What a weekend, with news breaking of attacks on elementary school children in both the USA (another mass shooting) and in China (another knife slashing). Emotions run high, political positions that are already entrenched are being dug in even deeper, nerves are raw, no one feels safe.
In the grief and fear, simple answers and simple solutions are sought, as they always have been. Innocent lives lost are mourned, as they rightfully should be. They are not mourned as much as interest groups left and right try to gain political capital from the loss, however; and the obvious and extraordinary loss hides the diffuse and hidden deaths and dangers that we should, perhaps, worry about more – and that would offer insights with which we may be able to get to better.
As Gail Collins points out in the New York Times, “Every country has a sizable contingent of mentally ill citizens. We’re the one that gives them the technological power to play god.”
Unfortunately, we don’t just have mentally ill who are not being given the proper treatment, but who can get their hands on guns. We, not just the USA, but the marketing-driven consumerist world, are increasingly disturbed as a culture.
We are led on to just be ourselves, be concerned about nothing much but our own wants and desires.
We are supposed to be good-enough human beings and citizens when we just find some sort of job, make money and get a credit line, and drown our feelings of fear and inadequacy, which are put front and center by advertising the same as by politics and activism, in shopping or, at best, by giving donations.
More and more politicians and business leaders seem to come to power not to do what is necessary and good for the majority, in the long run, but only what brings more money into the coffers of corporations and themselves, right now.
We widely see sociopathic egotism not just misunderstood as rugged individualism, but even presented as necessary and worthy of admiration for the “success” it brings. Brutality is misunderstood as strength, emotional detachment as coolness, money alone as success, more as better.
So, we buy guns to protect our families because we feel we can’t trust those around us – whom we never take the time to meet, never have a chance get to know and form a community with.
We express care for our friends and families by showering them with gifts we can hardly afford and definitely shouldn’t afford if we counted their ecological footprints or even just the utility they bring over time.
In effect, we live in cultures of violence that give “the gift of death.”
It all looks like nothing but human nature and normal average lifestyles, but all too often, in the collective impact, these cultures exert a power that is as if we played God, shaping this very world’s climate and composition and our interactions with all other(s) in negative ways. Only too often, even while bringing a superficial comfort to many, they – we – destroy lives, livelihoods and livability for others – if not ultimately for all.
Of course, it’s much easier, perhaps much more natural, to notice only the extraordinary and of immediate effect, as well as the things which are seemingly closer to being in our power.
Find the crazies and lock them away. Get everyone armed. Tighten gun control. …
Repay the time you can’t spend with your partner, children, family because it’s essential for making a living with quick comfort food and lots of gifts.
Buy what you must, because everyone has it. Spend your time with jobs that drain you and TV series that won’t fill you with anything but vapid dreams, because everyone does it, meaning it must be good.
Develop greater awareness of problems, if you can, go out to protest for ‘green’ production and buy a hybrid.
What we seem to overlook is that we all participate in the constant creation of a culture.
You get afraid and go out to buy a gun, trusting in that symbol of violent strength, you give the power you yourself should develop away to that symbol. Learn self-defense instead and as part of that, you’ll learn not only how to put small metal pieces into bodies by use of an engineered tool, you’ll learn how difficult it would be to react properly when suddenly facing danger – but also, you’d learn to protect yourself if you don’t have that tool with you, including by simply not being in certain places or situations.
Invest in your own skills and communities instead, and you’ll always be armed: with a community that looks out for each other and with awareness and skills that see and act more positively, notice when others are going through a hard time and help them, understand that strength lies in accepting the vulnerability we always have and using it as source of the strengths we develop.
Whether to get away from the culture of fear and violence and to a culture of progress and civilization (remember those ideas?), whether to live better, happier lives than now, or whether to finally understand and do something against the destruction wrought by our average, normal, lifestyles and get to an ecologically-constructive, co-creative better, we will need to arm ourselves not so much with guns, but with an understanding of ourselves and the world, and fortify ourselves with the will to act on that understanding – most importantly, in developing the strength that is necessary to accept our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities and use them as motivation to get better.