Thursday, December 18, 2014

Non-Christmasy Thoughts

Had one of those situations not too far away recently: couple separates, separation is acrimonious, guy gets a gun and kills not only his ex, but also many members of her extended family.  *He* is not happy with how things are, so lots of people have to die.

Then I got to thinking about some of the school shootings and the theater bombing.  Yeah, it's one thing to go after people who have directly harmed you, or who you perceive to have directly harmed you.  Not a good thing, mind you, but at least understandable in a twisted way.  But what about the targeting of innocents?  The whole "I'm miserable, and I'm going to make other people as miserable as I am by killing their loved ones so they understand how I feel" thing?

I'm struck tonight by how incredibly selfish and self-centered this seems.  Wondering why we see these rampages more in the US than in any other civilized nation of which I'm aware.  Are we less connected to our communities or just less able to deal with frustration and anger and disappointment because we are becoming a culture of special little flowers in which a consideration of the greater good, the good beyond our own individual needs and wishes, is lost?  Was at taekwondo the other day discussing the murders and in the class were an Austrian woman, the Indian instructor and an Englishwoman who had a hard time even wrapping their heads around the idea of something like that happening in their home countries.  Certainly not with any degree of frequency, anyway.

 Not really a reflection for Christmastime, I know.  Just thinking about the Spock quotation (as in Star Trek, not the pediatrician) about the needs of the many outweighing those of the few or the one and wondering where we're going wrong.


  1. My 2 cents -

    The frequency is in large part because of the great availability in this country and not in others of the weapons to commit mass murders. Remember how in China there have been several mass murders of people by knife? But that's hard, man. Much easier with automatic weaponry.

    I do really agree with you about the special little flowers - I don't want to judge other people's parenting, but especially when I taught in upscale schools I was horrified with how coddled kids were. But you know, the vast majority of those kids grew up eventually into wonderful adults. I don't think growing up feeling entitled makes somebody kill innocent people - I've just never seen that connection. People can and do develop empathy in a variety of ways, even if not taught it by their parents. We have several big examples of people who did seem to have that entitlement problem and killed innocent people - Newtown, California witih the son of the guy in movies - but usually plenty of people recognized that these guys were just plain whacko, and I think nature wins on that. We had a kid when I was in high school (in the 1980s) who kept threatening mass violence, tried to kill his psychologist, plant bombs at school, etc, - fortunately people were listening and we were protected from him. (though I spent a semester watching him carve swastikas into his head and various other bizarre behaviors)

    We do have an extraordinary problem with this - it's about a shooting a week since Newtown, and it's been going on for a long time. It's almost quotidian and that horrifies me. So I wonder if this has become the norm. "I'm upset, I'm going to kill people." And I do not entirely blame our lax gun control (I grew up with guns, will likely get one myself), but I think the parents of Newtown victims are on the right track with targeting automatic weaponry. Even Bush (or was it Reagan?) didn't think automatic weapons were necessary.

    We have an extraordinary amount of this in New Orleans, though it's usually innocents accidentally caught in the crossfire and gross indifference by the shooters. Spraying bullets into a children's birthday party to kill the uncle, for example. Or into a parade crowd to settle a beef with somebody.

    I'm thinking now of the Boston marathon bombing and all those innocents, and of the horrors if ISIS - and those are not religiously motivated, I think they're motivated very much like our mass shootings are. Targeting innocents because they're there. ISIS's ranks are filled with young men from around the world who have fantasies of this kind of horror, like the boys perpetrating the crimes in the US, but in war you get to do the horrible things you want to do. So what is it that stops people from doing those horrible things in their real lives? What is the difference between the fantasy and the actualization? I'm thinking Dostoyevsky here really, the Crime and Punishment kind of analysis.

    I have no answers, I'm just musing here like you are - which we should be doing over glasses of wine in person. :) I think a critical piece would be interviewing the perpetrators, doing in-depth analysis of each individual to see common themes. Surely some people have done that? I haven't heard of it, but it could be an extraordinary criminology dissertation ...

  2. Also the rash of cases of powerful men drugging women and raping them - just read the latest on the Darren Sharper case here - seems very related to this. "I want to do something and damn the victims."

    Is this new? I can't believe so. Perhaps better publicity and more likely that victims report?

    On that, and how it's not culture-bound - see this bizarre story (very well written but takes some time to read through) -

    and in West Africa in the country I won't name, I would train magistrates across the country on sex- and gender-based violence, and the thinking was mind-blowing. "but it's a woman's fault for turning a man on. If she dresses fancy, it's not rape because she provoked the man to have those feelings and he has to act on them." Our wonderful young local trainer on teh subject would say, "So how about all these cases of babies being raped? Are you telling me that a diaper is fancy dress?" "Well, that's because a fancy woman turned the man on and he couldn't have her so she had to act out on somebody else. It's still the woman's fault."

    I'm not even exaggerating. And that is the judiciary of a country. Men should be able to do anything they want, damn the victims.

    Just like, "I want to shoot up a school to express my displeasure. It will make me feel good to kill people. Who cares about them?"

    That I do not think is culturally bound.

    Still musing. To keep my mind off whether or not the very important job offer comes through for me today.

  3. "I want to do something and damn the victims." In what universe is that kind of thinking legitimate or justifiable?? And yet that's it exactly, the heart of it. The vast majority of people understand that they can't do whatever they want, whenever they want, just because they want to, but I guess some just can't grasp that other people's needs and desires and futures are just as important as their own. Boggles my mind.

  4. I am British and I have never known anyone who owned a gun or used a gun - I have never seen a real gun. Sorry but until the US sorts out the "right to bear arms" it will keep happening. I just don't get why you all need to have guns - get rid of them all. It is scary to me to think that if I lived in the US my neighbour might have a gun just sitting there waiting to be used if something upset him! I enjoy your blog - sorry for the rant but looking in from the outside it is just a crazy situation that allows these shootings to keep happening.


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