Wednesday, April 18, 2007

 

Jury still out on whether American Society 'Sick', but it certainly 'Ain't Healthy

After writing about unruly young Brits for two days, I'm faced with the inexplicable and horrendous 'Virginia Tech' tragedy; the picture shows its perpetrator, Cho Seung-Hui. Simon Jenkins suggests in his article today that this was not the 'sign of a sick society' but merely of an 'incurable evil'. I'm not so sure the event has such a miminal connection with US society.

Firstly, this is the 19th and, at 32 fatalities, most serious campus killing spree since the early nineties. If these are indeed 'copycat crimes' as novelist Lionel Shriver suggests, there must be some weird pathology in US society nourishing such a deadly imitativeness. We have occasional similar atrocities in Europe and elsewhere but this pattern of peacetime mass slaughter, is now seen as quintessentially American.

Secondly, and quite obviously, the easy availability of firearms to people with such hair-trigger control over their sociopathic anger, must explain much. Maybe, as Jenkins asserts, this 'remains America's choice and America's business', but with 3000 children killed by guns every year and thousands more adults, this seems a complacent point of view; should we then, avoid criticising their crazy gun legislation? What is so deeply worrying about this question however, is that with 200 million firearms owned by Americans, the genie probably cannot be put back in the bottle. If guns were banned now the American Rifle Association's warning that this would only help the criminals, is likely to be correct. To exorcize the US love affair with guns is clearly a work of several generations.

Thirdly, as Michael Moore pointed out, in Bowling for Columbine, Canada has relaxed gun laws and a tradition of hunting, but has no similar horrific record of homicides. One can only conclude that there must be something in US society which fuels these frequent eruptions of mindless slaying.

Comments:
My understanding of Jenkins point is that there's a danger the 'sick society' line of thinking ends up absolving the gun lobby of any blame.

Tethering ourselves to vague, left-leaning platitudes about capitalist excess, inequality etc. migh make for interesting discussion but it rarely if ever leads to concrete measures that would minimise the chance of more such tradgedies.

The dysfunctional pathologies that tend to afflict young males in most societies are simply rendered more deadly by the availability of fire arms and the celebrity culture Shriver refers to.
 
No, I agree with this blogger. America is also home to quite a few serial murderers, in addition to the spree-killers we are now witnessing. These sexual serial muderers rarely use guns (not to argue against gun control). And at this point in history, the rape and strangulation of a series of prostitutes is hardly even news any more. To my knowledge, there have been a few sensational killers in England and Germany, one just recently in Canada, but this is also a largely American phenomenon. How to explain that, I don't know. But I think it has a crescendo effect, which is a terrifying idea.
 
I don't want to get into a massive debate on guns but...

You have to understand that the American political culture is very different to ours. The right to possess a gun is bound up with their sense of freedom. The chances of being killed by a firearm are relatively speaking extremely small. The American people have clearly reached the conclusion that this fundamental constitution right is worth these occasional tragedies. I agree. They are right to resist tyranny, and those within their state machine who would enslave them.

As for Moore. He is a liar, who profits vastly by misleading people. He is a hypocrite of the highest order. I wish the man a nasty accident.
 
The 3000 kids are mostly killed in household accidents and play fights. Plus 8000 adults. There are similar numbers of guns per head in Canada and Switzerland and elsewhere but neglible gun deaths. It is American Society. It is the Might Makes Right Meme. It is the hopelessness of those who feel outsiders. US Society is Rank. US World View is Rank. US Imperialism is Rank.

All boils down to Might Makes Right. It's not true. Obviously. America needs to grow up and calm down and quickly.
 
PS

I don't care what the ARA or NRA say. Let criminals get a temporary boost. But it will be temporary because as 199M of the weapons come in under amnesty or get properly licenced the other million - one for every 300th person instead of two between three - will be subject of more scrutiny, control and punishment.
 
And I'm sure the NRA or ARA don't care what you say. The only factor of note in this debate is that the US Government agrees with the rights of gunowners. So your pontificating is in vain.
 
Michael
Not sure the casualty rate from gun crime in US is not a cause for concern. The Economist this week states, for example that:

' since the killing of John Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the twentieth century.'
 
I think there is a difference between it being high and it being a cause for concern.

People have to die some way. To adapt the Mussolini quote slightly, I would rather live as a free man for a day, that as a slave for 1000 years.
 
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