“If a man holds a gun to your head what do you fear the most, the man, the gun, or the bullet?”
The quote above, even though its origins eludes me, has always made me wonder what it would be like to hold a gun to a man’s temple. To literally have, in my hands, a man’s life. To have the final say on whether he lives or dies. But my fantasy is always cut short by the reality that a man with a gun on his hands is not that scary. Not to take away the significance of the man and the gun, but I’ve always though that what’s scary is what the bullet, not the man or the gun, can do.
I’ve always believed that the gun is more of a symbol of power for the man, and what is most dangerous is the bullet. We might claim that the man’s intentions are what give the bullet its power, but the truth is whether there was intention to kill a particular person or not, id est in the case of a stray bullet, the bullet is the deciding factor, and not the man’s intention.
I have found that the most effective power held over a people is one brought by fear of the possibility of action and not action itself. I’ve seen that if oppressed through continuous actions long enough, people tend to develop a tolerance towards whatever action is used to oppress them and start to rebel – case in point the struggle against the Apartheid government – but if left with the assurance of a possibility of action, people tend to stay within their fear. You can achieve more by making people believe that you will kill them than when you actually kill them.
But then this brings us back to the question: “is what’s scary the man, the gun, or the bullet?”
The man in this scenario is the point in which all depends. Without him the other two objects – the gun and the bullet – have no significance. On his hands lie the paintbrushes which he will use to paint a picture that will help us decide how we will see the gun and the bullet – either as two of many of man’s creations, or as tools for his demise. The quote “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is sufficient to bring forth the role of the man in the situation.
For years the gun has been used to symbolise and develop power. It was used to conquer nations and enslave people, and ever since its invention, the gun has been used to bring fear to many while developing power for the few. But like most man made objects, if put in the right hands a gun can be used to fight injustices and bring order where there is none. Many wars have been started and many ended because of guns, and to fear it is to fear man. On its own, it is nothing but an unimportant piece of metal, but in the hand of man it can become either a symbol of triumph or pain, depending on whose hands its on.
The gun in this situation is nothing but a symbol for the man holding it, and to fear it would be futile. Symbols are man made and while many have stood the test of time many have fallen and continue to fall.
The bullet is an independent, and equally essential, part of the gun. After the gun has been deployed all the work falls on the bullet. It is the decider, the terminator or liberator, the end or beginning, and without it nothing can be achieved. And in this scenario, like in any other scenario involving a bullet, it is the bringer of the justification of the means by ending things.
But none of this explains what one fears the most; the man, the gun or the bullet. But here is my conclusion.
One does not fear any of those things – independently or combined. One does not fear the man because why would one fear a man if he bleeds too, nor does one fear the gun or the bullet because for all you know the man holding the gun, with the bullet in it, doesn’t have it within him to pull the trigger.
One fears what come after if the man actually decides to pull the trigger, DEATH. No one knows what death is and that scares us. We are told stories about Heaven and Hell and what each place is like and since no one can corroborate any of the information given to us we can’t stand going to a place we don’t know. We are constantly told about Hell – which is a place you go if you sin – and since sin is a very vague thing, we never know if we’ve sinned or not and therefore do not know if we are going there or not (fear of the possibility of Hell and not Hell itself).
So to conclude:
We do not fear the man, the gun or the bullet, we fear death!