Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cold steel

The weirdest right that America provides its citizens with has definitely got to be the right to bear arms. Wrapped in a do-it-yourself culture, it is probably the most extreme manifestation of wanting to take charge of one's own life. In effect, it is about not trusting anyone else with your security but yourself. Keep your own guns to protect yourself and your family from that intruder who may decide to break into your home one fine day! If this doesn't qualify Americans as clinic worthy cases of paranoids then what does? That said, I must confess to being totally fascinated with guns.

I am not a fan of violence and the terrible purposes that a gun has been designed for, but there is something remarkable about a firearm that commands attention and awe, apart from the fact that it can send you really quickly out to the Happy Hunting Grounds beyond this world. I had never held a gun before coming to the USA but after just cradling a few display rifles at a hunting supplies shop, I can appreciate why some people are such gun enthusiasts. The gleaming barrel, the cross hair of the rifle scope as you gaze at a magnified distant object and the power of destruction that emanates from the weapon appeals at a very primeval level. It draws on our animal past when we were hunters and the only way to exert power was total dominance or the ability to silence the opposition on a whim. Not the nicest of sentiments it must be admitted, but very deep rooted in the minds of all men. The power of the gun drives many a weak man to do horrible things as it seems to him as the only way to reclaim the respect which might not have been given to him otherwise and correct life's perceived injustices towards him. The real appeal of a gun, if you call it 'appeal' is not what it is doing but what it is capable of doing and indeed is purpose built to do.

The dirty feeling of power aside, guns are also poster boys of great engineering. Finished to perfection, with intricate mechanisms which had better be fool-proof, and their designs & materials operating at their very limits all add up to one of the best examples (highly debatable, this proclamation) of human ingenuity. The cold fact though is that an efficient design in the case of guns is measured by the ease with which it can dispatch off fellow living creatures, with the most accuracy and the least effort. The inventor/designer of the AK-47, Kalashnikhov recently celebrated his 90th birthday and was given a Russian state honour by the current President. His invention is a legend in the world of guns, as the most reliable automatic rifle around but forever maligned as the weapon of choice amongst most of the major terrorist groups around the world. What a fix poor Mr. Kalashnikhov (Poor he literally is. He has not received a single ruble from the insane volumes of sales that his gun has racked up) must find himself in! Opinion is split right down the middle on whether his creation is despicable or remarkable while all the while he was just a man intent on doing his job... really really well.

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