‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’
This is the declaration with which the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein ended his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. You can read as many interpretations of it as you like, but for me it does not mean that one should be silent when things are difficult to talk about, rather it means that there are some experiences in life that exceed the limits of language. It is difficult to think, let alone write, about the events that took place in Newtown last week; my sense of it is a slowly unfolding horror, the magnitude of which the mind cannot fully comprehend. It has struck me that whilst the internet continues to buzz away with all the possibilities for the world ending on this Friday, the 21st December, in line with Mayan predictions, the world ended in its usual form a week earlier for the families in Newtown.
‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’
The limits of our language are no more evident than in the pictures of the influx of media from all around the world to Newtown. Of course the crews should leave because there is nothing more to be said, in that place, at this time, except in private. Hanging around in the hope of an interview or a development is a crass depiction of the consumerist nature of today’s media.
The difficult conversations that can be had, seem to be starting with regard to gun control. Difficult because the right ‘to bear arms’ is enshrined in the constitution. Difficult because there are around 300 million firearms legitimately owned by Americans. Difficult because, in the past, the American public’s response to a massacre has been to buy more guns. Still, cultural change on such a scale can only be driven by legislation and reinstating the lapsed ban on owning assault rifles would be the tip of the iceberg for the country, but it would be a good start.
America was founded on a mentality that placed primary importance on defending oneself and one’s property from attack. It is now time to consider not just the rights of the individual, but the safety of the whole community; communities where easy access to deadly weapons puts the means to kill literally within arm’s reach. I only hope that for the sake of the children and adults that were lost in Newtown those with the power to speak, do, and the urgent change that is needed finds it way into legislation soon.