Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blame the Collective

Who is Responsible for the Virginia Tech Murders?

All the votes are finally in and tallied about the Virginia Tech murders, and as expected, it’s our entire fault. Society murdered those poor students just as certainly as if each of us pointed the guns and pulled the triggers.

We allow easy access to guns.

We allow divisions in society by wealth, social class, talent, athletic ability, race, scholastic achievement, and all sorts of other factors too numerous to mention.

We don’t effectively identify and treat mental illness.

We allow a culture of violence on TV, radio, music, and video games.

As is always the case, when all are at fault, none can do anything about it.

Oh woe is us.

My position is, as expected, to remark that all of this is a huge pile of male bovine excrement.

We may allow easy access to guns, but we have strong laws governing their purchase and use. The problem is, our existing gun laws are not enforced. Law abiding citizens obey the laws, but they’re not the ones who commit the crimes.

In San Francisco two separate murders were committed by felons who previously could have and should have been charged with unlawful possession of firearms. Had they been successfully prosecuted and convicted, two people would be alive today.

If any of Cho’s parents, teachers, counselors, or medical examiners had taken firm and appropriate actions, Cho would have been blocked from purchasing the deadly weapons, and authorities would have been alerted by his attempt.

One of my friends noted that society was at fault because Cho was exposed to students who had nice cars, expensive clothes and toys, and who could spend extravagantly on entertainment. He felt society should do something about that.

Interestingly, that gives society two options. It can either give Cho and those in similar circumstances all the goodies the rich kids enjoy, or they can forbid the rich kids from having their goodies or take them away.

Or, if you are a Democrat, the preferred option is to redistribute wealth until all are at the same economic level.

Obviously, society then has to solve the other problems such as different talents and abilities. The only way to do that effectively is to handicap all factors. College admissions would be based solely on meeting diversity quotas. All students would receive the same grades. Taking a page from the egalitarian Chinese Communists in their pre-capitalist phase, all students will wear the equivalent of the Mao jacket. The clothing step is necessary because, even though wealth has been equalized, if left to their own devices some students would capitalize on their natural good looks, and the Mao jacket would go a long way towards leveling the appearance field.

Of course, making everyone the same won’t guarantee that all will be treated the same. Observer groups must be formed to watch social interactions and correct instances where individuals receive too much or too little attention.

Awards based on achievement must be eliminated. Even with the best handicapping, not every event will end in a draw, and winners will feel superior to losers.

The identification, then treatment of mental illness, presents many issues of privacy rights and personal freedom. Who will be responsible for identifying individuals in need of help? Who will pay for the attorneys fighting out each determination with the ACLU? Can someone who has mistakenly referred someone for mental illness be sued for unfairly stigmatizing the person? Conversely, can that person be sued for not correctly identifying someone who proved to be a danger to society?

More basic yet, how do you know when someone is the one who will snap? What are the signs?

We are exposed to violence as entertainment throughout our society. Our TV shows feature tens of thousands of murders and assaults each year. Movies are constantly improving and employing special effects and applying vivid imaginations to raise the threshold of acceptable gore. Rap music celebrates the most violent and demeaning relations between people. Finally, video games draw upon the violence of TV, movies, and music to distill a product that glorifies fast, intensive, graphic slaughter.

We can’t give ourselves all the credit for living in a violent world.

For the most part, most of us live peaceful lives, which make us all the more shocked when mindless violence enters our lives, even if only on the news.

We could be Hutus, who killed almost a million of their countrymen, their neighbors, because they were Tutsis, a different tribe, even though an outsider couldn’t have told them apart.

We could be Shiites, or Sunnis, both reading the same Koran, both worshipping Allah, and killing each other over events that took place over a thousand years ago.

Or we could be Germans, Japanese, Soviets, Chinese, Cambodians, Iraq under Saddam, Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini, each engaging in the slaughter of millions, often their own citizens.

So it’s obvious we don’t have a monopoly on violence, but where have we gone wrong?

Maybe it’s better to ask, when do we get it right?

We get it right when parents know their children, and stay in constant touch with them. Who else will know if they have a serious problem? Who else can give them the love, respect, discipline, attention, whatever it takes to make them socially aware and responsible citizens?

It will only be by accident if someone other than a parent or close relative takes an interest and learns enough about a child to be a positive influence in their life.

Just staying in contact with their children is going to be too much for a lot of parents to handle, and they will have a lot of excuses why they can’t. They will be too tired, and too busy. They’ll want to sit there and watch the violence on TV themselves. They’ll be happy when their kids spend time playing video games, instead of demanding their parents’ attention.

Their own bad attitudes and poor personal habits will be what their children learn. Their children won’t learn morality from immoral examples. Or civil discourse from rude and angry elders.

In the final analysis, we take care of our obligation to society when we support and demonstrate taking responsibility for our own actions.

We can’t make anyone change, but we can each be a good example.

Please click on the label below to see all my articles on this topic.

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