Home > Food for Thought, Human Nature, Security > From TED: Stephen Coleman on The moral dangers of non-lethal weapons

From TED: Stephen Coleman on The moral dangers of non-lethal weapons

Most people who know me probably realize that I have a grave mistrust of unmitigated power and authority, particularly any entity empowered with weapons. Simply put, I’m not very fond of the military or police, wherever they hail from.

I think a lot of people would agree that weapons that can kill are quite dangerous – if you disagree, then you have quite a different understanding of the meaning of danger – and that they should be employed with great caution. Still, many would say that it is imperative that people with adequate training, experience, and authority have such weapons (of last resort), because a great many “bad people” have them and our society expects and deserves “security”. I, on the other hand, feel quite insecure that it is not only common, but deemed necessary in our world, for weapons of death to be maintained in substantial numbers throughout our communities. I just don’t feel any more secure that some “good guys” have guns and bombs to stop “bad guys” that have them too.

On the other hand, I believe that there has been much attention spent over the past few decades on non-lethal weapons, because they are considered to be more ethical than those that are intended to produce lethal consequences. Put bluntly, it is considered okay for police and the military to use weapons that won’t kill you in order to maintain security. Of course, sometimes these weapons do kill people, but these are unintended and accidental consequences – so they are excusable.

I find this to be inexplicable and morally indefensible. I just can’t imagine how any device that is intended to hurt or maim a person (even temporarily) is somehow more ethical than using a weapon that can kill that person. I believe fundamentally in the Golden Rule. Real safety and security cannot be achieved via an escalation of violence, nor through the threat of that escalation.

The presentation appended below, from a TED talk given by Stephen Coleman at TEDxCanberra underscores my concerns.

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