Once more, from the bottom

Cassiel C. MacAvity

    There is an often heard phrase in music, theatre, and dance, of "Once more, from the top." "The top," is the beginning of some music, a play, either dance notation or the dance itself. Something rarely noticed is how this same applies directly with individuals.

    Two popular icons of politics are "The People" and "The Government." When something is perceived as wrong or in need of verbal support, one or both sublime dieties are often invoked for assistance of the cause at hand. Less often noticed is that with either or both, the results involve individuals.

    When genuinely "Taking it from the top", an organization (i.e., The Government,) can decree, working from the top down. Success is enhanced by, but does not require, individual compliance, or even interest, for the desired result to occur.

    When genuinely "Taking it from the bottom," single individuals (i.e., The People,) can decree, working from the bottom up. Success is enhanced by, but does not require, organizational compliance, or even interest, for the desired result still to occur.

    The difficulty with either is the tricky matter of using them in reality, one with glorious results if genuine, one with disastrous effects if not. As this so involves individual decision, the crux is realizing how individual decision will affect outcomes and which price will be paid.

    It does not matter whether the decision can be considered, in any form, good or evil. The individual will decide --- right or wrong --- and if this can have any effect on an outcome, then the overall issue cannot be decided from the top down.

    For any insisting "the good" must always be chosen with no chance of deviation, that you become what you hate is more than an aphorism. A few years ago, while claiming to attack communism, specifically influences of the Soviet Union, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy mirrored Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator of the time.

    In mathematics, the simplest example is positive and negative numbers. A genuine two times a genuine two is a genuine four. However, a genuine two times a negative, a false, two--as if one in the decision is not interested --- is negative four. A four is achieved, but is an entire two to six numbers below the starting point. The only way to avoid the negative is to avoid it. To include it makes one negative. The end does not justify the means.     In Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz, a monastery's Abbot places himself in a too uncertain position, and goes no further. "Like any wise ruler, Abbot Arkos did not issue orders vainly, when to disobey was possible and to enforce was not possible. It was better to look the other way than to command ineffectually."

    This matter of the effects of individual decision is seen in the musical 1776. The Southern colonies, opposing independence from Britain, move that such a resolution must be unanimous to pass the Congress of the united colonies. John Hancock, President of Congress and supporter of American independence, also supports the move because he sees the price of failure.

    Don't you see that any colony who opposes independence will be forced to fight on the side of England? That we'll be setting brother against brother, that our new nation will carry as its emblem the mark of Cain?

    Finally, in the Christian Bible, from The Acts of the Apostles, another thought of what can occur when judging individuals who decide for themselves;

    5:33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. 34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; 35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. . . . 38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

    The Apollo space program is an example of things gone right. NASA after Apollo has been a well documented disaster, but it took an entire government, working genuinely from the top down, to coordinate the design, construction, and execution of not only sending a trio of humans to the moon, but getting them back in good health and doing it again. The spin-offs alone, from the proverbial widespread use of Teflon to the creation of the early remote patient monitors have been incredible. Read Robert Heinlein's Spinoff, in his book Expanded Universe for an excessively short list of examples.

    Water rationing in my home area is another example of the same. My local water district made an announcement; Due to ongoing drought, to prevent higher rates, customers must cut back 15 percent. Aside from usual "how to" suggestions, that was the basic announcement.

    Within six months, the district announced its consumers, working as individuals, working genuinely from the bottom up, had cut use by 35 percent. Unfortunately, like NASA's beloved Space Boondoggle --- uh, Shuttle --- , this success led to a big problem. The follow-up was to explain the new level of use wasn't generating enough money, hence the need to charge higher rates anyway.

    The problems of these successes are minor. Better thought beforehand and during would have eased or even eliminated difficulties, but these and other successes will continue to stand. The opposite, a negative result, is demonstrated in failures currently infecting all around them and in possible failures which, if decided wrong, will infect all around them. In the potential failure is the often easily corrected initial error, immediately and inexorably followed by the guaranteed negatives.

    The most obvious failures in this century have involved a variety of drugs. In 1917, the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited "intoxicating liquors" within the national borders. Within a short time, both bathtub gin and speakeasy were household terms.

    The results have affected far more than just enforcement of one bad law. At ratification, different organized gangs would do what such have always done, use knowledge of two worlds and cultures to prey upon immigrants. With prohibition and continued appetite for alcohol, the preferred liquor, these gangs quickly became the most organized source of drinks for their customers, and money, money, and more money, for themselves. This money, in turn, funded organized expansion into older traditionals of illegal gambling and prostitution and, in a short time, other drugs, such as heroin, and then cocaine.

    By the time of the 21st amendment, acknowledging in 1933 the failure of the 18th, Al Capone, of Chicago, comes to mind as one of the earliest leaders of the mafia to be convicted, in 1931. Three quarters of a century after the 18th amendment, John Gotti, of New York, was only the latest leader of the same mafia to be convicted.

    While alcohol rejoined tobacco and caffeine in legal usage, others, non prescription varieties including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and amphetamines, did not. Rather than be simply regulated, as with the first three, they have been prohibited, with the same result as alcohol.     As the 1920's included the appearance of Al Capone & company, the 1980's included the appearance of the billionaire cocaine barons. Capone fell due to United States tax evasion. The cocaine barons, based in Columbia, not the United States, have no such worries, and, like Capone's successors, have all the money, for whatever they can spend it on.

    Even with the flash of cocaine, heroin is still popular, as are far more local and accessible substances. Crackdowns on imported marijuana merely encouraged near-wholesale expansion of growth in parts of Hawaii and Northern California. A number of substances, such as amphetamine, are chemical based, and for non prescription use require little more than a home laboratory.

    A recent occurrence has been the designer drug, one which resembles an illegal other. The designer drug has a few molecules difference in formula, making it legal. With further advances in small scale chemical analysis and development, one can foresee designer heroin and cocaine. While this would cut sales of Turkish and Afghani opium and South American coca, no aid would go to enforcement of current anti-drug laws. Such attempted top-down enforcement would continue to range from exceedingly difficult to absolutely impossible.

    If the desires of some continue, the lesson of drug prohibition may also involve the negatives and positives of both abortion and personal defence. Growing opposition exists for both. For both, the regulations of prohibition are possible and have great support. For both, prohibition will have the same lack of support, lack of success, and extreme personal and national cost as with non prescription drugs and alcohol. Unlike such examples as aerial acrobatics or stock car racing, these are matters of individuals wishing something too difficult to successfully proscribe paired with networks of those willing to provide.

    At the moment, abortion is accessible, but often involves nets of regulations. The argument against states that abortion is the murder of an unborn infant, the life of whom takes precedence over the mother. The argument in favor states that the individual rights of the mother take precedence over the child, who may or may not be a child anyway.

    The latter argument becomes increasingly nebulous as medical capability advances. One can project, in time, a "Brave New World" scenario; a daily occurrence of conceiving and growing a human being artificially. With such, a governmental decision that abortion is immoral and illegal can be made, but still can not be enforced except at the cost of absolute domination of half the human race.

    Of the extreme of an absolute ban, abortion would not be taught in medical schools. Both abortionists and recipients, in their various forms, would receive prison sentences on charges of murder. Individuals within the legal system would subvert that same system to help friends and family. What knowledge there is would be handed from person to person, with various levels of transmission accuracy. While there would be many who find themselves pregnant and have the child, history has shown that ban or not, there is an interest in abortion, and some would so choose instead.

    Those infinitely capable would go to where abortions are legal or receive them from personal experts, be they doctors or otherwise. Those not so capable would be forced to rely on what network is available of those willing to perform abortions. Those willing would not always be able, and with a base layer of the difficulties of anything at the individual level declared illegal, there is the added layer of "The operation was a success, but the patient died."

    Those even less capable would resort to what information sounds right, according to rumor, or what seems right, according to guesses. Margins of error would be almost nonexistent. Lastly, anyone involved would be potential victims of blackmail, which drags in just about anything else, depending only on those involved.

    For those injured, there would be the added cost of medical care. For those injured and caught, there would be the costs of medical care on top of those of imprisonment. For both, even those not directly involved would be involved indirectly, through tax support.

    In a further extreme case, those injured would be denied medical care, to prevent direct cost to taxpayers. This however would be counterproductive, as an additional level of surveillance would be required by medical personnel, police, or both. This surveillance would be to detect abortion caused injuries, and, to prevent false diagnoses, would require familiarity with the processes of abortion, such deliberate instruction to again be paid by the taxpayers.

    Of the extreme of total governmental support, the procedure would be part of regular medical curriculum. Currently in China, couples are coerced into having no more than one child, which is causing side-effects of it's own. Abortions, supported by the government, would be at will and paid for by taxpayers. Resulting injuries to the mothers would be almost nonexistent as abortionists would be thoroughly trained and certified with back- up safety methods accessible at all times. The rate of abortion would be higher than if there is a ban, but those wishing to prevent abortion would support the governmental carrot of increased child care and support for those born.

    The third possibility is government neutrality, where no government funds are paid for either abortions or any after effects or information either for or against, and all such costs are assumed by private parties. The extent of government involvement would be at the level of inspection and enforcement of safety and health regulations. Those totally in favor would have doctors competent at performing abortions, either in private or in group practice. Any insurance would be provided by private companies. Those against would only have general pregnancy and child care. Those neutral would have either both or just the obstetrics.

    One of these is being chosen. By abortion's own nature, the choice requires the greatest individual freedom for all. If limits are chosen, they will ultimately be the most extreme possible, for that is their nature. Two times two, equaling four, involves one through four. Two times negative two, equalling negative four, involves one and two, zero, and negative one through four.

    Abortion, for its concerns of murder and personal rights, involves a relative minority. Personal defence, with its extremes of protection of all or none by government or individuals themselves is much larger and has greater room for error. While arguments concerning are more nebulous, this issue is one cause of the founding of the United States.

    This country began when a number of people wished to make their own personal decisions. To succeed required force at least the equal of its opposition. Some involved diplomatic maneuvering, but the basic portion was the individual American always immediately having at hand the same type of weapon as the attacker and intimate knowledge of how best to use it.

    These weapons and knowledge tend to fall into four categories both in 1776 and today. The most complex is the chemical projectile weapon; any of various forms of rifle, shotgun, and pistol. Next is the edged weapon; swords, and more commonly, now, knives. Third is the catchall category of the club, the sock full of wet sand, the wire noose, the bar stool. Last is the human body itself.

    Recently, and with growing momentum, there has been the movement to ban the use of many, and probably all, such weapons by any other than very official and licensed police and military. As much involved here, especially unarmed combat, is easily accessible and concealable, such prohibition is as impossible as any of the others. Furthermore, intimate knowledge of personal weapons has none of the dehabilitating effects of drugs, making a ban even more impossible than any form of substance prohibition. Finally, even with the above observations, a ban on weaponless martial arts is conceivable, as arguments for gun control can easily, if illogically, be extended elsewhere.

    So far, the demonstrated problem with firearm restriction enforcement is its failure. With sources ranging from illegal sales to outright theft, of Saturday night specials to high- powered, fully automatic combat rifles, everything is available and will continue to be so. The best procedure is to insist that the highest possible quality information is given the highest possible dissemination.

    Aside from impossibilities of prohibition, the argument for public access has probably been best summed up in G.B. Trudeau's Doonesbury. In the collection A Tad Overweight, But Violet Eyes To Die For, Duke is testifying before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the National Rifle Association. A Senator announces that: ". . . almost seventy percent of all murders are committed among family members or friends, and over half of them involve handguns." In other words, an argument occurs, one or more of the arguers know where the pistol is, one gets it, someone gets killed. With a direct echo of 1776, Duke replies; "Exactly! So look at it from the point of view of the victim!. . . wouldn't you want to be in a position to return the fire?"

    Assuming an extreme of "a gun in every pot", or another more appropriate location, a few things can begin to appear. In April, 1982, the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove, Illinois, passed a law prohibiting inhabitants from owning any functioning firearms. As a backlash, the town of Kennesaw, Georgia, passed a law ordering every head of household to own a functioning firearm and ammunition. After a threatened A.C.L.U. lawsuit, an amendment was added to the Kennesaw statute exempting conscientious objectors.

    Ten years after, reliable word had it that in Morton Grove, the crime rate had gone through the roof, and in Kennesaw, it had dropped. Regarding law enforcement, yes, there are such entities as the police, but they exist to protect the community, are not liable for failure to protect the individual, and are not capable of being everywhere all the time. When they are all over the place all the time, it is called a police state, which is a negative problem all its own. Again, regarding law enforcement, should a crime be committed with one of these liberally acquired weapons, firearms primarily, massive additional penalties should be applied with no possible reduction in sentence.

    One objection to the widespread bearing of weapons is that the streets will in fact become a lawless anarchy of gun battles. In general, beyond that which already exists, why? In particular, one reads of such places as Oakland, California, New York, New York, and Washington, D.C. as being excellent sources of the old refrain; "A murder a day keeps the tourists away." With Kennesaw, Georgia, I had to dig through back issues of Newsweek to remember where the above parallel ordinances occurred. Obviously Kennesaw hasn't turned into the world, or even U.S., murder capital, or I could have cited it from memory.

    Of course, a firearm will not always be involved or available, or even be the right tool for the situation. In such cases, one need simply outrun an opponent, if possible. If not possible, one requires the ability to use physical force, and this is where unarmed combat occurs.

    While boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling are included, this usually refers to assorted Asian origin forms such as Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, Ninjutsu, Jujitsu, and many variations on these and others. Unlike firearm use, or even knife use, unarmed combat training requires little more than willing bodies, a meeting place, and one who is experienced, or can pretend so.

    Such pretence is currently the major obstacle to those with genuine interest. A different growing danger is the proposal that students need guaranteed holders of knowledge while the public needs guaranteed safeguards while only certain people need extreme forms of anything. The problem is that by unarmed combat's own nature, instruction cannot be regulated.

    A firing range can be a perfect demonstration of by the book, enforceable, correct operation. A manufactured object is operated and a hole appears in a piece of paper. I, myself, as a Boy Scout at summer camp, read the rifle and shotgun merit badge pamphlet, read about types of firearms, targeting, zeroing in. By the end of the one week of instruction, I had passed with the highest score in the class.

    Unlike firearms instruction, unarmed combat involves information literally unspeakable because it simply cannot be explained. A system of unarmed combat begins with basic movements from how to roll and withstand falling or being thrown to even how to walk. On top of this is added kata, or series' of movements based on what the human body can do. Now imagine that humans are marionettes supported by strings which are totally invisible and insubstantial. Only the correct grasp at the correct time and place can find just one of these strings. Only after study and practice of movement and kata does the person in the body suddenly realize both the irrelevance of kata and the locations of strings. This understanding can arrive in the next five seconds, or not at all. This understanding is achieved individually where the experience of one person can never be adapted to another and none can be regulated. The subtleties of detail are too great.

    To attempt regulation or prohibition in deliberate violation of this reality, rather than argue against the acknowledged need for ultimate personal defensive ability, as has been the case with automatic and semiautomatic rifles, the emphasis is shifted to sport. As single-shot rifles are often sufficient for hunting needs, then one does not always require multi-shot or even automatic rifles designed for deliberate wholesale slaughter. As push-ups would be said to be sufficient for oversized biceps, it would be claimed that one need not know pressure points and nerve physiology.

    With such a sports orientation, it can be declared that as sports are for being in shape, developing good character, and, above all, having fun, then the martial arts must be regulated. All practitioners must wear proper uniforms and padded safety equipment in approved locations at all times that they are performing their sport. All instructors must be properly licensed, passing regular examinations before they can teach.

    The cliche of the last few decades is; "He has a black belt. He's real tough." Ownership of a black strip of cloth means nothing if the practitioner only knows how to do kata, not inherently why. Anyone can learn a new dance sequence of punches and kicks. Never mind the one who fights just a recalcitrant refrigerator door, any sport practitioner attacked by one who knows inherently why will die. No regulation can prevent it. No ballistics test can be made on a bullet which was never fired. Studying track and field or some other sport looks good in the Olympics, but the Olympics don't occur in the proverbial three A.M. back alley --- or the much more likely city street in broad daylight.

    When a mugger with a Saturday night special faces an arms control advocate, the mugger with a pistol does not care. The mugger without, who has mastered prohibited unarmed combat will not only lack concern about gunfire, but concern about anything else of the sort, and will be undetectable. Those learning combat will be most likely to use it on those who do not because they are already outlawed. One may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. One more penalty is unimportant.

    Under proper circumstances, with no restrictions, individual people, working from the bottom up, will study with respect because they know that they are totally responsible for themselves. Someone training as a mugger will be revealed long before achieving any level of success and will be thrown out of the training hall, or simply obliterated by his instructor.

    In a non-regulated choice of an instructor, all a prospective student needs for a check of credentials is to observe the instructor in action, both in combat and in teaching. With restrictions, the one most helped is the fraudulent instructor, because then even such natural cross-referencing is prohibited. As individual instruction cannot be formally organized, the genuine instructor will be forced to conceal.

    With no limitations of lack of ammunition, other defect of a particular weapon, or massive equipment and particular circumstances, unarmed combat becomes the ultimate example of how both the people and the government must function. Further, as personal defense, by definition, is a matter of life and death, not sport, unarmed combat, by definition, is combat when one is made unarmed, not when one has made oneself unarmed. To then attempt to link "safety" to personal defense --- automatic weapons through unarmed combat --- can be tantamount to attempted murder itself.

    With either abortion or personal defence, as with preferences for alcohol and non-prescription drugs, any limits of that which can be decided upon and done individually in any way possible will be done from the bottom up, by individuals, or will fail absolutely if tried from the top down, by governments.

    Regardless of any proclamations that may be made from the top, Anything whatsoever of this nature will continue to be decided "Once more, from the bottom."


© 1996 Cassiel C. MacAvity