Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Can't See The Wood For All These Damn Trees

I usually try to restrict myself to gags and dirty jokes, but yesterday's massacre in Virginia has got me thinking. Being a Scotsman, I don't like to analyse the Americans' problems for them, but it strikes me that the rage massacre is not a peculiarly American problem.

What's baffling me today is that I so rarely see my opinions reflected in the press.

See, I've had a good look around at the reaction to the latest campus shooting, and yet again it's like this is the first time this has ever happened. "This is so unexpected," I've heard more than once.

As the blame game commences, the same talking points are reiterated- "we should ban guns", "If only the students had been armed", "what were the cops thinking?", "Hollywood is to blame...", "At the end of the day, Evil is to blame..."

The press will shake their collective heads, the bloggers will carry water for their various interests, and they'll all conclude that this was an incomprehensible tragedy.

And next year, a well-educated middle-class kid with little history of violence or mental illness will walk into his school and the same thing will happen again.

The problem is that in putting the blame on guns and "Evil", we're fooling ourselves. The real question should be, "Where is all this rage coming from?"

It's easy to forget, but the rage murder is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one that is far more common in America than elsewhere - while there were massacres in the past, they only became commonplace with the post office shootings of the 1980's. From there they spread to schools and colleges.

Forty years ago, it was almost unheard of for middle-class people to snap and murder their peers and colleagues - now, it's treated as a force of nature, as inevitable and unstoppable as tsunamis and earthquakes.

We won't be asking what it is about western society that causes suicidal acts of demonstrative violence - nobody will draw a connection between the shock-horror coverage of this incident and its cause.

I absolutely guarantee that anybody drawing a link between this massacre and horrifying acts of nihilistic murder like the London underground bombings will be shouted down in a storm of anger, when it seems to me that they spring from a common root.

Alas, we'll have to wait for posterity to shed light upon this savage aspect of our culture. Perhaps we need that removal from our society in order to look at it dispassionately and ask the question that we should all be asking today -

"Where is all this rage coming from?"

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