By Marty Russell
Control is a funny word, the definition of which takes up almost half a column in my old, battered dictionary.
We have crowd control, air traffic control, fire control, traffic control, mission control, climate control, price control, cruise control, weight control, animal control, bladder control, pest control, and on and on and on. You can put just about any noun in front of it and you’ve got a control. But, as we all know, you really don’t.
Some controls do work better than others. Mechanical controls, for instance, tend to work better and be more reliable than those that are based on rules or laws. But, as any kid who has ever over-ridden the governor that controls the speed of a go-cart can tell you, even mechanical controls can be defeated.
Control implies that something is regulated, that there are limits that can’t be crossed and that those limits apply to everyone. Nice notion but it only works if everyone agrees to abide by those limits. Unfortunately, we aren’t bees, we’re humans, we’re not a hive, we’re individuals and there will always be some individuals who believe the rules don’t apply to them.
That’s why control, real control, may be great in theory but falls apart in the real world. There’s simply no such thing in a world of individuals. We have drug control, for instance, that says certain substances are illegal to possess and use. Yet it happens every day.
Now, in the wake of the tragic incident in Aurora, Colo., we once again are hearing voices from all ends of the political spectrum calling for more gun control. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is insisting that both presidential candidates address the issue, which neither is likely to do in an election year.
I don’t own a gun personally. If I did, I’d probably be missing a toe if not an entire foot. I don’t see any need for one. I get my meat from the grocery store and, if someone attacks me, they can take whatever they want, I’m not going to put up a fight. I would love to see guns disappear from society but I’m not so Pollyanna to believe that that’s ever going to happen. If, somehow, it did, we’d just go back to bashing each other over the heads with rocks.
You just can’t control human behavior. Many, like Hitler and Stalin, have tried and failed. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try. Nobody needs a Howitzer to hunt deer and none of us wants our neighbors driving a tank. But the reality, as we all know, is that if someone wants to go postal, they’ll find a way.
So control is an illusion. It might make us feel better but control, real control, is unachievable. The only control that really works is self-control. And maybe the TV remote.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.