Virtue From the Barrel of a Gun

Virtue From the Barrel of a Gun

I’ve almost certainly been guilty of overly, exhuberantly, promoting Eric S Raymond’s “Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun.” As a discussion of how daily carrying creates an awareness of consequences and ingrained awareness and caution/responsibility, it’s core three tenets are broadly applicable, and available, to a lesser or greater degree, in any environment where awareness of life – or – death decisions are the norm.

The first and most important of these lessons is this: it all comes down to you.

No one’s finger is on the trigger but your own. All the talk-talk in your head, all the emotions in your heart, all the experiences of your past — these things may inform your choice, but they can’t move your finger. All the socialization and rationalization and justification in the world, all the approval or disapproval of your neighbors — none of these things can pull the trigger either. They can change how you feel about the choice, but only you can actually make the choice. Only you. Only here. Only now. Fire, or not?

A second is this: never count on being able to undo your choices.

If you shoot someone through the heart, dead is dead. You can’t take it back. There are no do-overs. Real choice is like that; you make it, you live with it — or die with it.

A third lesson is this: the universe doesn’t care about motives.

If your gun has an accidental discharge while pointed an unsafe direction, the bullet will kill just as dead as if you had been aiming the shot. I didn’t mean to may persuade others that you are less likely to repeat a behavior, but it won’t bring a corpse back to life.

These are hard lessons, but necessary ones. Stated, in print, they may seem trivial or obvious. But ethical maturity consists, in significant part, of knowing these things — not merely at the level of intellect but at the level of emotion, experience and reflex. And nothing teaches these things like repeated confrontation with life-or-death choices in grave knowledge of the consequences of failure.
So I was getting caught up on Jordan Peterson podcasts – having started with Maps of Meaning and some of the later ones I was going back to the beginning – and in the third podcast, the [Necessity of Virtue](https://soundcloud.com/jordanpetersonpodcast/episode-3-the-necessity-of-virtue?in=jordanpetersonpodcast/sets/episodes), around 21 minutes, he dropped this little gem, while discussing whether people are inherently nice, or could be Nazi prison guards.> You have no idea what you’re like before you know how terrible you can be, and not only that, you won’t take yourself sufficiently serious… seriously. > > If you know you’re a loaded weapon, and an unstable loaded weapon, then you’re much more likely to pay attention to what you do.

I’ve said elsewhere on this blog you know you’re approaching the truth when people are coming to the same or very similar conclusions from different perspectives, filters, and methodologies.

Give it a listen.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.