As many of you are also probably currently reading about the tragic shooting at the Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut today, I began to think about the reason behind the recent outburst in mass shootings in the United States and around the world. As I began to search the web, I found that shootings, bombings, and knife attacks against school children are common fare in China, southern Thailand, Yemen, Pakistan, and India. In some countries, militants use schools and school children to indoctrinate the children, and by occupying school buildings and amassing weapons on-site, they make school facilities a target for violence (see article in link below).
As I read about the various accounts of people taking up arms and indiscriminately opening fire on crowds in public places, I wonder why and how anyone could arrive at a place in their life where committing such a terrible crime would be “ok”. Some of these individuals are mentally ill, but most are not – or at least have not been diagnosed as such prior to the criminal behavior. While I cannot speak on activity in other countries such as Yemen, China, Thailand, or India – having never lived or personally experienced cultural life in any of these countries, I would like to comment on events in the United States. I have observed, since my return to the United States, a growing obsession with virtual reality, technology, gadgets, cellphones, social networking, with a directly proportional shrinkage in direct social interaction, conversation, opportunities to share meals with other people. In other words, it is increasingly difficult to make friends or share “real” relationships with other people, and increasingly easy to create a huge social network of “friends” whom we do not know or interact with directly on a regular basis. It also seems to me that violence is part of American culture, which encourages individualism, technology and rationality over sentiment, and action over deep thinking. Impulsive behavior, lack of identification with strangers as fellow human beings, alienation from a surplus of distance created by cyber-relationships and gadgets, and easy access to weapons may all contribute to this type of holocaust. I feel that it is impossible to harm others when one considers the life and well-being of that other person as important as one’s own.
All around the world, people fight and attempt to extinguish “the enemy”. The enemy is actually within, and it is called anger, hatred, fear. Slavery, war, terrorism, racism, ethnic cleansings are all caused by this same problem of projection of inner emotions onto others. We need to humanize ourselves and each other, and these skills are learned through culture. Not culture as art, but culture as humanity. Culture is something that is learned, cultivated. If we do not teach our children to become human, they will resemble human beings, but they may well behave like monsters. In many so-called primitive cultures around the world, it is believed that infants are not born human, but that they become human. It is through intitiations at various ages that children learn to become men and women. Rites of passage, sacrifice – we give up something of childhood and learn through pain, challenges, to earn the right to be an adult. In North American society, children are given many priviledges and few responsibilities. There is no pride in earning one’s way to adulthood. Many human beings are lost, in pain, addicted to legal or illegal substances. The superficial materialism of American life is in fact dangerous and devoid of meaning. We need to restore meaning to life and teach our children to become human if we wish to avoid the further increase in mass shootings of this kind, which are acts of desperation by lost souls. This is my opinion. Please contribute to my blog by sharing your ideas on this subject.