Suffer the Children Once More

I had intended to post something this evening about “ironic reversal”, delving more into this strange trend of our times. But the day’s tragic events as reported from Newtown Connecticut — a kind of déjà vu all over again — have cast my intentions by the wayside.

Years ago, in the former Dark Age Blog, I posted a piece entitled “Suffer the Children.” It was a reflection on the massacre of Amish school children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006 carried out by a very disturbed man named Charles Carl Roberts IV. It was very brutal. Perhaps some longtime readers of TDAB and The Chrysalis might even recall that post.

My unhappy conclusion was that Roberts’ slaughter of the innocents set a new precedent and a lower threshold for social displays of violence which was fated to recur again and again, as it has done between then and today. Any limiting conditions on public displays of violence are, as of today, gone. When children of kindergarten age can be slaughtered as they were today in Newtown, it is beside the point to say that the perpetrator, in this case Adam Lanza, was “developmentally impaired” or developmentally inhibited. For that is true of all mass murderers.

Our societies are now “developmentally impaired” in much the same way. I wince when I read or hear terms like “developed” and “undeveloped” nations, for in many ways they have become indistinguishable at “the end of history”. The demonic and debased rhetoric of “body counts” as a policy measure of “winning” a war is only invertedly mirrored in the mass murderer who attempts to achieve a higher score than his competitors, and a bigger return on his investment in the means and acts of violence. It is part and parcel of the general quantification of values and the confusion of wholes with totals and sums.

“As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel, 18:7).

Hallelujah! An “Army of One” and “Every Man a King” have been effectively synthesised into the form of the mass murderer on the one hand and the state or stateless warlord on the other. For the imagination of their hearts was violence continuously.

Those who live by the sword shall also perish by it. Those who glorify in violence, and find glory in violent or murderous acts, eventually succumb themselves to their own violent natures and imaginations. The proof is, that virtually all mass murderers also self-annihilate.

I read this passage today in a commentary on the day’s events in The Christian Science Monitor, “Newtown shootings: What to say to ourselves It’s a very good commentary,

But beyond taking public action, the ultimate solution lies in each individual understanding that these shooters act out of the same anger, fear, and hopelessness that their violence evokes in us.

We cannot afford – as individuals or as a society – to keep mirroring their motivating angst.

The best antidote is to embrace the opposite of those thoughts and feelings. These include empathy, calmness, mercy, hope, and openness, all of which have as much substance to deter killings over time as do metal detectors in the moment.

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15 responses to “Suffer the Children Once More”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I should add, by way of supplementing that quote from the Christian Science Monitor, that an America that has become afraid of itself is as bad for the realisation of our common future as an America that is afraid of everybody else. These twin fears or “terrors” have become the reflections of each other.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I don’t know who Nicholas Wapshott is, but I can hardly believe that he invokes Ayn Rand as consoling wisdom and guiding light for the tragedy. As far as I’m concerned, Ayn Rand is part of the problem, and not to be invoked in the context of this event.

    http://blogs.reuters.com/nicholas-wapshott/2012/12/14/newtown-family-drama-as-national-tragedy/

    Moreover, Wapshott (like Rand) gets it ass-backwards. It should be entitled “family tragedy as national drama”. Nations are not composed, additively, of families. Families are the incubators of the national character. It was not families that created the tribe. It was the tribe that created the family.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Here’s an interesting article (“Why schools are a target of choice”) from The Globe & Mail written by a school teacher (Michael Riest) who has apparently studied the “genre” of school shootings. Perhaps he is also describing your own experience of school and education as being almost a place and process of torment? Limbo and Purgatory combined.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/why-schools-are-a-target-of-choice/article6441362/

    Lots to comment on in Reist’s article.

    In a related piece from the same newspaper, “Picture of shooter’s family begins to take shape” (not) by “Staff”, there is this interesting paragraph,

    The combination of a parent killing and a mass shooting is extremely rare, Dr. Heide noted. She said the spillover to murdering innocent children suggests an individual who is “totally out of control.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/picture-of-shooters-family-begins-to-take-shape/article6423745/

    “Totally out of control”, but who killed with machine efficiency (which suggests someone NOT totally out of control). Ironically, it was apparently his mother (also one of the victims) who taught him efficient shooting. He left virtually no wounded.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    An interesting article on the societal problems that lead to school shooters from Sharif Abdullah, “Anger-Fueled Suicides: A Society Without Dreams”

    http://www.culturechange.org/cms/content/view/867/1/

    It’s not a complete view, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

    (You can ignore the editor’s preface, which is silliness).

    • Scott Preston says :

      Strange coincidence. On the same day that the Sandy Hook school massacre occurred, so did one in China by a man using a knife (although there were no fatalities, but 22 injured children).

      http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/12/22-kids-slashed-in-china-elementary-school-knife-attack/

      As the article notes, attacks on school children in China are not infrequent just like the US, except that the weapon of choice is a knife rather than an assault rifle because such weapons are prohibited in China.

      To tell you the truth, I’m at a loss of understand this coincidence at the moment, although such “strange coincidences” are never without meaning, or even the coincidence of Hurricane “Sandy” and the “Sandy” Hook school massacre.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        The shooter used the guns that were owned by his mother. I was dumbfounded to learn that a kindergarten teacher (the shooter’s mother) owned two 9 mm pistols and an AR-15 assault rifle! I mean not a single female acquaintance of mine that I have known over my entire life, among family or friends, ever owned a single handgun — let alone several of them. More shocking is that this person wasn’t from a violent neighborhood in Oakland (murder capital of U.S.) or Detroit, but she lived in a peaceful town where even the cops cannot remember when the last murder took place. Clearly, the mother of the shooter didn’t think the town was very a safe place at all. At the risk of sounding sexist, I have to admit that this picture that’s coming out about the shooter’s mother — a single mother who teaches kindergarten kids in a peaceful town and owns all these guns — doesn’t look like the picture of a balanced person or a balanced woman at all.

        One of the articles, “Why Schools Are a Target of Choice” the author hypothesizes that “I believe that many school shooters are trauma victims who return to the site of their trauma, trying to resolve the huge internal conflict they feel about their experience in school.”

        I’m not sure if that theory could hold very well. I don’t think “growing pains” are that traumatic to cause repeated nationwide blowbacks of this magnitude that much later in life.

        In this case, the shooter attacks the school where his mother works. I’m guessing that the mother was unhappy with her job and even with her own son, and she took home stories about the children demonizing them in front of her son and even linking those demonized children to perhaps the childhood of her own son. Perhaps she told her son things like: “Oh, I now have this and that boy in my class and they’re as stupid as you when you were their age and they say and do the same silly goofy stuff you said when you were 6 or 8 or 12.” Now, if the mother made commens like this to her son after coming home from work everyday, or even once a week, and if the son was as over sensitive as everyone close to him says that he was, then that could’ve conceivably led to this incident. What I’m getting at is that for an incident like this to occur, some agonizing factor needs to be present persistently and up to the present day life of the shooter. In this case, that agonizing factor seems to have been the behavior of the mother toward her son and the inability of the son to ignore or confront the issues at home, effectively.

        The authors of most of these articles, it seems to me, want to “package” the reasons behind this shooting — supermarket style. I think that approach might be helpful in increasing the awareness of the masses to think about the way we behave toward each other, but it won’t be helpful with regards to understanding this particular shooting incident per se.

        I skipped over your article entitled “Life and Longevity in the Global Village” 🙂
        Now, back to that article, for me 🙂

        • LittleBigMan says :

          I’ll have to revise my theory above, now that it has come out that the mother of the shooter was not a teacher at the Sandy Hook Elementary. Still, I’m baffled with the mother owning so many guns. It seems to me the mother was a pretty insecure person, and given that she reportedly lived in a “peaceful community”, I wonder why she felt the need for the guns.

          • Scott Preston says :

            We still don’t have enough information to come to a conclusion about these things — the mother’s gun obsession; the relationship between mother and son; his mental illness…; Little bits and pieces, so far. His inability to feel anything, apparently, either physical or emotional. “Autism” is the diagnosis of reference, but that is acute mental isolation, too. To my mind, the border between the ideology of egoistic individualism (of, say, the Ayn Rand variety) and a neuropathological diagnosis of autism is very indistinct and murky, so that one wonders whether “autism” isn’t, really, a cultural pathology rather than an exclusively neurological one, as “hysteria” was a mental disorder of the sexually inhibited Victorian Era.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Reports that a Catholic Church holding a memorial today in Newtown was subject to a bomb threat. Police also saying some people are posing as the shooter on social media sites and spreading disinformation.

    It is insane, and even demonic, behaviour, to be sure, and it’s quite widespread. Reminds that Luca Magnotta, the Montreal porn actor who filmed himself decapitating another man, reportedly received over 1,000 marriage proposals.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/11/28/magnotta-fifth-estate-online-hunt.html

    “Man is the sick animal” — Nietzsche

    • LittleBigMan says :

      I just learned from the radio that this is the 4th time Obama is attending a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting during his four years in office. I also vaguely remember that upon his election back in November 2008, the sale of guns in America soared. I don’t understand the correlation at all, especially it may have had something to do with the onset of harsh economic times, as well, but I can feel it in my day-to-day life that there is a great deal of tension in the society. Many of my colleagues who have children graduating from college, for instance, tell me that the future of their children, even with a college degree, seems quite uncertain. Those who have children in their 30s seems to be doing alright, but those with children in their 20s, not so much. All this uncertainty combined with materialistic upbringing can really bring things to a head.

      The case of Magnotta is pretty gruesome, too. I’m glad he was finally caught.

      By the way, it’s great that the “Runaway Train” is available on Youtube. As I was watching it, I kept thinking that if the train hit a sharp curve going 80 – 90 mph, it would derail and the movie would come to an end. But it didn’t. The train kept moving with its high speed on a more or less straight path. Then, it all of a sudden hit me why you mentioned the movie in relation to Blake’s comment regarding “single vision & Newton’s Sleep” and “PAVLOT”… I finally got it 🙂

      • Scott Preston says :

        I didn’t realise Runaway Train was available on YouTube. But there it is

        On guns… apparently there were orders in November alone for a record number of guns, 2 million. This year’s preferred Christmas gift?
        http://abcnews.go.com/US/americans-buy-million-guns-november/story?id=17991832#.UM6IP6y8jhw

        Sort of detracts from the message of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” I would think.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          To my mind, the most enigmatic decision my parents made was to buy my older teenage brother (he was 15 at the time) an high power single-shot-pellet-rifle. My brother and I and our friends did all kinds of stupid things with it. We shot dozens of sparrows and pigeons and barbecued and ate them; target practiced with frogs and other critters we spotted moving around irrigation canals or large beehives we found underneath the eaves of buildings. In one incident when I was not present, my brother gets into an argument with one of his friends. At the time, his friend happens to be holding the rifle but has no pellets because my brother always held on to those whenever he would let any of us use the rifle. Instead, and somehow, my brother’s friend happens to be in possession of a lollipop stick. So, he puts the lollipop stick in the gun and fires at my brother. The stick penetrates my brother’s thigh several inches above the knee, and he ends up in the hospital where they remove the stick and treat his wound. That was the only time when my brother ended up in a hospital for treatment as a result of some kind of an argument with his friends.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Police also saying some people are…spreading disinformation

      And here I thought both they and the MSM had that pretty well-covered. First, the shooter was misidentified as an innocent 24 year old — a misidentification mindlessly, breathlessly reported in the press — when the investigation had barely begun. Then, the “investigative” reporters had their field day, mining the innocent’s Facebook page for “clues” as to what was really to blame for such a heinous act. These amateur Sherlocks came up with a video game, bringing a deluge of disruption to bear on the developers’ community.

      Given that the FFA bears an uncanny resemblance to people stopping to glare at a train wreck, I’ve patiently waited for a strike at the heart of it, which Mr. Abdullah hits. Thanks for that.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I’ve been spending quite a bit of time over the last week scanning the reporting on Newtown and other issues too. And what strikes me is how the information environment is fracturing, splintering, and fragmenting, and that reflects, I think, what post-modernists call the “end of the Grand
        Narrative”, but in deeper terms, it is the breakdown of the mental model of “reality”, which is only represented in the Grand Narrative.

        It’s actually quite appalling. One media source will report something actually the direct opposite of something reported by another media outlet and yet, in a perverse sort of way, both may be equally true (or equally false) within the frame of reference they are working with.

        It reminded me of what I wrote earlier about the breakdown of the dialectic — when thesis and anti-thesis become indistinguishable. The result, in those terms, can only be complete disorientation.

        I also have some good news to report — the Canadian street is finally stirring with indignation at the present government, and it’s being led by the indigenous. This is going to snowball, and it’s already being compared
        to Occupy in the US and (perhaps a bit exaggeratedly) the Arab Spring. It’s being called “Idle No More”, and I’ll have more to say about that later. It
        held its first big cross country rally today, and it’s not going to stop soon, I think.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I’ve been spending quite a bit of time over the last week scanning the reporting on Newtown and other issues too. And what strikes me is how the information environment is fracturing, splintering, and fragmenting, and that reflects, I think, what post-modernists call the “end of the Grand Narrative”, but in deeper terms, it is the breakdown of the mental model of “reality”, which is only represented in the Grand Narrative.

        It’s actually quite appalling. One media source will report something actually the direct opposite of something reported by another media outlet and yet, in a perverse sort of way, both may be equally true (or equally false) within the frame of reference they are working with.

        It reminded me of what I wrote earlier about the breakdown of the dialectic — when thesis and anti-thesis become indistinguishable. The result, in those terms, can only be complete disorientation.

        I also have some good news to report — the Canadian street is finally stirring with indignation at the present government, and it’s being led by the indigenous. This is going to snowball, and it’s already being compared to Occupy in the US and (perhaps a bit exaggeratedly) the Arab Spring. It’s being called “Idle No More”, and I’ll have more to say about that later. It held its first big cross country rally today, and it’s not going to stop soon, I think.

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