This pledge closed about 1 year ago
America's current political climate is focusing on two issues as the primary causes of mass shootings; gun control and mental health. Undoubtedly these are relevant topics, but these two factors alone give an insufficient explanation.
Beyond gun control and mental health issues, a contributing factor to random violence is a relative lack of community in modern American culture. This assertion may seem easy to dismiss at first, but there is a strong case to be made.
The majority of American neighborhoods are composed of individuals who rarely interact beyond the occasional wave and customary "hello". For the most part, people keep to themselves within their own houses, with televisions, computers, phones, and video games to keep them occupied. It's not uncommon for people who live next door to rarely speak. This is in direct contrast to the close nit communities human beings employed in indigenous settings. Modern communities now leave many people feeling entertained, but relatively isolated from each other.
Issues of mental health have been raised to explain the behavior of mass shooters with many people pointing to the fact that shooters are often mentally disturbed, with personality traits such as depression, narcissism, low self-esteem, and an obsession with violence. This is a legitimate point, but a tricky one.
It is difficult to distinguish from one of two scenarios to explain the development of mental instability and violence in the shooters.
Explanation 1) The shooters were genetically predisposed to these mental instabilities, or had traumatic experiences that caused it.
Explanation 2) Feelings of isolation and unimportance through a lack of community, combined with common depictions of violence (through TV, Computers, etc) to produce individuals that became so estranged, depressed, and narcissistic that they committed mass random murder.
Though it may be that these shooters were individuals who were genetically predisposed to mental illness, it may also be that they were individuals who grew increasingly sick in the context of isolation. It seems very difficult to determine whether these were cases of individuals sick by own nature/ circumstances, or whether there are CURRENT UNDERLYING SOCIETAL FACTORS THAT ARE MAKING MASS SHOOTINGS MORE COMMON. Most likely a combination of these factors contributes to a particular shooters case.
Regardless, it is certainly the case that all of the feelings possessed by the shooters (low self-esteem, depression, narcissism, and obsession with violence) can at the very least be mitigated by increasing our sense of interconnectedness through positive community. Additionally, a lack of community means that no one notices when people grow increasingly sick, so the shooters don't get help or treatment in time. It is clear that one of the changes that's currently needed is to develop more of a sense of positive community in America. This is not something that can happen through changing laws, and therefore there is a need for personal and collective responsibility to imagine and develop these changes.
One way we can begin to imagine much need alternatives in our society is by challenging our perceptions of the past. To the extent that humans have gone from close communities in the past to fragmented communities in the present through colonization and modernization, one route to understanding current social problems is examining historical injustices. Positive change, individually and collectively, begins with truth. Patriotic interpretations of the past at the expense of truth is therefore a direct hindrance to our collective evolution.
Therefore, I as an individual, pledge to try and implement positive changes in my life and in my understanding of past and present injustices, in an effort to find positive alternatives. I hope that this personal undertaking will spread and eventually lead to more positive communities in America.
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