Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Polite Society

Lately I've heard a number of people (friends, acquaintances and strangers) toss out the line "an armed society is a polite society."

I wonder how many of them are aware this is a quote from the Robert Heinlein novel, Beyond This Horizon, first published as a two-part serial in 1942, and in novel form in 1948. Some context: in the novel, openly carrying weapons and dueling are the social norm; one can wear special clothing to opt out of this practice but to do so is to be relegated to second class status (you chickenshit bastard).

Some other things in the novel my gun-toting friends may not be aware of: in it the world has become such an economic utopia that working has become optional, and projects with no possibility of any economic return are favored above all else. 

So, in other words: a fantasy.

The reality of the situation is that carrying a weapon doesn't make you more polite, it only serves to make other people more polite to you. That's not being polite - that's being intimidated. 

Funny how the people who throw off this quote seem to think they are protecting freedom. Can they explain how your gun protects my right to free speech? - especially if I have to worry about you taking offense and challenging me to a duel (or just taking a shot at me)? And why must I be compelled to pack heat just to say what's on my mind?

No, a society that values and respects diversity and tolerance is a polite society. An armed society - something else.

Another Heinlein quote some folks need to hear: I never learned from a man who agreed with me.


Dan Brekke said...

It strikes me that the heavily armed days of the much beloved Wild West were not noted for manners or politesse. Great post, Doctor.

Dr Ralph said...

Re: the Wild West - point well-taken, sir.