When we talk about violence, specifically gun violence in this country we hear a few very different takes depending on the location and the background of the shooter.
When the shooter is ideologically motivated and Muslim, we hear about terrorism first. We hear the panicked cries of mostly white conservatives and a few moderates and liberals about the cultural significance of Islam and its propensity for creating violent jihadists. Even though the insane, rational gymnastics of connecting violence and extremism, in these cases we still won’t talk about Guns, and there is little to no discussion about mental health.
When the attacker is White, and the ultimate ideological motivations are sussed out, we revert to the discussion about “mental health” and family and run away as far as we can from Guns and ideological motives. Somehow access to firearms, however they achieved them, is eliminated from the conversation and the ideological motivations all but erased by about day 2 or 3.
If the assailants are young black men and they are killing each other over gangs, drugs or other petty conflicts, it’s all about the culture. Single moms, video games, and music are the usual suspects; again, surprisingly the narrative no longer focuses on the availability of firearms, even illegal ones.
In my mind there are four primary causes of violence in general, particularly gun violence, and they cut across most cases regardless of whether they are in a school or out on the streets. Irrespective of where we come from or who we are there are a set of preestablished reactions to stressors that trigger us to want to hurt or kill. Those motivations go right to the heart of what we all share emotionally as human beings, and I believe that is one of the reasons we don’t talk about them.
1. Personal/Group Insult or Revenge – One of the most common reasons for violence and aggression of any kind is feeling violated in some way. Whether it is through direct insult or insulting one’s group, it is a defensive reaction to a breach of some social contract that causes most violence. I believe this tendency is built into us as we are social beings. Our hierarchical understanding of group and private structures create a means through which we have a built-in trigger, groups that tout exclusive membership use this instinct to manipulate people into reacting with violence when they otherwise would have just cooled over time.
2. Fear – Is it that pop-psychological to indicate fear as a primary motivation for violence or aggression. As well as being social we are also programmed to be wary of personal injury. This is an odd one because fear as a concept can be very nebulous or very specific. Fear that a bear is coming right at you is very different from fear of being attacked by a bear. The chemical reactions, the physical changes that result from the various states of fear are very distinct and can be manipulated by people and institutions that are more powerful and have some of their fears to contend with. I found this discussion of fear interesting as it almost serves as a surrogate for the triggers of violence.
3. Social Engineering – As social beings who have developed hierarchies to survive under specific circumstances we have also come to understand how reinforcement of those structures is required to keep the status quo. I’m not passing blanket judgment on this as dangerous by any means, some social structures have helped us advance to the point where we have created a better life for millions of people. Others, however, though seemingly good ideas at the time, often descend into disruptions that do damage to a great many people. It’s tough to say without the benefit of hindsight that some form of social engineering was good or bad especially if we learn from the results. In this case, violence based on established and enforced social norms.
4. External Perceived or Existential Threat – this is admittedly a kind of toss off. Its fear but not the tangible bear chasing you down type, it’s a minor madness in a way and it crosses the bridge to woo-ville in some cases, but either the feeling of something “not being quite right” or the manipulation of that feeling can drive people to violence, what distinguishes this factor as a trigger is its slippery nature. In a way its one of the most potent modern triggers because of the deluge of information we receive and have access to on a daily basis. So much information crosses our eyes and ears daily that it’s often really hard to distinguish between what is demonstrably real and what is pure hokum. Existential threats have us not believing our own eyes when we see a concrete example of the opposite of what we believe or are told to think. Cognitive dissonance is the state this puts us in and in and of itself is a kind of mass mental disorder that affects our macro brain. It is also one of the ways large groups and governments keep control of the status quo. In fact, it is the prefered method of tyrants, both big and small.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of everything in terms of an organism. From my limited understanding of the organization of life, it looks distinctly like from the tiniest cell to the largest societal collections the functions are similar but blown up accordingly. Using the example of the internet (again with a basic knowledge of biology) you can see how humans have organized themselves in the image of their biological networks. You can look at societal organizations similarly, but the internet is the clearest model of our mimicking the structure of our neural networks in our construction and organizations I can see. We build on what we know.
I look often at how these incidents of violence make perfect sense. Ideas are like mutated cells or gut influenced genes; they can grow and spread, are road tested by the environment and shaken out accordingly. You have to get non-judgemental when you think this way and see both the biological process and the spread of ideas the same way. Physiological changes, random occurrences of genes or the environment’s influence on them, have consequences. It is my feeling that biological evolution and the evolution of ideas may not only be linked but now be one in the same. We’ve reached a level of complexity in out inner and outer constructions to see where our intellectual developments have gotten almost as complicated as our biological ones.
When you look at movements, especially extreme movements, be they nationalistic, religious or racially based they broadly share the same development cycles and paths of growth. Some, like Islamic fundamentalism, are less exclusive biologically and more rooted in ideology. This is part of the reason Islam has snowballed so quickly. It is not as exclusive as some other movements, it requires no biological purity test, no cultural purity test, and no nationalistic paternity test, there is a small barrier of language, but learning a few prayers can solve that. Many other extreme movements are based on passing some racial or nationalistic purity test and have far fewer adherents as a result. At the risk of sounding like an Islamophobe, it is the perfect virus in that way.
Let me make something clear right now; I hate no person. I am opposed to certain ideologies because they make no rational sense to me beyond social grouping, but I don’t hate anyone who believes in them. I apply cancer or virus metaphor to almost all religions and any social group that forcibly bends its members to a particular kind of violence or extreme coersion.
When violence arises as a result of these affiliations, a large part of how you get perfectly rational and not insane people to enlist is through the use of the last cause of violence. In a sense, you are taking a little bit of the first three elements and mixing them to create a stew of cognitive dissonance. You create a world where, by some non-biological or vaguely biological association, you pit one association against another. The reasons could be cultural, circumstantial or just made up entirely but they don’t pass a rational examination.
What also doesn’t pass the rational examination is the ways we here in the US, separate these groups and their affiliates into little social boxes that have unequal weight on the actions of people who commit violent acts.
I’ll talk about how we treat different groups and ideologies differently in Wednesdays post.
So I was on a semi-self-imposed news blackout until very recently due in no small part to my own personal upheavals, but also just because….Trump.
So now I’ve begun paying more attention, watching and reading more news and following more closely, the national goings on. Thankfully I’m in a much better headspace for all of this because if I’d decided to forgo reason and dive head first as my personal life was unraveling, I’m honestly not sure I’d still be writing today.
Watching our president move with the sound off is frustrating enough, but with the sound on, it’s utterly terrifying.
How could we have been so stupid? How in the hell could we have elected this orange-thin-skinned pussy grabber, the leader of the free world? How do we not see this as the horrible national embarrassment it truly is? That a uniquely unqualified buffoon who clearly has no aptitude for the truth because he hasn’t a clue as to what that word even means, could possibly win a plurality of electoral college votes, with not a single dissenting maverick to stand in the way of this thoroughly embarrassing national disgrace?
Where are our Paines, our Parks our Kings and Peltiers? Why don’t we see how obviously our dissenting voices are absent from the debate, and how obviously we’ve become twisted up in what it means to dissent in the first place? How did the Alt-right, an animal crafted as a propaganda arm of Nazis and internet trolls who finally feel like they have a place at a table that is owned by the Jewish Cabal, actually become a legitimate voice in national politics?
I’m not of the mindset that this country is over, that with this one election we have sealed our fate. I do believe this is the last death spasm of an old skin being shaken off, but what of what’s underneath?
When will we, as a country, as a people, realize that we’ve entirely fucked up.
When we have people like Alex Jones and Mike Chernovich actually participating in the public dialog as legitimate players, how do we not see how truly fucked we are?
At the same time though, it easy to become un-fucked, just pay attention.
Edited on 4/11 @ 12:10pm because of a missing “c.”
Clockwork Angels came out in 2012, the same year of the American election. It was Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney and personally, the stakes never felt higher. Even in retrospect, post Trump, this election was consequential in an exceptional way. Our first American president of African descent, our first multiracial president and our first potential two term Democratic president since Clinton.
I argue that Obama’s legacy was more at stake then than it is now. A two term president can ostensibly claim a real mandate, where a one term president’s legacy can be easily erased if the opposing party comes into power four years in.
But I digress….
The Anarchist felt like the soundtrack of the apocalypse to me then. There was so much uncertainty about the future, so much building anger and resentment from a segment of the population who had a tremendous run and now was being eclipsed by number and power, by browner and more estrogen rich carbon based bipeds.
The wont to blow up the world and everything in it, the desire and the seething anger behind it to destroy everything associated with the other while simultaneously blowing up what benefits you resonated strongly. The texture of the song, the choral progression to a droning finale, doom turned to music.
First song, for the first day: The Anarchist, by Rush.
I don’t do Facebook much. Every time I’m lured back by some innocuous post and I get sucked back into the insanity for a bit, I pull a little further away. On several occasions I’ve been worked into such a frenzy that I feel like my heart just might quit. Frankly, aside from a few friends and relatives, it really isn’t worth using anymore.
The ridiculousness of this past election cycle had me closer than ever to hitting “delete.”
When you hear friends you thought were reasonable, say completely unreasonable things, or friends you knew were unreasonable already, say things so outrageous you can’t believe they felt emboldened to say them “in public” it feels like time to pull away.
This whole planet has me concerned at the moment. Where the US is heading is very well a dangerous and potentially violent place. Some of us believed that having access, making information and opinion more democratic, would create a learned republic. One akin to the one the founding fathers envisioned, except more varied economically with women and Black folks included, effectively democratizing learning and making us all better voters and better citizens. HA!
It seems there is that little missing element that also exemplifies an egalitarian democratic republic, ignorance.
When you have no compelling reason to cooperate in the democratic process there is no incentive to educate yourself and its so very easy to just hit the nearest button that has written on it how you feel at that very moment. Not how you think, or have reasoned through, but simply how you feel.
Now feelings are great, they are great for creating art, for manipulating and coercing your kid to do their homework, great for schmoozing and wooing, but alone, they are terrible for democracy. Feelings betray biases, and generally biases are not reasonable, they may come from a vague place of reason, but they are not reasonable in and of themselves. Feelings should not be the sole reason you vote for a particular candidate, using feelings as a sole measure will always lead to buyers remorse.
So does this mean that democracy may not be the best way to go?
I really don’t know but as the days go by, I’m doubting American democracy more and more and that scares the shit out of me.
I went to this class a few nights ago.
Less a class and more a collection of terrifying American troupes.
Survivalists, preppers and possibly even a White Supremacist or two. Could be just my perceptions of people are out of whack but they have rarely been wrong before.
Thing is, taken with a dose of caution the advice made sense, being prepared for a disaster isn’t a stupid thing at all. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty damn smart, sane and reasonable. The climate is changing, storms are getting wilder and stronger and people are getting more unpredictable. Well, the last is a debatable fact, people may be more encouraged to be so by a lack of trust which is at least partially fed by everything else.
The tension we all feel, the stress of navigating through the post-racial, post-truth, post-professional media world, where nothing is true and everything is fake news even if we witness it and document it, the echo-chambered, gaslit, fear-mongering, make it up as you go along assemblage of truthiness, all of it shreds us apart neuron by neuron. We are all veterans of the psychic wars now.
Edited 10/26/16 @10:46 EST for clarity and stupid grammar tricks.
A continuing irony in this election cycle has been the outcry by many Republicans at Trump’s apparent distaste for the American system of elections. His bloated, arrogant, and above all ignorant toss-off of peaceful power transitions and little things like the will of the people mirroring exactly what they have done for the past eight years. His manipulation of the drooling doglike obedience of his followers maligns the very constitution they collectively seem unable to comprehend, something the Republican establishment knows full well how to do.
As has been the case with much of Herr Trump’s rhetorical upchucking, mainstream conservatism has been caught with its pants around its ankles, bent over, inviting the diddling it publicly decries.
They have been riding this pony sidesaddle for some years now, and now that it is trying to buck them off they are suddenly aware of its wild nature? There is no doubt that Democrats have done similar damage to their base over the years by not adhering to fundamental fairness (in the case of the infamous Sanders emails) and refusing to appear with the current president for fear of political self-immolation, putting their re-elections against the better nature (and needs) of the party.
Democrats are equally (in measure) guilty of half-stepping but not nearly as guilty (in scope) of torching the country in a burning hatred that consumes all reason.
The Republicans have taken it several steps further into wackadoodledom. While espousing fairness, honor, and dignity they have spat and shat on both concepts repeatedly by reflexively blocking everything the Obama administration has put forward, not even allowing a break-fix of Obamacare, just setting out to break it. They have stirred racial animosity through the coded language of the Tea Party and its affiliates and promised a one term president instead of working with him to get some of their agenda included in the discussion at the adult table. They have done for the past eight years what the Donald has threatened to do for at least the next four, not recognize the duly elected president of the united states, just not in those words.
Again, the conservative “establishment” is late to its party. It’s been off somewhere snorting coke with supermodels that look suspiciously like David and Fred while its “base” raids the local white sale. Arriving near the end of the soiree, they, still snowblind, are amazed at the sight of so many Black men hanging limply from the burning cross in the middle of the living room. It only takes a year or so for them also to realize that the word effigy has nothing to do with this scene, oops.
I’ve said it before; the GOP owns Trump, and every word that comes out of his mouth is a distillation of the entitlement rage complicitly and explicitly stirred up by them. Trump is the Frankenstein’s monster assembled from puppet parts by the puppets themselves, made of hate, anger, and fear and brought to life with the words and actions of the party’s surrogates.
Aside from the fact that they knew that Trump was a sociopathic, groping, drooling, egging on-ish boor who’d look at the burnt out remains of the GOP’s grotesquely scorched statue as its centerpiece and not recognize it as his doing. They invited this party crasher inside, not only by giving him the keys but by laying out clear, concise directions to the mansion and in a coca leaf fueled haze giving him free rein to bring all his friends in and trash the place.
Just because they blacked out doesn’t mean they get to disavow the destruction they’ve wrought, not only on the Republican party but the entire country.
And you know what? They probably never will.
“We have to infiltrate! Infiltrate the military! Infiltrate your local governments! Infiltrate your school board! Infiltrate law enforcement!”
— Tom Metzger Former KKK and current leader in WAR (White Aryan Resistance) in a 2004 speech to skinheads at a hate-rock festival
So now we wait….
There is a palpable sense of dread and danger surrounding my thoughts on the Grand Jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police Officer who shot Michael Brown.
There will surely be at least one incident of violence regardless of the outcome, but the question is, who will fire the first proverbial (or actual) shot.
How the events after will proceed, who will be involved, and who will let their passion and frustration get in the way of decency and common sense is becoming cloudier by the second. After the KKK decreed on social media that there were gearing up for some kind of altercation (ironically, and later proven cynically, citing “good people” in their defense, making careful mention of their black friends) the hactivist group Anonymous pulled off their greatest action yet and exposed many Klan members faces and posts to the world. Apparently they (and most 20 year olds on Facebook) haven’t quite figured out that not setting your privacy settings leaves you open to all kinds of mischief.
What has followed has been an uncovering of hatred and a subculture of violence just waiting to erupt.
According to the AP gun sales in counties surrounding Ferguson have skyrocketed, albeit mostly because of some overblown sense of racist paranoia, but even racist paranoia is real in some respects. Frank Ancona the imperial wizard of the Southern Missouri Klan has been outright antagonizing both Anonymous and the people of Ferguson, especially since the initial Klan flyer was published on twitter. So anon members have been antagonizing back.
Since then, they have hacked a Klan account, getting access to many of the members and tracking down their information including businesses they own, their cell numbers and addresses etc and posting them, basically outing them for the entire world to see. One insurance agency a few counter-protesters (including Acona) and possibly a cop or two later and the flurry of outings have slowed, but they are still coming.
Everyone expects there to be some kind of uprising after the announcement, whether pro indictment or not. The Klan, unmasked by #anonymous in a shrewd and targeted response to a threat of violence have been shown to be stuck in the thug hole they have been trying desperately to re-brand themselves out from, and the thick stench of what is a deeper American issue will all play out in the next week or so.
It’s really hard not to see how all of this is interconnected, flowing off from the river of poison race hatred that came to a head in lead up to 2008, when everyone making mention of the birth certificate also tried to claim they hadn’t any racist proclivities, or back in 1988, when the Lee Atwater approved Willie Horton ad tapped the same vein. Or back in pre-civil war America where images of the black savage were legion… Given the conditions I’ve written many times before about, economic stagnation or downturn, the continued reserved place in many White American minds of “their place” as an exalted “race” regardless of their own paltry understanding of what that means, and the continued frustration of both Blacks and whites over continued economic insecurity are bubbling to the surface in a frankly terrifying way.
There is no doubt in my mind that the prevalence of coded signaling from many Whites (Gadsden flags, revived fear of losing “rights” etc.) signals at least an association and sympathetic leaning toward the more virulent racism of the Klan and the “White Patriot” movement. I would go further and say that most whites have some feeling of superiority inherently bestowed upon them by the culture and/or direct experience with others with racist beliefs. I realize this is like saying that growing up in a gang infested neighborhood steers you in the direction of becoming a gang member yourself and yes, that is part of it. In both cases though, one makes a choice, you can choose to follow the path of least resistance and become a thug or you can rise above and seek something else.
This culture has been feeding us all a message of white superiority and black inferiority since its inception, hell the country was literally built on the principal of superior/inferior. It became inherently racist early and the various messaging reinforced it even as in other areas we’ve moved on.
The question now is, will it continue?
Whatever happens in Ferguson it will be culturally trans mutative, if there is a dismissal of charges there will be an explosion, I think the lead up, the media coverage and the racially charged narrative will go a long way to inflame passions already in a state of immolation. If there is an indictment the township may still not escape violence, from protesters who have had their worst fears apparently realized, that one of their own may have been targeted and slain because he is Black or from racist agitators looking as this to be the beginning of the “Race War” they have so long wanted.
Up in here, up in here.
Anger, resentment and scapegoating. Are we seeing the opening for the rise of new Fascism?
Potentially, I think so.