13 thoughts on “Murder, Suicide, and Society”

  1. When people ruefully tweet things about AR-15s or tactical clothing or “this is America”, they unwittingly write drafts of a script that gives low-threshold murderers something to be part of, all the way down to costume details. So it’s not just that this meme is contagious. It’s that we have to make it less of a thing. And the hard part is doing that while still finding ways to talk about it.

    Yes, this is what I’ve been talking about. Give the next lunatic out there a really effective and low cost mental model with a public execution of today’s lunatic surrounded by victims’ families. Bulldoze his house afterwards for good measure. Blow up the computer that his used to research their crime. Salt the earth.

    [Name of a thwarted school shooter] is not a psychopath. He’s a nerd. And 40 years ago he’d be playing with his chemistry set in the basement and dreaming of being an astronaut. Because that was the available cultural narrative of that moment…. Now he’s dreaming of blowing up schools. He did not come up with that himself. He got it from the society of which he’s a part, and we’re responsible for that.

    Ok I almost spit out my coffee reading this part. No, the shooter is indeed a psychopath, and if in another time and place he would’ve been dreaming about being an astronaut, the dream would’ve probably included violently obliterating the mining colony with a death ray. Some people are just bad. We do what we can to convince the ones we can reach and robustly protect ourselves against the ones we can’t.

  2. Read the whole thing. The friend who sent me this essay notes that its author walks right up to the point of saying that religious conversion is the only thing that could save these lost young men, but flinches. It’s true.

    I was also thinking this as I was reading it. Dreyer’s style comes across as little too cutesy/quirky for my tastes sometimes, but he still has a lot of good ideas. This from the Quillette link made me cringe a little bit:

    Faith in god, country and manhood might be seen as regressive by modern lights. But insofar as they were holding back male anomie, we perhaps neglected to consider what damage would be done if we discredited those ideas before finding replacements.

    That should be God with a capital “G”. For the love of… if you are going to instrumentalize our sacred beliefs at least have the courtesy to use the proper syntax. At least pretend like you care about the specimen.

    The problem with the Quillettes and the Jordan Petersons is they recognize the mechanism, but they choose to ignore the ghost in the machine. The civic virtue and cultural cohesion that they apparently want to restore has to rest on some moral foundation. It has to. People don’t come together for no good reason, but they also don’t come together for reasons that were distilled in some sociology lab. How depressing that would be.

    This is an old problem actually. There’s an old Catholic saying regarding this, probably lost to the ages. I think the Anglicans used to talk about it too, but I’m sure they’re even more far gone.
    Lex orandi, lex credendi as one prays so does one believe. The philosophical questions about ontology, theology, orthodoxy, reformed belief – let the egg heads in the ivory towers figure that out. The mind is subservient to the heart, and as Pascal said, ‘the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know’.

  3. Columbine + the internet + social breakdown leads to mass shootings, which along with the fear and isolation related to that social breakdown, leads to overreaction, and it all feeds back on itself.

    A generation ago these kids would have walked into a factory with their fathers and would have a real-world social life that would have steered them into a functioning role in society. Now they have no male family role models, and associate with no one except other young atomized males, either in person or online.

    Of course, these events are insanely rare, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Inner city gang violence is what should be targeted if we are actually intending to attack gun violence. But we’re not a serious people.

  4. “A generation ago these kids would have walked into a factory with their fathers and would have a real-world social life that would have steered them into a functioning role in society. ”

    Few people grasped the interrelationships among China policy, the decline of manufacturing jobs, and the rise of anomie and addiction. Trump was one of the few: although he has been accused of lacking systematic/sequential thinking ability, he does have an intuitive ability to grasp connections.

  5. I find the term ‘gun violence’ repeated obsessively by the media, to be problematic. The problem is MURDER, and specifically mass murder, and it is unhelpful to pretend that it is entirely caused by the availability of one particular type of weapon.

    Good post by Richard Fernandez, who adopts the term ‘rampage killing, in which he says:

    “It is sometimes argued that gun control can force rampage killers downward to knives, but there is nothing to prevent them from trading up to a deadly plan and a box of matches.” He cites a number of rampage killing examples which used methods other than firearms.


  6. “A generation ago these kids would have walked into a factory with their fathers and would have a real-world social life that would have steered them into a functioning role in society.”

    Before that, kids would be working alongside their parents and siblings on the farm or in the shops — or even apprenticed as pages and squired to knights and barons …

    How much of our problem goes back to segregation, by age, of children? We put together masses of children to socialize each other. We decry peer pressure then create institutions to promote it. We “Grade” children, as if sorting out the quality of baled cotton or metal content of mined ore.

    How do we get to a place where two or three kids at a time are socialized, taught, brought up, by adults — and where older kids are given limited adult authority to socialize, not peers, but slightly younger kids?

  7. “How much of our problem goes back to segregation, by age, of children? ”
    Yes, yes, yes, 1000x yes. It is nuts what we have done to kids in the last few generations. How bizarre to think that putting teenagers in warehouses with only each other and a few wardens will produce functioning adults socialized into society’s rules and practices.

  8. re the “kids walking into the factory with their fathers”…many commentators have blamed alienation/anomie largely ON industrialization…Durkheim himself identified industrialization as one of the causative factors, though by no means the only one. And there are many reports dating from the 1960s of demoralization and alienation of US factory workers, especially in Detroit, reaching the level of actual sabotage of work.

    Although I wonder how much of this was due to a perceived status reduction of blue-collar work…as compared to college-graduate work and hippie laid-backness…rather than to the nature of the work itself.

  9. Well, no matter how bad a factory job is, it’s better than no job at all. And I’m no big union booster but at least you’re in a community of humans.

  10. I have promised myself that I would never commit suicide because I was feeling depressed. Moods change. But I would commit suicide if I faced homelessness. I have been borderline homeless for several years, and it looks like the skyrocketing housing costs in this city may leave me no choice but to move into a housing project (where, because of my fair skin color, my life would probably soon be over anyway) or live under a bridge or something. I will not give this city that satisfaction.

  11. What Brian said – it wasn’t all that awful when I was a teen, but it must be horrendous for a sensitive, an “odd” or a very bright kid now; basically stuck away in a penal colony with your peers for most of the day. Most of the week. Most of the year. For years.
    Of the two most liberating experiences that my daughter had when she was that age, the first was us getting involved in a couple of science fiction fan communities when she was an early teen. The other fans were all ages, from her age (12-13 then) – but they were all alike in fandom, knowledge of the object of their fandom, and respectful of each other. I thought at the time that it had to be absolutely fantastic for the younger fans to have the easy relations with older people in that venue.
    The second was when she worked several months at a high-end department store for about two months when she was 16, but looked older. She did the work, worked with customers, had the teamwork with older sales reps, and earned a decent paycheck on top of that.
    Teens need to be broken out of the peer ghetto – their adult lives depend on it.

  12. Bilwick…I’m sure you’ve considered moving to a different city, but maybe worth looking at the options again?..A lot of attractive places with low cost of livings.

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