Quick thoughts on false dichotomies

Wednesday, 25th April 2007 at 9:00 UTC Leave a comment

Sorry this isn’t a ‘neater’, ‘tidier’ post, but this is all I’ve got just right now.  Dichotomies are the kind of things humans seem to do rather well; the over simplification of the relationship between two assumed polar opposites.  Three have cropped up in my conversations lately, and I wonder if you can identify any others that might have come up in yours.

First up was the one about nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.  See, the problem is, non-nuclear weapons have killed many more people than nuclear ones.  Its possible to create the same level of destruction with either, but because it only takes a single shot of one, rather than hundreds or thousands, people react more vociferously to the development and spread of nuclear weapons.  All weapons are lethal, and it is far more logical to protest against the proliferation of all, rather than a few, of them.

Second, and again with weapons, is the issue of the rising number of “non-lethal” weapons being used by police.  Sadly, none of these weapons are literally non-lethal, they just play on the public’s perceptions of what is and isn’t a suitable response to perceived criminal behaviour.  And I say perceived, because its protesters, drunks and the insane who get targeted by Tazers most of the time; you don’t shoot someone running away from you with something that relies on a wire connection back to the weapon.

Tazers, in case you don’t know, shoot two barbed-wire darts at their victim, and then pass 50k Volts into them; twice that of UK railway overhead lines, though less amp load.  Given that American police are armed with real guns, the uses for Tazers are limited to situations where the arrestee is either non-compliant or can’t comply with orders, rather than shooting at the police.   Likewise with ‘batton rounds’ in rifles: they’re for crowd control, not for dealing with armed robbers.

Lastly we have a less dangerous dichotomy, though perhaps one some will work equally hard to defend.  Biology, psychology, sociology; they all tell us that Gender isn’t binary.  Yet many people remain ignorant to Trans issues, especially those that break, rather than switch between, the poles of the Gender dichotomy.  In my activism, I increasingly meet people who are neither male nor female by their gender-experience, some who are a bit of both, and some who simply move around the spectrum.  Society needs to begin to come to terms with this, and in particular, to stop forcing children into one or other box; most will pick the supposedly-obvious one anyhow, and the rest will be happier for the freedom we give them.

What I hope this has highlighted, as well as three specific issues, is the problem that occurs when humans try and create a pair of boxes when either there is only one box (weapons), or where there are many boxes (gender).  Perhaps its the making of boxes altogether thats the problem, though boxes themselves are useful.  But its the way we pair things between the is and the is-not that concerns me.

Extremist Nationalisms all start off from the basis of their being a group who are and everyone, who aren’t.  Violent revolutions usually rely on the assumption that those who have-not have the right to kill those who have, and those who appear allied to them.  We should instead strive for a fulfilment of humanity, rather than situations where we divide upon ourselves.  And we should avoid the simplifications that pairs of is and is-not groupings bring.


Entry filed under: Activism, Gender, Non-lethal weapons, Nuclear Weapons, Peace, Politics.

Behold your saviour (or maybe dictator) Putin appears to attack “democratic ideology”

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