Posted by Dave Hasney
The latest American school shooting in Florida (see here), along with the expected post incident emotive debate, naturally associated with such a catastrophic event, got me to thinking again… Why, FFS Why?
The shooting was also a timely reminder for some other thoughts that I’d been preparing to blog about a few days prior to the incident. In my opinion, there is a clear correlation between the two, I’ll try to combine my thoughts in one post covering both subjects.
The shooting incident, one of sadly way too many, is the most recent in a long line of school shootings in America but worse, despite America being at the forefront of this disturbing issue, the USA doesn’t actually hold a monopoly on these traumatic incidents (see here). In my opinion, the shooting was simply more sad evidence of a worrying societal trend.
“I hate my life,” the children heard him scream in the same moment he added Townville Elementary to the long list of American schools redefined by a shooting. (Washington Post)
The key words in the above report, along with the post incident reporting of so many other similar events in the past, shows a disturbing but underlying trend, that simple but common phrase – “I hate my life” – a personal but important feeling or emotion. One that has a bearing here and with many other aspects of life. But, why do so many of young (and not so young) people in our societies actually hold the belief that their life is so bad? And, is it really as bad as they think it is? Is there not nearly always someone somewhere who has been dealt a hand even worse than the one your gripping tight hold on?
It’s no longer acceptable to simply restart the mostly pointless arguments around the rights or wrongs of the American 2nd Amendment debate. After decades of post incident debate, each time there is no progress. Although passionately espoused (mostly) from a civic rights or political stance, this discussion and the accompanying vitriol it usually contains is in the main, both puerile and no longer relevant. Until Americans can find it in themselves to love people, more than they love their guns, we might all just as well piss in the wind.
There are some countries outside of the USA who hold similar inherent cultural beliefs around gun ownership, Switzerland is a case in point (see here). Despite their country’s growth in young people having access to guns, along with their fairly liberal views about the ‘right to bear arms’ for citizens, it would appear the Swiss nation functions without these copycat mass killing events. Go figure!
The important but ugly question sadly rears reptilian head again; how many more children are the American population prepared to loose, whilst they work out how to remove their heads from their backsides and actually do something? You can’t fix an old problem by continually using the same old methods that have failed so many times before, and with such ongoing tragic outcomes!
One thing that no right minded person can logically argue against is; there is a distinct correlation between these incidents and the grotesque availability of firearms in the USA.
Mass shootings in the US: there have been 1,624 in 1,870 days – No other developed nation comes close to the rate of US gun violence. Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every adult. (The Guardian)
Yes, ‘bad people are prepared to do bad things’ but realistically, what does the predominant American evangelical ‘eye for an eye’ mantra or indeed, further proliferation of giving more guns to ‘good guys’ actually achieve? More death, I’d suggest.
Having come from a firearms ownership background myself (in the past), I have no personal issues with legal ownership of guns, if you have a reason to own them. What I fail to understand is the mostly lax conditions associated with that ‘legal’ ownership in the USA. How can a supposedly educated society prevent a young person from buying a beer due to age, irrespective of what some might call puritanical alcohol laws, yet allow that same person to purchase a Glock semi-automatic pistol or worse, a military assault rifle?
These poor controls around ensuring guns don’t get into the hands of (‘bad’ or ‘sick’) people, the ones who could use them incorrectly, are totally ludicrous. What is logically wrong with applying suitable and sensible conditions that, as far as is reasonably appropriate and practicable, try to ensure firearms are owned for a specific purpose (hunting/sport/protection) and are stored securely with controlled access, by authorised individuals? In any community, are the rights of the individual ever more important than the safety of your wider society?
Yes, you may never totally prevent guns being used by the perpetrators of Serious Acquisitive Crime, or stop a person with mental-health issues going on a killing rampage but, to do nothing is no longer acceptable… even for gun loving Americans. As more parents visit the lifeless bodies of their children at the local county morgue, you can almost predict the outpourings of mostly self-interested political rhetoric, be it laced in any genuine or contrived emotion.
Thankfully and not before time, opinion polls in America would appear to suggest there is finally growing support for tighter gun control. Many will find the increasing groundswell of feeling heart-warming but, will opinion finally driving action? As ever, that remains to be seen and unfortunately, mostly in the hands of the self-interested political class.
Judging by the (mostly expected) response to this latest incident from President Donald Trump, irrespective of all the personal and community grief, these latest calls for action will likely fall upon deaf ears. Perhaps not initially, as the platitudes and prayers are offered in public forum but eventually with the passage of time and hopefully, without too much real impact upon populist political aspirations.
In the developed world, statistics about mass shootings are constantly argued about but particularly in America (see here). Dependant upon personal 2nd Amendment stance, and how much political funding you can ‘earn’ from the gun lobby, depends where you sit politically. But, the levels of gun violence in the USA are also a uniquely an American problem, one that is totally incomparable with any other nation in the free world. This can be seen and explained in – America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts.
One thing that in my opinion, is mostly irrefutable is the fact; the answer to the American guns problem simply isn’t more guns!
This latest shooting has served to highlight an issue that many of us often struggle with – why do people behave in a particular manner, especially when their traits are different to our own behaviours?
The difficulty around realising any in-depth comprehension is compounded when the behaviours we witness don’t fit within our personal boundaries of acceptability, or contravene our moral compass. If you happen to be one of those increasingly rare humans who consider community as opposed to self, the morals and boundaries of your society also come into play. A consequence of this morality and boundary confusion means; most of our rational thought processes get tainted or distorted by emotions. We get uncomfortable, perhaps despondent and even angry but, anger is usually a counterproductive emotion, one that does the individual more harm than good and rarely solves any problems.
And so we arrive back at the “I hate my life” phrase – an increasingly common feeling for many.
These thoughts are often formulated by the emotions we develop which are born from the confusion. These particular types of feelings are prevalent in so many people who believe they have absolutely no control over their life and what they aspire to. These are feelings developed over a period of time (months/years/decades) and often, they’re compounded by the fact; so many of us, in so many ways, have been historically ‘sold’ unrealistic expectations for our life. We have been lied to and, when we can’t get the things we have been told we can have, we get angry. We throw blame at those who lied to us, those people we should have been able to trust; our parents, our friends, our teachers, our employers and our politicians.
These thoughts, feelings and emotions based in frustration get channelled into anger, they come form fear; the fear that we (or our peer group or community) are being threatened in some way. The things we value are under attack or being stolen from us. In reality for many, often that is or has been the case, the opportunities they were told exist actually don’t or, that which they have worked for isn’t as valuable as they were led to believe. This is why we automatically go to our inherent fight or flight automaton response to the situation and there will always be those who chose to attack the situation… all guns blazing!
But, how often do we have true cognisance of the reasoning behind our thoughts (right or wrong) and even more importantly, when if ever do we truly consider the consequences of our response or actions to those thoughts and emotions?
In today’s society, now mostly grounded in the needs, desires and aspirations of the individual, as opposed to the common-good, these issues are increasingly prevalent and dare I say it, probably destined to increase!
Many of the relevant issues raised in this latest shooting, like so many of them before, have also been examined previously. Psychologists can provide guidance about where to find (some) answers but unfortunately, there is no quick fix for unravelling decades of generational social damage. Even if politicians were to (unexpectedly) throw knee-jerk legislation at the problem, it would still only be a sticking plaster of appeasement covering a gaping wound in society.
In addition to the social ‘science’ and post event psychology, many of the causation factors and lack of political action stem from a monetary perspective. Perhaps it’s also a good idea to examine some of the commercial factors impacting upon the individual.
In 2016 Simon Sinek, a British-American author and motivational speaker, offered his opinions on why the so-called ‘millennial‘ generation (aka Generation ‘Y’), behave as they do. At the time, the media suggested his answer ‘broke the internet’ and I believe that’s a good thing… I’m lead to believe the as it ‘went viral’ that should be evidence enough to prove popularity of Sinek’s opinion.
Recently Sinek’s observations resurfaced on social-media platforms and started to do the rounds again. Shock horror, could it be that people are still desperate to understand why our kids do what they do?
But the whole ‘Generation Y’ debate at that time was, like the gun debate is again now, subject to contrary opinion.
There was some concern, prior to Sinek’s views, about “The silly culture war on Gen Y” and how “the ‘entitlement generation’ is being blamed for the sins of society…
A scan of recent news would lead one to think that Generation Y invented the closed fist. Add to that bullying, narcissism, solipsism and drunkenness and you’ve completed the bingo card. The hysteria of the Boomer gerontocracy has reached the point where they have, quite literally, spiked the coward punch. And it appears the generations either side, the Silents and the Xers, are drinking from the same cup. (The Spectator)
The above was actually penned from an Australian perspective however, that fact alone highlights that these behaviours and attitudes are something we still struggle to understand on a worldwide stage. Could it also be evidence to suggest that the issue being examined, like the American gun problem, is unlikely to go away? I would suggest that to be unlikely. We can all hope that the issues float off into oblivion, but that won’t happen any time soon. You see there is no quick fix for cross generational issues, the ones that our society’s have been creating and developing for decades.
About a year after Sinek originally presented his opinion, his ‘Millennial’ observations were turned into one of those now popular whiteboard graphical animations by The Kram Gallery (see below) on the After Skool YouTube channel.
Mark Wooding, a native of San Francisco and producer of the above clip, agreed with Sinek, despite being a ‘Millennial’ himself. He was subsequently castigated for his production. Wooding highlighted the fact, “from the thousands of comments” he received it was abundantly clear… “there is a lot of frustration out there.”
Simon Sinek is not a millennial, but I am, and his words really struck a chord with me. I am surrounded by people my age who are unhappy, who feel a lack of purpose, who feel entitled, who are depressed and I have even lost friends to suicide. Growing up I was told I could do anything I wanted. I was told I was special. However, I learned early that you don’t get everything handed to you. (Mark Wooding)
The one thing I’ve found to be abundantly clear over the years has been; trying to address social problems by placing labels on people and looking at their issues (or those of their demographic group), from a position of stereotypical opinion doesn’t actually ‘fix’ anything and never will.
Many of those responsible for managing and leading our countries are (intentionally) too distant and far removed from any social realities. Their action and increasingly inaction, are often based solely upon statistical information alone. Data sources that are manipulated by civil servants and bureaucrats or worse, spun and spoonfed by a mischievous media machine. Despite the fact it’s all inherently wrong, the individualism and populist nature of today’s society will always deliver knee-jerk reaction to problems. In reality, there is little opportunity for arriving at useful and/or effective answers to ‘fix’ social problems, at least in the short-term.
We have to be prepared for a generational shift over a passage of time. How long a period we have to wait will be dependent upon how well we can develop some genuine interest in our fellow human beings. We need to start looking on each other as individuals who are constituent parts of our diverse but cohesive and caring community.
Until then, I can’t help but believe we’re destined to wallow in this quagmire of broken society!