Re: some U.S. observations and notes

From: Kai Becker (
Date: Sat Dec 29 2001 - 07:50:23 MST

Am Samstag, 29. Dezember 2001 06:19 schrieb Michael M. Butler:
> Kai, I agree that scary people are scary. Tanked-up Hell's Angels on
> amphetamines bumping into me at a bar are really scary, and I don't like
> the idea of seeing even one of them with a gun in his (or her) hand.
> So we have a baseline of agreement, yes? People (you and I, at least)
> prefer feeling safer to feeling less safe. Onward!

I don't know if you got my point.
(1) I wouldn't feel safe with _anyone_ in that bar carrying a gun, not even
you or me. Why? Because one of the "ordinary" persons could feel so
"empowered" to escalate the situation.
(2) I wouldn't feel safe if someone would always carry a Molotov Cocktail
either, because this would (from my view) also be a sign of a fearful and
potential dangerous person.
(3) I am talking from my perspective here in Germany, where we'd rather
call the police than try to play the hero. (cf. Sting: "Englishman In New

> My point about the homicidal man who went back to the club with a
> dollar's worth of gasoline is: gee, if he'd had a gun handy he might have
> shot his girlfriend, and maybe himself and a few other people, instead of
> burning down a building and killing 87.

This case is one of the ca. 15,500 homicides in the US and not an example
of successful self-defense. The crime rate in the USA is 2 to 8 times
higher than in Europe. If the rates here would be as high, I'd just say
this is the price of freedom, but they are not. _My_ question therefore is:
"what are the differences between Europe and the USA that make so many more
people act violent", not "how can we stop a lunatic in a society of

See, I don't accept that a free and liberal society has to be so dangerous
that their citizens only feel safe when they carry a deadly weapon.

(BTW, suggests that
handguns in the hand of <25 year old persons are the highest risk. IMO,
this has something to do with "feeling empowered" rather than "feeling more

> The following comment is a cultural one, not a racist one (sad that I
> need to say that):
> The occupants of the place were mostly Dominicans, the man who set the
> torch was Puerto Rican. So there might have been some culture mismatch;
> the other major dance club fire ever set in the US and Territories was in
> Puerto Rico; perhaps a Puerto Rican crowd would have read the man as a
> potent threat.

I have heard this argument before: "The minorities" are far more violent
and criminal than the rest. (I won't discuss prejudices of the police and
justice here) It is sad to say that the numbers seem to confirm this
theory, in the US as well as here.

Someone also suggested that the reason for the different crime rates is the
inhomogeneity(?) of the US society compared to a more homogeneous Europe.
Hm. But the "majority" also consists of former minorities, here as well as
in the US, correct? Unless you propose that the "new minorities" are
intrinsically more violent than the "old", what magic turned a mixture of
minorities into a homogeneous, peaceful, law abiding majority?

> ***
> Q5: What magic is there that transforms an ordinary person into a
> trustworthy one? ***

I think this question explains the difference between us... My experience
is that more than 99.99% of the "ordinary persons" here are non-violent
persons. Trustworthy in the sense that they won't rob or kill me, even if
they could. Lunatics and violent persons are a very small minority. So, my
default assumption is "non-violent until proven different" (which doesn't
imply that I leave my house or my car unlocked, though). If you'd say that
this standard assumption is different in the US, then we might have one of
the soft factors (or a symptom of it).

>From my point of view, I'd rather ask it the other way:

(2) What evil magic transforms an ordinary person into a mass-murderer?

(1) (the even more interesting question) How can we all (every person on
this planet) live together when we cannot risk that anyone is so
"disgruntled" that he starts a mass-killing with some "empowering"


== Kai M. Becker == == Bremen, Germany ==
"Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced"

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