Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Being Different

There was a shooting at Red Lake High School, Minnesota yesterday, where a teenager who subscribed to parts of Nazi ideology shot dead a number of people. The shootist admired Hitler and identified with notions of ethnic supremacy. He then went and shot a load of people.

The news media went and spoke to one of the parents of the Columbine shootings.

"When I spoke then, I said that security guards and metal detectors were not the solution. [I stated] that this country has turned its back on God, and we have basically taken out all of our spiritual content and our moral content," he says. "We expose kids to violence through the media and then we ask the question, 'Why does this happen?' The answer is right in front of us if we just dare to look at it."

He is right. Enhancing security is not the solution.

He then repeats a simple-minded motif, the problem is the absence of spiritual content and moral content... and this has been brought about by exposing kids to violence through the media.

I prefer to cut into these two events at another level of similarity, the easy access to firearms and the stifling nature of suburban life, of which the school is a potent symbol.

Violence is not just exploding cars and gangstas having shoot-outs. If we are going to talk about violence in the media, then it would be wise to include people who foster division and intolerance, as finally, it is the inability of people to live alongside one another that is the most corrosive effect an idea can have. Violence as entertainment is one thing, violence masquerading as political debate is another.

I repeat this Jerry Falwell quote because it demonstrates my argument so well,

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

The Red Lake shootist was motivated by ideas that can be traced back at least as far as Nietzsche's Superman, while the Columbine shooters, with their Trenchcoat Mafia, had arrived at similar conclusions through themes in the work of Marilyn Manson. But these conclusions were only reached because they Meshed with the World they found themselves in.

The source of the problem is not to censor Nietzche or Marilyn Manson.

The solution to the problem is not to Try and Make Everyone Think the Same Things or Share the Same Values.

The solution is not attending Church, as the recent catching of the BTK killer attests to,

“The suspect in the BTK serial killings, Dennis Rader, was fired from his job on Wednesday, but got assurances that he will continue to be a member of the church where he is a leader.”


I have sympathy for the ideas of Nietzche. It is transparently obvious, to me at least, that the interesting person, someone who dares to be different, IS most definitely held back by their fellows, particularly in small-town suburbia (let me make it clear, I am not referring to Red Lake as suburbia, it's not), and particularly when growing up. During my formative years, the fact that I was somehow different (and no, I didn't even have to wear eye makeup or have body piercings), turned me into a magnet for the vat-grown knuckleheads who surrounded me, someone to work out Their Own Frustrations with suburban life on. It becomes a War. For Peace to break out, there needs to be two things,

1) More Diversity, Not Less
2) Escape Routes for Interesting People, who are not going to mindlessly conform.

The School is a potent symbol, the place where Success and Failure are decided upon. But how? What does it mean if it is necessary to Conform in order to Succeed? Anyone Different is de facto, a Failure. Is this right? Taking this into account, the school shooting as a way of redressing the Social Order makes a certain kind of sense.

None of what I say Justifies what happens. But anyone interested in recognising Why these events occur must go beyond blaming the media, or declaring people to be insane, and seek to understand the pressures at work in our society.

The Answer is not for everyone to be coerced into the same framework of belief, and equally, people must learn to stop Penalising people who do not share those values, or who arrives at them from a different source.

It would also be great if America put its guns away.


Blogger HF said...

I agree with everything you have written here. I was disgusted to read on the website of "Der Spiegel" a German leftist newsmag that even they didn't consider it too cheap to mention Manson and computergames in the context of the shooter's motifs. That western capitalism promotes "agression" as a prime virtue to survive in an evermore competitive world is not being talked about. What about the people that simply don't want to compete? Where have all the models for alternative ways of living together gone? The guys that are turned into canon fodder in Iraq are just another example for victims of this hipocricy.

5:38 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Why are the shooting games so popular to begin with? They're an outlet for frustration, but where is the frustration coming from? No-one is born frustrated.

The same games that teenagers are buying, Quake and Doom, these games are variations on games used to train soldiers. The US Army actually has a shooting game you can download for free from its site

"The U.S. Army announced Wednesday at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show that it is developing PC games to serve as recruiting tools. Two games will be distributed as a free package, titled "America's Army," starting this August at recruiting events, through game magazines and by request at the game Web site."

There are deep currents flowing through society that cannot be resolved Without Hypocrisy. The problem does Not originate inside the heads of Teenagers, culture is too complex for such simple interpretations to hold sway.

6:11 PM  
Blogger KarbonKountyMoos said...

I posted on my blog a little something by Kent Nerburn, who taught at Red Lake High School.

Here's a link to his blog - he has a much better perspective on this particular incident than anyone I can think of.

Kent Nerburn

7:01 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

The article was really interesting. I agree with his contention that the incident should not be dealt with via a simple sociological analysis - "poor" "Native American" etc. Any problem is a problem for the whole of society.

Calling Oxford a city of "timeless civility" though, that is a bizarrely uninformed statement (speaking as someone who lived in that city), but we all have our blind spots.

7:21 PM  
Blogger L said...

yeah, and it would be great if America wouldn't torment people who are different...

8:19 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Could L clarify what "America" refers to in the last comment, America's govt, people, etc? as it has just caused controversy in our household. Please hurry

12:03 AM  
Blogger KarbonKountyMoos said...

Hey not only that - who are you calling "different", L?!

Different from what, who?!

"timeless civility" - hmmmm...

11:17 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Ha! you're right,K. the imprecision of L's comment led to us having a shouting match. a great argument for more careful phrasing, L!

"timeless civility"! it's still making me laugh, cringe, and shudder (in rotation)

11:28 PM  

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