At the Point of a Gun

Memorial Day Reflections

Lets forget our dreams of mining asteroids and admit for a minute that there is only a finite amount of resources on Earth, and that all the people on Earth are competing for these resources. We’ll call groups of these competing peoples “nations”. Furthermore, let’s assume that resources like arable land, energy and water aren’t actually that abundant,and that really everyone can’t have everything; there simply isn't enough to go around. So the laws of scarcity kick in and only those nations who have these resources can accumulate the capital required to keep these resources. How does one gain or keep resources? At the point of a gun.

The simple, disheartening fact of the matter is that it doesn't appear there are enough resources on Earth to allow all 7 billion to enjoy the incredibly resource intensive western way of life. If all resources were magically distributed evenly, the western way of life would see a decrease in quality and the third world way of life a significant increase. But every last one of the 7 billion want and have as much of a right to the way of life we currently enjoy at the top as any of the other 7 billion. The only way to maintain this inequitable distribution of resources is, yes, at the point of a gun.

I keep bringing this gun thing up because I think of myself as a pacifist. I detest war and violence, both are foolish, doomed endeavors, and I do everything in my life to avoid it. I've often thought there are two types of people when it comes to conflict: fighters and refugees. I've always thought of myself as a refugee. If I was ever confronted with conflict, I would do everything in my ability to avoid it, and that includes running away. I feel that nothing is worth my life or the life of another human being, and that may be cowardice to some, but to me it’s not only survival, but survival without doing harm. But I cannot live in the western world and be an innocent refugee. It is impossible. Everything I have, every right and privilege I enjoy I am able to enjoy because it has been taken from someone else at the cost of life. Harm has been done to wrest these precious resources from the hands of the weak into my hands, you guessed it, at the point of a gun.

Despite being a refugee at heart, I must admit that I owe an enormous debt to the fighting men and women who have done the dirty work of obtaining that which I enjoy. How can I think of myself as a refugee, a pacifist, or anything more than a lucky coward if I’m just enjoying life on the backs of the lives of others, not only on the backs of those who have fought for my wealth and security, but on the backs of those who have lost their own. If it is true that an equitable distribution of resources would diminish my quality of life, and if I am unwilling to accept that, I must therefore be willing to take what I need to maintain my life at, yet again, the point of a gun.

So where does that leave people like me? If a person who thinks like me does not willingly give up what they have for the good of others, we are unfortunately in an awkward position of hypocrisy. I donate my money to worthy causes, sure, but I still take a larger part of the global resource pie than most. It is a difficult question to which I have not yet found an answer. So I think. I meditate on this apparent conflict between my beliefs and my nature, and I come to the unavoidable conclusion that while I may not agree with the method, I owe an important and unpayable debt to those who secure my way of life at the point of a gun.

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