The Badge, the Stick, and the Gun
How often have we heard that refrain, especially from the anti-war crowd? There are obvious ways in which that trite sentiment is clearly wrong, as mocked on the signs of the counter-protesting Protest Warriors ("...except for ending slavery, fascism, nazism, and communism"), and in Orwell's scathing observation that Pacifism is "objectively pro-Fascist."
What is even more surprising to most people, however, is the realization that our entire civil society rests on the implicit threat of violence.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Rather shocking thought, isn't it?
But it must be so. Why do you pay your taxes, or obey the traffic signs, for example? Because you are a good-hearted person, a veritable Saint? Well, perhaps you are. Congratulations! I'm sure you'd agree however that most of the rest of humanity does not share your exceptional selfless altruism.
Notice I'm not even talking about why people don't commit major offenses like murder -- I'm talking about the little stuff. Clearly, the reason most people go and fill out their 1040-forms semi-accurately is because they realize that if they don't, and get caught, the will be fined.
Fair enough! So they obey the law to avoid the fine? Is that all?
No. Why do they even consider paying the fine? Why not just ignore it?
Well, obviously because if they don't pay, they will have to go to jail, and who wants to do that?
But why do they walk off to the jail cell and step inside?
Ah, now we get to the crux of the matter. Because if they don't, violence will be used to force them inside. And so we see the true steps at work that keep society functioning smoothly.
For when you are first caught in your offense, Society will send a man with a Badge, a Stick, and a Gun to visit you.
And first that man will show you the Badge, to indicate that he has been given a special sanction from Society to act on its behalf in a very special way, and he will then ask you to comply with the Law.
And should you fail to comply with this request after seeing the Badge, the man will proceed to use the Stick to physically compel you to follow the prescribed procedures.
And should you still resist the influence of the Stick, the Gun will finally be employed to kill you.
Most people would rather avoid this series of events, and so follow the Law. But it's not just to avoid jail, it's to avoid the unpleasantness of the Stick and the Gun.
The Badge, therefore, represents the threat of violence, potentially deadly, that Society has in store should its wishes not be followed.
This is all very nasty stuff to contemplate, but on further reflection, how could it be otherwise? We do not live in a Utopia, but rather in a very fragile, very delicate construct that has invented the effective and reasonable process of the Badge, the Stick, and the Gun, to shield us all from the Hobbesian Nightmare that lurks beneath the surface.
Violence, then, is merely a Tool. It can serve both Good and Evil. It is well to remember its importance in enforcing Justice, and that the rules of the Kindergarten -- with nothing more severe than a "time out" -- do not apply outside of that artificial realm.