Recently by Butler Shaffer: Learning Begins From Within
Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.
~ Arthur Miller
How convenient for our political overseers: there has been another mass-shooting — this time at a Connecticut grade-school — in which many adults and young children were murdered. Members of the mainstream media, politicians, and other government officials are being turned loose to share their lack of critical thinking with a public conditioned to await their direction. With the kind of frenzy exhibited by a monkey that has been bitten by a scorpion, establishment sock-puppets quickly respond with proposals to further enhance state power while, at the same time, shrinking individual liberty. Taking the advice of the neo-Machiavellian Rahm Emanuel — that "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste" — the victims in Connecticut will join those in the Oregon shopping mall, Columbine and Aurora, Colorado, and elsewhere, to be exploited on behalf of disarming Americans.
The news coverage of this latest atrocity follows a predictable pattern: police officers, armed soldiers, and federal FBI and ATF functionaries, are on the scene as a reminder of the top-down system of order that the shootings have just refuted. The mayor, state governor, and president each holds a press conference to assure their respective herds that all is under control, their control. In a world in which vertically-structured institutions are collapsing into horizontal networks, the established order is desperate to reinforce its authority to control what it is clearly unable to do. The mantra "we will find out what went wrong and fix it so that it doesn't happen again" becomes less and less persuasive to those who understand that "insanity" is exhibited by those who keep repeating the same actions, expecting different results.
President Obama shed his crocodile tears for the latest group of victims. As he began to speak, and before the president pretended to wipe tears from his eyes, CNN informed us that "Obama Weeps Over School Massacre": sure, just as he continues to weep over the tens of thousands of children and other innocent victims of his wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and any other places he might arbitrarily choose to attack. He then spoke of the need to take "meaningful action" to prevent such murderous acts in the future. Gosh, I wonder what such "actions" might entail? Were he sincere in his professed concern for the killing of children, he might choose to reward — rather than attempt to destroy — Julian Assange who used his WikiLeaks site to show videos of American soldiers, in helicopters, machine-gunning journalists, innocent children, and other civilians in Iraq!
Seeking to limit the private ownership of guns is about as irrational a response to violence as would be a proposal to eliminate the private ownership of cars in order to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of people who are killed annually in auto accidents. The LA Times informs us that, on the same day as the Connecticut shootings, a man in China attacked twenty-two schoolchildren and an adult with a knife, an occurrence that "was reminiscent of a spate of knife attacks on schoolchildren that took place across China in 2010." The same news story informs us that a young man had been arrested following the box-cutter slashing of a number of young women on a subway. The report ends with a reference to China's stringent gun-control laws.
Should these events engender restrictions on knife-ownership? And what about those who might resort to golf clubs, baseball bats, or pipe-wrenches to carry out their murderous intentions? Of course, it is a public armed with more powerful weapons — ones that would allow people to defend themselves against state weaponry — that troubles the statists. Dead children are but convenient victims to be exploited by the shedders of faux tears in an effort to further weaken the defenses of ordinary people.
I could offer my own "solution" to the mass killings with which the media entertains us: these shootings tend to take place within the confines of institutions and other large organizations. Government schools and universities, corporate businesses, churches, shopping malls, among other systems reflect what Leopold Kohr called the "size theory of social misery." Perhaps, drawing upon work done in the study of "chaos," it could be said that large organizations are "attractors" for violent activity; that we ought to be focusing our attentions on reducing the size of our social systems.
While I agree with such a systemic analysis of events in our world, it does not go deeply enough to explain the source of our difficulties. Like so much of our confusion, we focus attention on the consequences of our behavior, rather than upon such causal factors as the thinking that produces dysfunctional results. To continue going deeper for explanations for our troublesome conduct leads us, eventually, into the depths of our own understanding; into how we lead lives conditioned by those who would benefit from our having subservient minds. To such depths most of us fear to go, and so we settle for superficial explanations: guns, rock music, violent films, illegal drugs, television, produce the conflict and disorder in our lives! Such thinking presumes that we are little more than mechanisms upon which the inanimate world exercises its free will! The idea that "things" can cause us to act in ways we are unable to resist is a reversion to the kind of childhood thinking that sees power in our toys, blankets, and other material things. But it is precisely to that level of childish thinking to which we must be reduced if we are to remain subject to institutional domination!
Most of us are uncomfortable thinking beyond the infantile mindset that allows us to avoid the responsibility for our own actions. Our parents — or, in the case of political functionaries, our super-parents — will gladly bear this burden for us, in exchange for our obedience to their most arbitrary decisions. The distress that arises from the movement of thought within our minds is too much for most of us to tolerate. In a world of politically-defined "entitlements," we accept the implicit assumption that we deserve an unburdened and comforted mind; that the conflicts, contradictions, and dehumanized consequences of our thinking cannot be traced back to us; and that politicians and media gurus will "weep" for us — or pretend to do so — so that we need not experience the insanity of a roomful of dead five-year old children whose deaths were caused not by some twisted sense of responsibility found in guns, but by patterns of thought we insist on embracing! As is the case for so much of the normal neurosis of our culture, let us seek explanations in places other than the site we wish to avoid.
Most of us live lives that worship and are entertained by the systematic violence and destruction of others. What video games do not condition the minds of young people to rapidly push buttons that kill an endless supply of "enemies?" How many motion pictures embrace peace and love as themes, while the noisiest and bloodiest films abound? How many parents dress their children — as well as themselves — in the popular style of battlefield camouflage? What are children expected to learn from this ubiquitous celebration of the organized killing of those identified, by political authorities, as "the enemy?" What is the lesson to be derived from bumper-stickers that read "support the troops war;" or the mob-like booing — by make-believe Christians — of a Ron Paul who dared to suggest that America pursue a foreign policy based on Jesus' "golden rule?"
The day following this latest atrocity, media babblers began to inquire: "what could have motivated this young man?" While some reports inform us that this man — like so many previous mass-killers — was on prescribed psychotropic drugs that often produce violent and suicidal responses — little attention was focused on this fact. Such drugs are part of the arsenal with which the institutional order seeks to control its herd, and any mention of their adverse effects is thus to be avoided in seeking explanations. Not to upset the passive mindset of their viewers — something media employers insist upon as a condition of employment — the usual causal suspects will be dragged out for blame. But it is not in guns, motion pictures, video-games, or bumper-stickers that explanations are to be found. All of these things — objects lacking in will — are nothing more than expressions of the purposes and values to be found within our own minds. It is our thinking that generates demands for such things, and it is to our thinking that we must repair if we are truly desirous of ending our participation in the madness of our world.
A news report that followed the recent shooting at an Oregon shopping mall informed us that the killer had long desired a career in the Marines. The after-effects of a broken foot, however, disqualified him from the Marine Corps, a situation that made him quite angry. Somewhere in his youth, he apparently envisioned himself a participant in this vicious, life-destroying agency of the state. What learning — and from what sources — helped influence such thinking on his part? Being unable to join would-be comrades in the indiscriminate killing of strangers in the Middle East, did he decide to take out his anger upon other unknown persons at a shopping mall? Is there any intelligent mind that is prepared to argue that guns made him do what he did?
If for no other reason than the safety of their children, I suspect that the atrocities that occurred in Connecticut will lead many parents to take their children out of government schools — which are often the targets of such attacks — and enroll them in private schools or participate in the growing homeschooling movement. Such a move, by itself, will not end our institutionalized violence, but it may provide an environment in which one's child is less likely to become either a victim or a perpetrator of such insane acts as occurred in Connecticut.
The only solution to the collective madness of our world lies in the processes of individuation. Carl Jung made the point as explicitly as can be stated: "if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption." It is neither politicians, media voices with their make-believe expressions of grief, nor self-styled "experts" seeking "consolation" or "closure" that can restore our social sanity, but our individual selves — you and I — walking away from the mindless masses through which the established order pursues its ends while destroying our children.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival, and Boundaries of Order. His latest book is The Wizards of Ozymandias.