I am taking a risk with the typing of the following words, but I feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to type them. I may be found insensitive to the suffering of the individuals and families that have lost or been injured; if that is so, so be it.
Thus far, many a commentator in referring to the Aurora massacre has failed to comment on anything. There exists an almost palpable censorship that to make any point besides an emotional appeal to the victims and their families is wrong or grossly insensitive. I wholly disagree; I believe that everything happens for a reason and will express, even at the risk of being labeled demagogic or opportunistic, what I have found needs to be observed, said, and meditated on, for are we to allow the deaths of these individuals to lie fallow and just characterize it as “one of those things” a great “tragedy?” These descriptions are all true; a tragedy, indeed, has occurred. But it will continue as an amorphous, nondescript, post-modern tragedy as long as we fail to stand up and say something of substance about it.
The reactions to the massacre are varied; I have noted a substantial increase in the number of people posting defenses of the 2nd amendment, demanding that we all arm ourselves to the teeth to counter this problem. “One armed person other than the shooter could have saved the lives of the victims,” I read in one forum. This may be true; it also may be disastrously false. Within the confines of a theater, its dark setting, a shootout between one or more individuals could have caused more deaths than those that have been sustained. We don’t know either way. What we can say is that if the suspect had been forced to reduce his assault to that of a number of stabbings the casualty report would be significantly less. Gun rights advocates have an uphill battle to wage in trying to maintain that the casualty count has nothing to do with the fact that the suspect used high powered assault weapons rather than a switchblade. (Nota Bene: I am staunchly pro second amendment, but the noticeable tremor in the advocates for this cause in the wake of the shooting has disgusted me. To defend an instrument of death, a Gun, from criticism on an occasion like this is irresponsible and naïve. To argue that guns caused the violent outburst is idiotic, but to maintain that they had no role is more idiotic)
On the other end of the swinging pendulum of mass hysteria, petitions to end “gun” violence have circulated the discussion with unhesitating revelry, the subtext being to end “guns.” Both of these positions seek to solve materially an issue which has no material cause. The question that needs to be asked, but will never be asked except in those instances of explanatory failure, is what is it about our modern condition that induces and conduces one to purposeless and directionless violence? By all accounts, this massacre had no other aim than just killing as many as possible. Have we seen this before?
The columbine massacre, directed by no other aim than to bring death, was undertaken by atheist Darwinian fanatics who thought nothing of asking their victim if they believed in a higher power before pulling the trigger and terminating their life; those who answered in the affirmative didn’t make the “cut.” The famous case of Leopold and Lobe, two genius level individuals who killed a young boy just for the thrill, is another example. No sign of mental defect or insanity in the killers was noticeable in either of these preceding cases, and it would be no surprise if the same is true in this case.
“The guy was/is insane” will be uttered by individuals who are bordering on insanity themselves. “The guy is evil” will be uttered by individuals wishing to truncate the discussion before it begins. Both explanations are weaseling cop outs. The man was not insane. Legally speaking, to be insane is to be unable to distinguish between right and wrong, or, more precisely, to be unable to determine if a course of action is wrong, thus limiting the culpability of the accused. The evidence necessary to establish this mental condition is sometimes so confused that it is self referential. The accused killed these people because he was/is insane; the reason he is insane is because he killed those people. Again, as in so many instances where humans try to explain things they aren’t equipped to, idiocy and sheepishness reigns.
Here are the cold facts. Humans are not born good or evil; they are made good or evil. Intelligence and reason does not predispose one to right action, and certainly does nothing to restrain humans from wrong action. The atheist Sam Harris has credited neuroscience with the ability to inculcate a rational ethical disposition, and his assertion has been readily and tragically refuted by the wild gun-play of a genius level student of neurobiology. The ability to distinguish between right and wrong is a faculty that is conceptual and which relies on content and context. Right and wrong are empty terms that mean nothing until they are tagged to a certain action. And since modern society has no institutionalized ethic of any kind except for mere legalism, we should not find ourselves dismayed and overburdened with grief when one of our members kills a mass of others for no apparent reason. We asked for this.
Violence usually has end beyond itself. For the Jihadist, it’s his version of Islam; the robber, money; the cheated husband, revenge, so on and so forth. The most troubling thing about this case and other cases of mass killings is that violence is the end. Our society has so strayed from any discernible course that the only way we can explain violence is in terms of mental disposition. A Fox-news article relates the depth of our frivolity:
Mary Muscari, a criminology professor at Regis University in Denver who studies mass killings, said she was not surprised Holmes was studying neuroscience and mental disorders.
“It could be he was interested in that because he knows there’s something different in him,” she said.
In the coming months we will here about genetic pre-disposition to violence, or a pre-disposition towards other activities which can lead to violence. Again…so on and so forth. It is so much nonsense that conceals the real issue. Humans are not good by nature and it is only tradition and morality, teachable habits and thoughts, that can make something decent of them.
Around the 18th century, the enlightenment taught us that reason and science can bring us harmony and happiness, no need for religious convictions and concerns about suffering. The 19th century brought with it a focus on the individual and the power that he has over the world. This wedded to science and reason led to war, imperialism, and predatory capitalism. The American Civil war was a refrain from this advance, as abolitionists of religious conviction made it aware that slavery is an abomination against G-d, not reason. It is a sad irony that 1860 brought the onset of the only conflict in the history of the world where an army was mustered in order to set other men free, and the publication of Darwin’s Origins occurring 1 year earlier set the stage and gave intellectual impetus to enslave and murder Jews less than a century later. We should not be surprised, our intelligence not dismayed, and our moral outrage stayed when societies divorced from traditional reasons for holding life sacred kill by the millions. If a society is at ease with killing in mass, we should not either be shocked and “horrified” when one of its members does the same, we need to understand the problem. And the problem is the manifestations of our own social handiwork, idols of a degenerate age.
The settings for this massacre were manifold, almost forthcoming, a theater where to be displayed was a two hour stint of violence and death interspersed with moral equivocations of diminutive significance, a society that condones murder in the first, second, and third degree of infants in the womb, a society that has flirted with utilitarian morality in its bio-ethical thinking for a century or so, a society that is entertained by men beating the hell out of each other in a cage, a society in which the only emotion a male can legitimately express is toughness and rage, and a culture that glorifies villains and heroes simultaneously. Shame on us. Yes, this was a massacre of 12 individuals, but it is also a massacre of a collective innocence. Our collective outrage is so much pedantic and formal horseshit.