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Thinking About Guns, Aesthetics and E.F. Schumacher

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There are people that thrive on trauma. It fits their world view. Many, many of the gun people are such people. They don't see the crazy little kid that just killed seven people at a parade as a societal problem. He is their problem. He could be the one-armed man coming to murder their wife or the Vietnamese kid coming to steal their Gran Torino or a Maoist member of the school board coming to take their freedom. The crazy kid is, subconsciously, also an important symbol for them - he tests them, he tests their freedom - and it and them hold. This is a very sick and civically disfigured way to be.

A gun is also a "big" thing. Totemically in America today it is huge, it rolls across the country destroying much in its path, it is King Kong, potentially harmless, but treated foully in the wrong hands, it kills and maims and diminishes.

America has a "big" problem. We kill ourselves with "big" guns, we sicken ourselves with "Big Gulps" and "big" burgers, we challenge the environment with "big" houses and "big" trucks and SUVs - big is everything - even boats and televisions and RVs have gotten big.

Thinking about guns, E.F. Schumacher and his book, "Small is Beautiful", came to mind. I guess because I began to think about "big". He uses the word elegance more than once to describe his economic and societal ideas. This is the Rosetta Stone, the single discovery to confront "big"; unlocking the antidote, reframing the sales pitch, bringing self-awareness to the customer.


1. dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style

2. scientific precision, neatness, and simplicity, the quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple

But how to enlighten the society that celebrates the rube? That markets to the rube? I think Schumacher understood how to do it. I believe he sought to create change with adjectives that both instructed and scolded. I also don't think he accepted the idea of a rube - he saw a lack of mentors and teachers. I think for him it wasn't about an informed consumer, it was about an enlightened consumer.

The issue of the gun in America is an issue of aesthetics. The problem is America is built on the old aesthetic implied in the idea of Manifest Destiny, which was achieved down the barrel of a gun. Much of society still has a frontier mentality. There may be no Indians or bears or panthers moving through the night but plenty else could be. How can one recognize or concentrate on beauty, operating on fear, or coveting, or simply consuming? The question is not only why or how did the kid get the gun, but also, why does a harmless gunowner own twelve or twenty of them?

America failed a long time ago. In my opinion, the only way to solve the gun problem now is to regulate what can be regulated, and horrified and shamed, accept that there will be more human sacrifices and somehow figure out how to get beauty and elegance into the conversation in schools and universities and churches and organizations, etc. It will be a long trail. It is ultimately a problem of aesthetics. I think that is what Schumacher would say.

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Kevin is an Artist, Writer, Carpenter and Gallerist in Texas.

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