There is a lot of violence in the United States. Statistically, some will say it is lower, but I happen to read a lot of news, and the worst stories are always in the headlines, which is possibly why I’ve grown to become less surprised by recurring violence. Violence is a word used by the less violent. It is a phenomenon that takes the news and a town by storm. It is a topic that doesn’t deserve a tenured study, but needs one nonetheless because of its ability to constantly shock me, due to its diverse form, or because of its lack of evolution. I haven’t learned anything from studying violence; I haven’t even been able to ignore reading about its latest conquests. I thought it would be good to reflect on this activity of mine.
Why do I read many “bad news” stories? Does it reinforce a desensitization to culture? How can my focus be redirected to other, productive things? Is it rational to allocate a small amount of time to building a global awareness of the proven dangers that exist in society? I think the latter is somewhat true. But it takes a toll on life. Life as a mortician must also be an unusual lifestyle. I’m not sure where I developed a morbid curiosity/concern of unfortunate events, but I sometimes feel grounded by the daily reminders. I think among people who personally know me, understand a one-dimensional optimism that is played out through a pattern unending ideas, career aspirations and explorations. Those same people also know that my overall optimism about random pursuits is often short-lived, but I always find another curiosity to replace my short-lived dalliances. What I think is not always translated in a person’s identity is the dual awareness of both pessimism and optimism in the world and in an individual. People are complex, and are usually not the sum of their actions- they are not simply two-faced, even though at times they only appear to have a very small number of sides.
For that reason, the first impression on a person is often not my only impression of that person. Others may claim that, and with little time to decide, may side with something or someone based on their first impression. But, having more time- for one reason or another- an educated person would make an informed choice after understanding a person based on their full impression- who they were not, but are, and sometimes, are becoming. For this reason, I can’t be a biographer on people I rarely knew. People change, and I tend to doubt they want to be remembered during a time before they became someone else on their own volition. Smarter, wiser people appear colder at times, but there is a recurring rationality that I tend to accept, long after a rejection that I obviously disagreed with. It’s pointless to speculate much on what others abandoned and left for salvage.
It’s also pointless to speculate much on the lives and events of others whom I never met and understood, even though the news can investigate societal problems with a reasonable intellectual curiousity. I think it’s pointless, but only if it never affected me directly. Which could be true, to a degree. To be precise, six degrees of separation/Kevin Bacon- a theory-perhaps tested and proved, that most people are six degrees from everyone else on earth. Not only that, but if not six degrees of separation from people, we are six degrees away from personal loss, hardship, or any other common life struggle. Often, many of us simply choose to ignore those less fortunate, whether they are panhandlers, acquaintances who live on the other side of town, or simply commuters on the way to work who are in a bind.
Writing about somber topics in a single sitting is not easy. I took a break after the last paragraph and ate some food, listened to some upbeat music and returned to this post. It would not be realistic to write this all without at least contextualizing the time it took to write it without losing focus just because I needed a break. Maybe I’m too conditioned to commercial breaks on network television that I took a similar one during writing this.
This talk show by Bill Maher makes some focused points about the typical profile of a mass-shooter. They tend to be young, single, and sexually-frustrated- but not always single-like the Aurora movie theater shooter. Yet Maher doesn’t entirely placing the blame on the individual, he says mass-media is to blame too- for tempting consumers with high expectations for a great sex life. There seems to be a partial flaw here- it’s not the media’s fault, but we don’t often hear that possibility from the media. Mass-shooters and Murderers deal with failure worse than others- in strikingly alarming ways, as is the case with any type of violence, whether it is for some material gain or vengeance or other unknown reason. If the media is not always on the side of the government, or authorities, then why does it blame the individual? Why does Scientology blame the pharmaceutical industry? Why do other religions blame Hollywood?
I think a lot of vulnerable individuals lack a normal social life, or at least a healthy hobby that allows one to be active in some way and to be in touch with a knowledgeable, interesting group of peers. There are many cliques in American society- they tend to diversify the higher up in education one goes. A Similarity with the Connecticut elementary school shooter was that they both lacked married parents and no father. A prescription to fix mental issues, does not exactly fix a broken family. There are so many factors that lead to a mass-shooting, that any single factor could lead to such an episode, but likely a combination of factors and influences led to it. Among gun-owning families, the risk is much higher. I do not even know what types of families own tens of guns like the Oregon shooter did, but there is a cold feeling I get when I think of it. I don’t even want to associate with a gun-owner. I can’t assume someone is ill nor rational, but I can’t even comprehend how often they think of using for defensive purposes. It is a culture that revolves around death, the possibility being a part of the language that others refuse to speak or give into without appearing like a challenger. Individuals who have secret values- concealed weapons- in homes or vehicles- we are told we should not have anything to worry about. But I feel uneasy with anyone armed, never knowing and thus having to put blind faith and trust into someone with a lethal advantage.
To want a perfect world, is to want unrealistic goals, a gun-free world, a weapons free world- If someone took all the guns away instantly and it was all dumbo-dropped into the lava of Middle Earth’s Mount Doom, no one would have access to one, though it wouldn’t stop others from producing more guns or using spears and rocks. Humanity has evolved past an era where force could alone win wars, yet it is still used for various reasons today, but all wars today are unwinnable. Much like terrorism. Terrorism can’t win wars either, because what ever cause it achieves is more successful by turning into a bureaucratic and tidy political party, and most smart activists realize this early- like the African National Congress and Sinn Fein. Perhaps ISIS never believed in career terrorism, and rapidly formed a state, whereas AQ was started by rich individuals who would never practice what they preach because they wouldn’t survive.
Consider this (perhaps overly optimistic) theory: Everytime you or someone Googles “Monet” or “Rembrandt”, a deep sigh of relief comes out of the NSA analyst building a profile on you. In a vast sea of metadata, surveillance analysts use thousands of keywords to determine what individuals are searching and how that possibly factors into a clear picture of a possible terrorist plot. Someone with a clear streak of search results that relate to actual terrorist planning, to say nothing of those who are led into fake plots, may either be unaware of their surveillance (which seems less likely everyday), or would take precautions not to leave a trail of his/her search history in such a way that leads to a profile being build conclusively to their ip address.
It’s been said that mass shooters commit their acts not for an original reason, but as contributing to a story that began earlier by other mass-shooters. It seems that all terrorists like storytelling. But this storytelling has never been longer than 15 minutes of infamy. I think the mass media, which is not responsible, begins a breaking news story by continuing a media narrative on the throes of a prior, recent tragedy, and extends the narrative into a novel that is hundreds of chapters long but containing the same exact chapter. People seeking fame via infamy all make the same poor calculation. They see 15 minutes of fame before prison or death as a lump sum of fool’s gold. There is some advertised instant gratification, somewhere that is communicating to mass shooters, that their 15 minutes will make them somewhat newsworthy. But if media is more of “a newspaper of record,” one of the earliest titles given to it, then infamy is merely striving for a mundane registration in an archive that has no end in sight, but designed for multitudes. The media may seem attractive, but the competition for attention taking a deadly turn makes it much less appealing- yet those celebrities who still seek it and ignore that aspect tend to appear as shallow schmoozers. Society may appear to award people without much talent lots of time in the media, yet there needs to be more emphasis on talent as a price of admission to fame. All crimes involve some form of theft, and in this case, it steals time away from the media’s attention to the talented. The media is forced to cover news stories on the less talented.
A psychiatrist would provide attention to a serial killer, but the ostensible purpose would be to understand the profile of the serial killer to detect and prevent other similar potential serial killers. In the media’s case, there is attention without an obligation to do anything. The market to serve opinions is readily received, perhaps because people aren’t able to think for themselves.
It seems like most serial today are not the alpha-male type. They tend to be slightly less built, have some odd or minority view-point, aren’t into social assimilation. Mass shooters do have blogs, but they aren’t the most prolific writers. Writing several pages is not much more than a school research project. It’s likely that serious novel writing is not a valued career or hobby prospect. It takes months to write a novel, if not a year or more. I have never completed a novel, only a One-Act play. It seems the reward appears too distant for a terrorist-would-be-novelist to be of providing a return on investment, which is precisely the problem. non-recriprocal altruism and “Pay-it-Forwardness” seems to be a less appealing practice, or a custom that is not actually tested enough to be disproven. Suggesting terrorists instead write a novel is not the point of this criticism. The point is to explore where in society anyone or any institution is encouraging quick rewards or attention so that efforts that require longer labor are more proportionally rewarded. Perhaps reward itself is to blame. Rewards are not always positive reinforcers. Rewards can enable less rewarding side-activities and even fund them, if not an original plan, an emergent one.
Another conflict in culture is that of assimilation. It has a lot misunderstood meanings. I think it is assumed that diversity (that is, individualism and perceived uniqueness) is lost, whereas it is merely circulated in society and boundaries are recognized rather than challenged to their extremes. Assimilation requires a dominant majority, but culturally, there is still legroom to retain a salad bowl in a multicultural society. It is the absolute insecurities-the right to bear arms, the absolute lack of a stable family, social ineptitude that the Roseburg shooter fought in vain against. His struggles were real, but his targets were more random and meaningless compared to what he claimed. I doubt it’s likely that any mass-shooter felt very strongly always about ideologies like anti-religion or conservatism. The Roseburg shooter signed up for a theater class in the spring- did he hate theater yet sign up for another class in the fall? Or was it simply too small to be a single factor? it’s more that they were becoming dysfunctional in their ability to deal with their dysfunctions- social, familial, professionally.
Many of the issues affecting U.S. culture, while not exclusive (as in the racially motivated attack in Sweden recently), are often a primary influence on the youth in other countries. This influence could be a subject of future study by sociologists, etc. It’s not that Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian don’t have their own homegrown racist ideologies, but that the rate of cross-cultural imitation is still high.
Lastly, writing about a topic like this is usually a private rumination. I felt like sharing my thoughts in a frank manner to fish out kindred spirits. They may not exist within convenient frequency, but with time, many things may come. It is also with much difficulty and rarity that I write a blog post with more than 2000 words, so I will try more often to write thoroughly. I seem to have a de facto contempt for discipline and organization. If I could write more structured using fewer non-sequiturs, I would. Otherwise I become a hack blogger who writes about trends- anything and everything.Til next time.