Let’s Play the “Root Causes” Game

A young Australian man has shot dozens of people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing most of them. The U.S. media, as is their wont, is keen to blame this on Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, of course. And that is what the young killer wanted them to do, as he explicitly states in his written explanation of the “massacre.” One of his goals, insofar as these can be discerned, was to foment violence by pushing America to the breaking point over the issue of gun rights. Why America? Because America is big and important, which this young man manifestly feels he is not. He was seeking vicarious significance.

Trump is no more to blame for this idiot’s violent outburst than the man in the moon. The killer himself is ultimately to blame — although there are other factors, all of them calamities of the modern progressive era, that helped to push him in this particularly terrible direction.

He was twenty-eight years old. He made bad, weak choices in his life, aligning himself with causes and attitudes that were hateful and violent in nature. But more importantly, he had (by his own account) been a lazy and unsuccessful student, and didn’t have the gumption to go to work consistently and earn a living. He thus put himself in a certain position, by age twenty-eight, due to his own lack of character and poor decisions over many years; namely, a position of hopelessness. There is no clear future for such a person, having deliberately, willfully, emptied his life of options and closed all open doors through sheer lassitude, lethargy, and ignorance. 

Like many people who render their lives aimless and hopeless through poor choices and habitual listlessness, this hopeless loser’s will to self-preservation fought back in distorted ways, such as by getting him caught up in the dark fantasy world of quasi-political excuses for personal aimlessness. Having fostered such poor character through years of choosing “the easy way” (i.e., non-effort, irresponsibility, lack of mental exertion), he instinctively tried to salvage what was left of his pride in a way those without character and purpose often do, namely by immersing himself in the acid bath of collective identity, in this case apparently white supremacy, by means of the magic virtual reality of anonymous online vitriol.

As I have explained elsewhere, online anonymity gives the lost and self-loathing the mental freedom to do what they would never have had the courage to do in pre-internet days: publicly express views that normal society would shun, and which would therefore isolate you from your community. Online, you can say these things, with utmost vehemence but without personal repercussions, and even get “likes” for saying them, from other self-loathing wastes of space like yourself — but since everyone is anonymous, you can pretend that your online friends are impressive, smart, “the only ones who really understand what’s going on.” That is all part of the self-preservational fantasy.

Suddenly, rather than being the confused layabout on the corner stool whom no one listens to or cares about — let alone hires for a job or allows to date his daughter — the insignificant self-loathing loafer becomes a presence, has an avatar, finds online allies, wins kudos for his nonsensical rants.

Apart from the ideologically-driven American media, for which this story is all about Trump somehow, more reasonable people are already beginning to dig through this idiot’s social media posts, and his long “manifesto,” and telling us they find it difficult to pin down his actual motives and “point of view.” The reason for this is obvious: He is not motivated by any real point of view. He is motivated by the disappearing nobody’s last helpless grasp after “meaning.” He might be an anti-immigrant white supremacist. He might just as easily have been a communist, or even, for that matter, an Islamist.

He is a nothing looking for an identity, and finding it where the morally lost and psychologically infantile always find their identity, namely in a collective.

Any collective — any that will have him, that is.

And then, having dissolved his soul into the consoling nothingness of collective identity — the mass movement or “cause” — and thus feeling the false strength and pseudo-pride of the non-person immersed in a tribe, he looks for a means of self-assertion, to prove he is still alive, i.e., that he has not disappeared from the Earth (which deep down he knows he has). But with no real skills, thoughts, or ambitions to impress anyone; devoid of any character traits that might allow for positive change or personal growth (courage, diligence, willpower); and having long-since fostered the bleakest possible picture of his own future through his laziness and cowardice, the non-person, the shadow wearing a mask of collective identity, the tribal nothing, sees glorious self-annihilation as his only means of escape from personal irrelevance.

No, that is not quite right. What ultimately motivates such an empty shell — an avatar without a real person behind it — is not any desire for glorious self-assertion, but rather fear. He fears the future, which he can perceive promises nothing but pain, withering, and ever-increasing failure, due to his lack of willpower and purpose. That is to say, lacking the character to pull himself up, he sees down as his only available direction; and down means hunger, loneliness, poverty, and finally a slow, meaningless death. Better to explode spectacularly than to face the frightening inevitability of the unnoticed fade into oblivion.

But why this particular form of explosion, the mass shooting, and the targeting of a “hated” identity group? 

Ah, here at last we get to that discussion that most pleases the modern mass media and its politicized progressive populace — the “root causes” talk. Well, “When in Rome,” as they say. Let’s have a little of that root causes talk, shall we? But I must warn the sensitive, the progressive, and the news-hungry, that the roots I dig up may not always be the socially-approved ones. For I am not looking for convenient tribal talking points, but rather genuine civilizational problems that might condition a lost soul searching for an escape route from life with which to mask his cowardice and aimlessness, to choose this particular mask.

Root Cause 1: The mass media’s obsession with mass shootings. 

Mass shootings make good television, as well as serving the leftist gun control agenda as effective propaganda posters and emotional arguments. Hence, every shooting in America is reported with glee, with salacious enthusiasm, with endless emphasis on the emotionality of personal loss and suffering, far beyond the legitimate newsworthiness of most such events. For the most part, a shooting is a local news story, an ugly moment of social disturbance, but has no implications of national or international relevance; and yet each such shooting is reported and dissected ad nauseam by the American media, and then picked up by parasitical news agencies around the world, because the global entertainment audience (newscasts are first and foremost entertainment programming) can’t get enough of the “America in ruins” narrative, not to mention the “stupid Americans clinging to their Bibles and their guns” narrative. This obsessive, cloying, tear-jerking reporting of every gun crime, not to mention the overt political rhetoric associated with this obsessive reporting, both desensitizes people to mass violence and aggrandizes the killers as “important characters.” The potential effect of such psychological mechanisms on the hopeless shadow in search of significance or meaning is too obvious to have to explain — although no doubt there are whole social science journals devoted to proving that no such influence occurs.

Root Cause 2: Dehumanization through popular entertainment

This one is so obvious that the social scientists have to work double-overtime — which they do — creating studies and statistics to deny it. The reason we find gruesome mass murder so interesting and desirable — if we didn’t desire it, we wouldn’t watch it or read about its details so eagerly, and therefore the media wouldn’t offer it up so plentifully — is largely because we are all inundated, almost from birth, with the sense-deadening cacophony of flashing, rapidly changing images depicting every kind of extreme situation, as realistically as possible. More importantly, most of this realistic violence and death is depicted without any moral or intellectual context to create empathy, mixed feelings, or a sense of the ugliness of pain. (This is always true in video games, of course, but it is increasingly true of movie violence as well, as film falls away from story-telling and increasingly lands in pure postmodern incoherence, as in today’s endless string of Marvel Comics “blockbusters,” in which the thrill of meaningless computer-generated “action” is the genre’s raison d’être.

Wanton, careless brutality is depicted with a loving hand, with as much attention devoted to the details of a strangulation as ought to have been devoted to showing us who is strangling whom, and why; all this hard work explicitly aimed at making blood exciting, and death satisfying. In other words, with rare exceptions — rarer all the time — the violence of today’s popular entertainment is designed to create sympathy only with violence itself, the cathartic release of vicariously pounding someone, slicing his head off, blowing him to smithereens. The typical anonymity or comic-book “evil” of the victims makes the viewer’s experience easy, fun, and morally uncomplicated — good for enjoying with popcorn and Coke, or to kill time on a date between dinner and sex — rather than disturbing, repulsive, or thought-provoking. In other words, extreme violence and random killing have become light entertainment.

Of course, many social scientists insist none of this dehumanizes people and desensitizes them to the suffering of others, because social scientists are progressives, and progressives live in an alternative universe even further removed from human nature than the realm of Marvel movie superheroes. 

Root Cause 3: Online anonymity

As noted above, the world of online commenting, where one can feel as safe as an unfulfilled nihilist needs to feel in order to “express himself,” is the perfect incubator for developing aimless hatred (which is really self-hatred) into a twisted sense of power and personal importance. It makes no difference that such anonymous expression typically entails trying to outdo one’s collective fellow primates in shouting the mantra of “the party,” “the cause,” the race, the tribe — that is, whatever mindless mass one is clinging to in one’s search for an identity. To one who hopes he will find himself by dissolving himself into a movement, the voice of the movement is, after all, his voice.

Put a group of such soulless followers together in a room, each desperately seeking to convince himself that he exists, and they will mimic one another’s posturing right up to a feverish anger. Put all those sheep behind masks, secure in feeling free from any personal responsibility for what they say, and there is no limit to what they will say to outdo their faceless companions in proving their allegiance to the collective. Put this feverish melding of one’s life into an angry cause into the head of a young man full of suicidal dread of a future filled with rejection and failure — the nihil — and you have a highly combustible shadow; a half-living, barely-breathing “improvised explosive device,” if you will.

Root Cause 4: Modern schooling

We systematically raise children today with no character, no purpose, no interests, no deep affection for other humans, no real family connection, no privacy, no skills, no inner resources for resisting infantile urges, and no external guidance for channeling youthful desires into fruitful pursuits. In most cases, of course, this schooling results in what is intended: immature, dependent people just motivated enough by fear and pleasure to fill their assigned roles within the pre-established societal machine without causing a fuss, but lacking the independent spirit to do or say anything that might upset the progressive applecart. But for the outliers, the young people who for whatever reason slip through the cracks of social acceptance and “belonging,” this education to bland mediocrity and mindless gratification can produce time bombs and monsters of the sort we saw in New Zealand yesterday. Feeling all their lives that there is no place for them in “the system,” but having learned from their education, their government, and their mass entertainment, that “the system” is all there is — no higher purpose, no truth to seek — they finally face the prospect of a future with no meaning, and convulsively latch onto something, however crazed, that might fill the void.

This, after all, is why Marxism, fascism, and all such political mass movements tend to find their most ardent adherents among the young — and why, by the way, such totalitarians are the most vehement exponents of government schooling, and the most vehement opponents of private education. But Marxism and fascism are just death lust by other means. Death lust itself is the original, definitive mass movement, the one you find when you strip away all the superficial “ideologies” that the adherents are chanting. Mass hatred, mass oppression, and mass killing are merely a projected form of suicide — suicide reconceived by a collective of cowards: What else were Maoism, Stalinism, Nazism, and the rest of our modern totalitarian isms? Sometimes, an adherent to this cult of death lust, seeking his identity, will, in a moment of fear-fueled zeal, take the movement into his own hands, as it were.

Root Cause 5: Broken families

We already know this killer’s parents divorced when he was a boy. The widespread civilizational effects of late modernity’s outrageous divorce rates, and the general lack of adult responsibility and emotional maturity that rampant divorce indicates, are a social cataclysm the meaning of which may not be fully understood for a century. Young people growing up rootless is a root cause of untold proportions. The emotional abyss and distrust of life that is bred in the soul of a child whose first image of a stable reality, a dependent soul whose only safe world, is yanked away from him by parents who “couldn’t make it work” — i.e., who didn’t care enough about their children’s spiritual well-being to make it work — is the elephant in the room of today’s moral breakdown, our precipitous descent into mindless nihilism and superficial pleasure-seeking.

We could go on a while longer with this list of “root causes” if we wished. But one thing is certain: No matter how long we continued to expand this list, one item that would never make the list — one element of this ugly scenario that can in no reasonable way be cited as a root cause of this or any other mass shooting — is the one item that will be cited by the progressives as the ultimate root cause and chief culprit. Guns. 

Already, I see this headline: “New Zealand prime minister says, ‘Our gun laws will change.'” In other words, New Zealand will follow the path of Australia, and the path continuously urged by American progressives: exploit an over-publicized mass crime as an opportunity to limit everyone’s freedom.

Not “Our education system will change.” Not “Our way of raising our children will change.” Not “Our way of using the internet will change.” Not “Our glamorization of, and desensitizing obsession with, mass killings will change.”

No, of course not. Instead, guns will be confiscated from innocent owners. Laws will restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect their homes and defend their lives. New Zealanders will gradually be reduced to helpless dependents by their government.

Why? Because someone became unhinged, in a manner that is increasingly common in our nihilistic, government-educated, mass-entertained age, and happened to choose firearms as his means of lashing out.

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