Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reflections on Virginia Tech and Disneyland

I planned to blog next on Disneyland. I got back from a trip to that place late Saturday night. My mind has been filled with thoughts on that place, and really, the concepts of beauty, peacefulness, "magic" and that sort of thing. I won't really start yet, but I must say that I love that place, and what it stands for really makes sense to me.

Then yesterday we had that terrible tragedy in VA. Since thing I've been in mental turmoil over the state of humanity. Why is it that people snap like that... are, really, pushed to the brink, and can't handle it, and take that sort of "way out"? A grand finale such that they will be remembered forever in infamy, instead of die in obscurity and anonymity.

It is easy to talk about what a horrific nut that guy was. It is too easy.

What troubles me is: how did he get that way? I, as a fellow human on this planet, feel in some way responsible. Oh, I know "I'm not my brother's keeper" and yet at the same time, my own feeling is that "it could have happened to anyone" who was down-and-out, short on luck, had no friends, and didn't know how to make any...

Of course, none of us like to be lonely, an outcast, not have enough money to make ends meet, or to accomplish something useful in this world. The bottom line is: in a capitalistic society, it takes money to accomplish anything in life. It takes money to take a woman out on a date, or to go with friends "out for coffee". Generally speaking, those who have more opportunity to do things with friends are more "successful" socially, and, theoretically, more fulfilled. None of us like what it feels like to not be successful at making friends, and finding a place for ourselves in this world.

It is too easy to place blame on this person. Of course, they were at fault. No amount of pain and frustration gives a person the right to take the life of another, and worse: many others. But, at the same time, our society was responsible for creating someone like that.

And it is also too easy to say that we can simply all make the world a better place through kindness. A kind word here and there, a smile as often as possible... these things truly do make the world a better place, and perhaps can for a time quell the insanity that wells up within a person like that.

But even so, I think kindness itself wouldn't have been sufficient to stop this man from doing what he did. There is a deeper problem here.

From what I've read, numerous people tried professional intervention to attempt to break through to this guy. He was sent to psychiatrists, and doctors, counselors, and public service individuals. In a word, he was "boxed in" to a category as being someone who "had something wrong with him."

How would that make a person feel, to be treated by a system of institutions who were trying to convince him that something was wrong with him, trying to convince him that he "needed help" and so on.

The social orders of the world are increasingly convinced that it is "not okay to be a loaner". The social orders of the world are increasingly convinced that someone must act and speak a certain way. But what do the social orders of the world really know? What kind of people does that mentality create: model citizens, or people who crack under pressure?

My perception is that the social order creates people in both camps. But the social order is particularly good at creating people who crack under pressure. Why? Because a society based upon making everyone behave a certain way, cannot possibly succeed. The only thing that succeeds is the ingrained belief that in order for the world to be a better place, you've got to point your finger at everyone who is wrong: you've got to correct everyone who is mistaken, you've got to personally get involved in making everyone behave themselves.

In reality, what people in the world want is trust. But what our society increasingly takes away from everyone is that very thing. No one is to be trusted: not from the most powerful political leader, down to the part-time cleaning lady. And because they are not to be trusted, as soon as you see someone do anything out of place, you call them into question. You think that you are somehow making them accountable to the world, but in reality, all you are doing is feeding their hatred.

I don't know what the whole answer is to the problem: but I do know for certain that the answer is not a fascist state controlling everything. Equally, the answer is not to be found in fascist individuals who are always correcting everyone else: always trying to force everyone else in this world into their own molds - their own conception of what is "properly behaved."


1 comment:

JamesoftheNorthwest said...

Good insights Basil...I too have contemplated this event and the circumstances that "caused" it.

I do think society is to blame...but in quite the opposite way that Cho himself insinuates.

Cho's frustrations ultimately were amplified by notions of entitlement. And I think more and more we are teaching ourselves and our kids to move away from personal responsibility toward social responsibility. Everyone deserves matter what. Everyone is the same and we dare not let anyone feel "lessened."

Recall that nine year old boy here in Seattle who received PRAISE from his parent after he stole a car, led police on a high speed chase, and then stoled away on a plane. What ingenuity!

I never had a girlfriend in high school. Was that MY fault or society's? I'll likely never have a time in which money isn't somewhat tight, is that MY fault or society's? Perhaps both, but the MAIN thing is that I am NOT going to expect society to fix these things. Hey high school girls don't like fat boys...oh well, I dealt with it. More and more I think kids are expecting for society to fix things for them.

It seems like all of these mass murderers are pointing the finger of blame for their personal failures on society. "Crazy" as he might have been, you can see this in Cho's own words...he sees himself as Christ being martyred by an evil society.

As long as humans have walked the earth I think societies have made outcasts out of people, and yet I *think* the phenomena of such outcasts "going postal" is AT LEAST more common today.

Are we creating too high of expectations in our youth? Too much anticipation for entitlements? Do we shift too much blame on society and not enough on the individual? I note the ever-increasing tendency to do things like NOT keep score at little league games and giving trophies to ALL the boys so no one feels left out.

So I DO wonder about the role of society in this nightmare...but mainly because I think we are teaching ideals (i.e. expectations) that society has no intention or ability to live up to.

Maybe we baby our youth too much such that outcasts are left reeling from reality when it does finally begin to hit them. Combined with a heavy dose of moral relativism and perhaps a bit of psychological problems and you have powder keg in the making?

Just thinking out loud.