Now that Bill Cosby has been convicted (story from Tiff here), #MeToo is all the rage again. That’s convenient for me, because it dovetails (blends, even) with a story I was working on.
It was originally to be called She’s Just Not That Into You, and it was to be about an underlying motivation behind many recent violent events. While many of us automatically assume any act of violence is potential terrorism (and justifiably so) we’re all too ready to default to standard positions once terrorism is ruled out.
“Guns,” the one side says. “Mental illness,” says the other side. Personally I fall firmly on the side of mental illness… particularly after events like the recent van attack in Toronto (story by Tiff here) that didn’t involve guns in any way.
Theodore Sturgeon, however, had a signature mark featuring a Q that turned into an arrow. It represented a position he held firmly to heart: “Ask the next question.”
In the case of these acts of violence, the question is: Why? “Mental illness” is an incredibly broad catch-all. What is the common trait?
In Sutherland Springs, the shooter attacked the church that his estranged wife attended, while her family was present. (NBC)
In Maryland, the shooter was stopped after attacking a girl he’d been harassing and a boy who was sitting next to her. (CNN)
In Parkland the shooter was described as “lonely and ostracized”. He is also described as being spontaneously violent and abusive. (Miami Herald)
In Toronto, the driver was acting as a member of the “incel rebellion“. The “incel rebellion” is a term used by people who are INvoluntarily CELibate, and a manifesto for the group was written and popularized by a mass shooter from 2014, Elliot Rodger (Vox)
These are just the ones that generated the most attention over the last six months; similar murderers and attempted murderers can be found throughout recent history. For some of them there is a demonstrated history of mental disorders. For all of them, though, there is one common trait: they did not view other people as being “people”, at least not in a way that made them equal beings.
We’ve always had sociopaths. These are people who lack basic empathy. For most of my life we’ve heard about how casual objectification – generally a thinly-veiled nod to pornography – is what leads to that, and, in fact, I believe that is partially correct. Single issues can have multiple causes, though.
The term is used derisively to attack those who cannot handle problems. That was not the meaning of the term, however. It’s from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk:
“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
Leaving aside the unappealling nihilism of that philosophy, it was an attack at a person’s perception of themselves as unique and special. The “snowflakes” are people who believe they are special and that their uniqueness must be protected and recognized. They are the entitled. They can be capable of taking blows and dishing them right back out, but they are entitled to that which they desire.
And when they are rebuffed, problems arise. The more socially functional will retreat, trying to square what’s happening with their perceptions of reality. The less socially inclined will attack – whether through words, tantrums, or violence.
We’ve always had sociopaths. Now, however, by shielding kids from any potential damage to their self-esteem, we’re training normal kids to become sociopathic.