Every time there is a mass shooting (which on average is every sixty four days) one of the key words we hear describing the tragedy is “senseless.” This would suggest the action was without meaning or purpose.
I hate to tell you this, but nothing could be further from the case.
The most recent attacker, Christopher Harper-Mercer, follows the strict pattern of highly-aggrieved men trapped in a cultural paradox from which they cannot escape. His and the other attacks like it, congruent down to sporting military-style clothing, are an attempt to call “society” to task for leaving them behind. To these men, who perceive they are not receiving the level of respect to which they feel deeply entitled, it’s nothing less than a revolution. When you read their posts online they discuss previous attackers like the Dylan Klebold of the Columbine massacre and James Holmes of the Aurora theatre shooting and now Harper-Mercer as a martyr, a hero and most disturbingly, a “warrior” for the cause.
These young men, when you read their writings (and they write a lot), are trapped in ideologies insisting on a natural order where the strong dominate the weak. Overwhelmingly their stunning number of journals, manifestos and posts show them to be captivated by thinkers and leaders like Nietzsche, Rand and Hitler. Ironically, these typically introverted outsiders fully buy-in to the idea that there should be a ruling class over the “undeserving” in society. Yet, in each case they have come to realize through a pattern of personal setbacks and failures they themselves are not exactly the Übermenschen ole Friedrich described in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Additionally, they all suffer from acute paranoia, developing a blind rage at those whom they feel have unfairly usurped the power that is rightfully theirs.
The shooting is simply a release of this cognitive dissonance. It fills the strong need to demonstrate in the context of their ideology they are not the losers, the “others” are. Dr. Donald Dutton and a trio of psychologists from the University of Vancouver went and read everything the assembled killers had written to date in 2013 and uncovered this pattern.
“They become and remain fixated and obsessed with rejection by what they see as an elite in-group, whom they see as having unfairly achieved success,” Dutton and his colleagues write in a compelling paper just published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. “Instead of transcending the rejection, they formulate plans to annihilate the transgressors, which they justify as vengeance for the transgressions made against them.”
Ok, so that’s the individual motivation. But now it gets worse, thanks to the Internet with its dark corners like 4chan, these desperate outsiders have begun link up. They have developed an increasingly organized doctrine that blends white supremacist beliefs with garden-variety nihilism, the so-called “mens’ rights movement” pick-up culture, and others to form an ideological toxic sludge of byproducts from Western Civilization. And thanks to the NRA they can arm themselves for considerably less effort than it takes to adopt a cat from the animal shelter.
So, quick quiz: What do you call a group willing to kill innocents and die themselves for an ideology centred around striking back at what they are convinced is an irredeemably oppressive regime? Hint: it rhymes with “Leher-cyst”
The mass shooting epidemic is, in actuality, best described as a nascent domestic terrorist movement which like many others uses mass-casualty suicide attacks as their primary weapon. We will continue to see it develop and organize if social conditions continue as they have, isolating growing numbers of volatile young from the benefits of our society. The shooters are the tip of the iceberg, once you start poking around online you find a massive bulk of rage under the surface.
We refuse to admit this glaringly obvious fact at our peril. Yes, their ideology is hateful and stupid. But like most uprisings it centers in legitimate grievance, metastasized into it’s own mass of lizard-brain hatreds. Young men don’t regularly kill large numbers of innocent members of their own society in a healthy culture, that is a simple fact.
Think I’m wrong about this? Look at Saudi Arabia, which spawned Al Queda. Unlike what many of my liberal brethren believe, the 9/11 attackers who took down the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon and crashed flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania were not indigent Muslims fighting back against the economic oppression of the West. They were, in actuality, disaffected middle-class young men who found themselves increasingly incapable in their home country of meaningful attainment in the highly stratified power and wealth structure imposed by the House of Saud and supported by its global superpower partner the United States. These men were seduced into giving their lives to murder Americans by terrorist recruiters who prey on finding such personalities and providing their perceptually meaningless lives with a grand purpose.
In 2007 American forces raided a suicide-bomber training camp in Iraq. Interviews with those captured conducted to discover the motivations for suicide attacks it was discovered over half of the recruits had come from a Libyan town called Darna. Here is what researchers found:
The reason why so many of Darnah’s young men had gone to Iraq for suicide missions was not the global jihadi ideology, but an explosive mix of desperation, pride, anger, sense of powerlessness, local tradition of resistance and religious fervor.
This is the exact same set of motivations, minus the organized religious component, we find in most mass shooters here. The researchers also found the attacks were typically organized and carried out from the bottom up, not as top-down attacks directed from an overseeing power. Again, just like here.
So why is this happening in the United States? For similar reasons it happens anywhere else in the world. These young men feel humiliated and powerless. They find themselves incapable of achieving the status they perceive necessary to secure what they want most, typically access to sexual partners (and let’s not forget that suicide attackers in the Islamic tradition are awarded 72 virgins in paradise). They then attack the people who they think are responsible for their standing, typically at a school or a workplace where their daily perceived humiliations are carried out.
Is this so hard to understand? Just like in other countries where there is extreme change and social tension, the formerly empowered group being pushed “out” is fighting back with violence. We continue to perceive these mass shootings to be individual, isolated incidents. They are not. They are like car bombings and transit attacks overseas, individual incidents but linked to a greater struggle.
“Humiliation” is the word you see again and again. That’s the engine driving this, the never-ending loss of face of volatile young men.
Today a growing segment of young adult males will not achieve the material and social success necessary to be attractive mates and form households. By way of comparison, a generation ago in his mid-20s my father had a house, a wife, two kids and a stable job things I was unable to achieve until my ’30s (he would go on to fuck all this up later, but that’s another story). Today Increased economic opportunity and higher educational attainment for women has removed the economic need to be tied down to undesirable dudes. This is a good thing for almost everyone. But for those on the outside, however, it turns social awkwardness and the tail end of the achievement bell curve into a prison planet of isolation. And that generates rage.
If a disaffected young man does not find an identity in some positive group or activity where he can demonstrate a level of mastery, he will find his answers late at night on a message board where an anonymous poster will explain the problem is not him, but instead is women or blacks or Jews or ‘sheeple’ or some other shared lunacy which in the group-reinforcement model that describes closed circles of thought will eat his mind.
And there will be guns around to level the score. Militarized, menacing, assault weapons optimized for mass output. A ticket to forever fame and glory among his new online friends and the ultimate bullhorn to telegraph his resentments at everyone else for less than the cost of a medium-range laptop.
I for one am not surprised that an increasing number of these men, whom the experts call “grievance collectors” have taken this route. What does surprise me is how they are organizing, though I suppose it shouldn’t. Here’s one of many posts in support of the attacker post CoAlpha a “radical free speech” site after the killings at UC Santa Barbara by Elliot Rodger in 2014. CoAlpha is just one place, there are dozens of others.
We may not want to give this the legitimacy of a “movement” just yet. That risks elevating the perpetrators to the level of “freedom fighters” beyond their own small and marginalized ranks. But we have to let the air out of the support and encouragement for violent attacks carried out by the most unstable of their number.
And the most effective, cheapest and least blood-soaked way to reduce and remove the motivation for the attacks is to alleviate the fundamental grievance of inequity. Put simply- we can’t let a generation of young men flounder. Yes, they can be assholes and no we don’t need as much of what young men are traditionally good at anymore- dangerous, dirty and difficult jobs requiring brute strength and a lack of self-concern, but we need young men to grow up into reliable citizens. And for them to do so there has to be an acceptable pathway, not just a stew of grievances they marinade in until they get their shit together.
Because some won’t and we’ll all end up bearing that cost. And in an increasing number of cases, it will be too much to bear.
Wow that was really powerful and eye-opening. Thank you for sharing your research and thoughts.
I read the article and believe that it is thought provoking and honest. However, you mentioned the men from Saudi Arabia who created 9/11. Please note that if you make a serious effort to investigate the information available, the idea that this event was created by 19 muslin men is truly preposterous. This was an inside job and I hope that America will wake up and listen to what over 2200 architects and engineers have revealed.
You missed this in your comment: “Wake up sheeple!”
“Today Increased economic opportunity and higher educational attainment for women has removed the economic need to be tied down to undesirable dudes.”
It’s not just the change in gender roles that is causing disaffection: it’s also the distribution of the most wealth to a privileged few. Economic opportunities are becoming few and far between in the global economy for the majority. The middle class is shrinking everywhere, even in the US where people were told all they had to do was get educated and work hard, and they would achieve the “American Dream.”
That’s not enough anymore. The US workers that are fortunate to have jobs receive no loyalty from employers. Workers are treated more like chattel, and if they want fair salary or treatment, their companies are more likely to send their jobs off-shore to places like India or China. It happened first with manufacturing jobs, and now it’s occurring to white collar workers too. It’s both men and women facing this issue. It used to be a college degree was a ticket to a career and a decent job. No longer true. It’s not unusual for grads to end up going back to the empty nest to live with the parents because they can’t get work.
We also have a generation of youth who haven’t developed coping skills when it comes to dealing with failure. “Give little Jimmy a trophy for just showing up, not winning. We don’t want to hurt his feelings.” Growing up with having everyone telling you you’re a special little snowflake leaves you completely unprepared for rejection and the real life problems that we all have to face in adulthood.
On the whole, I think Jim Dowd has effectively summed up why these mass shootings are happening. If we ignore the reasons why people end up frustrated, angry, and humiliated, the murders will keep happening.
This is an excellent and needed addition to Jim’s piece. I agree 100% with you both.
The “everyone gets a trophy” thing is actually a lot more insidious than a simple inability to deal with rejection. When everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless and effort and talent goes unrewarded. Meanwhile, the cultural standard of everyone being winners and special in their own way ensures that none of this disappointment is able to be voiced or discussed, and the result is a generation of people who are desperate for recognition and emotional validation, but have no idea of how to get either because they’re used to everyone getting an empty prize simply for showing up.
Agreed! This is a great article, and I think your comment supplies an important piece of our “why do mass shootings keep happening” puzzle.
Please get this out into the world to as many readers as possible.
Well said, and true, I believe.
Great piece. Thank you for writing it.
It took me thirty-eight years to grow this human. Don’t let him become another victim of gun violence.
That’s an absurdly long gestation.
Great post, very thoughtful, thank you. There is an additional factor, and that is big pharm. I am curious to know whether these individuals were on anti depressants or other meds that might alter their cognitive abilities.
Agreed on the article and the pharma point. Would like to add Big PORN as another factor. What is portrayed online (and particularly consumed by ‘incels’) is completely out of line with the real world, connecting with a potential partner, what to expect in an intimate encounter, and establishing a real relationship.
Actually there’s a lot of evidence that porn and prostitution provide a safe outlet for these “Incels” and reduce rates of sexual assault. Which isn’t to say that porn doesn’t create unrealistic sexual expectations and false ideas, but I think that’s a separate issue that reveals itself once one in actually in a relationship or sexual encounter.
The ssris elevate the brain unevenly. restores energy of depression(getting out of bed and moving) before cognitive function(sense of satisfaction or hope). Being carefully followed during the initial period of ‘induction’ does really help support individuals who otherwise are severely depressed. That said, while these individuals may be perceived as depressed, and often are, they more often have severe personality disorders that aren’t considered amenable to medications. The depression, rage and anxiety all worsen this impairment. Lastly, the solutions they consider to level the world are a (warped but mirrored) reflection of our cultural identity.
“Big Pharm.” – a distraction.
It is always easier, and, these days, much more American, for us to blame someone else for our failings and for the failings of others. While it is definitely true that society is stratified and that there are a lot more have nots now than ever before, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that what these lunatics have done, and will do, is primarily of their own doing. I cannot subscribe to the theory that whenever someone does something bad or evil it is because someone else failed him or did him wrong or bullied him or demoted him or did any number of bad things to him. He did it, no one else.
That only works if everyone agrees on what “evil” is. Sadly, this is not the case.
It goes without saying that these are men unable to take responsibility for their own lives. Essentially this is not a movement that lends itself to self reflection. The rest of us have to figure out what we can do to keep these losers from being violent.
This is perceptive, and it seems to relate to what mathematical historians have been observing for a while. For example, in “Secular Cycles” Peter Turchin describes the periodic oscillations between the stability of healthy societies and the growing unrest, violence, and finally revolution that inevitably come as power and wealth accumulate in the hands of a few. Turchin describes this cycle as generally lasting about 300 years, and describes many indicators that we are approaching the apex of another cycle. The growing domestic terrorism movement might be one more piece of evidence that confirms some of these ideas.
“Unlike what many of my liberal brethren believe…”
Which liberals believe this? None that I know. My understanding of Al Qaeda has always been as you describe it. Conservatives, on the other hand, seem entirely vested in the notion that it all boils down to religion.
I also have to question the notion that these men have a “legitimate” grievance. Occupy certainly has shown us the economic disparities, so I buy that as a legitimate issue for young men. But in what world are they entitled to a girlfriend? The belief that women owe them something is completely delusional. So is the white supremacy element.
Calling this toxic mix “legitimate” gives it credibility it doesn’t deserve–which is a shame, because otherwise, this piece is a thoughtful examination of where we’re falling down as a society so badly that we just keep creating the problem over and over again.
They’re not entitled to a girlfriend, I suggest no such thing. Their ideas are hateful and stupid, as I say. But as humans they are entitled to the opportunity to have decent, productive lives. I postulate that making that increasingly difficult for young men in our country will lead to them falling into dumbass things like pua, racism, all that shit.
Yes, I did read the piece, in which you say:
“They have developed an increasingly organized doctrine that blends white supremacist beliefs with garden-variety nihilism, the so-called “mens’ rights movement” pick-up culture, and others to form an ideological toxic sludge of byproducts from Western Civilization.”
Pick-up culture. The fact that they refer to themselves as “involuntarily celibate.” These are pieces of the puzzle you’ve laid out (quite nicely, as I said). You never said that they feel entitled to treat black folks badly, either, but that’s what “white supremacy” means. The independence of women and non-white folks is not in any reasonable sphere a “legitimate grievance.”
Yes, you say that their ideas are hateful and stupid–but that’s my point. Saying that while saying their gripe is legit is contradictory and doesn’t help your argument–which, as I’ve already said, your piece as a whole is thoughtful and valuable. I’m just suggesting you don’t undermine it. (Speaking of which, not sure that 72 virgins thing is for real, either.)
It would also be nice to acknowledge that while–YES–they are entitled to the opportunity to have decent, productive lives, so should be everyone else in our country. It’s a wider problem than just young men. In their particular case, though, a good step would be to admit that our culture’s insane attachment to unattainable ideals of masculinity–rugged independence in which men never ever need anyone else ever, the whole “be a man” crap that we feed to our sons from the time they’re three–is a very destructive element of the toxic mix, too.
That message pretty much sets these young men up to feel isolated, adrift, and like there is something very, very wrong with them because they are not happy trying to live this very idealized, impossible life. They are not. Far from it. But they don’t know that, because…men. Heaven forbid they have be allowed to have an emotion, or be imperfect. Just where else do we think all that frustration and hopelessness is going to go?
We shouldn’t really be surprised when helluva lot of it comes out the business end of a gun.
Saphira, I suggest there’s little difference in the motivation of a:
1) white, male, “incel” gunning-down a workplace or school
2) a male person of color, running with a crew, treating any woman as a “ho”, and gunning-down a similar number of persons, over a short criminal career.
I’ll grant white society doesn’t view the brown body count as newsworthy, critical, nor a crisis to be met with ever increasing resources (other than to contain the blood spilled, within the community of color).
Both killers are expressions of being outcast from society, forming an alternative society (the first online – the other physically present), and re-writing the rules which form socially acceptable behavior.
Both share a desperation, a conviction that tomorrow won’t be better, or one day… just won’t come.
Live fast, die young, make a pretty corpse. It’s not a new sentiment (1947 novel), but it’s enduring.
I think the statement “a generation ago in his mid-20s my father had a house, a wife, two kids and a stable job things I was unable to achieve until my ’30s” actually objectives women and children in a way you may not intend. You group them in with “things” to “achieve.”
A thing can be illogical and still be understandable. It is far easier both psychologically and tactically to blame and attack those one believes are inferior, than to tackle the political-economic system that has pissed away America’s prosperity. And that is a serious problem. If we could elect enough populists, we could turn this country around peacefully. If we keep handing more power to plutocrats, it will eventually come to violence, there will be no other recourse. But the people most ready to turn to violence are the ones who would take us centuries backward socially.
Great article, but I think the misogyny at work in pua / incel communities is worth emphasising here…
Very, very much so. And I have to guess that the misogyny is linked to the fact that women have managed, to a certain extent, to break out of strict gender roles, while men haven’t. This is why sexism is bad for everyone, regardless of which direction it appears to operate.
Jennifer Wyman-Clemons This summarizes my unfortunately almost daily thoughts and beliefs while trying to digest the ferocity of these killings. These killings ARE truly “the tip of the iceberg”. Disaffected white males here; disaffected (humiliated, bullied, self-righteous) Muslim youth there- soon to be here. Estimates upwards of 1000/ month going for ISIL/ISIS training. They often don’t have mental illness or a rap sheet and can legally buy any guns they want here. Along with them, Muslim women culturally duped into believing that ‘women doing outside (non-home) work brings evil’. That pretty easily parses their world into those who might ‘benefit’ from the ultimate transition. The West has a huge group of potentially disaffected youth that are susceptible to this indoctrination. Gang members belong to the next tier. Why make it so easy for them with ready multi-round guns and ammo? More importantly, though by no means exclusively, how to restore their belief that their physical incarnation IS precious to the living world- and worthwhile without becoming martyrs?
Obviously – gun control is a huge part of this. Jim and I are both HUGE proponents of gun control. That alone will be the biggest factor in stopping this shit. But, we can’t keep pretending these are isolated incidents, either.
Students at Umpqua Community College weren’t disarmed. In fact, there were students on campus with concealed carry permits, at least one with military training. He decided not to rush into the situation because the police would have no way of knowing he wasn’t a perpetrator.
It disturbs me to think people actually believe any segment of normal people are driven to do this. These people are clearly batshit insane, not lashing out because nafta sent Chevy factories to Canada n Mexico and they just can’t figure out what to do with their male strength in the work place. Beyond idiotic. Bring back asylums and make it easier to commit people, like it was pre 1980s and you’ll see a magically coincidental reduction in these maniacs. Coincidentally just like you’ve seen a rise in them after asylums were pretty much done away with and you need more evidence than a murder trial on camera to commit a nut.
Sorry, but if you kill people for no reason other than you feel badly about how society has “let you down”, or kill elementary students and their teachers, or moviegoers while dressed as Batman, then you are most certainly insane.
Insane is a legal description and not a medical one – it holds little real value. Saphira is indeed correct regarding this being a distraction (witness how white shooters are often dismissed by the Right as having mental issues, while non-whites are terrorists. Because clearly, white people cannot be terrorists…).
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were white terrorists. Dylan Klebold and that other piece of shit were white terrorists.
That is not, medically speaking, a defining element of insanity.
A well thought, follow-the-dots article. I’m in agreement. There is one weakness in it, though, that I think needs fuller examination. It is in the solution-sets being suggested. “…alleviate the fundamental grievance of inequity,” “grow up into reliable citizens,” “…[making] an acceptable pathway,” are all spot-on observations of what is lacking and must be balanced. And, too, the number of places for absorbing “brute strength”, “lack of self-concern”, and other attributes that once absorbed the energies of these types of people is certainly diminishing. But the general tone in the essay is that these ticking time-bombs need to be de-marginalized and included in society by providing avenues to bring them into the mainstream which increasingly requires less and less of what they actually need. Those are not, by themselves, a wasted offerings – equity, justice, adequate recognition and compensation and so forth. But it does have the character of reconditioning and reformulating what may be fundamental personality differences in part of our human population, that are as much contributed by our genetics as by nurture and opportunity.
Huxley described these two types of people (in works such as “Island”,1962) as those disposed to physical engagement of the world, and those more prone to cerebral engagement (I would add a third type, those disposed to emotional/empathetic engagement, but that’s another story). Dowd is exactly right in describing the diminishing opportunities for physical types and the world as becoming ever more cerebral in its provision of useful activity. Still, if these are phenotypal differences that express basic genetic attributes (Suzanne K. Langer’s “Mind: An Essay on Feeling” provides one explanation of why this may be so) then simply trying to shift the population of disaffected young males of this type onto the cerebral, mainstream axis will never be adequate to curb the spiral of violent reaction. The expressed type is not an either/or condition. It’s a bell curve that implies we can absorb some on the more cerebral side and in the middle. But at the extreme end, the physical types and their inclinations will never be never find a cerebral world adequate for their needs, nor even usable pathways to acceptable behavior.
There are some slots that do absorb some – sports, first-responding, fire and police work, high-risk and demanding recreations and such. But these slots are few and simply will not absorb the numbers of disaffected males that live for the physical side of things, with un-engaged testosterone calling the shots. Even those that do get absorbed into jobs that match their dispositions find it harder to control their impulses as the work becomes more cerebrally demanding and riddled with paper-work, compliance and other activities (e.g. police work) that take them further from what they understand and enjoy. Those at the extreme will never be induced to rein in their impulses and stop, as Jim said, stewing in their own anger. Even when we can fit them in, they will remain uncomfortable and volatile, which explains some of what happens with the out-of-control policing we are witnessing.
What that means is that rather than expecting such transformations of personality in the presence of new “pathways”, there needs to be legitimate ways of employing those attributes in useful and rewarded ways, ways thought essential for the whole of the human project to advance. That is where equity must be provided. Equity that recognizes such work is needed and the people who do it be recognized, appreciated and rewarded equal to anyone occupied on the cerebral side of things.
What might that be, what jobs and engagements might absorb large numbers aggressive, physical types of people? I don’t know. Space-exploration? Deep sea survey and development? Planet repair and preservation? I can’t really say. Certainly something besides using many of them as interchangeable, expendable units of fuel for our war-making machinery. Something that doesn’t rely on nurture to morph muscle and courage into cortex and invention. Something like that.
Guns and males and males and guns and holy fucking shit, redundant mass murder! Stubenville OH made me rethink every word that came out of my mouth, knowing that (a few) members of several generations looked to *me* for how to behave as an adult.
Colorado, Connecticut, Colorado again, now Oregon, to (sadly) reference only a few, tell me (an *adult* male) that emasculating events or situations in an individual’s life are far beyond being treated with Viagra.
So giving a big middle finger to Pfizer and the NRA is always legitimate (I’m flipping off my anxious xanex prescribed shotgun right now) it isn’t enough.
The breakdown of the mental health support system in this country has funneled people with *treatable* issues either into the (for profit) prison system or onto the street.
This is Gloucester. This is my island, this is your island, this is OUR island–and we have made some pretty cutting edge moves as a populace to try new things, new thinking, and deal with whatever that brings.
We currently have a wee bit of national spotlight, let’s not squander it.
From big pharma to responsible gun classes to expanding the support system for addicts–let’s use this limelight and shine it on the biggest problem; our country uses prisons as *mental health facilities*, and it isn’t working, at all.
Overall well said, but there are two areas I’ll disagree.
First is where you say “Unlike what many of my liberal brethren believe…” Ignorance about that is not the perview of liberals, only the misinformed. There’s at least as many conservatives either misinformed or willfully ignorant of the facts to fit their political narrative.
All the anger and hate based politics we are currently watching ties into the next point.
Second, the anger isn’t just among the young. Workplace shootings don’t get as much coverage because innocent children aren’t involved. There are plenty of the unemployed who (for instance) would love to wipe out the executives who decided to move their jobs elsewhere.
Current politics likes to redirect or otherwise use that anger.
This article is deservedly going viral on social media. Thank you, thank you , thank you! I read this with chills down my spine. you have connected a lot of dots with this piece and it is going to (to my thinking) become a critical part of the public discussion.
When life becomes meaningless then there is no meaning or value to any creature’s life on this planet. Only a human that has no hope or love for life can take life.
Read impressive analysis at Daily Kos. Thanks for looking deeper at the wages of the American economy and impact on lives of young people.
Great article about the shootings. Scary, but rings true. Still, it would help if we made it harder for people to get guns. Our society is unlikely to change for the better very soon.
This is the most spot-on, thought-provoking and necessary article regarding these shootings I have ever read and may well ever read! I kept having to stop and make mind-blown gestures and gape openly at the truth of your words. Amazing. Thank you for writing and sharing. You nailed it.
Very well said. However, one aspect of this phenomenon cannot be ignored and that is the role of the media. I don’t mean the media that covers these shootings, I mean the media that bombards people every day with ideas and images that are completely unattainable for 99.9% of the population. Everything from a guided tour of Lebron James ‘crib’, to the barrage of ads telling of how Joe Smardvark won $500,00 on daily fantasy football, to images of the Norman Rockwellesque family: Mom, Dad, their two cute kids and their golden retriever sitting down to a glorious Thanksgiving dinner. Some bum lefthander pitching for the Red Sox getting millions of dollars a year, how many $billions Mark Zuckerberg is worth, or wall to wall coverage of a disgusting turd like Donald Trump. etc. etc. And we won’t even get into how all media portrays women and the images of women that are burned into these people’s psyche on a daily basis. And the increasing role of the internet certainly cannot be overstated. All of this makes it difficult for a lot of people to swallow the idea of working in a Walmart for the minimum wage. Everyone is entitled to something better. A concept that is beaten into our heads from childhood, is that everyone is not only entitled to the opportunity to, but is somehow scorned by a large segment of society if they fail to take advantage of the opportunity that we all have to do better than our parents did. Which is,I think, an idea that is uniquely American. You need to get a better job, get a bigger house, a new car… ad nauseum. Every business must expand, get bigger, and bigger all the while getting leaner and more nimble at the same time. Most intelligent people come to the knowledge early on that this whole idea of an American Dream is a total crock of shit, and it always was. Unfortunately a lot of people believe it and are ultimately disappointed and easily become disaffected.
Someone once told me that half of the people that you will see on any given day are below average. And for every person with an IQ of 130, there is one with a 70. Not long ago millions of Americans were employed in jobs of mindless drudgery like standing at a drill press all day and drilling 4 holes into a steel plate. Everyone knew that these jobs sucked, especially the people that did them day after mind numbing day. But they paid well. Well enough to buy a house, a car and get drunk every weekend and drive your car into a tree if that was your style. Now the vast majority of those jobs that haven’t been shipped overseas are done by robots. And damn it you can’t even drink and drive any more like in the good old days. The idea that many of these people can be retrained to repair the robots, or learn to program the robots’ computers is total nonsense. Some of these guys have difficulty tying their own shoes. So what becomes of them? They move back into their mother’s or grandmother’s basement, if they ever left in the first’ place and kill 10 hours a day on line, the rest of the time spent watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, or mixed marshall arts fights on TV.
Years ago every small town in America had some nitwit that came by the barbershop on a regular basis ranting about Roswell, socialism, crop circles, or fluoridation as a commie plot. They were either ignored or simply laughed at. Then they went home and drowned a few more cats, or just sniffed some model airplane glue and didn’t really bother anyone. Most importantly, nobody encouraged them. There were no village idiots conventions, no place where their rants were even tolerated much less encouraged. Now they are organized, however loosely, via the internet. And as often as these tragedies occur, I am surprised that they don’t happen more often.
Then what is to become of this segment of society? I have no idea of what the answer is but I do know that nobody ever stabbed or bludgeoned 30 or 40 people to death in one psychotic outburst. Strict gun laws are the only way to prevent this from happening. No guns at all. And if anyone thinks that tougher gun laws will lead to the guuvmint confiscating our gunz. I sincerely hope so. And please spare me that second amendment bullshit lecture as I may throw up. Again.
One small point,
Dr Don Dutton is Prof of Psychology at University of *British Columbia*
Just an editorial point: as I know the Uni Vancouver you mentioned is non-existent, it through me out of your argument, and had to google to confirm Dr Dutton’s existence and work.
Jim, there’s no way to separate the humiliation you’re reading from the fact that they can’t “get women” or “get quality women”. In their minds and rhetoric, the absence of opportunity etc. all leads to one thing: girls won’t have them. The girls won’t have them because they’re creepy, not because they’re poor, but they’ve got a whole mythology built up around this.
I used to think that much of the problem had to do with how horrible boys (and men) can be to each other with the eternal ranking, and the use of “laid” as a status marker, but the more time I’ve spent talking to these guys the more I’ve come to believe that there isn’t really anything that could help here. They’re quite paranoid, often aspergian and fantastically self-centered, and I suspect that so long as anyone in the world had something they didn’t, they’d find cause for grievance. These are the kind of men who, if they do manage to marry, spend the marriage telling the woman what’s wrong with her and continuously suspect they’re being used and could’ve done better.
Normal, healthy people faced with lack of opportunity and social stigma do not behave like this.
Great article. You forgot one thing though….jobs. Your dad probably had a middle class waged job when he got all of those things. I know it’s implied in your piece, but it’s worth stating outright. Globalization of labor and the decimation of the middle class in the United States is a huge factor in this. The resulting increasing wealth gap exacerbates that. People have always historically punched down when faced with overwhelming inequities. It’s human nature. How is someone going to open fire on a multinational corporation?
For those of you who like Malcom Gladwell, or wish to read more about this topic, he recently wrote a piece for New Yorker Magazine.
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