to religious dogma, that is to say, they are raised in a culture steeped in guns, and they don't see anything wrong with it because it's THEIR normal. Of course they have all given it some rational thought, but you can justify anything to YOURSELF with rationality, what really defines the validity of your beliefs is whether or not you can justify it through open discourse to someone else. And I have yet to see someone who can, and remain honest, decent, and absent of censorship while doing so. In my opinion, the reason for this is that they are fractally wrong on this issue, and they know how to hide that inconvenient truth from themselves.

At some point, the politics and education in America will evolve to where people understand that carrying weapons that can instantly kill anyone around you is an incredibly stupid, dangerous idea. But we're not there yet. In the mean time it falls to those of us who are rational in the rest of the world to fight this fight on their behalf, because Americanisation is a spreading phenomenon, and I don't want them setting the precedent for my culture and other cultures, and I don't want innocent people getting gunned down in their country either.

The problem is, Americans are so overexposed to firearms, their culture so incredibly saturated by this ubiquity of lethal weaponry that they just don't have the clear perspective to understand how over the top it has gotten. We're talking about a country that could have up to 90 guns per 100 people. I mean good god, that's enough to slaughter a huge chunk of the world given the right factors. We're talking about potential destructive power on par with Hiroshima, in the hands of citizens. You simply cannot expect someone raised in that kind of culture to comprehend living without the influence of firearms, any more than I could expect HappyCabbie to comprehend what it would be like to be British.

This is, by definition, ignorance, and I repeat what I said to that girl. ONLY someone raised in America could be so ignorant as to the negative impact of guns, to say, as HappyCabbie explicitly states on his blog, that the US does NOT have a gun problem, and that what it needs is more guns. It's like wallpaper to them, they don't see it. And there's nothing wrong with that. I had an Asian friend tell me recently she has never had pizza before... that blew my mind. But this is what happens, to deny that cultures are fundamentally different to one another to the degree where they might be ignorant of something the rest of the world can clearly see is madness. Likewise, it would be unfair to expect them to be able to see or fix the problem overnight.

That's why having a dialogue on this and every similar issue is so very important. We all are mirrors to one another, helping each other see the biases and preconceptions that we do not see in ourselves. It's so important that we discuss issues like this and let that discussion flower until a conclusion is reached. If we all isolate ourselves into echo chambers filled with people who already agree with us, nothing new gets learned, nothing gets achieved. And when someone has to resort to diving back into that circlejerk and shutting out anyone who disagrees, that's a problem.

As an onlooker, I, as with most British people, can see how completely bonkers the US has become when it comes to guns. Most of us here have never even seen or held a gun, and somehow we don't get gunned down at anywhere near the same rates as citizens of the US do despite not having guns to defend ourselves with. You know why? Because guns are not defensive weapons. They are not bullet-proof shields, and unless you can shoot bullets out of the air it's not going to protect you from someone who has already drawn theirs with the intent to shoot at you. Standing there to get a good aim, however, will get you killed.

I've heard people claim ad nauseum that they looked at the statistics and somehow managed to interpret them in a way that proves that guns do protect you, but not only have I never seen these stats appear in the debate, it only takes a little common sense to understand how silly that is. If you stand and shoot - you die. If you run and shoot, you risk killing a bystander, and probably won't hit the attacker, and you could have just run without shooting and putting other people's lives in danger. And on top of all that, how often are you going to be in a position where A, someone is about to shoot you, B, you can draw, prime, aim and fire your gun faster than they can pull the trigger for there to even BE a gunfight, and C, know that if you hadn't pulled your gun, the assailant would still have fired?

HappyCabbie, during our first round, answered each of these criteria with a hypothetical that got more and more absurd to account for each factor, until in his imagined scenario he had turned into some kind of Bruce Willis, diving out of the line of fire while shooting with perfect accuracy before the attacker could so much as blink. Exactly how outlandish does this ad hoc fantasy have to get before one simply admits that it's just never going to happen?

You're not going to be the hero who saves the day during a mass shooting, and trying to play the hero during a robbery or mugging is going to get YOU, your nearby LOVED ONES, or other innocent people KILLED. Even HappyCabbie admits this... and thinks it is an acceptable risk! Because that's what bullets do. Whether you fire them, or they do. And the absolute best case scenario is you have to live with the blood of your attacker on your hands for the rest of your life, knowing that you couldn't possibly have known if shooting him was necessary. (Because if it was, that means you were already being shot.)

Now let me be completely clear where I stand, because all I ever see on the right are extreme strawmen of the gun control advocate's position, and on the left we don't generally talk about it that much because... well, it's just common sense. I believe owning guns to keep in your own home is fine. Provided you don't parade them around like a lunatic, or infest your children's brains with them. Just leave it in a carefully stored box so that if someone ever comes to rape or hurt you, or some kind of invasion or revolution happens you can protect yourself. This is reasonable.

Owning weapons that could cull a small country - is not. You don't need heavy duty assault weapons, you don't need machine guns and uzis and rocket launchers. I know, some of you think that a revolution is a real possibility... but guess what? If there is one? You're not going to fight it. You're going to crawl under your bed and hope looters don't kick the door down. Revolutions are won with words, not guns. It's people, coming together, making their feelings clear, and reminding the government that there's a lot more of us than there are of you.

And if it does break out into full scale war? They will organize into a militia, they will procure their OWN weapons through resistance raids, black market deals and the like, and you will get your shiny new AK on that glorious day you are so desperately waiting for. Your peashooter with a scope is only good for shooting up a school or a bank, and that's why we don't want you owning it.

Owning a sane, small gun is fine. Carrying it with you outside - is not. That's what you do when you are looking for trouble, that's what will get your blood pumping, fill you with a desire to fight, and the second you do ever see some kind of altercation happening, it's the reason you'll go running towards it, rather than away from it. And no matter how well trained you THINK you are, you are not well trained enough to potentially take other people's lives into your own hands by inflaming an already dangerous situation.

Owning a sane, small gun and keeping it in the home is fine. Using it as a resolution to petty squabbles and fights - is not. The exorbitant gun culture in the US has given birth to abominable laws like "Stand your ground", where people are literally allowed to shoot someone else if they FEEL their life is in danger. Well guess what, your life is always in danger in a fight. It's violence. That's what happens. Knowing you have a weapon that can kill people should NEVER be present in your conciousness as an ace up your sleeve in these situations, and if it is, you shouldn't have one.

Owning a sane, small gun, keeping it in the home and NOT touching it unless you need to, is fine. Letting crazy people do so - is not. Does this really need saying? According to HC, it does. He says it over and over. Of course people with mental health problems shouldn't be allowed guns, are you kidding me? That's the most obvious thing I've ever heard. And it leads me to my final point:

Owning a.. etc, is fine. But it should not be easy. People complain that the laws for procuring guns are already too restrictive, but that's because they have become complacent to the incredible power these weapons can instil. If someone has ever had any history of violence, cannot pass a psyche profile, safety tests (complete with thorough) training, signing a contract for how it will be used, checking in regularly to confirm all these factors, and will be held legally responsible if they lose or sell it? They should not be allowed it. You shouldn't be able to just inherit one from your relatives (at least not one that is loaded and functional, and this should be periodically confirmed) and there should be incredibly harsh penalties for possessing one without a licence, or carrying one in public.

The reason there are so many guns in criminals pockets is because in the US they are not that expensive or particularly hard to obtain. I'm not saying they're easy to obtain, but not so hard as to make it a serious inconvenience to go buy a new one when you lost your old one like it was a cell phone. It's because people carry these death buttons around like lunatics, then lose them or have them stolen that criminals can possess them so easily. There are no guns here in the UK, and that's why criminals rarely have any. It's hard to find them, because everybody in the country doesn't own one. One would think this would be obvious.

There is a difference between prohibition and sane control. We don't prohibit alcohol, but we hold people responsible for what they do with it (driving, operating heavy machinery, working, etc) so why on earth should we not do the same with guns? They need to be used responsibly, or not at all.

Before I wrap this up I thought I'd address some of the more standard arguments that anti-gun control people tend to champion, since not many of the classics were brought up during this affair. I'll be brief:

"People will always find ways to kill"
Yes, and to do so they tend to have to do complicated stuff like synthesizing their own explosives out of fertilizers or making elaborate, complicated plots that very often end up getting busted by a keen observer. People will find ways to TRY to kill, yes, but that doesn't mean we should make it easier for them, and few things carry the ease, convenience and efficiency when it comes to killing that a gun can bring to the table. And those things that do? We ALSO licence under strict laws. Cars, dangerous chemicals, etc.

"Guns don't kill people, people do"
Yes. People with guns. I'm not trying to prohibit people, I'm trying to lessen the chances of people running around with guns, because a gun by itself generally doesn't shoot anyone, and a person by themselves generally doesn't shoot anyone. It seems to be that there is some kind of combination of the two required before things get dangerous, but hey what do I know?

"Don't blame the guns, blame the psychos!"
I'm not trying to get guns put in jail.

"Guns have other uses too!"
Until nature evolves a breed of wild deer that requires at least a full clip of tactical armour-piercing rounds to bring down, don't even waste my time with this asinine drivel. Gun ranges? Hell go nuts. Under a controlled setting I don't care if you fire an RPG, it's irrelevant if no one is in danger. The fact that this kind of brain-splitting obviousness so often needs to be clarified speaks to the mental capacity of the people who try to pursue this line of argument.

"How will I defend myself without a gun?"
I did kind of address this already but it I think deserves a more damning response. GUNS ARE NOT SHIELDS. They do not block bullets, you have to be holding relatively still to aim them properly, carefully and with due diligence to bystanders which is the opposite of what you should do in a gunfight. IF you are trained to a truly exceptional degree, then fine... I would even be fine with such people (who have proven themselves psychologically) having "vigilante" licenses to act under a dire situation that requires the level of training they have. But this is NOT everyone.

"The second amendment! THE SECOND AMENDMENT!"
Is there to keep the government in line, not to make you feel like the cock of the block. At the time of the formulation of your constitution, the kinds of weapons that are readily available today were inconceivable, and the only reason you don't apply this amendment to things like poisons, controlled explosives and ninja throwing stars is because those weapons were not part of the paradigm you were raised in. How YOU might react to the idea of me using a grenade to protect myself in a fight is exactly the same as how *I*, and likely the founding fathers would have reacted to the idea of you carrying around a device that can instantly kill anyone within eyeshot whenever you feel like it.

"But this study says..."
We can all cite studies until the cows come home. We live in an age of ubiquitous information where anyone can launch any kind of study and attempt to prove whatever they want. It's very difficult to thoroughly observe every fact of every such study (as this blog post easily demonstrates) and that only makes this debate exponentially more complicated. Before you back a study, I strongly suggest you look into its origins. If it was launched by the NRA, for example, it's probably safe to bet it's not exactly objective. A lot of hard data was involved in this blog, that can give you somewhere to start. I'll address other studies anyone might want to raise with me if I have the time.

"You think we should ban guns just so fewer people will get shot? That makes no sense."
This is actually a quote from HappyCabbie in his comments section. I was just reading through it and couldn't help but crack a smile when I saw that. Now as I've said, I'm not advocating for the BANNING of guns, but if ever there were an argument that COULD convince me to change my stance on that, it would be this one. Good job, Cabbie. You managed to make an incredibly simple, yet highly compelling syllogistic argument for exactly why we should consider banning guns. Why you think this individual statement somehow demonstrates some kind of absurdity in that logic is beyond me. Yes, when something makes bad things happen, generally speaking I would be in favour of preventing that thing, to prevent the bad things. Why, exactly, does this seem like a bad argument to you?

"I have the right to defend myself!"
Yes you do. And so do I. But if the government knocked on my door one day and said "I can slightly raise the chances of you surviving a terrible incident, and all it will cost you is roughly 11,000 preventable deaths per year!", guess what I would say? The problem with this topic is that most people cannot see beyond their own nose, they don't grasp how the bigger picture changes when you introduce a massive number of weapons into a culture. Even putting aside the dangers of accidental misfire, misuse and jamming/poor maintenance, we're talking about innocent bystanders dying in the thousands because you decided you wanted the right to carry a gun. The only reason you don't feel the connection between those two things is that you choose not to. It's a direct consequence, you are telling me that you are willing to *sacrifice* those lives in order to feel a little safer. I'm telling you that is unacceptable.

"But people die from other stuff all the time!"
Everything that can pose the slightest risk to human lives, we impose upon the highest standards of safety protocol that we possible can while still allowing for the function of that thing. Everything from crossing the street to handling dangerous equipment carries with it a plethora of rules and regulations on how and when these things should be dealt with, and when not to. Why on earth should guns, possibly the easiest and most efficiently dangerous object (all other factors being equal) that exists, be the exception to this? Yes, all sorts of things can be dangerous - that's why we have inhibitive rules designed to safeguard our lives when those things are nearby.

"If you take away our guns, the government will come for us!"
This is not the X-files. If the government wanted you, they'd have you. They have the resources of the entire federal system, the military, the very infrastructure of society. As I said earlier, your obnoxious little collection of killing machines is not going to hold back the tides of such a conflict, but the sorts of people who spend their days sharpening their knives and stockpiling their ammo for when "the man" comes for them are exactly the types of lunatics that I don't want running around with guns.

Fuck yeah! Ok I'm not taking this seriously any more, but it's hard to do when you're dealing with this kind of rationale.

I'll leave this here since I have rambled for more than long enough, but I will address one final point, the last one that HappyCabby made in his video. Look, Cabbie, it's one thing to tell us that we DON'T live in a Utopian society where things like this aren't a problem, but you know WHY we don't? Because people like you decide that we don't.

Society is made by its people, cultural attitudes are infectious and dictate how the tide of the majority shifts. A single idea can flower through an entire nation, be it environmental awareness or an Arab Spring. To throw your hands in the air at this notion being futile simply flies in the face of the equally long-shot charges led against slavery, corruption and totalitarianism that paint history with the colours of freedom. The direction your nation goes is and always will be beholden to your conscience, the only problem is, you are not.

Your attitude is the same that informs every social meme, every rumour, every act of bullying, the spreading of hatespeak, censorship (which you have a particular fondness for) laziness, apathy and even greed. This attitude of "well if everyone else is gonna do it, it would be silly for me not to" is the hub on which the balance between being the guy who drops litter, and being the one who picks it up and puts it in the bin shifts. This was the mentality you chose to champion, in that last video of yours, and this is why you lose any and all credibility in the debate about whether or not gun control is right.

Humanity never will live in a Utopia as long as there are people like you, who think "It's not a perfect world" is a valid excuse to continue making it imperfect. People who admit they are acting out of the same fear that creates the problem they re trying to solve, yet do nothing about it. But we, as a species *are* better than we were just 30... 20... 10 years ago, and the reason for this is that people stood up against the odds and fought for what was actually *right* until the truth won out. They did not acquiesce to the tide of fear and aggression, they did not surrender their principles to the looming threat of apathy.

People have always fought that fight, and we always will fight it. No matter how many cowards hiding behind their guns we have to step over to do so. You're welcome to your lethal little lifeline, I have my own weapons to fight with, my words. And unlike you I am not so ineffectual with them that I have to stoop to soul-killing underhanded tactics like deliberate deception and misrepresentation, veiled by a canopy of shameless censorship to do so. If and when that day comes, I hope there's someone like me to put me in my place, and that I listen to him better than you did.

Of course the funniest thing about all of this is that he blew up on me for not reading HIS blog (which I only offered to do as a courtesy, one writer to another, it had nothing to do with data sourcing because as he knows, I already had the sources) and now my response to this situation has become a similar blog post that might even be longer than his. I could be wrong, but I suspect that if I were to invite him read this, we'd see those double standards of his creeping back to the surface.

But then, maybe not. It would be refreshing for him to actually prove me wrong on something for a change. Rest assured, either way I shall not be slapping a gag on his free speech rights. I don't need to - I can give as good as I get, and when I'm wrong, it's a pleasure to realise it. That's always going to be the difference between genuine rationalist and pseudoskeptical fundamentalists. I just wish more of my "heroes" turned out to hold those principles in the same regard as I do.

The thing that really gets my goat about all this, Happy? The fact that you knowingly, deliberately, unapologetically and with absolute awareness of your actions, lied about me, even while accusing me of lying at the same time. You, who has spent so long in recent months trying to shoot down every scrap of propaganda that was being spread against you, someone who KNOWS what it feels like to be lied about, especially in front of a large audience. Hypocrisy is the single most detestable character trait that I absolutely cannot stomach under any circumstances, and that's why I'll never look at you the same way again. You don't get to claim the moral high ground while acting like such a piece of crap at the same time.

All I can say in closing is that I still like HappyCabbie, I still recommend his videos, I still hold him in high regard, and only ever sought to challenge him on this topic (and continue to) because I also hold him to the highest standard, the standard I reserve for only those whom I respect the most. But his behaviour in this matter has been reprehensible, disgusting, borderline malicious and hurtful, and quite frankly I find myself quite disillusioned against this person who had, in fact, been one of my guideposts on my road to open-minded skepticism during my greener years. The only reason I still even bother to say anything about it?

The fact that this is what guns and their alluring temptation can do to someone who under any other circumstances is a person with the strongest, most self-consistent and even-handed ethical code of practically anyone I know other than myself. The only reason I've pointed out every deplorable thing he did is because I know that he knows better. If guns can bring out such an ugly side of such a nice person, then there really is something to be worried about. This is why I talk and debate with people, this is why I believe in free speech, and this is why I want the world to be an open-forum, not a segregated grid of personal pigeon holes.

The truth was never found by sticking your fingers in your ears. No wonder he seem so easily confused by all these simple arguments.

The Founder