- Date published:
12:26 pm, December 7th, 2019 - 39 comments
Categories: crime, gender, police, violence against women - Tags: gun buyback, gun control, gun lobby, misogyny, trumpian politics
I didn’t closely follow the details of the recent debate about the arming of NZ police (specifically the trials of having permanent armed patrols), because the progressive position seems a no brainer: civil society requires the least amount of force needed by those in position of power, and the voices of marginalised groups most likely to be shot should be heeded. If police are increasingly at personal risk then put resources and political will into solving the problems that underlie increasing community violence.
I did however start thinking about the ‘creep’ of the normalisation of armed police in NZ and whether we have gone so far now that it will be hard to stop. Apparently armed police on the streets has been happening for a while in some places, notably in Christchurch (pre the Mosque murders). Arming decisions were being made by local Commanders on an as needed basis, and there appeared to be little oversight or keeping of records of what was being done.
This week three issues in the media prompted me to think more deeply.
The first was the 30th anniversary of the Montreal mass shooting, where a man entered a university, told the men to leave the room and shot the women. At the time it was almost impossible for reporting to present this as a gendered, anti-feminist crime, but there has been plenty of analysis since of both the misogynistic agenda of the shooter (the women were engineering students) and the sexism that prevented reporting of this.
The second issue was an opinion piece by a senior Massey University lecturer published by Stuff this morning, that started with this,
This country has been lucky that we haven’t had to deal with an angry, unstable father shooting up a courtroom because of the Family Court’s reckless treatment of fathers in child custody disputes.
The unarmed security guards at the entrances of most courts aren’t enough to deter a father who can’t see his kids and has nothing to lose because of harmful decisions by the Family Court.
Of course, I am not advocating that action, and if you are thinking about it or have thought about it – stop – and get some help.
He then goes on to make a case about the mistreatment of men seeking custody of their children by the Family Court. Unfortunately his argument is based on a single example where the man is seen wholly without responsibility for the situation, and instead of talking about the complex range of issues involved in Family Court disputes, his piece comes across with the subtext of ‘if you want to murder the people making decisions about the well-being of your kid, get some help, but really you’re justified in your feelings’. It’s hard to see this as not an endorsement of the man-alone, oblivious to the needs of others, macho character that so many New Zealand men are socialised into (and which needless to say underpins much of the problem that men face in Family Court)
This is an astounding thing for Stuff to publish in a country that had its first modern era political mass murder a mere ten months ago. But thirty years on from the Montreal shooting we’re obviously still not that good at understanding gendered terrorism.
The third news item was about the gun owners who placarded outside a primary school that the Prime Minister was opening in protest at gun control laws coming in after the Christchurch Mosque shootings. Their legitimate concerns about the data breach from the gun buyback website were conflated with their objection to the partial gun ban legislation.
I have no idea if they understood the symbolism of their protest or were oblivious to it, but either way it’s mindblowing that a political pro-gun lobby group acted in a way that linked guns of the kind used to murder Muslims in NZ by a white supremacists with a primary school, given the now routine shooting of children in schools in the US where such weapons are allowed.
Some threads here. Guns don’t shoot people, men do. If you don’t know the relationship between white supremacy and male supremacy, now would be a good time to go look that up. You can also look at the relationship between domestic violence and lone shooters.
The police have long pushed for the right to arm themselves, which is not hard to understand, but society is meant to have control of that and I’m not sure we do now. Even the parliamentary left tends to authoritarianism when presented with increasing violence.
The other connection I am making is we now have a political right hellbent on Trumpian politics and actively fomenting social discord that creates the kind of conditions for escalating violence towards Māori, Muslims, women, but also at and by the police. We are incredibly fortunate to have Jacinda Ardern as PM and the ways she is pushing back against some of this social engineering including internationally, but there are still serious problems seeping through the culture.
I don’t think the left’s traditional strategy of pushing for ethical positions in politics and society with the hope that more people will adopt progressive positions is now sufficient. I’m no longer convinced that we will inevitably win. In all these cases we have increasingly marginalised men, often now being encouraged, who are finding political sanction for their sense of confusion or simmering outrage.
I’m not arguing here that they are right. I’m saying that making this a war between progressives and the emerging alt right and alt left is dangerous. We need to keep up our strong activism around values and how society organises, but we also need to build bridges with the parts of society increasingly marginalised. Yes, even gun owners. I’m not talking about the likes of the Christchurch mass murderer, or the white supremacists that cheered him on, or the dedicated MRAs. I’m talking about the people they are recruiting as we speak.
This is a both/and position that is predicated on civil society being at heart about the relationships between people and the kinds of community we engender as a result.