What Level Destruction?
by Gary Beck
Many world mythologies include a goddess dedicated to chaos and death. These deities may represent a fundamental element in man's make-up, the urge for self-destruction when unable to cope with the conditions of life. As man evolved, moving from primitive to barbaric, codification began to establish rules and customs to mitigate against a harsh existence. When empires replaced tribes as the primary organization regulating public and private activities, law initiated a gradual strengthening of human rights, which became a socially desirable norm with the emergence of the nation-state.
Democracy, certainly one of the most complex institutions created by an ingenious species, offered citizens protections that actually brought reasonable prosperity and security to more people than any former type of government. Yet like all human creations there are always imperfections. The American experiment purports to be a classless society, as implied in the constitution, but is as stratified as any class society, merely lacking formal titles of distinction. The class differences between American capitalists and other lords of commerce or nobility are miniscule. They are all characterized by the drive for acquisition, the maintenance of wealth and position, the amassing of goods and services and the typical lack of association with those less well off, the underclass.
Throughout history, the development of communications fostered extreme change in the normal framework of day to day existence. The advent of television initiated a long term seduction of the human psyche with visual tantalizations denied to the lower economic strata. The constant proffering of temptations that ultimately entered every home, assaulted viewers at every level, depicting what they could afford to acquire, as well as tormenting them with the unattainable, except for the privileged few.
Many men, perhaps not as far removed from brutal beasts despite the trappings of civilization, develop frustration levels from thwarted desires that under certain pressures drives them to explosive violence, without regard for the consequences to others.
The frequently occurring acts of apparent senseless violence and murder are becoming increasingly an accepted norm in our conflicted society. Several particularly alarming trends are multiplying: the angry boyfriend murdering the girlfriend's child; the rejected lover or husband going on a homicidal rampage; the disaffected loner planning and carrying out slaughter. There are many other symptoms that reveal the mental and emotional illness pervading our society, but the examples cited are extremely disturbing because of how often they manifest themselves, briefly and traumatically shocking the nation.
It is a cultural aberration to murder a child out of misplaced rage or frustration, yet our society lacks an effective preventive system. A society that cannot protect its children demonstrates a dwindling survival quotient. Our system has proven unable to identify the threat to vulnerable children and successfully intervene to insure their welfare. Media announcement of another child victim has been a weekly event. When a man cannot accept rejection from a woman and retaliates with a murder spree it often includes innocent bystanders in the home, workplace, school or church. This not only is an indicator of diminished intelligence, but a virtually primitive reaction to intense frustration levels, kindling rage that bursts into violence inflicted on others. Yet these same individuals came through our school system without identification of their earlier problems, or amelioration of their potential homicidal tendencies, when under severe emotional stress.
The calculating loner, abandoned by either parents, school, friends, a nurturing system, or a combination thereof, surely displays symptoms of disaffection, but they either go unnoticed or untreated. The suffering individual seethes, until rage boils over. He invariably plans an assault that maximizes the damage he can effect and often includes sealing escape exits. He erupts in a controlled frenzy, determined to take as many companions as possible with him on the sudden journey to death. The event also results in the attackers suicide.
Despite lurid media exposure that ultimately stupefies the senses, we still react with horror to these dreadful crimes. The increase in murderous rampages culminating in suicide is supplemented by increasing media coverage of traumatic events that are allowed to disappear when audience attention turns elsewhere. We easily become inured to tragic events by excessive media exposure, consequently causing growing indifference to violent incidents. This reduces our emotional response and depletes the stock of public indignation to request policies that will redress grievances, before they explode into tragic episodes. .
The peculiar conditions of American life, great latitude and great constriction, impose numerous obstacles to simple solutions for complex and controversial problems. The need to prevent incrementing violence is urgent, but there are many restrictions on actions that might be efficacious, yet violate current laws, affect the requirements of special interest groups, or offended the public's sensibilities. However, we seem to confront exponentially multiplying threats to the well-being of individuals and the state. At the same time, civil rights advocates resist implementing surveillance of public spaces, fearing encroachment on hard-won civil liberties. Since there is an unwritten code of public behavior accompanying the laws regulating public behavior, some question why this is a controversial issue. Advocates seem to be defending the right to commit anti-social or criminal acts in public, without being officially observed, under the aegis of non-government intrusions on the right to privacy. The concept of privacy in public is contradictory.
It is painfully obvious that only early intervention might prevent the development of significant behavioral disturbances that later surface in murder. Whether we have the skill and the will to do so is a debatable issue. In the Information Age, ever-increasing access to weapons of mass destruction through the internet, especially chemical or biological, should warn citizens that we must be better educated and more involved in the recognition of warning signs from disturbed individuals threatening to detonate. The relatively easy access to certain chemical and explosive weaponry, such as anthrax, or homemade bombs, should alert us to the growing need to prevent destructive incidents, rather than react after the fact.
The most alarming characteristic of the individuals who run amok is in their drive for self-immolation, they want to take as many victims as possible with them. If we accept the possibility of a highly intelligent simmering individual of this type acquiring a weapon of mass destruction, there is no doubt that he will use it, in some cataclysmic event that will result in a maximum of harm. This person may have already been born in the U.S.A. and may already be on the road that will lead to disaffection, resulting in calamitous destruction. A functional domestic intervention program should be urgently developed to avert a possible massive tragic occurrence.