No-One's Life Matters. That's Why There Are Mass Shootings
Writing in the left-wing Forward website today, Cathy Young warns the Left to take its own violence seriously:
...It has been a staple of conventional wisdom that the real danger comes almost entirely from the far right....But is that still true today? We don’t know if Connor Betts, the 24-year-old Ohio man who killed nine people (including his own sister) and wounded 27 more when he opened fire on a crowded street in Dayton on Sunday, had any involvement with Antifa. But Betts’s Twitter trail makes it clear that he was a hardcore leftist who embraced some fairly extreme ideas—and, in some cases, advocated violence toward political enemies in Antifa-style language.
Good for Ms. Young, who declines to join the chorus blaming President Trump for the last two atrocities. Never mind that the five worst mass shooting incidents took place outside the United States, or that more mass shootings occurred during the Obama presidency than under Trump. But that leaves us with the question: Why are there mass shootings?
Mass shootings are a special form of suicide. The shooter never expects to survive. But the shooter combines self-hatred with group hatred. Hate becomes so melded with the shooter's identity that he determines to take as many people as he can with him. They are of the same order as the pilot who crashed a Germanwings airliner into the Alps in 2015.
Emil Durkheim's 1897 diagnosis of "anomic suicide" describes the Columbine perpetrators as well as the 2016 San Bernardino attack by Muslim fanatics, the "right-wing" shooter in El Paso and the "left-wing" shooter in Dayton. They are individuals cut off from society, destabilized by change and despairing of their own place in the world. Such monsters always have been among us. But now we are cultivating such monsters by destroying the ties that bind us to each other, to our past and to our future.
Everyone used to matter. No-one matters anymore, not at least in the postmodern dystopia of invented identity. In the good old days we mattered because each of us was radically unique. We were unique as members of a congregation standing before the God who made us, and unique as parents watching over the children we had brought into the world. We knew that each of us had a singular purpose, first because God does nothing in vain. We hoped to make the previous generation proud of us, and the next generation worthy of its predecessors. Each of us had a mission that no-one else could carry out for us, and that mission was to raise children who were uniquely ours, and with whom we had a unique rapport through bonds of intimacy that no master's degree in psychology could replace.
Everyone used to know who they were. We did not shop for an identity in the alphabet soup of postmodern sexuality, but bore the identity we inherited. We honored the aged and raised the young. Life was tragic but triumphant. We might grow frail and die but our children, our community, and above all our country carried something of our mortal existence into an indefinite future. Our brief time on earth had purpose. We could expect a modicum of joy among all the tears.
No more. The liberal consensus now tells us that we are free to invent our own identities--not only free to do so, but required to do so on pain of public shaming, because the entirety of the past is polluted by racism, colonialism, misogyny, Islamophobia, and so forth. Our past supposedly is a Black Museum of abuses by the white patriarchy, and no stone may be left atop another in our fervor to raze it. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Left seeks to destroy every recollection of the past, not because our ancestors were so wicked, but rather because it wants to clear the ground for its Frankstein-like experiments in the creation of a New Man. That is what Mao did in the 1960s during China's horrible Cultural Revolution. A Chinese acquaintance comments, "Now America is having its own Cultural Revolution."
Yet we also are told that we are irrelevant specks of carbon circling one star among billions in our galaxy, which is one galaxy among billions in a universe which cares nothing about the brief flickering of our existence. Our brain is a machine whose functions soon will be mimicked by artificial intelligence. The brain scientists and evolutionary biologists tell us that our freedom is an illusion. Our lives don't matter, because there is nothing we possibly might do that could matter. We have nothing but the illusion of freedom, directed towards arbitrary whims.
The ruling liberal dogma tells us that the past was an unrelieved pageant of oppression against people of color, women, and other victims. We are the first "woke" generation, and everything that preceded us is to be abominated. If we abominate our ancestors, why should we bear children who will invent their own identities by abominating us? Nothing will be left of our mortal existence when we die, but there is worse: Long before that we will grow old and irrelevant, with nothing to do in the absolute loneliness of old age except to wait for death. We fear the waiting as much as we fear death itself. No wonder that tech billionaires are obsessed with preventing aging and even death, as Tad Friend reported in a creepy 2017 New Yorker essay. They aren't fooling anyone, least of all themselves.
We peruse the alphabet soup of sexuality and wonder which app to swipe to find a moment's respite from abysmal, aching loneliness. We look in the mirror with contempt for our own illusions. We know that we aren't fooling anyone, and we know that everyone who sees us laughs behind our back at our pretensions. The harder we try to construct an identity, the greater our fear of being found out for a fraud. That is why we require identity politics. What we cannot possibly achieve as individuals we hope to do as a collective, by censoring any utterance that might call into question our counterfeit identity. This censorship goes to extremes of absurdity, for example, the case of Access Hollywood host Mario Lopez who was fired for advising parents not to make a determination of preferred gender for their children at the age of three. Identity politics on the right, for example "white nationalism," work exactly the same way that identity politics do on the left.
If our identity is an arbitrary choice, life has no meaning. A randomly chosen "meaning" is no meaning at all. "Meaning" implies a unique meaning. If we can pick a letter, any letter on the LGBTTTQQIAAPAGPGB spectrum (not my invention), or any intersection of gender and ethnic combinations, our life has no meaning in particular, and we are condemned to a wraith-like existence in a perpetual present with neither past nor future. That is a formula not just for misery but for despair, not "woke" so much as a waking nightmare. Our lives don't matter, and neither do those of anyone else. It's no surprise that the occasional lunatic fed on the identity politics of left or right decides to put himself out of his misery and take other meaningless lives with him.
High suicide rates in failed cultures are common. Neolithic peoples that encounter the modern world suffer from extreme anomie. Members of Brazil's Guarani tribe have a suicide rate 34 times the national average, the highest in the world. The crisis of Muslim cultures has produced a fearfully large number of individuals willing to kill themselves in order to kill civilians of another Muslim sect, not to mention Americans or Israelis. Our Cultural Revolution has the same effect: We have hollowed out the sense of purpose in life that formerly sustained us and reduced large parts of our population to atomized lost souls. It's not surprising that individuals with severe psychological problems lose all restraint and turn into killers.
I find it especially loathsome that the liberal ideologues who have done everything in their power to undermine family allegiance, congregational devotion and patriotic loyalty now blame the problem on guns.